Can an engineer start a business?

Become self-employed as a mechanical engineer

After studying mechanical engineering, graduates have many career options. Innovative engineering knowledge is in demand in this country as well as worldwide, with German mechanical engineering in particular enjoying a very high reputation globally. In this respect, the general economic conditions could hardly be better.

Employment or from studying to self-employment?

Most mechanical engineers opt for a lucrative employment relationship and against the path to the undoubtedly riskier self-employment. For quite a few mechanical engineers, a secure income and a waving career are more important than the prospect of complete professional self-determination, which, however, comes at the price of a higher entrepreneurial risk. In this article, opportunities and problem areas with regard to 'becoming self-employed as a machine builder' are to be highlighted in a compact manner in order to be able to assess the personal initial situation and to steer the necessary planning into target-oriented paths right from the start.

Setting up a business as a mechanical engineering company: Contents of this article

  • What risks and opportunities should be considered?
  • formal requirements for self-employed mechanical engineers
  • Notes on critical financial planning
  • Added values ​​and unique selling points as a growth engine
  • Consider the freelancer's option as a middle ground

Market knowledge and precise analysis of the initial situation

With a Mechanical engineering degree In their pockets, depending on their focus and professional experience, graduates have the opportunity to set up their own business with an innovative business idea. Ideally, the start-up process begins during your studies, with more and more universities offering special funding programs to stimulate the start-up activity, which has been declining for years. In this respect, interested parties should while Build a network of your studies and take the long-term planning into your own hands. On-site advisory services should be checked and used. One should think of special mentoring programs in the context of which practical knowledge for the successful start-up and management of a company is imparted.

In any case, machine-builders should carefully consider or, better said, analyze which ones Gap in the market want to serve them with their business idea. This requires a certain knowledge of the market and a feeling for technical interrelationships and developments. Are there already solutions for a specific technical problem? Which business direction offers growth-oriented development opportunities? These and other questions of strategic importance should be discussed holistically in a professional business plan and answered convincingly. Of course, machine builders must / can not only design machines, but also offer technical services (e.g. special test procedures). Often a direction is already given in the course of study by choosing a specialization. Anyone who plays with the idea of ​​self-employment as a mechanical engineer in the long term should keep an eye on not only their personal interests but also the demand situation when choosing a specialization.

Financial planning: Make consistent use of all funding opportunities and resources

A business plan is essential as a compact summary of the opportunities of a business idea in order to convince external investors. Depending on the scope of the business model and the equity available, it may be that large sums of money have to be raised in the start-up phase. The task of a business plan is to get to the heart of all the opportunities and development potential of a business idea. In addition to strategic business planning, founders should also deal with finances at an early stage, especially since these are of central importance in the business plan. In principle, as a general condition, it should be noted that banks are very cautious when it comes to lending. This is forcing more and more founders to look into alternative forms of financing. Interested founders can find up-to-date information on applying for funding here at in order to put their own business idea on a broad and sustainable basis right from the start.

Protection of the business idea from a legal point of view

Anyone who acts in global competition must also protect themselves effectively from imitators from the start. In the engineering sector, it is therefore advisable to apply for a patent in order to protect innovative products. Since filing a patent application can be a lengthy process, it is advisable to deal with this aspect as early as possible. It is not uncommon for technical specifications in the engineering sector to be important unique selling points for companies. This makes it clear why the professional core of self-employment should be legally protected as well as possible. (See also article: Trademark and patent protection)

Well prepared? Possible dangers on the way to self-employment as a mechanical engineer

In spite of all the helpful euphoria for setting out on self-employment, an honest and self-critical perspective is recommended. Many machine builders underestimate the challenges, although this also applies to other fields of activity. In this regard, every mechanical engineering company should realize that, in addition to the technical competence that is at the fore, also accounting aspects and those of company management are in the foreground. Anyone who has a lack of knowledge in this area should be honest about them and tackle them consistently. Further training measures in the area of ​​corporate management and accounting can be an important step towards sustainable, success-oriented corporate development. Those who plan to become self-employed during their studies can build up a long-term network so that sufficient resources are available to advance the growth path of the company founded in a target-oriented manner.

Formal requirements for self-employed mechanical engineers

If you want to start a company in the mechanical engineering sector, you have to register a trade. As far as the scope of the business registration is concerned, it becomes specific Range of services be decisive in individual cases. If security-relevant areas are concerned, an extended business registration (keyword requirement for a permit) is to be expected. Machine builders who are willing to set up a company are well advised in this regard to deal with the individual requirements at an early stage and, if necessary, to seek a discussion with the responsible trade office. If you don't want to start a company, but want to be a lone warrior, you can usually use the status of 'freelancer' with a university degree in this area, whereby the responsible tax office ultimately has to make the decision. When founding a company, consideration should be given to a suitable legal form in order to be able to design the powers of action and liability relationships as best as possible. The latter in particular play a central role, since the establishment of a company is undoubtedly always associated with a certain financial risk.

Whichever form of self-employed mechanical engineers choose, they will have to take their personal security into their own hands. In addition to old-age provision, you also have to bear the costs of health insurance yourself, which opens up the way to private health insurance. Self-employed people in particular benefit from the "non-income-related" contributions and strong benefits in private health insurance Tip: Before switching, you should always compare several providers with each other.
As far as meaningful public liability insurance is concerned, possible dangers that may arise from the range of services offered should be analyzed.

A viable middle ground? Flexible project work as a highly qualified freelancer

Mechanical engineers who cannot choose between self-employment and being an employee also have a middle ground. As a highly qualified freelancer, you can specialize in project work and thus always get new orders or clients. Suitable challenges can be found with just a few clicks on well-known portals such as Anyone who opts for this option bears a lower overall financial risk. However, every mechanical engineering freelancer has to take care of follow-up projects, because the time limit is in the nature of things. The prospects and opportunities in this area are very good, because more and more companies need or want to work flexibly with highly qualified experts. Of course, freelancers cannot act as freely within given project structures as they would if they were to found their own company. Ultimately, every machine manufacturer has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages for himself. In the case of project work, however, there is always the latent risk of bogus self-employment if there is a bond with instructions through integration into internal company structures and processes.

Practice-oriented summary: become self-employed as a mechanical engineer

  1. A successful and sustainable company foundation in the field of mechanical engineering (engineering) requires a well-founded market analysis. Only in this way can added customer values ​​and unique selling points be worked out, which are very important for the desired growth path
  2. By filing a patent application, innovations in the field of mechanical engineering can be effectively protected in legal terms. This seems more important than ever in the dynamic and very hard-fought global competition
  3. In the business plan, the finances in particular should be carefully planned and all funding options examined
  4. If a company is founded, a business registration (possibly with a permit requirement) is necessary. Mechanical engineering freelancers can usually use the status of freelance due to their special qualifications
  5. Consider middle ground with low financial risk as a strategic alternative: flexible project work as a freelancer.