As a mechanical engineer, your technical knowledge and problem-solving skills set you apart from the crowd in a field that demands ingenuity and the ability to tackle complex challenges.
However, even in a relatively well-paid industry, the cost of living is painfully rising, and financial pressures can still arise.
And, if you’re looking for a mechanical engineer side hustle that can supplement your income and pad your bank account, you're not alone.
While there are countless side hustles and gigs you can do, one that takes advantage of your skills and aligns with your career is usually more rewarding. You can leverage your existing knowledge and add depth to an already impressive resume.
So, this article covers 30 side hustles specifically for mechanical engineers. Whether it’s passive income from selling an online course you want, or if you prefer dealing with clients, this list should give you a wealth of ideas to get started.
But first, I'll quickly go over some benefits of starting a mechanical engineer side hustle…
Benefits of Side Hustles for Mechanical Engineers
- It can help you build a network of industry connections.
- Additional income streams to futureproof your finances, especially in these increasingly uncertain times.
- Introduces you to new skills and industry-relevant experiences, adding value and diversity to your career as a mechanical engineer.
- Participating in a variety of projects beyond your day job, it may spark innovative ideas that lead to a more satisfying engineering career.
There are probably other benefits you can think of specific to your situation. For example, you may be looking for something bigger than a side hustle. Something you can turn into a full-time business or a complete off-ramp from the daily grind.
Either way, a side hustle usually requires more than job skills. It may require industry connections, additional certifications, learning how to use new tools and resources… and ways to effectively market your side hustle and attract clients.
As we explore the various side hustles for mechanical engineers below, I’ll provide resources along the way that will hopefully help you get started. Now, for the side hustles…
Please note that the starting budgets and income potential provided in this article are only rough estimates and can vary significantly depending on various factors. These factors may include but are not limited to your location, experience level, competition, target market, marketing strategy, and overall economic conditions. The figures mentioned are not guaranteed and should be used for informational purposes only.
We encourage you to conduct thorough research and consult with professionals in your field to gain a better understanding of the costs and potential earnings associated with your chosen side hustle. For additional information on income potential, you may refer to resources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, and PayScale, which provide salary and income data for various professions and industries.
Side Hustles for Mechanical Engineers
1. Freelance CAD Design and Drafting
CAD design and drafting skills are always in high demand.
As a freelancer, you can find many engineering projects on platforms like Upwork and Freelancer.
Companies are always looking to outsource some (or all) of their mechanical engineering work, from designing mechanical parts to creating detailed blueprints for complex machinery.
And freelance platforms are a relatively easy way to land clients and apply your technical skills on your terms.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (depending on whether you already have CAD software and a computer capable of running it)
Income Potential: Based on data from Upwork, freelance CAD designers charge a wide range of rates, from as low as $20 per hour to as high as $75 per hour. The rate depends on the complexity of the project, the designer's experience, and their location.
The lower end is consistent with the average total pay for a Freelance CAD Designer in the United States at $42,740 annually.
2. Private Tutoring in Engineering and Related Subjects
You've spent years honing your skills in mechanical engineering. Why not share that knowledge with others?
As a private tutor, you can help new engineers grasp complex concepts, solve intricate problems, and build a proper foundation.
Sharing engineering knowledge might be something you do anyway. Why not make a significant difference in someone's academic journey while also getting paid?
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $500 (depending on whether you need materials or a tutoring space)
Income Potential: Private engineering tutors earn roughly $24.20 in the United States. However, this can vary significantly depending on the location and the company. For instance, tutors at Empire Edge, LLC earn an average of $59.17 per hour, while those at OneClass earn about $48.17 per hour.
Additionally, Wyzant lists several private tutors whose rates range from $25 – $120 per hour. For example, a former University of Miami Professor, Ali S, charges $92 per hour.
3. Create and Sell Online Courses
If you have a knack for explaining complex engineering concepts in an easy-to-understand manner, creating and selling online courses could be your thing.
This is similar to tutoring but with passive income potential.
Rather than teaching the same thing over and over again, one-on-one, you can create courses that cover everything from basic principles to advanced topics, and you only have to do it once.
