Side hustles for engineers

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By Joseph Lampinen

In the past years, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding gig work and the gig workforce. Much of this has focused on short-term micro-projects that last one or two days. However, the engineering field has been a slow adopter of this type of short-term gig work because the vast majority of engineering projects take much longer.

Nevertheless, there are certain types of engineering gigs that can be completed in a very short time and that engineers can do as a “side hustle.” But why would you take a brief gig, what types of short-term projects are available, and where can you find them?

Reasons to take on gig work

Most engineers either work as full-time, salaried employees or as contractors who work on longer term projects. For these professionals, moonlighting (so long as it doesn’t post a conflict of interest with an employer) can add value in two ways.

First, when you take on gig work that requires you to leverage your technical skills and knowledge, you can broaden your portfolio of projects considerably — and in a shorter period of time than if you rely on just your day job. In other words, adding extra projects to your curriculum vitae can really help build your career.

Second, taking on micro-projects can allow you to use skills you do not often use in your day job. This can help you stay well-rounded, but it can also alert you to your own preferences when it comes to what types of projects you enjoy. In some cases, it can even prompt you to take your career in a different direction than the trajectory you are currently on.

Micro-projects for engineers

While there are various types of micro-projects, some are more common than others. For example, some engineers take gigs involving writing technical reviews or sales pieces for manufacturers in different industries than their own. Let us say you are a mechanical engineer and your job consists of designing and testing mechanical components for a product. Thanks to your effective networking skills, you come into contact with a manufacturer that needs a 1000-word technical review for a new product. It should speak to engineers and include a technical description, so the manufacturer wants it to be written by an engineer. That is an example of a good side hustle.

Another common type of gig involves providing professional testimony. This can be for legal proceedings, but it can also be to help persuade people to accept a proposal. As an example, imagine that a community is looking to build a new commuter train station, but certain groups are opposed to the idea due to concerns about traffic volume, rainwater runoff, or other issues. One of these advocacy groups could hire you as an expert to review the relevant data and testify at the city council meeting. Alternatively, the group could ask you to analyze the data and tell them in lay terms what they should be concerned about.

You can find these types of gigs either by looking on job platforms or by means of networking.


What used to be referred to as moonlighting can be a great way to gain exposure to a variety of engineering projects that you likely would not have exposure to in your day job. And in the long run, this can play an important role in your career’s advancement.

Joe Lampinen Joseph Lampinen

Senior Director, Engineering, Product Development Team

Joe is a leading engineering workforce strategist and solutionist, engaged with industrial clients to solve problems in engineering outsourcing and recruitment, shaping strategic guidance to improve organizational abilities to meet current and anticipated engineering workforce demands.

He holds a Master of Science degree in technology from Purdue University, as well as a graduate certificate in engineering law and management from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in technology and operations from Western Illinois University.

Joe is credentialed as a Certified Manufacturing Engineer, Project Management Professional and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional.

He joined Kelly in 1998 and has worked in the engineering practice throughout his career in operational and strategic leadership roles. Joe frequently speaks and presents at industry and professional conferences and is an active member of a number of engineering professional societies and associations.

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