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Customer Story: White Horse CAD on how to become a CAD contractor

Friday April 3, 2020 at 3:00pm

However much you dream of becoming your own boss, swapping the security of your PAYE job to become a CAD contractor is a big decision. You might be questioning yourself: ‘Am I good enough to open my own limited company?’; ‘Is the workload unstable?’ and ‘How will I find work?’.

But if you have been thinking for a while in becoming a contractor, now could be the perfect time. Of course the result of Brexit, and now the global COVID-19 pandemic, have introduced us to an unprecedented level of uncertainty, not only economically, but also personally and within the most mundane tasks of our daily routines. As a result, many employers are choosing to delay any long-term investment decisions, including recruitment, until the situation settles and the picture becomes clearer.

During hard economic times, many companies are less inclined to invest in software and rather than hiring permanent employees, some businesses may choose to hire contractors to fill their resource gaps over the short-term. This means that if you are an aspiring contractor, there could be more opportunities in your industry than you might think possible right now.

To give you a better idea of what is like to become a contractor in the UK, we interviewed our customer, Tim Bird, founder and Managing Director of White Horse CAD.

White Horse CAD are a design and project management consultancy based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. They offer a range of product development, tooling design, fixture design and project management services to many businesses, particularly those within in the medical, oil and gas field, who either have limited design resource or no design resource.

First step into becoming a contractor

Tim decided to start White Horse CAD in early 2017 when he found out that he was going to be made redundant from a long-term senior design engineer position. Tim remembers, ‘After some thinking, I realised that I could start up my own company to have more control over my life and stop the long commutes backwards and forwards from jobs. I've always wanted to become self-employed and for me the time was right.’

Initial concerns

‘My biggest concern that I had when I became a contractor was not getting any work.’ Going from having a boss and a company’s support mechanism to then working on your own is a major step. But the beauty of it is that contractors get to choose which jobs they decide to take on whilst also earning up to 50% more than employees in similar positions.

In Tim’s case, he had worked in the industry for so long and had built up a network of potential clients during that time, so he knew this was a service he could sell. He comments, ‘I'm not going to lie, there were a few lean months in the beginning but once you get over that initial period, clients start to come back and value the skills you offer. I enjoy being a contractor because there's a good diversity to what projects I can work on, every day is different.’

Choosing the right 3D CAD software

For Tim the main key consideration for choosing a CAD tool is that it had to be a piece of software he was already familiar with. Tim says, ‘I have currently been using SOLIDWORKS for 20 years, but prior to that, I was using 2D CAD. I then quickly changed over to 3D CAD because it was a lot more useful and I could create impressive designs using relatively low-cost software.’

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a 3D CAD software, is making sure you start with the right solution from the word go. In a nutshell, SOLIDWORKS offers three packages: Standard, Professional and Premium. You can learn the main differences between each package here.

Choosing a 3D CAD Vendor

It is also very important to partner up with the right SOLIDWORKS supplier. Buying your software of choice should not simply be a transactional experience. You need to make sure you will have the right support if you ever get stuck with any functionalities, especially when your clients will value each hour invested in your work. Tim says, ‘When you come across an issue and you’re trying to find a solution it can be quite frustrating and easy to forget that the Solid Solutions support team are there. Once you spend some time trying to solve the problem, you then realise “Hang on a minute, I've got this amazing team I can ring up” and when you ring them, your issue is usually solved within 5 or 10 minutes and you're on your way and designing again.’

Tim comments, ‘When it came to purchasing my SOLIDWORKS licence I was surprised at how quick it was from placing an order to receiving my license key, this meant that I could actually get on and do some work. On a number of occasions, I have also received contacts through Solid Solutions who have turned into clients. Clients often find me through Google and some have come back to me and said they verified I use SOLIDWORKS by going onto the Solid Solutions contractors’ portal so they can validate that I'm a legit contractor.’


How do Solid Solutions help contractors?

‘Our contractors play a really important role in the SOLIDWORKS community. There are lots of businesses out there who have great ideas or important projects that they are looking to deliver but they maybe don't have the infrastructure to help them deliver that. These guys are able to support them through that process and offer a really great service that helps embed SOLIDWORKS into their business but also helps them achieve their goals’, says Paul Fuge, Regional Sales Manager at Solid Solutions.

Is contracting the life for you?

If you think working as a CAD contractor could be for you, make sure to research the market to find out more about the opportunities in your sector and the level of pay you could reasonably expect to receive. Also, make sure to plan on how you would cope financially during periods of unemployment.

If you’re ready to give it a go, start by watching our video interview with Tim for some other tips on becoming a contractor and get in touch on 01926 333777 if you would like to have an informal chat with one of our team.

To find out more about White Horse CAD, visit

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