You can also combine this with tutoring, offering additional one-on-one sessions for those who are interested.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 (for recording equipment, course creation software, and marketing)
Income Potential: Course prices can range from $10 – $200, with the potential for earning thousands of dollars if the course becomes popular.
4. Host Workshops and Seminars
Hosting workshops and seminars allow you to interact with like-minded individuals and share your mechanical engineering expertise with those who need it.
Whether you’re discussing structural materials, robotics, or thermofluids, getting paid to help others is certainly a win-win.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 (for venue fees, marketing, course materials, parking, accommodations, etc.)
Income Potential: The average hourly pay for a Workshop Facilitator in the US is $22.06, with a range from $11.30 to $56.25. This data is for workshop facilitators in general, and the rates for engineering workshop facilitators could potentially be higher due to the specialized nature of the subject.
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5. Teach at a Local Community College
Continuing with the “teaching” theme, you can also make a difference at a community level.
Depending on where you live, a part-time instructor gig at a local community college or vocational school may be easier than setting up local workshops.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $1,000 (depending on whether additional education or certifications are needed)
Income Potential: The average salary for an adjunct professor, which would include part-time instructors at a community college, is $38,952 per year in the United States. However, this can range from $15,000 to $80,000 per year for the highest 10% of earners.
The wide range is in part because these are part-time instructors, and the number of courses they teach per year varies. Also, these rates are for adjunct professors in general, and the rates for engineering instructors could be higher.
6. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) Consulting
As a mechanical engineer, you most likely have experience and deep knowledge of Finite Element Analysis.
Why not do some side hustle FEA consulting?
Get paid to help companies optimize their designs, improve product durability, and reduce manufacturing costs.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (depending on whether you require additional certifications and have access to FEA software)
Income Potential: According to Cad Crowd, the cost of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) services depends on the type of analysis and complexity of components, materials, or assembly. Here are some estimates:
- Standard FEA Analysis: $700 to $1,500 per project, with an hourly rate of $60 to $80. This includes services such as linear static structure, linear contact, thermal stress, and thermal deflection.
- Complex FEA Analysis: $1,500 to $3,000 per project, with an hourly rate of $80 to $100. This includes services such as non-linear dynamic analysis, vibration response, optimization, and fracture analysis.
Of course, these are only estimates. The actual cost will vary based on the specific project.
7. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Consulting
CFD consultants are well-paid, and you can use your understanding of fluid mechanics to solve complex problems in various industries for various companies. Being in the industry, you may already have some leads to get started (as long as you’re not directly competing with your employer).
From optimizing the aerodynamics of a car to improving the efficiency of HVAC systems, your skills can certainly be helpful and bring in a few bucks on the side.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (depending on whether you need additional certifications and have access to CFD software)
Income Potential: Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation services can range from $2,000 for a 2D analysis to as much as $20,000 for a time-dependent, complex analysis. But some companies in the use have per-project rates starting at around $1,500 to $4,500 per analysis or an hourly rate ranging from $80 to $120.
8. Prototype Development and Testing
For something more unconventional and creative, why not bring your ideas or someone else’s to life with prototype development and testing services?
You can help inventors and companies transform their concepts into tangible prototypes, conduct rigorous testing, and refine the design based on the results.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $5,000 (for prototyping equipment, materials, and software)
Income Potential: The average total pay for a Prototype Engineer is $89,301 per year in the United States, with a base salary of $76,414 per year. Additional pay, which could include cash bonus, commission, tips, and profit sharing, is estimated to be $12,887 per year.
However, prototyping costs vary based on design complexity and materials. It can start at $1,000 for initial sketches and rise to $5,000 for testing materials.
Testing and prototype costs can reach hundreds or thousands of dollars while manufacturing setup starts at $30,000. Factors include project complexity, innovation, parts used, and final product.
9. Engineering Project Management Contractor
If you have any project management experience to go along with your background in mechanical engineering, you can oversee engineering projects on a contract basis. As a contractor, a flexible schedule with remote work opportunities may be negotiable.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (for project management certifications and software)
Income Potential: The average salary for Engineering Project Managers, which would include freelance roles, is $98,984 per year in the United States.
