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How to start a structural engineering firm

More and more professionally qualified structural engineers are striking out and setting up their own small businesses. Follow the steps below to get started and grow your career.

Demand for civil and structural engineering expertise is growing rapidly, making now a great time to start your own structural engineering business. Homeowners, developers, builders, and architects are all looking for solutions to their built environment problems. Here, we’ll look at how to start a structural engineering firm, and then grow it.

What skills do you need to be a self-employed structural engineer?

While it’s important to have the right skillset to impress clients with your work, you’ll also need certain qualities to run your business. Here’s a checklist of the essential skills:

  • Good knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • Strong numerical skills
  • Excellent building and construction knowledge
  • Strong knowledge of building design and materials
  • Strong thinking and reasoning ability
  • Management skills
  • Ability to network
  • High standard of customer service

How much money does a structural engineer make a year?

Structural engineer salaries range from £25,000 for a graduate in the initial stages of their career to £85,000 for a technical director with 10+ years of experience.

As a self-employed structural engineer, your salary will vary because you’re in charge of your prices and volume of business. This unique position gives you the potential to maximise earnings. For example, finding a niche in the market can allow you to set a premium rate for your services. Marketing your business well can also result in a plethora of work opportunities.

For more information on how much you should be charging, visit our guide to structural engineer costs.

Why should I start my own engineering firm?

Running an engineering company provides the freedom of being your own boss. This way, you can choose your own projects and who you want to work with. Due to modern technology, a structural engineering consultancy can be set up with as little as a phone and a laptop.

Start your business with the help of Checkatrade

Become a Checkatrade member to get a steady stream of leads for your new business

Learn more

How important is membership of a professional organisation?

Membership of a professional body such as the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), or the specific body for structural engineers (ISTRUCTE), is very important. Building contractors and architects hiring structural engineers will only work with those who are professionally qualified at Chartered-Member, Technician, or Associate-Member level of the Institution of Structural Engineers.

Becoming a chartered engineer also grants access to a range of courses, training and professional information in order to maintain your professional qualifications.

How do I start a structural engineering firm?

Starting a structural engineering firm is a big decision but is achievable for those with the required qualifications. There are several steps you’ll need to take to build a strong reputation and provide a great service for clients.

Business plan

A business plan sets out your goals and the strategies you’ll use to achieve them. Comprehensive market research is crucial for a strong business plan as it will show who your target audience is and how you can attract clients.

As a structural engineer, you already possess a valued and in-demand skillset. Ensure your business plan plays to your strengths and focuses on the skills and expertise you are confident will make your business successful. If your passion is weather-proofing buildings, for instance, make this the standout service in your plan.

Finances

As with any new business, it’s vital you carefully look after your finances. You should always monitor your income and expenditure to prevent financial difficulties. Your rates must be competitive, however, putting them too low can leave you out of pocket.

If your start-up costs are high and you take out a business loan, be sure to consider the interest rate. Also, taxes and VAT must be accounted for.

Marketing strategy

The best marketing tool for your new structural engineering firm is word of mouth. Your technical knowledge and reputation for delivering on time and on budget, together with your approachability and communication skills, will all ensure you’ll gain new business through referrals.

However, investing in other kinds of marketing is also important. We’d recommend using a combination of both print and digital marketing, which can be really effective in connecting with potential clients. Be sure to check out our guide to creating a marketing plan, which includes a free marketing planning download.

Not only will Checkatrade membership give you access to millions of people online, but you can use the platform as you would your website, and to collect and display customer reviews. A smart and easy way to advertise online, you can even use the app to manage every element of your membership and profile.

Start your business with the help of Checkatrade

Become a Checkatrade member to get a steady stream of leads for your new business

Learn more

What hours can I expect to work if I set up my own firm?

As a business owner, you are very much your own boss so you can set your own hours. However, being a business owner doesn’t mean you only have yourself to answer to. Clients can be very demanding and they don’t always keep to a nine-to-five timetable.

structural engineers reviewing plans

How to grow a structural engineering firm

Your structural engineering firm is a huge success. You’ve been working on a range of different engineering projects but now you want to grow your structural engineering firm.

In this section, we’ll help you to create a thorough plan for business growth.

We’ll look at the reasons why you want to grow your structural engineering firm. We’ll analyse your business targets and goals. And we’ll find out how you’re going to achieve growth.

First of all, it’s important to understand more about business growth. This will help you to focus your growth plan on the areas of your structural engineering firm you want to grow.

What is business growth?

Before you go all out to generate more leads and win more jobs, you must understand that growing your structural engineering firm involves more than just getting more work.

