Australia is a land of hard work and efficiency, where students are urged to get a tertiary education and find a job. In the general state of things, this means finding an employer and taking the first steps in employment.

Engineers, however, are different from most other sectors, engineering is a technical profession that does not demand permanent role solutions. Project management is a major part of an engineer’s life cycle, and there are many short-term projects that demand a specific skill set that only an engineer can provide. As such, many companies are not seeking a full-time employee, but a focused contract worker to provide a bespoke service.

The rise of the freelancer

Freelancing engineers are not new to the scene, but in recent years due to the accessibility to online freelancer board, it is easier to source for freelance engineers as well as for freelancers to source or apply for contract jobs online. Freelancers can be individuals or part of a group that specializes in placement.

Employers perspective

The advantages to a company to employ contract workers are obvious, these include the reduction of exposure to the high maintenance costs of HR, and contracts are usually easy to terminate without a days’ notice when needed.

Employers also get to choose a unique individual for every project, as such they can literally fit the individual to the project like a glove to the hand. This gives contract employment an added professional advantage to permanent employees.

Engineers perspective

A freelancer Engineer enjoys being self-employed, he/she is the boss of their own professional life. They get to choose the level of their workload and what they work on. Essentially, a freelance engineer has to “fish” for work, which does take up time, and in many instances requires references for excellence and performance. However, once an engineer has created an established online presence, their demand grows.


According to online studies, the current contract market holds around 25% of the engineers being employed, which is significant but still less than those employed in permanent contracts. Also, 25% of all employers intended to increase the number of contracted engineers in the following year, but again, this is significantly less than the 43% that intended to find permanent employees.

The pros and cons

The advantages of contract work are evident on both sides of the equation; this includes the advantages of an employee contracting an engineer for specific work, paying a slightly higher salary per contract or per hour, but having a finite limit to the contract, which may or may not be extended. A contract employee is always cheaper to manage than a full-time employee. From an engineer’s perspective, contract work does mean more income per hour, but no holiday, sick leave coverage or bonuses. You also have to manage your income as a company or individual, and you must consider a lot of marketing and selling, which is not engineering.

Another advantage that contract work has is that it is not defined by location, which in a country as large as Australia means you can contract an engineer from one side of the continent to perform a job on the other side, and this widens the reach for both the employer and the freelance engineer.

The bottom line

The lifestyle of a freelancer is also not certain, but to be honest, even permanent contracts are never permanent, since companies do go under, and do cut staff. It’s really a toss-up between two distinctive lifestyles.