An Engineer’s Guide to Side Hustles

engineers guide to side hustles
As career options go, engineering is a relatively lucrative choice, with most engineers earning anywhere from the mid-$60,000 range to over six figures per year. Despite that being higher than average, though, most would like to earn more money. After all, student loans don’t pay themselves, retirement plans require contributions, and nice vacations don’t just fall out of the sky.

Regardless of why you want to earn more money, you might think that it’s going to be all but impossible, especially if you are taking classes for an advanced degree while working full time. Sure, you could get a second job, but earning minimum wage for bagging groceries probably won’t get you too far. What you need is a side hustle, one that can bring in some serious cash while you get to build your skills and give your resume a boost.

Side Hustle vs. Second Job

When many people think of a side hustle, they think of a second job. However, while there are some similarities, a side hustle isn’t the same.

The main thing that differentiates a side hustle from a “job” is that it’s strictly voluntary. Unlike a job, in which you are scheduled to work for a specific period and complete a defined task, a side hustle is entrepreneurial. You decide which projects to take on or the type of business you would like to run, you determine how much you want to be paid, and you set your hours.

extra incomeIn most cases, side hustles either use the skills that you gained from your regular job, or are an extension of a hobby or passion. Many shop owners on Etsy, for instance, run their shops as a side hustle to earn a little extra money from their crafts. That doesn’t mean all hustles require a lot of work or experience, or are even related to one’s career (one blogger makes over $30,000 a year reselling concert tickets, for instance) but especially when you are a student, the more skills you can put to work, the better — and the more lucrative your business will be.

What Can Engineers Do?

Although there are some hustles that anyone can do (see ticket selling or driving for Uber) there are some that are uniquely suited to an engineer’s talents.

  1. Tutoring. Undergraduates in engineering programs are often looking for more experienced engineers to help them in their coursework. Depending on your specialty and background, you could also work with high school students in their math and science courses. Tutoring doesn’t have to take place face-to-face, either: You can sign on with online tutoring services to work with students from all over the world in your areas of expertise. Tutoring is also a perfect side hustle if you’re currently working on an online master’s degree in the hopes of using a graduate degree to grow your current salary. You’re already at a school where students will beg for your (hopefully) vast knowledge.
  2. Writing. If you have a way with words, you could make decent money putting that skill to work. Many companies are looking for technical writers to work on instruction manuals, whitepapers, blogs, and other publications, and are paying well for it. Drafting a whitepaper for an engineering firm could net you up to $10,000, while blog posts might net a few hundred. You can find these jobs listed on freelance writing job boards, or via networking at industry events. Or, you can create your own opportunities by writing your own books. One engineer turned his experience and knowledge into a series of children’s books, which he published independently and sells online. There are multiple sources for self-publishing, or you can submit your ideas to a traditional publisher and possibly earn a contract.
  3. Consulting. Consulting is another lucrative option, and one that is easily done on the side. If you have the right knowledge and experience, you may be able to work with other companies on their projects to provide valuable engineering insight. Projects might range from the initial planning stages of a new construction project to providing feedback and evaluation for new textbooks, or even serving as an expert witness in trials. The key thing to remember with consulting is to avoid a conflict of interest by working with one of your employer’s competitors, or on projects that your employer has an interest in.

These are just a few of the hustles that are well-suited to an engineer’s talents. With some creative thinking, you can undoubtedly come up with more. The idea, though, is to find something that doesn’t necessarily feel like “work,” but that can bring in some extra cash. Be sure to put aside a little extra to cover taxes, and not to take on more than you can handle, and you’ll be on your way to financial freedom.

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