Will I be able to do engineering

Setting up an engineering office: Tips for your independence


Establishing an engineering office: requirements

In order to set up an engineering office, certain requirements must be met. First of all, training is required that qualifies you for the engineering profession. The job title “engineer” is protected by the engineering laws of the federal states and may only be used for certain degrees. As a rule, studies at a college or university, a comprehensive university, technical college or vocational academy are required. After graduation, engineers receive a degree such as

  • Ing. (Grad.)
  • Graduate engineer (Dipl.-Ing.)
  • Bachelor (B.A)
  • Master (M.A.)
  • Magister (M.A.)

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Know-how for engineers

In addition to the compulsory studies, engineers should ensure that they are always informed about new technical developments in the industry. Specializations in certain areas can also enhance your range of services and possibly address a niche target group. If you position yourself as an expert in a certain area, you may soon be able to take on projects that your competition is unable to implement.


Setting up an engineering office as a freelancer: is a registration necessary?

As a so-called catalog profession, the engineer is basically one of the liberal professions. Freelancers can simply issue their customers with an invoice and get their fee paid in full, income tax and sales tax have to be paid by yourself. Such independence is possible without registering a business and is relatively uncomplicated.

Opening an engineering office: advantages as a freelancer

In contrast to traders, freelancers enjoy numerous privileges which, unlike other legal forms, save them numerous formalities. This is also the case if you want to open an engineering office.

Advantages as a freelancer:

  • No business tax payment
  • No obligation to be a member of the IHK
  • Simplified profit determination using the income-surplus-calculation (EÜR)
  • No obligation to prepare balance sheets according to commercial law

Where do I have to register as a freelance engineer?

There is no formal registration procedure for freelancers, but the tax office must classify you as a freelancer for tax purposes. To do this, submit an informal application for tax registration to the tax office responsible for you. You will then receive a classification of your activity with the status of freelancer or trader. You will also receive your tax number for invoicing from the tax office. If, on the other hand, you are classified as a trader, a business registration is required.

Register engineering office: Classification at the tax office as a freelancer

When you set up an engineering office as a freelancer, the tax office decides on the basis of various criteria whether your activity meets the criteria of freelance work. Since the engineering profession is one of the so-called catalog professions, your engineering office already fulfills a central criterion for freelance work. The tax office also takes into account the delimitation criteria for commercial activity and the character of freelance professions that can be recognized in the company's activities. When working as a freelancer, among other things, the personal work input in relation to the use of capital must play a major role. Exercising a catalog job is therefore not necessarily sufficient to be assigned the status of freelance work.

Become self-employed as a freelance engineer

If you would like to work part-time as an engineer, you can also do so as a freelancer. To do this, you submit an informal application for tax registration. The self-employed can be exempt from sales tax if they turn over less than 22,000 euros per year. For this purpose, the small business regulation must be applied for at the tax office.

In this case, you must note on every invoice that you are exempt from sales tax as a small business owner according to Section 19 of the Sales Tax Act. Here you should weigh up whether you should not pay the sales tax after all, since such an invoice for commercial customers is not necessarily classified as positive. It is highly recommended that you let your boss know about this as he may not be delighted if he learns this from the internet or through customers. Your employer may also prohibit you from doing the part-time job if you are competing with them and / or if the part-time job affects you so badly that your work suffers.

Does the trade association also apply to freelance engineers?

Freelance engineers can take out insurance on a voluntary basis from the Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft (VBG), the professional association responsible for engineers. It is the largest statutory accident insurance provider in Germany.

Register engineering office as a partnership

In a partnership or partnership, members of the liberal professions combine to form the legal form partnership. This legal form is one of the partnerships. The basic requirement for this is that all partners involved who want to open an engineering office are natural persons. Legal persons such as a GmbH cannot belong to such an association. In principle, this legal form is not a commercial trade and is therefore not included in the commercial register. Instead, the shareholders must have the partnership entered in the partnership register, in which every entry or exit of a partner or other changes must be recorded.

