Becoming a freelancer is a goal for many people. Freelancing allows for more flexible work hours, better pay, and the choice to work the jobs you want. More people are leaving conventional jobs in favor of taking on the challenge of running their own mini-business. Yet for some jobs, that may seem a little bit tricky.
Is it possible to be a freelance engineering consultant? And if so, what kind of work is available?
- What is Freelance Engineering Consulting?
- Available Job Types for Freelance Engineering Consultants
- Salaries of a Freelance Engineering Consultant
- What Is a Day in the Life of an Engineering Consultant Like?
- What Fields Are Available in Engineering Consulting?
- Why Companies Use Engineering Consultants
- Is the Future of Engineering Consulting Stable?
- Should You Become a Freelancer?
What is Freelance Engineering Consulting?
Engineering consulting is currently in high demand. When a product has a problem that needs to be fixed, an engineering consultant is hired to fix that problem. They can also be used to invent something a company wants to make but doesn’t know how to go about it, or to help in planning homes and other buildings.
Most engineers choose to work with a company, but more people are choosing to strike out on their own. Freelancers have a wide variety of jobs available to them, and those that have the skills to diversify can take advantage of niche markets as well as more competitive ones.
Available Job Types for Freelance Engineering Consultants
There are many jobs available that fall under the umbrella term engineering. Each job has its pros and cons and requires specific education. For example, some provide CAD services and others focus on electrical engineering. Knowing what kind of engineering jobs are available for freelance work can be very helpful for getting started.
- Software Engineer
A software engineer designs various types of software such as computer programs, apps, and operating systems. This job requires a strong background in computer languages, and at the very least, a four-year degree in computer science.
Software engineer consultants are usually hired by companies to help develop programs needed for their day to day business. Facebook might need a software engineer to create a new program for their website, or a small business might need a tailor-made program to make taking inventory more efficient.
- Network Engineer
A network engineer plans and manages the computer networks themselves. This could be building a new system or resolving a problem with an old one. A network could be anything from a couple of computers at a small firm to a massive number of servers for a large company.
You will need a four-year degree for this as well. Anything from a computer science degree to a physics degree can make you a candidate for this job.
- Computer Engineer
A computer engineer is a more general term that encompasses the computer sciences. If you are a computer engineer, you may be able to handle hardware, software, and networking, even if you choose to specialize in one specific kind of engineering.
Sometimes, software engineers are referred to as computer engineers, so this job title can be confusing. Becoming a computer engineer requires a four-year degree in the field of computer science, math, or something similar.
- Hardware Engineer
A hardware engineer designs and troubleshoots the hardware that makes a computer. This can be the modem for an internet connection, a motherboard, memory, processors, or anything else that is a physical component of the computer.
Companies that make computers, or custom parts for computers, are usually who hire hardware engineers to help them. A four-year degree is required.
- Site Engineer
A site engineer works in the construction field. They help design and plan buildings, roads, and other structures. A site engineer is responsible for a great deal of building creation, including the security of the site being built-on and the handling of materials.
Becoming a site engineer requires going to the site in-person, even in many cases as a consultant. If you’re not prepared to travel, this may not be the right choice for you.
It is, however, a high demand job, and the job is expected to grow. A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering is the best way to become a site engineer, although other appropriate degrees can also work.
- Mechanical Engineer
A mechanical engineer is perhaps one of the most familiar types of engineer. They create and design non-computer objects such as cars, spaceships, and even mundane things like coffee pots. Like computer engineering, it is an extremely broad subject that can cover almost anything.
To become a mechanical engineer, you will need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, or an otherwise appropriate degree.
If you’re looking for tips, here’s some advice on how to become a freelance engineering consultant.
Salaries of a Freelance Engineering Consultant
Salaries can vary from job to job and are dependent on how much you ask for. When striking out on your own, it can be helpful to know what the average in your field is, so you can figure out how much to charge your clients.
If you’re new to freelancing, you may want to start with a lower rate until you have a list of clients to recommend you. If you’re becoming more established, you can start to demand more. Here are the average salaries for the different types of engineering jobs out there.
Type of Engineer
What Is a Day in the Life of an Engineering Consultant Like?
It’s one thing to talk about the different types of engineering or what the salary is, but without actually knowing what life is like as an engineer, it can be difficult to decide if this is something you want to do. Pursuing a new career can be daunting, and spending four years working toward a degree if you’re not sure that career path is right for you is equally unpleasant.
If you decide to become a freelance software engineer consultant, a typical day of work will begin with a job offer from a gaming company. The company creates and sells apps on Android and iOS, and they have a wonderful idea for a new game.
Unfortunately, they don’t know how to make it work. They want you to be the project manager for this game and help their awesome new fighting system run smoothly without any bugs.
Perhaps you love gaming and are eager to give it a try, or maybe you’re dreading seeing a tangled mess of code and don’t want to take the job. Whatever the case may be, as a freelance consultant, you can say accept or reject the job.
Other engineering jobs will be somewhat similar, simply with different types of products. A computer company might want a faster processor; an aerospace firm needs help getting their rocket to land precisely on a recovery pad; or an appliance company can’t figure out why their toaster burns toast. Figuring out the answer to these problems is all part of an engineer consultant’s daily life.
If you love problem solving and mathematics, engineering may be the right job for you.
