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How to start a mechanical engineering business

From designing internal combustion engines to fixing air conditioning units, being a mechanical engineer is not only a rewarding and thrilling career, you're advancing society. So to discover how to monetise your talent, read on...

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re wondering how to start a mechanical engineering firm. And good on you! It’s a fantastic profession to get involved in. Mechanical engineers oversee the design and build of almost every power-based machine.

Actually becoming a mechanical engineer

Small car parts? They love them. Medical devices to large electric generators and the equipment used to manufacture goods, you ask. Oh, yes. These are the areas where a mechanical engineer gets involved.

Also, their expertise is required across a product’s full life cycle, including design development, testing, installation and maintenance.

Opportunity knocks

The number of different tasks a mechanical engineer carries out means they’re often in high demand. But it also shows there’s loads of opportunity for those wondering how to set up a mechanical engineering firm.

You may have some experience within a large firm already and you might be keen to make the jump into self-employment.

Either way, this guide explains what it takes to become a mechanical engineer. It also details the skills you’ll need to establish a successful start-up in the sector. In other words, how you can exploit this industry to make it rain cash.

Getting the right credentials

Getting the right credentials and work experience under your belt is essential. This job entails overseeing machines critical for day-to-day business. So you don’t really want to fluff up too badly at it due to lack of hands-on experience.

Clients will want to know you’re capable of carrying out these tasks competently. So get as much experience as you can in, early doors.

And for those with existing experience

Membership of an accredited professional body is a great way spread word of your new start-up.

Best of all, it’ll assure potential clients, expand your knowledge of the UK market and quickly increase your industry connections. Check out The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). These are just two of the many options available to you.

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Taking a course

Moreover, the majority of mechanical engineers will hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.

Some may study for one as part of an apprenticeship at a larger firm. Most will undertake a course at university lasting four or five years, including a placement year.

Choosing the access route

Therefore, if you have no experience or qualifications, consider an access course. Equally, seek out a development scheme at an existing business to begin your journey to self-employment.

What skills do you need?

This depends on the type of mechanical engineering business you decide to set up.

If you’re starting an engineering and design consultancy, for example, you’ll require extensive knowledge of development. You’ll also need the means to test products in a virtual environment.

On the other hand, a start-up in manufacturing will demand familiarity with different production methods and techniques.

Specialisms in mechanical engineering include:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Civil infrastructure
  • Control and instrumentation
  • Maintenance

These kinds of jobs are technical. So mechanical engineers are expected to be innovative and technically minded.

Extra skills to seal the deal

Other skills are important, especially when looking to start a mechanical engineering business. Broadly speaking, you’ll need:

  • Properly in-depth expertise in your field
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication
  • Ability to lead and manage a team
  • Numeracy skills
  • Familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisation

What equipment do you need?

Again, this will depend on your specialism.

There are a number of items every mechanical engineer should own when starting up:

  • CAD software – for designing, testing and prototyping
  • Caliper – for measuring an object’s dimensions.
  • Basic tools – e.g. screwdrivers; one of those curly-whirly plastic drinking straws.
  • Graphing calculator

And let’s not forget:

  • Digital force gauge – for measuring tension
  • Ohmmeter – for measuring electrical resistance
  • Flow meter – to check the flow rates of air or liquid
  • Mirrors – for inspecting small or hard-to-see parts.
  • Vibration isolator

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Things to keep an eye on when you’re up and running

You will need a proper business plan. Plus some extensive market research up your sleeve.

The industry is whoppingly large. And there are hundreds of niches to consider. If your interests lie in transportation, it makes sense to target that sector first. Once you’ve covered off all possibilities, explore other avenues where your expertise can generate money.

Looking for holes in the market

Use your existing industry experience to work out gaps where you can make money. Also identify how your business could offer something new. Ask yourself if you have the necessary equipment. Likewise, calculate how much you’ll need to spend before you get cracking.

Your marketing strategy

If you’re starting from scratch and need to build your brand quickly, maybe consider getting a Checkatrade membership. This puts your company’s name out to over three million monthly users looking for trusted professionals. Checkatrade’s website has a strong SEO presence.

Using social media

That means that people who use their profile as a company page will be able to rank higher on search engines than their competitors. Also, it’s an ideal platform for you to store all relevant information for customers. This includes reviews, credentials and contact details.

So, you're starting a mechanical engineering business?

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The power of digital word of mouth

The good news: word-of-mouth recommendations are also extremely effective in technical industries. Be sure to make a note of these. And add them into case studies and other credentials to showcase how you add value.

Social media is another excellent weapon in your arsenal. This will broaden your reach and help you identify key decision makers. Posting blogs on a professional networking platform, for example, demonstrates knowledge and understanding of a prospective client’s challenges. It also lets you highlight how you might be able to solve them.

And being a Checkatrade member, you can list all of your customer reviews – digital word of mouth – on your glowing profile.

Keeping track of your finances

Mechanical engineering firms can be very lucrative, especially if you’re charging a day rate for consultancy. However, you may find yourself needing advanced equipment, like 3D printers. This can drive up your overheads when starting out. Business loans can offset early cash flow problems but make sure you’ve guaranteed a healthy pipeline of work before committing.

Hiring a team

If you end up being mad-busy, you’ll need back-up. Graduates come cheap as they’re in starter roles. The downside? They’ll need training so will hoover up your time. On the flip-side, experienced pros don’t come cheap. For more of these general insights for starting a business, visit our article here.


Can a mechanical engineer start a business?

Yes. Mechanical engineers are in high demand across many different sectors. So, to hone in on the money, have a think about what services will you’ll offer.

What do mechanical engineers do?

The role of mechanical engineers is to oversee research, design, development and manufacture of machines. They work on everything from aircraft engines to motion sensors. They’re relied upon for their ability to solve technical challenges.

Do mechanical engineers make good money?

Yes. The average mechanical engineer salary in the UK is £35,000 per year; or £50k+ if you’re great at this. The downside? The better your staff, the more you’ll need to pay them.

What subjects are needed to become a mechanical engineer?

Looking to retrain in this field? You’ll need a recognised qualification in a maths- or science-based subject. Physics is desirable. A Higher National Diploma in engineering helps, too.

So, you're starting a mechanical engineering business?

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Get started

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