For freelance engineering project managers, rates vary significantly based on the expertise, experience, and the project. Here are some examples based on data provided by Upwork…
- Basic-level project managers, who have fundamental soft skills, and familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite, Google Docs, and project management tools charge between $30 and $60 per hour.
- Intermediate to Advanced level project managers with 2+ years of industry-specific experience, working knowledge of project management methodologies and frameworks, and a proven track record charge between $60 and $100 per hour.
- Certified Project Management Practitioners with one or more certifications in education, industry, or project management charge between $100 and $150 per hour. These would be advanced project managers who have specific PM certifications.
10. Start an Engineering Blog with Affiliate Marking
Share your insights, experiences, and knowledge about mechanical engineering on a website or blog. In addition to answering common questions that people search online, you can review engineering tools, write tutorials, and share industry news.
With content, you can generate traffic and build an audience. From there, you can monetize with display ads, affiliate marketing, lead generation, and even sell your own products.
While this is a great standalone side hustle, it’s also a great compliment to other gigs. For example, owning a successful blog or website in your field increases your authority and trust among your peers and potential clients.
It can also be a conduit that drives traffic to an online store, online courses, tutoring lessons, a YouTube channel, or any other service you want to promote.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $1,000 (for website development, hosting, and marketing)
Income Potential: Affiliate marketing income varies based on factors like website traffic, conversion rates, and commission structure. Successful engineering blogs can earn from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month.
11. Write Engineering Articles or Blog Posts
This is a gig that’s similar to the previous one. The biggest difference is that you’re writing for someone else’s website or platform.
For example, technical writers, fact-checkers, and editors are often in high demand. There are plenty of generalists who write on a variety of topics. But finding good specialists who can write on technical topics or fact-check someone else’s work is harder to find.
Therefore, they demand a relatively high per-word rate of pay.
You can market your expertise to industry-related websites, technical publications, engineering-related magazines, etc.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $100 (setting up a professional website or blog and outreach software if required)
Resources: How To Become a Freelance Writer
Income Potential: General freelance writers typically charge between $0.04 to $0.08 per word.
However, technical writers can often charge as much as $1.00 per word, depending on experience and article complexity.
12. Create Engineering-Related YouTube Videos
YouTube is another great platform to share your mechanical engineering knowledge and experience, especially if you’d rather not write.
You can create tutorial videos, explain engineering concepts, or share your experiences working on various projects. Your videos can inspire and educate a global audience on YouTube, which is amazing when you think about it.
Someone, somewhere, with no access to a good education or job, may build something unique and helpful to their community based on the knowledge and experience you shared.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 (for recording equipment and video editing software)
Income Potential: YouTube earnings depend on several factors, including views, niche, watch time, and ad revenue. Successful channels can generate thousands of dollars per month.
13. Start an Engineering Podcast
Podcasts are another popular entertainment medium for sharing knowledge and ideas.
You can start a podcast focused on mechanical engineering, where you discuss various topics, interview industry experts, or share interesting stories from your career. It's a great way to build and engage with an audience.
This is another side hustle that goes well with others. A podcast can drive traffic to a YouTube channel or blog (and vice-versa). It also increases your trust and authority in the industry, which is incredibly helpful for landing contracting gigs.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $1,000 (for recording equipment and podcast hosting services)
Income Potential: Podcast income can vary significantly, depending on sponsorships, listener donations, and merchandise sales. Successful podcasts can generate several thousand dollars per month.
14. Sell Engineering Tools and Supplies Online
With your knowledge of what tools and supplies engineers need, you can set up an online store to provide these resources.
This is similar to starting a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast that helps your audience find the best solutions to their problems, which can lead to tool sales.
With this approach, you’re opening an online store and selling directly. You can do this in a number of ways. One is by purchasing tools and supplies from wholesale suppliers, tradeshows, local clearance sales, flea markets, etc., and keeping an inventory at home.
Another way is to buy them on demand from a white-label supplier and drop ship them directly to your customer.