Such a partnership must contain all professional titles of the professions represented in the partnership in the name. In addition, it should contain at least one name of a partner and the addition “& Partner” or “Partnership”.

Example for the name of the legal form partnership: Engineering office Röber & Partner


Open an engineering office as a trader: choose the legal form

Founding an engineering office as a commercial individual entrepreneur

As a sole proprietorship with an engineering office, you are usually only classified as a commercial operator if the investment of capital plays a major role in your company. As described above, after weighing up the criteria for freelancers, the tax office carries out a classification after an informal application for tax registration has been made. If your engineering office is classified as a trade, other formalities have to be fulfilled. As a sole trader, you have to pay trade tax and are obliged to register with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

If the tax office has informed you that you will be classified as a trader if you set up an engineering office, you can have the reasoning checked by a lawyer and, if necessary, submit an objection to the classification. In case of doubt, it is best to seek advice from a lawyer and / or tax advisor at an early stage.

Setting up an engineering office part-time as a commercial individual entrepreneur

If you would like to work part-time as an engineer with a small business, you also need to register as a sole proprietor. This can be the case, for example, if your activity as an engineer is not the main focus of the secondary occupation and the tax office therefore does not classify you as a freelancer.

Founding an engineering office as a UG (limited liability)

If you would like to set up your engineering office as a UG (limited liability) or another corporation, you will be classified as a trader. In addition, as with any UG (limited liability), an entry in the commercial register is mandatory.

A UG (limited liability) or entrepreneurial company (limited liability) has the great advantage that your liability is limited to your business assets. As a sole proprietorship, you are generally liable with all of your private assets. Another advantage of the UG is that you can set up a limited liability company with a minimum capital of just 1 euro. Until a share capital of 25,000 euros has been saved, you are obliged to build up reserves with a UG (retention obligation).

The UG (limited liability) is also popularly called “Mini-GmbH” and is the legal form for your engineering office if you want to set up a form of company with limited liability with little capital. A conversion to a GmbH is possible at any time if sufficient capital is available.

Founding an engineering office as a GmbH

If you have 25,000 euros available as share capital, you can immediately set up a GmbH and thus obtain limited liability for your company. The GmbH is also a highly respected legal form abroad, the creditworthiness of which is hardly questioned.

If you have sufficient share capital for your engineering office as a corporation, it is advisable to set up a GmbH.

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Opening an engineering office as a trader: Where do I have to register?

Have the engineering office entered in the commercial register

If your engineering office is a corporation, an entry in the commercial register is mandatory. This also applies to registered traders (e.K.). Registered merchants are individual entrepreneurs whose activities require a commercially equipped business. If this is not the case, you can also voluntarily have yourself entered in the commercial register as a sole trader. If the entry is mandatory for you, the Commercial Code (HGB) applies to you regardless of the time of entry. If the entry is made on a voluntary basis, the HGB only applies to a company from the time of entry.

Registration with the commercial register is generally carried out by a notary.

Register engineering office as a business

In contrast to freelance engineers, you have to register your company as a commercial engineer with the trade office. This applies to both individual entrepreneurs and every corporation. The application must be submitted to the office responsible for your company headquarters. Your data will then be forwarded to the tax office, which will then ask you to submit the data for tax registration. After you have submitted your data and checked it, you will receive a tax number for your company and can officially issue invoices

Register your engineering office with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK)

As a commercial engineering office, you must register with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce responsible for you. The IHK is a competent contact for many questions. As a rule, the IHK is informed about your independence by the trade office and contacts you regarding the registration.

Which professional association is responsible for engineers?

The professional association responsible for engineers is Administrative trade association (VBG). It is the largest statutory accident insurance provider in Germany. Membership is compulsory for tradespeople, freelancers can take out insurance on a voluntary basis.


Which federal associations are there for engineers?

After opening your engineering office, it is strongly recommended that you join the engineering associations that are of interest to you.

Important professional associations for engineers are:

  • VDI - Association of German Engineers
  • ZDI - Central Association of German Engineers
  • VBI - Association of Consulting Engineers
  • BDB - Association of German Builders, Architects and Engineers e.V.
  • BWK - Association of Environmental Engineers
  • GIH - Association of Building Energy Consultants Engineers Craftsmen


Founding an engineering office: Which business insurances are recommended?

