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Finding engineers to develop your product is not an easy task. It’s very challenging to find good engineers, and it can be even more difficult to judge the quality of those engineers. This is especially true if you are not an engineer yourself, because you likely don’t have the technical skills to judge the experience or work quality of other engineers.
Your best shot at reducing your development cost is to find a smaller firm that doesn’t have the marketing footprint of larger firms. However, these small firms are difficult to find since most of them rank poorly in Google.
If reducing your development cost is a priority (if it isn’t it should be) then focus on finding offshore engineers. That being said, the difficulty of finding good offshore engineers is nearly overwhelming. It’s difficult to search for them using Google, in part because Google will prioritize displaying websites in your own country.
In this article, you’re going to learn 10 ways to find the right engineers to help develop your product.
#1 – Referrals
Getting referrals from your family, friends, and co-workers is a logical place to start. If you’re in school now, consider getting referrals from professors. You can also reach out to your social media network asking for referrals for good engineers.
Your best bet is to get a referral because you’re going to immediately have some feedback on the quality of the work. Obviously, firms that do poor work don’t typically get referred.
This strategy is going to be challenging for a lot of people because most people don’t have a large network of people with experience developing new electronic products. This may not give you many options, but it’s definitely a first route to pursue.
Another option is to get a referral from me. If you contact me I will be more than happy to recommend a design firm that can help you develop your product. In fact, I work very closely with two design firms, one in Canada and the other in India. The Canadian firm is much cheaper than most U.S. design firms, yet the Indian firm is going to be the lowest cost option.
Years ago, I would generally recommend freelancers because their rates were much lower and most of the people I help have fairly limited budgets. But after helping entrepreneurs for several years, I’ve realized that a design firm is a much better solution for most people. The reason being that a design firm can do all of the necessary tasks under one roof.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to find a few design firms that charge rates that are very similar to freelancers, so you get the advantages without the higher price of most firms.
That being said, I always recommend that you first begin with a Predictable Hardware Report for your product before you begin spending the really big money on full development.
#2 – Online Marketplaces
Upwork (formerly Elance) is the best online marketplace for finding engineers. There is a huge selection of engineers that you can choose from on Upwork. The majority of engineers on Upwork will be freelancers, but you can also sometimes find smaller firms too.
Upwork is a global marketplace so you’re going to be able to find engineers located anywhere from Pakistan to the United States. Typically, going offshore, to India for instance, is going to be a lot cheaper than hiring engineers in Westernized countries, especially the United States.
The United States is usually going to be the most expensive option. If you want to stick with a westernized English-speaking country then you should consider engineers in Canada. Canada has many of the same benefits as working with U.S. engineers, yet their prices tend to be lower.
Online marketplaces are great for small jobs, but they don’t work quite as well for long-term projects. This is because many of the people working on these platforms may come and go. Many engineers may just be doing temporary freelance work because they are between jobs. Will they be around for you once they take on a full time job?
This makes freelancers great for small jobs, but less than ideal to completely develop your entire product. You really need to find someone that’s going to be with you for the long term. You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to switch engineers in the middle of your project.
One benefit of online marketplaces is they are very competitive. You can get good pricing because there are so many engineers competing from places like India or Pakistan. That tends to bring the prices down.
Another advantage of online marketplaces is they provide some level of protection. If for instance you pay someone and they end up not delivering, or the work quality isn’t what you expected, you do have avenues to pursue to either get the freelancer to complete the work as expected or to even get a refund.
Most marketplaces will allow you to pay by project or by the hour. If your project is small and well defined then request project-based pricing. If it’s a big project, I suggest breaking it down into smaller milestones and paying fixed prices for each of those milestones.
However, many engineers won’t feel comfortable with fixed pricing and will require payment by the hour.
One more big advantage of using online marketplaces is you get a preview of the quality of an engineer’s work based on reviews they’ve received for other jobs.
Another strategy to find engineers is to reach out to engineering professors at any nearby universities. Also consider visiting university engineering departments since many will have bulletin boards where you can post an “engineer wanted” flyer. If you are on a tight budget, that can be a way to get students interested in helping develop your product.
You do have to really keep in mind that most undergraduate engineering students are not going to have the necessary design experience to design your product. Therefore, I highly recommend that you focus on graduate students.
Engineering students that already have a bachelor’s degree, but are now working on a Masters or a PhD in engineering, are going to have more direct design experience. Although even then, most engineers gain their best design experience once they get out into industry and are working for a company developing products.
#4 – LinkedIn
LinkedIn, as you may or may not know, started as an online jobs board with a format centered around a resume style. A LinkedIn profile essentially looks like a resume. It shows where they went to school, what previous employers they’ve had, what are their hobbies and interest, and it even includes recommendations from others in their network.
