Creating a CAD income from home (initially)
September 29, 2012 9:09 AM Subscribe
I need to get my head around the best path to retraining myself on (nominally Solidworks) with view to (in the longer term) doing CAD piece work from home - However there are several issues relating to software types and costs that I am not sure how to approach.
posted by Brockles to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is possibly a bit of a broad question, but part of what I need is a direction so here we go anyway. Possibly long, so my apologies.
Background: Many years ago I used Solidworks at a previous employer. I got pretty efficient pretty damn fast and ended up using it regularly for about 2 years. I enjoyed it, consider myself to have an aptitude for it, but am not in a position to have an employer get me properly trained on it, nor is it likely any time soon. I was designing and producing models and drawings for machined components and assemblies (for an engine and the build fixtures and tooling) pretty well by the end of it, although castings was a bit beyond me in the limited time I had to do it as it wasn't at all my main job. I have a Mech Eng (vehicle) degree and significant experience in parts production and design.
Current situation: In order to continue specialising in my normal job (Race Car Engineering) in the current job climate I am having to resort to 'fly-in' style employment of several short periods of around a week at a time through the year rather than full time. As such, I will have lots of chunks of time that I either want to learn or earn within. The idea of doing some CAD piece-work has come up and seems to be to some extent realistic from my initial looking. At the very least, even if it isn't profitable, I am wondering if it would give me enough experience after a while to pursue a more serious job in CAD when I tire of running after race car teams and actually want to be at home for weekends. So my initial thoughts/directions/issues are as follows:
1: Solidworks is hella expensive. It is too much of a commitment right now to spend $4K on a license for me to noodle around for an indeterminate period until I am proficient again. So there is the chicken/egg problem there which I think I can approach in two ways:
1a: Download a cracked copy of an earlier version of the software for personal training. It is clear (and deeply inadvisable I am fully aware) that this is untenable for any paid work in the fullness of time, but if I was good enough at it again, I'd be fine with taking the risk to get a fuller copy at that stage. It just seems a risk too far to buy it, and then find out I am too slow or lacking ability to make money with it. This is doable from my research, but I'd like to avoid it unless it is the only way. I have the time to learn this stuff, but not the money at present.
1b: Use a cheaper legitimate version of an alternative software for long enough that I can get back up to speed on it and then make a more painless switch to Solidworks to decrease my 'paying license versus earning money' interim period - What are my options? Is there anything more cost effective for learning on that would transfer to Solidworks or would work with Solidworks files (open and produce them)?
2: How realistic is it for me to self train and try and get piece work? Is the market flooded with out of work Solidworks qualified and experienced people that I'd be wasting my time? My first idea was to offer a reduced rate and try to hit the back catalogue requirements of companies that would need older catalogues of parts updated to the new system but don't see the financial rewards when paying a proper Solidworks seat to do it. Or very small volume manufacturers. This is something that will likely supplement my main income (and my wife is ok with supporting me during this) so I can be Captain Budget CAD if it gets me in the door.
Disclaimer - I am going to actively avoid contract work as these are likely the staple of people who will be much better than me, but there seems to be a decent freelance style small workload market starting out there that I can maybe pick up paying gigs until I have enough experience to progress. I am considering this a relatively long term aim - 2-3 years away from being able to support myself fully on this, potentially. Filling in some income in around a year or so, given how much time I will have and need to get proficient enough to present myself to a company as capable.
3: How realistic is it for me, at 40, to try and retrain myself, pick up some practical experience and then try and break into CAD professionally? Do people only accept official Solidworks course completion now? Am I thousands of dollars away from being able to get anything other than some guy making something in his basement?
4: Am I looking at the right software package as my ultimate aim? Is ProE better/more prevalent/more sellable? Mechanical Engineering, possibly with a slant to more automotive/aero/engine/transmission style companies is the kind of slot I'd be good with filling.
So. Direction please. Initially I am looking for a software direction, but longer term ideas/viability/direction would be great if anyone has any insights.