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How Do I Become a Freelance Surveyor?

Freelance surveyors are hired to produce accurate diagrams depicting a property or area.
Some freelance surveyors buy or rent a plotter in order to make accurate maps and diagrams of the areas they survey.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Voight
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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To become a freelance surveyor, it’s necessary to be registered in the state, province or country of residence and have considerable experience in all aspects of surveying, including fieldwork and working with computer-aided design and drafting software (CAD or CADD). A certain amount of financial backing or resources and willingness to assume risk can also be helpful to become a freelance surveyor. Setting up a surveying business requires significant overhead, including office space, business insurance and licensing, as well as sophisticated surveying equipment.

The primary requirement to become a surveyor trainee is extensive experience in surveying. As the primary registered surveyor, it’s necessary to be able to handle a variety of types of jobs and situations that might arise. Although some freelance surveyors might specialize in a certain type of surveying, it can be helpful to have knowledge of other specialties. In the beginning, business can be slow, so a freelance surveyor typically will want to accept as many jobs as possible to keep the income flowing.

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A sizable initial investment is necessary to become a freelance surveyor. This profession requires sophisticated and expensive measuring equipment and a high-end computer with a plotter and a printer. Equipment can be bought or leased, but even leasing equipment can be quite expensive. Surveyors frequently must travel to the field or to government offices for research, so a reliable vehicle such as a truck is necessary to transport equipment and supplies. Two trucks are even better, just in case one breaks down.

It will be necessary to decide whether to operate as a sole proprietor or as a limited liability company (LLC) and to obtain the proper business license from the governing authorities in that region. As a business entity, a freelance surveyor should consult the governing authorities in that jurisdiction to determine what types of licensing requirements are necessary to start a new business. It can be helpful to hire an attorney and an accountant to help handle legal and financial requirements.

If business goes well enough that additional employees are needed, it will be necessary to investigate options for providing health insurance, workers compensation insurance and paying payroll taxes. An accountant can be helpful for providing advice about these matters and might be able to provide payroll services or referrals to firms that do. Even with help, it will be necessary to keep accurate records to become a freelance surveyor. Knowledge of accounts payable, accounts receivable and financial record-keeping is crucial for anyone who is seeking to start a business.

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