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How to start a network engineering business

Want to set up your own network engineering business? From the equipment you'll need to making a business plan, we've covered everything you need to get started.

Nowadays, almost every company relies on a computer network to access and share information across their organisation. As networks are crucial for working life, engineers are highly valued for their ability to upgrade, maintain or troubleshoot systems.

That’s why going self-employed in the industry is such a great opportunity. You’ll be able to profit from plenty of business opportunities.

Plus, you have the freedom to choose your working hours, specialisms, and customers.

Ready to get started? This guide covers everything you need to know about taking the next step in your career and starting your own network engineering business.

What skills are important for starting a network engineering business?

You’ll come across various challenges while completing jobs and running your network engineering business. So, it’s probably no surprise that you’ll need a wide skillset.

Here are the most important qualities:

  • Thorough understanding of computer operating systems for designing, configuring or troubleshooting different networks
  • Systems, hardware and software knowledge
  • Attention to detail for spotting issues and protecting networks
  • Analytical thinking to evaluate network performance and security
  • Problem-solving and troubleshooting skills for resolving network issues
  • Ability to lead and manage projects
  • Basic maths for managing your business’s financials and taxes
  • Teamwork, especially alongside a client’s in-house IT team
  • Interpersonal skills for building business relationships and providing a high standard of customer service

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 How can I make my business stand out?

Alongside the qualifications you need, you could seek further certification by joining a relevant trade association.

Joining The Chartered Institute for IT recognises your competence and high standard of work in the network engineering industry. Becoming an official member could potentially give you an edge over the competition when seeking new customers.

What equipment is required for network engineering?

Having the right equipment is also key for completing jobs quickly and to a high standard. The following list covers the essentials for most day-to-day work:

  • Software tools for analysing and troubleshooting networks
  • Ethernet cable
  • RJ45 female-to-female connector for ethernet extension
  • Serial to ethernet adapter
  • USB to serial adapter
  • Screwdriver for dismantling and replacing systems
  • Cable tester
  • Tone probe to trace cable routes
  • Cable snake to keep wiring tidy

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How can I start a network engineering business?

First, you must legally register your network engineering business with HMRC and choose a name.

Try to make it short, catchy and relevant to your services. This is more likely to stick with potential clients – especially in a competitive market like IT.

You’ll also need to choose a recognised structure for your business. You can set up as a sole trader or as a company, and each has its own pros and cons.

For instance, sole trading requires less paperwork, but you’ll be personally responsible for any losses or debt your business incurs. A limited company structure gives you more financial security, but less privacy around your profit and earnings.

Read our full guide on registering as a sole trader vs a limited company to help you make a decision.

Plan your network engineering service

It’s important to have a clear idea of the type of you work you’ll be offering.

Network engineers typically focus on delivering high-availability network infrastructure. However, roles can overlap with computer network architects, security systems engineers or professionals within a client organisation.

If you’re not sure what you want to specialise in yet, use these network engineer business ideas for inspiration:

  • Network performance consultancy – Analyse network performance and advise on updates or changes that should be made
  • Troubleshooting service – Monitor networks, identifying and resolving any issues that crop up
  • Network design and configuration – Put together network designs for businesses and install the equipment
  • Network security – Maintain firewalls, update virus protection software and perform data backups

Choose a target market

As a network engineer, you could expand your services across a huge range of different businesses. But to begin with, it’s best to focus on a couple of key sectors and develop your portfolio from there.

Healthcare and education have large estates requiring extensive networking, though they can be difficult markets to break into. Contracts in corporate offices, on the other hand, are very common and the technical challenges are often more straightforward.

Be sure to consider the types of businesses in your area before settling on a target market – research and planning are key.

Insuring your network engineering business

Network engineering is technical work that involves handling valuable or sensitive data, so there’s always a chance of something going wrong.

That’s why insurance policies are essential to protect you and your business. Here are the main types you should consider:

  • Professional indemnity insurance – You’ll be dealing with numerous companies in your line of work, so this will cover your business if clients are unhappy with any work you’ve completed
  • Employers’ liability insurance – If you decide to take on employees, you’ll be legally required to have this cover in place
  • Cyber and data insurance – Your business centres around computer systems, so it’s essential for you to have protection against data breaches or hacks

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How to run your network engineering business

Bookkeeping

While it’s not the most exciting thing about owning a business, bookkeeping is crucial. You’ll need to monitor your ingoings and outgoings to ensure you’re making profit at the end of the day.

Bear in mind that your outgoings may outweigh your initial revenue due to start-up costs, which is perfectly normal. If this concerns you, consider taking out a business loan to cover the initial costs of registration, equipment and insurance.

Remember, don’t forget to manage your taxes. Different taxes apply to different business structures, so make sure you understand what taxes you need to be documenting.

If you’re not sure, consider employing an accountant to help you file your taxes.

Hiring a team

As your business grows, you may be faced with larger projects or an increased workload across different sites that you’ll need help with.

Make sure your candidates have a solid CV with all the necessary skills and experience to be a competent network engineer. However, they may have learned on the job, so it’s always best to meet potential colleagues in person.

Attitude is massively important for a new business, so play close attention to their manner and approach. After all, they’ll be representing your business.

Marketing your network engineering business

Devising an effective marketing strategy will be key to securing more opportunities and building your business’s reputation.

You’ll be working directly with other organisations, it’s important to employ the right approaches for targeting these particular clients.

Signing up to Checkatrade is a great way to raise your profile. It opens up your service to over three million monthly site users that could become your clients.

You’ll also be able to interact with other members community, build trade relationships and gain valuable industry insight.

Social media is another useful marketing tool for your business. Setting up a profile gives you a platform to expand your audience. This will allow you to interact with potential clients in your target market and drum up new business.

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Network engineering business FAQs

Are network engineers in demand?

Most businesses rely on computer networks for sharing and protecting valuable information, but maintaining these systems is very technical work.

That’s why the skills of a network engineer are highly sought-after for configuring and servicing networks. It is certainly an in-demand profession, making it the perfect opportunity to start your own business.

How much can I earn as a self-employed network engineer?

Your earnings as a self-employed network engineer will vary depending on the demand for services and your rates. However, here are some ballpark figures:

  • Network engineers with several years of experience earn, on average £29,000 a year.
  • Network engineers with a lot of experience under their belt earn around £40,000 a year.

As a network engineering business owner, you could earn even more if you receive a steady stream of opportunities. This will rely on you establishing a niche and marketing your business effectively.

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