Starting Budget Estimate: $1000 – $5,000 (for website development, inventory, and marketing)
Income Potential: Earnings from buying and selling online will vary, depending on factors like product margins, sales volume, and marketing/advertising strategies.
15. Sell Engineering-Related Products on Amazon (FBA)
Like drop shipping, you can also purchase products from white-label suppliers, create your own brand, and sell products through Amazon’s FBA program.
FBA stands for Fulfillment by Amazon, and you’re probably familiar with it. Many of the products you may have purchased from Amazon are not being sold by Amazon directly. They are from e-commerce sellers who pay a fee to leverage Amazon’s warehouse, sales, and logistics systems to get their products to customers.
Starting Budget Estimate: $2,000 – $10,000 (for product inventory and FBA fees)
Resources: Amazon FBA
Income Potential: FBA income depends on factors like product margins, sales volume, and marketing. Successful Amazon sellers can earn anywhere from a few hundred per month to several thousand per day.
16. Design and Sell 3D-Printed Products
Here’s another side hustle you can combine with several of the others above.
With your skills in CAD design and knowledge of mechanical engineering, you can design and sell 3D-printed products. Not just engineering-related products but anything that can be 3D printed.
Your mechanical engineering knowledge, however, gives you an edge when it comes to the conception and development of products that are truly unique.
Combine that with one or more of the content marketing and sales strategies above, and you can build a thriving business in just about any niche.
Starting Budget Estimate: $300 – $5,000 (for a 3D printer, materials, and marketing)
Income Potential: Sales and revenue from 3D-printed products can vary greatly, depending on the niche, product, demand, pricing, sales, and marketing strategies, etc. Several thousand per month is not unreasonable for successful sellers who put in the time and effort.
17. Develop and License New Inventions
Maybe taking your ideas to the fully 3D printed (or manufactured) stage and selling them does not interest you. But you can still develop and license your ideas.
If you're an innovative thinker with a talent for problem-solving, consider developing and licensing new inventions. You can create solutions to everyday problems or invent new products that revolutionize the industry.
Or you can develop highly specialized products for specific clients and workflows.
Starting Budget Estimate: $1,000 – $10,000 (for prototyping, patenting, and marketing)
Income Potential: Licensing income can vary significantly depending on the success of your invention and royalty agreements. Some inventors make millions, while others may earn modest royalties.
18. Consultant for Engineering Startups and Small Businesses
As a consultant, you can guide engineering startups and small businesses through engineering-related challenges and stages.
Whether product design, manufacturing, simulations, etc., your expertise can help these businesses overcome difficulties they’re not equipped to overcome on their own.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $1,000 (for courses, certifications, professional website, LinkedIn profile, etc.)
Income Potential: Engineering consultants earn in the ballpark of $82,318 per year, which works out to an hourly rate of at least $40 per hour.
However, as a freelancer, your client pays you directly, so your rate would be comparable to what they might pay a firm, depending on experience and project complexity.
19. Create and Sell DIY Engineering Kits
DIY engineering kits can be a fun and educational product that inspires the next generation of engineers and students in general.
You can design (and 3D Print) kits that teach basic mechanical principles or advanced projects that challenge the user.
Again, you can combine this with one or more of the side hustles and traffic generation methods discussed above.
Starting Budget Estimate: $300 – $5,000 (for materials, packaging, and marketing)
Income Potential: Your earnings from DIY engineering kits will depend on product pricing, demand, and production costs. How you build an audience and market your products will also play a significant role in your earning potential.
However, as other sales-related side hustles mentioned, several thousand per month is not unrealistic once you’ve established your brand.
20. Offer Specialized Repair Services
One of the easiest ways to leverage your technical skills is to fix things. You can offer specialized repair services in your local market.
Whether it's fixing bicycles, appliances, or computers, your expertise will likely save people time, money, and frustration. This is a quick and practical way to use your mechanical engineering skills to make extra money immediately.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 (for tools, equipment, and marketing)
Income Potential: Repair technicians typically charge between $15 – $20 per hour, according to Payscale, but more specialized and complex projects could demand higher rates.
