Civil engineering refers to any kind of engineering on public infrastructure, including dams, bridges, aqueducts, canals, highways, power plants, sewerage systems, and more.

Basically, any kind of infrastructure that keeps towns and cities running smoothly. As such, there’s always plenty of options for civil engineers when it comes to finding work. 

So, if you’re considering becoming a self-employed civil engineer, this guide will help you with some employment ideas, such as:

  • Building material supplier
  • Construction company
  • Land surveys
  • Project management

We’ll also specify some low-cost business ideas like:

  • Borehole drilling
  • Roofing material supplier
  • Haulage services

Finally, we’ll be giving some helpful advice about how to manage your finances, including:

  • Business expenses
  • Invoicing
  • Accounting software

Building material supplier

Building a supply business for engineering supplies is always a good idea. Engineers will always need supplies.

A supply business will require a fair amount of market research first. You’ll have to look at local suppliers, what they’re offering, and if you can offer something different or better. 

The most profitable supplies you can sell are sand, bricks, cement, TMT rods, wires, nails, and paint. So start with these items. Contact local civil engineers and find out where they get these supplies from, and how much they pay, to see if there’s room for you in the market. 

Construction company

If you’re already a civil engineer, starting a construction company is well within your wheelhouse. You’ll have the benefit of your experience to drive projects forward, but it’s a big undertaking from a business standpoint. 

Start by doing small specialist projects that you have more experience in before expanding to larger jobs. 

Land surveys

Surveyors make precise measurements of surfaces to help out with future projects. The measurements record the shape and contour of the ground to be used for engineering, mapmaking, construction reports, and property boundaries.  

Project management 

Although you’ll be working for yourself, you can acquire contracts from local councils to manage large infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, or building construction. 

Projects like these are great for publicity because the end project will be available for everyone to see. 

Business ideas with lower start-up costs

If money is a little tight, consider some of these business ideas. They have low start-up costs while offering a reasonable return on investment. 

Borehole drilling 

Boreholes are used for a number of reasons in civil engineering. The holes might be used to collect soil, water, or mineral samples, or to create water wells for future plumbing projects. 

Roofing material supplier

Certain roofing materials like shingles, clay tiles, and concrete tiles are always in high demand for civil engineering projects. Supplying them on a small scale is a safe bet that won’t cost too much. 

Haulage services

Another staple of civil engineering, there will always be a demand for transportation services. You could move large equipment and materials, or provide a scrap and waste removal service. 

Business expenses

One of the easiest ways to lose out on money is by forgetting to record business expenses. Business expenses are defined as any money you’ve spent that’s “wholly and exclusively” for the purpose of running your business.

When the time comes to pay income tax, you can deduct any business expenses you’ve made throughout the year from your total to decrease your taxable income. 

Some common business expenses include:

  • office costs – stationery or phone bills.
  • travel costs – fuel, parking, train, or bus fares.
  • clothing expenses – uniforms.
  • staff costs – salaries or subcontractor costs.
  • things you buy to sell on – stock, or raw materials.
  • financial costs – insurance or bank charges.
  • costs of your business premises – heating, lighting, business rates.
  • advertising or marketing – website costs.
  • training courses related to your business.

Alongside business expenses, you can claim capital allowances too. They work in pretty much the same way but they’re for one-off expenses like:

  • equipment
  • machinery
  • business vehicles

It sounds simple enough, the tricky part is keeping a detailed note of all your business expenses throughout the year. You should consider downloading accounting software like Countingup. It’ll automatically save and categorise all your transactions so you’ll never miss a beat.

Invoicing 

Accurate invoicing is essential for receiving payments on time and having accurate records of your finances. 

To keep you right, here’s a checklist of everything you need to include for a professional invoice.

  • A unique invoice number. They need to be different for each client. For example, John Smith’s invoices could be numbered JS1, JS2, JS3 etc.
  • Invoice Date.
  • Company or business name.
  • Limited Company Registration Number.
  • VAT Registration Number.
  • Limited Company Address.
  • Contact details – email, address, and phone number.
  • Client or agency’s name and address.
  • Description of the services you’re providing to the agency/client.
  • A breakdown of hours and rates. For example, 35 hours at £40 per hour.
  • Date when the services were supplied.
  • Amount charged for services.
  • VAT charged (at 20%).
  • The total amount charged (including VAT)
  • Your business bank account details (sort code and account number).
  • A client reference number or Purchase Order (PO) number are typically required.

When dealing with invoices, there are a few good practices that will help make your life a lot easier:

  • Keep copies and organise them – getting into this habit will save you a lot of hassle later on. Keep your copies organised according to client and month. 
  • Include all possible payment methods – give your clients every possible option to pay you so there’s no excuse for late payments. 
  • Invoice as soon as possible – most businesses allow a period of time before clients have to pay, but that doesn’t mean you can’t invoice them immediately to ensure a quicker payment. 
  • Outline your terms – due dates, late fees, business credit, payment methods, and what will happen if the payment doesn’t match the invoice amount. 
  • Chase up late payments – In many cases, when clients don’t pay you it’s just an innocent mistake on their part. They might have forgotten to pay, never received the payment due to a change of address, and/or misplaced the invoice due to poor financial management. So don’t worry about chasing up overdue payments. After all, it’s money that you’re owed. 

Manage your finances with a simple accounting app

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.