Engineering is a highly-skilled and in-demand profession, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a side hustle to make extra money.
Even with an average salary of over $92,000 a year, many engineers seek out side hustles to:
- pay down debt
- save for a rainy day
- build some breathing room in their budget
- create an income stream they have more control over
The good news is your skills and training as an engineer lend themselves nicely to many different side hustles.
In this article, I’ll share my top side hustle ideas for engineers based on interviewing more than 500 entrepreneurs.
Ready? Let’s do it!
1. Product Licensing
One of the best side hustles I’ve come across is becoming a modern-day inventor.
With product licensing, you sell your product ideas to large companies, who in turn pay you royalties for every sale they make from that idea. You don’t have any upfront manufacturing or marketing expense, and can tap into the huge distribution of existing brands.
For example, Nate Dallas earned $300,000 from Mattel after licensing them an idea for a Pictionary spin-off!
2. Tutor Engineering Students
With a nationwide focus on STEM classes, engineers are well-suited to help students improve their understanding in science, technology, engineering, and math.
In fact, one Side Hustle Nation reader reported earning $1000 a week with his part-time tutoring business that focused on ACT test prep.
Platforms like Wyzant help connect students with tutors. As a tutor, you get set your own rate (typically between $20-60 per hour) and availability.
This side hustle could be a rewarding way to help the up-and-coming generation of engineers.
3. Teaching Online
While one-to-one tutoring can be rewarding and even pretty lucrative, it’s still trading time for money. One side hustle with a little more scale is to teach an online group class through a platform like Outschool.
The peer-to-peer education marketplace focuses on students ages 3-18, and has courses on nearly every topic imaginable.
On The Side Hustle Show, Jade Weatherington shared how she was earning $10,000 a month on the platform, primarily teaching middle school English writing classes.
If we look at the science category, there are lots of subjects you’re probably already a master of, including physics, biology, chemistry, and more. With a little creativity, you could take the knowledge you already have and create a fun class for kids.
4. Create an Online Course
Jacques Hopkins quit his electrical engineering job and focus on his online course business full-time.
What does he teach?
Surprisingly, he actually teaches a unique approach to learning piano, and does around $30,000 a month in sales.
Customers connect with him through Google or YouTube, and a certain percentage funnel through to his paid course.
5. Software Consulting
Is there a software tool you’re an expert in? One one you’re an early adopter of?
One popular side hustle is to “piggyback” on the popularity of a particular software tool, and provide training and support for it. My friend Brad Rice does this with Salesforce and earns over $200k a year part time!
As more people and companies use the software, there’s a growing demand for qualified training.
Plus, new software comes out all the time, which means even if you don’t have a software in mind today, it could be a side hustle idea for you down the road.
Check out this free challenge to see if a similar path is right for you:
5. Selling Spreadsheets
Did you know people buy spreadsheet templates online?
Emily McDermott focuses on selling budgeting spreadsheets in Excel and Google Sheets — and sold over $250k worth in her first couple years!
As an engineer, you may already have half a dozen spreadsheets on your computer that others might pay for. Turn to platforms like Etsy to find your first customers.
6. Real Estate Investing
Real estate investing is one of the oldest and most popular side hustles in the books. An engineer friend of mine loves to analyze property deals, and ultimately bought a couple rentals.
The downside is houses are expensive!
Thankfully, new platforms like Arrived make it easy to invest in income-generating properties—with as little as $100.
The company pools money to buy rental properties, manages them, and then distributes the cash flow every month.
That means you can enjoy the benefits owning property, while spreading the risk around. (And without having to handle vacancies, maintenance, or tenant issues yourself!)
7. Freelance Technical Writing
Another common side hustle for engineers is freelance writing. Most freelance writers get paid on a per-word basis, with rates ranging from $0.05-0.35 per word. That adds up to around $50-$350 per 1000-word article.
(This article, for the sake of comparison, is around 2,000 words.)
I sat down with Georgia Austin, who found customers for her content writing service on Fiverr. As demand increased, she raised rates and ultimately hired other writers to help fulfill all the work!
8. Sales Copywriting
Daniel Throssell was an electrical engineer working 12-hour shifts on a remote island off the coast of Australia.
He stumbled upon copywriting as a side hustle, and landed his first jobs on Upwork. “Because I had no experience, I just resolved to out-prepare my competition, and overdeliver on all my jobs,” Daniel explained.
Within a year, he was charging $200 an hour for his work — and left the engineering job behind.
9. Resell Furniture Returns
Reselling furniture returns is a unique low-risk side hustle.
Here’s how it works:
- You join Sharetown as a local “reverse logistics” rep.
- Sharetown partners with direct-to-consumer mattress and furniture brands to handle their return requests.
- When customers decide they don’t want to keep the item, you’ll get dispatched to go pick it up.
- After that, you’ll clean it up, photograph it, and list it for resale on sites like Facebook Marketplace.
The Sharetown reps I’ve connected with target $150-250 per flip — and the kicker is you don’t have to pay Sharetown for the inventory until the item sells.
Check out my full Sharetown review to learn more.
10. Create Product Prototypes
Scott Tarcy, a mechanical engineer and longtime member of the Side Hustle Nation community, runs a 3D printing and design shop.
Inventors and early-stage product entrepreneurs hire him to help bring their ideas to life. In many cases, one of the first steps is creating a simple prototype. CAD design and 3D printing can be an affordable way to get a sample in their hands.
When we spoke, Scott was charging $50 an hour for his expertise.
Could you start a similar service?
11. Create Online Content
Build out a website on a topic you care about. As you create your library of helpful articles, you’ll pick up more traffic and revenue.
Content sites earn money from affiliate partnerships, ad revenue, and your own products and services.