For example, when researching, I found that some computer repair technicians were charging $30 per hour on Upwork.
21. Provide Home or Office Maintenance Services
From HVAC systems to home appliances, your mechanical engineering skills can be put to good use in home and office maintenance and repair services.
This would be a good side hustle alongside specialized repair services.
Starting Budget Estimate: $100 – $2,000 (for tools, equipment, and marketing) or more if a truck is required.
Income Potential: Home and office maintenance providers earn $50,000 – $60,000 per year, which works out to an hourly $20 – $30, a fair range to charge for freelancers.
22. Inspect and Maintain HVAC Systems
Your knowledge of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics is a good start to doing inspections and maintenance services for HVAC systems. You may require additional certifications, but this can be a good weekend side hustle.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $2,000 (for tools, equipment, certification, and marketing)
Income Potential: HVAC technicians typically charge from $150 to $500, with the average around $300, depending on where you live, your experience, and the complexity of the systems.
23. Design and Build Custom Robots for Clients
This one may be outside of your direct expertise, but a fun field to explore and potentially make some money in.
Robotics is not only a fascinating field where mechanical engineering plays a crucial role, but it will play an increasingly important role in our future. Establishing yourself in this field is potentially a great way to position yourself for future engineering jobs.
Robotics can be found in industries that range from industrial automation and agriculture to entertainment, education, and healthcare.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $5,000 (for materials, tools, certifications, and marketing)
Income Potential: Earnings from custom robot design and construction will vary, depending on the complexity of the projects and your experience.
Project fees can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.
24. Industrial Automation Consulting
Again, expanding on the robotics side hustle above… industrial automation is transforming the manufacturing sector, and your expertise in mechanical engineering is likely sought after.
As a consultant, you can help companies streamline processes, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and even improve safety.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $1000 (certifications, professional website, LinkedIn profile set up, etc.)
Income Potential: Industrial automation consultants can charge anywhere from $20 – $200 per hour, depending on the project's complexity and the consultant's experience.
Here are some current rates found on Upwork (which could vary depending on when you’re reading this):
- An Industrial Automation Freelancer with a 4.9/5 rating with 19 jobs being completed charges $60 per hour. However, another with the same rating but 26 jobs charges $30 per hour.
- On the higher end, an Automation Engineer with a 5.0/5 rating (based on 62 jobs) charges $99 per hour, and another with 70 jobs and the same rating charges $200 per hour.
Of course, these are only examples to give you a rough idea of what others are charging.
With that said, many of these freelancers may have established reputations with existing clients. New freelancers will likely charge less to get experience, acquire reviews, and build their reputation.
25. Design Solar Panel Installations
With the growing emphasis on renewable energy, your skills can be helpful for designing solar panel installations. This is another growing industry with the potential to futureproof your career.
If you’re going to get paid, why not do while helping homeowners and businesses harness the power of the sun?
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $5,000 (for design software, training, certifications, marketing your services, etc.)
Income Potential: The potential income for a solar panel system designer or installer varies greatly depending on the size and complexity of the system and location. Here are some key points to consider:
- The average cost of a residential solar panel installation in 2023 is $18,000 – $20,000 but can be much more. This is before tax credits and incentives are applied, which obviously differ from city to city and state to state. Going on the average, though, it works out to around $2.75 and $3.35 per watt of solar installed, depending on location and the solar equipment brand.
- Accounting for the federal solar tax credit, the overall cost in some areas drops to an average of $12,600 to $14,000.
- SolarReviews considers a fair price for a professionally installed solar system in 2023 to be between $2.60 per watt and $3.20 per watt.
The reason for mentioning the credits and incentives is that the amount of work available is largely dependent on customers' net costs. Where fewer incentives are offered, there may be fewer jobs as well.
For example, when researching, I found several outliers that were largely determined by state. For example, solar panel costs in Nashville, TN, are shown at $80,000, which may make it challenging to find clients. The only other city and state that comes close in cost are Honolulu, HI, at $45,828.