LinkedIn is a great resource for finding engineers and then having immediate access to their resume. It has obviously grown way beyond just being a jobs board and is now considered the primary professional social network.
But LinkedIn is still built upon a resume style format. It’s by far the best social media platform to find professionals, because you can search based on their skills, experience, education, etc.
If you’re on LinkedIn and you already have a network, then I would focus on searching within your first level network. Those are people you’re already connected to.
Then you can extend your search out to your second level network, which includes everyone that your own connections are connected to.
If you don’t have anyone in your network, then I highly recommend you spend some time each day on LinkedIn trying to grow your network and connections with those in the industry. As soon as you make a connection with someone in the industry, you gain immediate access to search all of their connections for someone with the desired skills.
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Then you will immediately be able to search all the engineers, design firms, developers, manufacturers and suppliers that I’ve connected with over the years.
#5 – Hardware / Maker Meetups
These are local events where you meet up with other makers or hardware startups. There is a huge variety of meetups that happen in cities all around the world.
This can be a great place to get local hands on experience. You get to go there, meet people in person and see hardware in action. It’s a great learning experience.
It can also be a good place to meet engineers, although a lot of the people that go to these will tend to be more maker-focused and not necessarily have the engineering skills to develop a commercial product.
If you go to hardware startup meetups, any engineers there are going to likely be focused on their own product and not have time to develop your product. Nonetheless, it can be a great place to grow your network and get referrals for engineers.
#6 – Google
Most engineering firms rank poorly so it can be really difficult to find them using Google searches. Small firms are usually too busy doing engineering and just don’t have the time necessary to create content and get ranked high by Google.
Bigger, well known, and more expensive firms are going to dominate your search results. You may find some smaller firms once you look really far down in your search results so don’t limit yourself to just the first page of search results.
Google searching can be the best option for perhaps some secondary research. Once you’ve located a firm, then use Google to find reviews or feedback associated with them.
As I mentioned earlier, offshore engineering firms are almost impossible to find through Google, because Google always gives preference to websites in your own country.
#7 – Online Forums and Groups
There are various forums and groups all around the Internet where engineers hangout. Those are the places that you can try to connect up with engineers.
Stack Exchange is a really popular forum where you can ask questions and other engineers answer them. Their electrical engineering community is quite large and very active. I recommend searching for questions related to your type of product. You can then reach out to any engineers that answer the question, and that have skills that align with your needs.
LinkedIn and Facebook both have various groups that you can join that are specifically for electrical engineers or engineers of any type of discipline. I’m not really all that active in Facebook groups but I have been in LinkedIn groups.
There are countless groups on LinkedIn where you can go and find engineers to connect with to help develop your product.
Quora is a Q&A website and an amazing resource where experts in various fields will answer your questions.
In the past I’ve been active on Quora and have answered a lot of questions. You can ask any type of question and there are so many experts in various fields on Quora that can answer your questions. The availability of experts on Quora goes way beyond just engineers and you can find just about any type of expert on Quora.
#9 Other Hardware Startups
Another option to find engineers is to find other hardware startups, reach out to them, and ask for their recommendations for design engineers.
This strategy has several problems, but it can work in some cases. The first problem is small hardware startups are sometimes just as difficult to find as engineers. Secondly, if you do find them, there’s a good chance they’re going to be too busy working on their own product to respond to you.
This means you’re probably going to have to reach out to quite a few of them. Also, remember, it’s never a good idea to cold email people and just ask for something right away. It’s better to first give them something, even if that’s a little bit of a compliment on their product or some advice.
#10 – Prototype Shops
The final way to find engineers that I’m going to share is to reach out to prototype shops. For instance, if you’re looking for an electronics designer you could reach out to a PCB prototype shop such as Sunstone Circuits, Seeed Studio, Advanced Circuits, or San Francisco Circuits.
There are so many different PCB shops just in the U.S. alone and most of them are easily found via Google.
The same is true if you need a mechanical engineer. You can reach out to companies that offer 3D printing services like Proto Labs or Seeed Studio, and see if they have any recommendations for 3D designers.
I know finding an engineer can be a difficult process, but hopefully one of these 10 ways that I’ve shared with you will make the task easier. Don’t ever rush the process of finding the right engineer(s) for your project.
It will be worth your time and effort to find the right engineer from the start, since switching engineers in the middle of a project is quite problematic.
Regardless of where you find your engineers it’s always a good idea to get other engineers to independently review their work before you either pay them or spend the money to prototype their design.
If you enjoyed this article please share it or if you have any questions just leave a comment below and I will answer your questions.