Friday, December 26, 2008

Basic Steps to Starting a CAD Business

Establishing any business requires basic precepts. For the sake of this article, we will entertain that you already have an idea as to a business plan and goals, along with the desire to follow through on your commitment.

Your thoughts should then extend to the following areas:
  • Legal Registration
  • Equipment
  • Maintenance
  • Marketing
Legal Registration:
Most states, if not all, now accommodate on-line business creation wizards that can walk you through the process. With on-line registration, one can select a suitable business structure or organization (i.e.: 'limited liability company') and complete the steps typically involved including naming your company, providing ownership information, and arranging registration payment.

As regards the most basic CAD equipment requirements, access to a SolidWorks-friendly computer and the Internet are obvious. Your monetary resources will then be a factor as to 'if' or 'how' you further build your equipment overhead. Such additional factors to consider might include purchasing a printer or having access to a local print shop; purchasing 'legal' CAD software; and having reliable transportation whether public or private. With such decisions, many may choose to start lean and then make further investments in equipment as the company develops.

Starting lean may mean that initially you don't have the CAD software that you specialize in. However, you can still provide your services by offering to work at an employers location.

Keep in mind regarding equipment purchases, that many retailers today carry 'rewards' cards that provide a discount for using their services. As with anything business related, it is important for documentation purposes to keep business purchases separate from any personal purchases.

As with any trade, the quality of your work will be directly related to the quality of your tools. Therefore it is vital that your equipment resources be properly maintained. It should go without saying that this involves protecting your computer and using it intelligently to avoid unnecessary risks. Parents are probably well aware of the dangers that younger ones present when 'playing' on the home computer!

Apart from physical maintenance, there is intellectual maintenance as well. Not to be overlooked are the many opportunities for free training to keep your CAD skills up-to-date. Many SolidWorks VARS (value added resellers) serving local areas (i.e.: Graphics/Systems which serves Wisconsin & Illinois) have regular free on-line webinars that highlight a particular topic, or they may host 'what's new' presentations for annual new releases. There are also numerous CAD user groups (i.e.: Madison Area SolidWorks User's Group) located in major metropolitan areas which serve as another means to stay active in the CAD community.

Similar to the need to balance start-up equipment decisions with available money, resourcefulness can go a long way in electronically marketing your business with little to no expense but for your time. For instance, you may choose to avail yourself of the many free features that reputable internet search companies provide. Creating a searchable website, e-mail accounts, business documents, and searchable business listings are all possible with companies such as Google and Yahoo. And all of these aspects can be created without the need for an IT degree or paying any additional expense apart from the cost you would normally pay to your internet service provider (ISP).

Your business cards or promotional items such as pens & shirts with your name and logo can all come later when you may have more capital available.

Not to be overlooked are the networking ties you may have generated with others. Periodic e-mail contact with peers will go a long way in promoting your availablity and act as a fresh reminder of your services to such ones. User groups too allow one to network with others in the field and may, with professional and tactful discernment, provide you with the opportunity to respectfully promote your business.

So with addressing some basic areas as noted above, it is possible to create a legal CAD business entity that is positioned for sustainablity, with very little start-up expense.