26. Aerial Filming, Photography, and Mapping Services
Drones have obviously changed the entire aerial filming, photography, and mapping industries. You no longer need to get your pilot’s license. A drone license will do.
That opens this field for anyone who is interested, and your understanding of mechanical systems and control theory gives you the unique ability to provide important perspectives and data in a variety of aerial photo and mapping applications.
I also threw filming into the mix as well. I have friends and family in the film industry who hire drone operators frequently. What was once filmed with a helicopter is now done remotely from the ground.
So, although engineering expertise is most useful for industrial-type applications, as well as agriculture and construction… gaining experience in drone photography will open doors into other industries.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $4,000 (for drone equipment, certifications, and marketing)
Income Potential: Aerial photography and mapping service providers typically charge between $50 – $250 per hour or a flat fee per project, depending on the scope of work and your experience.
27. Inspecting Structures and Infrastructure with Drones
Continuing from our previous side hustle, drones can access areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans, making them ideal for inspecting structures and infrastructure.
Therefore, if you’ve developed drone piloting skills in photography and mapping, operating and interpreting data in places humans can’t (or shouldn’t) go can provide critical insights for maintenance and safety assessments.
Starting Budget Estimate: $500 – $4,000 (for drone equipment, certifications, and marketing)
Income Potential: Drone inspection service providers typically charge between $100 – $500 per hour or a flat fee per project, but these rates vary depending on the complexity of the inspections, your experience, and the industry.
Here are some rate examples:
- Commercial drone service providers can charge $100 – $500 per hour, depending on the industry. The most common rate is about $150 per hour. For example, real estate photography services are closer to $150 per hour, while oil and gas services are closer to $500.
- Drone inspections can start at $1500.00, but again, will vary depending on the inspection type and the equipment required. Project costs are also determined by their complexity, and clients can expect rates that range from $60 – $160 per acre.
- Medium-sized roof drone inspections range from $300 – $800, depending on the size and complexity of the roof, the location, and any additional services required.
28. Drone Pilot Training for Industrial Applications
Let’s take the drone gig a step further.
Now that you’ve established yourself as a successful drone pilot (based on the side hustles above), you’re in the ideal position to be a drone pilot instructor.
This is a critical technology used for industries like construction, agriculture, and surveying, so there's a growing demand for skilled drone pilots. You can offer training programs that cover everything from basic flight skills to advanced techniques for industrial applications.
Starting Budget Estimate: $1,000 – $5,000 (certifications, course materials, marketing, online course hosting, and equipment)
Income Potential: Drone pilots typically charge $350 and up for their in-person courses. Industry-specific trainers can charge significantly more. As much as $1,500.
Another option is creating an online drone piloting course. Depending on your market and course material, a fair price to charge would range between $49 – $150.
29. Develop Engineering-Related Software or Apps
There’s a new weapon on the scene that you’ve probably heard of called AI. In fact, you probably can’t un-hear it because it’s everywhere.
One of AI’s strengths is coding, and for non-coders who have an interest in learning, it’s a new superpower. I’ve been using it to code relatively simple tools and have zero coding experience.
Or, maybe you already have a knack for coding.
If that’s the case, a good side hustle could be developing software or apps related to mechanical engineering.
You could create a simulation tool, a design app, or a utility for engineers to solve a specific problem that current software doesn’t solve. There’s a place for massive enterprise software that seemingly does everything, but sometimes a simple tool is all you need.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (for courses, software development tools, marketing, and app store fees)
Income Potential: Earnings from engineering software or app development will vary, depending on your product's success and your monetization strategy, which may include one-time purchases, subscriptions, and in-app upgrades.
30. Create Engineering Simulations or Video Games
Using similar tools as those mentioned above, simulations and video games are another way to make engineering concepts more fun and engaging.
Taking your knowledge and experience to the next level (from the tools you and AI created above), you can branch out into interactive experiences that help students explore mechanical engineering in practical ways.
Starting Budget Estimate: $0 – $3,000 (for software development tools, marketing, and platform fees)
Income Potential: Like other sales-related side hustles, your income from engineering sims and games can range from nothing to several thousand per month or more.