Freelance Mech Engineer- Programmer: is it possible?
May 17, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Can I find freelance work as a Mechanical-General Engineer doing computer programming for customers in the Engineering field?

Hi everyone, new user (asker)
The 'probation' week is over and I can finally post my first question!

This are my qualifications, read or skim and skip-

I have a Bachelor and a Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering. I am also quite good at programming, with formal training during highschool (Eastern Europe, where you can select a major in highschool, mine was computer science and I had a lot of course and labwork in the curriculum). I have also been programming a lot on my own, as a hobby. I taught myself Pascal and C even before we took those courses in HS. But I digress.

Fast-forward to College and life in the US.

During college I coded as time allowed, took an advanced C programming course instead of the standard course for Engineering, and during my Masters we used Matlab a lot for class homework and projects. I did some more Matlab and SciLab coding after I graduated and got a full-time job, as time permitted .I also did some Fortran debugging and wrote a piece of software in Visual Basic during a graduate internship.
Currently I am teaching myself Javascript and Internet programming.//

Now the actual question: I would like to get some freelance coding gigs and possibly work freelance full-time in the future. The corporate world is just not for me :)
It seems my background is more suited for an academic environment rather than working for actual customers, as all the freelance gigs I found so far are for web programmers. I am not nearly as experienced as other people out there to do this kind of work.
But I was wondering if anyone with an Engineering background knows of or has done freelance work writing Engineering software. To clear any confusion, I am not referring "Software Engineering". Rather, what I mean is coding for customers who need applications that solve specific engineering problems.

Thanks for any input or at least for the time you spent reading this.
posted by spacefire to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you are having trouble landing a consulting gig then perhaps take a corporate programming job for a year or two. With that on your resume you will be attactive to the consulting firms. I would start with companies that make engineering software like Algor.
posted by caddis at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2007

My father does this as a side business, but for chemical engineering applications. He makes Excel workbooks with associated VBA code to solve very specific problems - pipe sizing, etc. - and has a web store where people buy his tools. That's one way to go, but I don't think you'll make enough to live off with this method.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2007

I don't know about freelancing, but I know you can find a lot of jobs that involves mechanical engineering and coding. I have some friends developing applications for various PLM software developers (Dassault systeme, PTC, MSC and others). Personally, I used to code post-processors for CNC machines, which uses a programming language similar to Fortran.
posted by racingjs at 10:16 AM on May 17, 2007

Response by poster: I'd like to be able to do this work independently of location, since all I need is a computer. I currently live in NYC where there aren't many engineering firms unless you could civil engineering, and I have zero knowledge of building codes and related stuff.
posted by spacefire at 6:16 PM on May 17, 2007

I know, but your job requirements are a bit specific, so unless you want to start you own company writing this kind of software, you might actually have to move. Being flexible on moving vastly, vastly, increases your career choices. Being inflexible puts a vice on them. It's life.
posted by caddis at 8:13 PM on May 17, 2007

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