As your structural engineering firm grows, you want to ensure that you still offer the same high-quality service that you did when you began. For this, you need a business plan with achievable growth targets.

Setting growth targets for your structural engineering firm

Your growth targets should highlight the direction you want to take your structural engineering firm. Perhaps you want to focus on increasing leads and generating more work. But you might also want to increase your business’ scope.

For instance, you may want to focus on large-scale construction projects, which could involve employing a team of skilled engineers and working on various construction projects either locally or across the country. Or you might prefer to focus on home extensions and renovations, allowing you to offer expert advice on any structural issues and find viable solutions for all types of structural work.

You may even want to expand your services to include other construction work so that you can offer a more complete service.

Whatever your goals, your growth targets should be S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

This will help you to concentrate on your goals as your business grows.

Achieving your growth targets

Achieving your growth targets provides a great sense of success and control over your business. Once you’ve set your growth targets, you need a plan to help you to achieve them.

Have a look at our free business development strategy template. This will help you to develop a clear and concise marketing strategy to help grow your business.

Alongside the template, you can read our useful article that explains all the essential information you’ll want to include in your plan.

Key considerations for business growth

Growing your structural engineering firm may seem like a daunting prospect. When trying to boost sales, grow your team or offer more services, it’s important to remember why you decided to set up your own business in the first place. This might include:

  • Financial stability
  • Quality and consistency
  • Maximising efficiency
  • Training and accreditations

Winning more work as a Checkatrade registered structural engineering firm

One of the best ways to grow your structural engineering firm is to become Checkatrade registered.

All Checkatrade members gain access to a wide range of benefits to help their business thrive. With over 3 million homeowner searches per month, being part of the Checkatrade database is a great way to promote your brand and grow your structural engineering business.

Win more leads

Checkatrade members receive over 100,000 leads each week. 3 million homeowners used our trades last year and a third of all trade work comes through Checkatrade*.

Grow your reputation

8 out of 10 people would choose a trade endorsed by Checkatrade. This is compared to one that isn’t endorsed**. Checkatrade use the tick that homeowners trust, helping you to win more business.

Discounts and benefits

As a Checkatrade member, you get exclusive access to trade deals, saving money on business essentials to help you stay profitable. Checkatrade members save on average £470 per year each***.

This includes making savings on equipment, van leasing, insurance, workwear, and much more.

Start your business with the help of Checkatrade

Become a Checkatrade member to get a steady stream of leads for your new business

Learn more

Become your own boss by starting your own structural engineering firm

Ever dreamed of becoming your own boss? Check out our Become The Boss series for help getting started.




You’ll receive 7 e-mails with tips on starting your own business (and a bonus extra!). This will include expert advice from tradespeople who decided to go it alone.

You’ll also receive a FREE business strategy call from one of our experts. And once complete, you’ll own your own business.

Enter your email address into the form below to get started today.

FAQs

What sort of work does a structural engineer do?

Homeowners, developers, builders and architects look to structural engineers to deliver pragmatic and economic engineering solutions. Very often, structural engineers are brought in as trouble-shooters when a project goes wrong and a developer or architect needs to find another way around a problem without going over budget.

How long does it take to become a structural engineer?

Becoming a professionally accredited structural engineer requires you to complete a three-year-long undergraduate degree (BEng) and a one-year Master of Engineering (Meng).

Is it hard to become a structural engineer?

Studying to become a structural engineer will require hard work and dedication, both during academic study and during your career. However, it is a very rewarding occupation that makes an enormous contribution to the built environment, communities and people’s lives.

How long does it take to start a structural engineering business?

You’ll first need to qualify and then gain experience as an employee. Most people would want several years’ experience under their belt before launching their own venture.

You can expect the first few years working as a self-employed structural engineer to be spent establishing a customer base, growing your reputation, and securing a good cash flow, with the rewards coming in thereafter.

What education is needed to become a chartered structural engineer?

A solid education is needed to become a structural engineer, specifically very good grades in mathematics and physics. MEng and BEng degrees offer a sound academic base, whilst it is also possible to enter the profession via an apprenticeship.

Initial professional development (IPD) is vital for structural engineers. The early stages of a structural engineer’s career should also include workplace development.

 

 

*Checkatrade brand tracking survey April 2021

**Claims are sourced from a survey conducted by Deep Blue Thinking on a nationally representative UK sample in November 2021.

***Year runs from April 21’ to March 22’. Saving calculation based on average spend across 12,505 members in 2020/2021/2022. Discounts differ depending on the partner. Products range from low value items to high value items. Some exclusions will apply on products.

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