Professional Ethics for Freelance CAD Jobs

Freelance CAD jobs involve a lot of professional issues, particularly in the design field. This is a profession where your conduct is often used as a personal reference, because design is a particularly sensitive field commercially. CAD designs can involve big money, and major business interests. It’s not the sort of environment where a compromised reputation is an asset.

Designs are Property

Put simply, designs are property, and the ethical behavior regarding designs is exactly the same as for property. You respect the property rights of others. There are major business issues in relation to dealing with designs in freelance CAD jobs, and you must be aware of any possible issues, particularly contractual obligations and any risks related to your work.

Non-Disclosure Clauses

This type of ethical behavior comes with the risks built in. Most designers and other CAD workers will at some point find themselves dealing with commercially confidential, or at least sensitive, information. The contractors will have provided standard contracts with non-disclosure clauses, but you really need to understand those clauses.


The first thing you’ll notice is that third parties are the main area for contractual protection. The contractor, who is also under obligations to the intellectual property owners, attempts to cover against liability. Your obligations are spelled out in various forms regarding what you must do and must not do.

This is very common practice in industrial design, and it’s also very necessary. Industrial espionage is a very big business in its own right, and design information is at the top of the shopping list for theft. An airframe design could be worth millions to an industrial spy. From the point of view of a freelance CAD person, the stolen airframe design could also be worth millions, going the wrong way. The logic of professional ethics is always tied in to real practical issues. 

Professional Ethics for Freelance CAD Jobs in Practice

Grim as the requirements for intellectual property can be, they’re no tougher than the basic ethical practices in some areas. Many of these obligations are within the contract terms, but they’re also basic professional issues.

For Example

You’re a freelance CAD designer, working on a product design under contract. You’re worried you don’t know how to do a part of the design. You email a friend at your old college, who promptly comes back and solves the problem for you.

Within a week the story of your problem has innocently spread to every CAD designer in the area. Your contractor reminds you that you weren’t supposed to disclose any information  at all, by dropping a lawsuit on you for breach of contract. This is to cover the loss of their own contract.

Was this unethical behavior on your part? Yes and no. It wasn’t intentionally unethical. It wasn’t intentionally stupid, either, but it might as well have been both. The failure of ethics in this case was failing to admit you were out of your depth with the design issues.

Remember in any area of CAD work, on any job: Your contractual obligations are always your best guide to the ethical obligations.