What Fields Are Available in Engineering Consulting?
Now that we’ve broken down the types of engineering available, let’s look at what specific fields engineering consultants can work in. You have probably guessed that these fields are virtually limitless. Any company that builds things, be they virtual or solid, will eventually need the help of an engineer.
- The medical field: Solving problems with important medical equipment such as prosthetics, pacemakers, and heart monitors, as well as designing new ones.
- The auto industry: Designing better car parts and creating whole new systems such as self-driving cars and lighter or safer vehicles.
- Construction: Designing new apartments, homes, businesses, and roads, as well as discovering new ways to make them better.
- Gaming industry: Creating new apps, maintaining the servers that keep games running, and troubleshooting problems with them.
- Clean energy: A new and growing field, finding new ways to be environmentally friendly has opened a host of engineering jobs to find new ways to do old things better.
- The pet industry: Even pets need new products. Everything from finding ways to slow down dogs at dinner time to balls that fetch themselves, every new product requires an engineer to make it possible.
If you can think of an industry, there is probably a need for an engineering consultant somewhere in the world. From printer nozzles to iconic landmarks, an engineer was behind their creation at some point.
Why Companies Use Engineering Consultants
The need for engineers is obvious, but why specifically an engineering consultant? Having an engineer on staff alone seems like it would solve the problem. An engineering consultant comes on board when a company needs something designed, such as the prototype for a new product, or a problem resolved, such as figuring out why a clothes dryer is catching on fire during use.
Some companies choose to only hire an engineer when they need one, saving money on an annual salary when they just need an engineer a few months at a time for the design phase of a project. Other times, a problem is too difficult for their own staff to handle and they look to someone who has more experience in that field than others.
If you have worked in the medical industry for a while, you may be aware of what issues a particular piece of medical equipment is prone to and can offer good advice on how to avoid problems, or solve the troubles they are having.
Companies rely on engineering consultants to help them with individual projects, and to give them the advice they need to resolve their current issues. As a consultant, this puts you in a unique position – you’re often always at the forefront of technology, always seeing the newest, the best, the brightest. Most of all, you are also always having your hand in that creation.
You may be surprised by the companies that are hiring engineers. NASA, the Department of Energy, Google, Apple, IBM, and Facebook are all companies who have their eye out for great engineers.
Is the Future of Engineering Consulting Stable?
With today’s uncertain economy, it makes sense to be worried about whether a job will still be here after you have received the diploma. A lot can happen in four years, and dedicating your life to a career that may disappear is a concern for any student. Luckily, engineering is a job that has been around a long time, and the demand is only growing. Fields like civil engineering will always exist.
We now depend on our phones to do a range of tasks for us. From counting calories that can record what you eat to apps that coach you through meditation, we do it all on our phones. The growing demand for apps has pushed software engineering to an all-time high, as has our demand for new products and new buildings.
There will always be a need for engineers. It’s human nature to want to build new things, make progress, and grow as people. As long as there are people on the Earth, there will also be engineers. This kind of stability is difficult to match, with the desire for things rising and falling with shifts in culture and technology.
Should You Become a Freelancer?
If you’ve decided that freelance engineering consulting is right for you, congratulations! There are many great opportunities available to you. Landing a job after you have gotten your degree can sometimes be stressful, but what happens after? Will you be happy working every year for the same company?
Many people do find happiness in a paycheck, but others are less satisfied with the status quo. Sitting in traffic for hours on end can be incredibly tedious, and if you don’t like your boss or hate the work environment, facing a new day can fill you with dread.
Moving to a new company is stressful too, and what if the problem only gets worse? You may have gone through a lot of trouble only to wind up hating your new job even more.
There are other cons as well. Your paycheck is determined by someone else, and often the only way to see a sizable increase is to move jobs and demand a larger income from the new person who hires you.
If this sounds familiar, freelancing may be a refreshing change. As a freelancer, you would be your own boss. You can look through projects and companies that interest you and apply to those that you like. You can also put your profile up on freelancing websites and look at job offers sent to you.
If it turns out you don’t like a company, you are only stuck with them for the project and can move on to new people and new faces without ever having to accept a job from them again.
One final benefit is that you can choose your own pay. If you have a great reputation, companies are far more likely to hire you, even if you are a little pricier than other engineers.
Freelancing, of course, has its drawbacks as well. The biggest one is once you say good-bye to a company and strike out on your own, there is no guarantee you’ll be hired for freelance jobs. Sometimes, the rate of projects is also uneven. You might not get any jobs for several weeks, and suddenly get flooded with offers and have to regretfully let one go.
This risk reduces once you have a small collection of regular clients who appreciate you and hire you back for new projects, but the beginning can be rough if you’re not prepared. In order to prepare for when work is thin, you’ll have to keep a few months of salary saved.
One other con is that you also have to do your own taxes. Freelancing is your own business, which means no W-2 to file and forget about. Taking care of taxes can be a little bit of a hassle, especially if you can’t afford to hire an accountant to help you.
Working as an engineer is an exciting field that allows you to be both creative and mathematical at the same time. If you are interested in a unique and high paying career, engineering may be the right choice for you.
Looking for work as a freelance mechanical engineer? Here at Cad Crowd, we have a roster of qualified freelancers that we help find work every day. If you want to join our ranks, considering signing up as a designer and submitting designs to some contests!