Protect your company in good time by taking out professional insurance. A public liability insurance is certainly to be recommended as an engineer.


Engineering office: Pay attention to HOAI when issuing invoices

In addition to the individually agreed rules, a special fee schedule for architects and engineers (HOAI) applies to the engineering industry, which is a mandatory statutory price law for engineers as well as architects and builders. The current HOAI can always be viewed online at www.bundesingenieur-kammer.de. In 2009, some innovations were approved by the Federal Council, including the requirements of the European Services Directive. In addition, in addition to the GWB (law against restraints of competition), public clients have to observe the provisions of the VOL (contract regulations for services), VOB award and contract regulations for construction work) and VOF (contract regulations for freelance services). Further details on procurement procedures and legal regulations can be obtained from the procurement office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.


Open an engineering office: your business plan

As in every industry, it is advisable to draw up a business plan as early as possible, which on the one hand serves as an orientation and profitability analysis and on the other hand should convince potential financing partners of your business idea. Regardless of whether you are conducting financing talks with banks and Business Angling or whether you are applying for a start-up grant: the first thing you will do is ask about the business plan. Often the degree of professionalism of a business plan is decisive for a commitment, whereby of course the most professional business plan cannot gloss over if your key figures and calculations do not yield much.

Founding an engineering office: Brief business plan check for content and structure

In principle, a business plan is always structured in the same way. The core and most important part is the executive summary. The main purpose of the executive summary is to arouse interest in studying the entire document in detail. Ideally, you should focus on your business idea and add USPs (unique selling points), market situation, management competence, necessary capital and forecasts for the upcoming return. In general, everything an investor needs to know should be included here, the other chapters only serve to deepen individual aspects. In addition, the business idea, product analysis, marketing, etc. should also be analyzed in as much detail as possible and measurable goals should be set using key figures. In any case, part of a business plan should also be a detailed financial plan, which makes it clear to you and outsiders how the company's liquidity looks at a certain point in time.


Engineering office: target group, product and service

Think carefully about what your service or your products look like and compare them to the competition. What distinguishes your products from the competition? Are the target groups different? And if so, how do the target groups differ? What special benefits do your customers have? It is important to answer these questions as precisely as possible. This data should also be clearly visible in the business plan, for example by listing the current prices of the main competitors as a comparison and listing the specific savings made by the customers. It does not necessarily have to be monetary values, it can also be qualitative key figures that prove the high quality of your raw materials or the like. Especially in the development phase of your specific services, remember that you always state the current status of all aspects of your service in the business plan, including a specific time schedule for completion.

Many engineering offices join forces with architecture offices in order to be able to offer a higher range of services.

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Which location do I choose for my engineering office?

Depending on the orientation of your engineering office, the location analysis is more or less relevant. If you often have to be on site at construction sites, your office location should be as central as possible and offer motorway access or good access to public transport. Accessibility by potential customers should also be ensured.


Personnel for your engineering office

Engineering offices come in a wide variety of sizes. Usual employees are project managers, site managers, specialist planners, CAD specialists or accountants.


Marketing and advertising for your engineering office

Even if you are relatively broad in terms of your range of services, you should define your "ideal" customers as clearly as possible.The next step is to find out what wishes and needs your core target group has and how you can meet them. However, meeting these needs is not enough; you need to convey them in your marketing activities as well. In order to check whether customers associate the desired characteristics such as “competent” or “reliable” with your engineering office, you can conduct surveys with former customers and determine which image is currently being conveyed. In individual cases, it is definitely advisable to involve a marketing agency that will make positioning easier for you. Since marketing has its own peculiarities in every industry and is subject to different weightings, it is best to use an agency with industry experience. A good marketing strategy is also to position yourself on architect portals such as architekten.de.


The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. However, we cannot guarantee the correctness, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a technical expert in a specific case - we will be happy to put you in touch.

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