Here are some inspiring examples from The Side Hustle Show archives:
- Andrew earns 6-figures a year curating gift ideas
- Scott earns 6-figures a year from his bird-watching website
- Jodi earns $5k+ per month from her part-time blog for girl scout troop leaders
- Katie earns $6k a month from her gray hair blog
Want to start a website of your own? Check out my free 6-part video course on how to start your own site.
Low startup costs
Great long-term earning power
Can sell the business down the road
Slow to see results
Lots of skills to learn
12. Video or Audio Tutorials
By day, Bryan Orr helps run an air conditioning company in Central Florida, and by night he’s a father of 10. Yet somehow he’s found the time to create the super-popular HVAC School podcast in his spare time.
Tasked with training technicians at his day job, he had the idea to put the material into an on-demand audio format. On a whim, he decided to publish the content online and make it available to a wider audience.
“It just exploded. I never thought there would be an audience like the audience that I found,” Bryan said.
As his audience grew he started negotiating sponsorship deals with large companies in the HVAC niche.
In under a year, he’d built an email list of over 7500 subscribers, generated more than 500,000 podcast downloads, and was earning $11k a month in sponsorship revenue.
13. Customer Interviews
Many companies use customer interviews to get feedback on new products.
User Interviews and Respondent.io are a pair of cool services that facilitate those interviews online and over the phone.
The best part? The average compensation is $50-150 an hour!
Here are some other companies that facilitate focus groups and paid research studies.
14. White Label Software
Software businesses are some of the most profitable in the world, but it’s tricky to try and create your own software from scratch.
The alternative is to become a software reseller, like Chris Lollini. The self-proclaimed “recovering engineer” reported earning multi 6-figures a year white labeling reputation management software to local small businesses.
How it works is you buy “seats” to a software product at a discounted or wholesale rate, and resell them at retail prices. Start with an industry you’re familiar with and see what common pain points could be solved with existing software tools.
The advantage of this side hustle is you have almost no upfront risk or expense.
15. Fix Stuff (and for Extra Credit, Film It)
Matt Bochnak is a mechanical engineer in Chicago. His original side hustle was a motorcycle repair service he ran out of his garage.
The business was going well, earning around $500 a month very part-time. Then Matt had the great idea to film himself doing the repairs.
That led to over 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and created several new streams of income, including:
- Selling digital products (full-engine rebuild videos)
- Sponsored content
- Affiliate commissions
- YouTube ad revenue
- Developing his own physical product
When we last caught up, his business was up to $20,000 a month in revenue!
16. Online Arbitrage
An analytical mind makes the side hustle of online arbitrage a good fit for engineers.
In this business, you buy low from other websites, and sell higher (usually) on Amazon.
I connected with Chris Grant on The Side Hustle Show, who broke down how this works and what it takes to get started. (And how he sells $75,000 a month worth of stuff online!)
This is my wife’s side hustle, which she does on the side from her mechanical engineering job. The photography work is far more creative, but her engineering skills of organization and process documentation help on the business side of things.
She and her partner specialize in weddings, family photos, senior portraits, reunions, and private parties.
As your portfolio grows, you can increase your rates.
Another way to make money with photography is by selling your images online. Companies like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock provide a platform to reach potential buyers. High-quality images are always in demand, and photographers earn money for each license or copy sold.
18. Answering Questions
Sites like JustAnswer offer a flexible side hustle for engineers, where you can earn $2,000-$7,000 per month.
Once you apply as an expert, JustAnswer connects you with people who have engineering questions. You can set your own hours and the types of questions you’re best-qualified to answer.
You’ll get paid for each customer you help, but the big advantage is that JustAnswer does all the marketing for you.
Self-publishing on Amazon is one of my longest-running side hustles, and my portfolio of titles earns an average of $300-600 a month.
You can write about your area of expertise, or you could a totally different direction, like product engineer Tim Johnson did.
Tim created a series of dual-language children’s books featuring a lovable Bosley the Bear. When we connected, the series was earning over $1,000 a month.
20. Sell 3D Printer Designs
You can sell 3D printer design files online to other 3D printer owners. They’re looking for cool stuff to print, and are often willing to pay for it.
What kind of designs are people buying? The most popular categories are:
- miniatures / models
- game pieces
- cosplay items
- spare parts
If you have some design skills and enjoy perfecting new projects, this could be a great way to make extra money from the work you’re already doing. Some of the most popular marketplaces are:
- Cults3D – Set your own prices and earn 80% of the sales price whenever your designs sell.
- CGtrader – Claims to be the world’s largest 3D model marketplace, and designers earn 70-80% royalties on their work.
- Pinshape – You set your desired price for each design, and Pinshape adds 30% to the end customer.
- MyMiniFactory – Charges $24.99 a month to create a storefront. After that, you keep 92% of all sales.
- Turbosquid – Earn 40-60% royalties at this long-running 3D model marketplace.
21. Knife Sharpening
Matt Rowell was looking for a side hustle that let him work with his hands, and ended up with a great knife sharpening business.
Knife sharpening has low startup costs and every house in town is a potential customer! Matt said once you learn how to do it, you can easily earn $30-50 an hour in your spare time.
There’s probably not a ton of local competition, so a simple website and Google Business listing could start to attract customers.
What’s the Best Side Hustle for Engineers?
Like most things, the best side hustle for engineers depends on your interests and long-term goals.
Still, I’m confident you’ll draw some inspiration from this list and be able to choose a side hustle that’s right for you. Cheers!
Looking for More Side Hustle Help?
- Start Your Free $500 Challenge. My free 5-day email course shows you how to add $500 to your bottom line.
- Join the free Side Hustle Nation Community. The free Facebook group is the best place to connect with other side hustlers and get your questions answered.
- Download The Side Hustle Show. My free podcast shares how to make extra money with actionable weekly episodes.