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I know very little about the freelancing world. But I have always been curious about it, as it seems like a nice alternative career option.

I would like to know, what are the kind of projects available in MATLAB? What industry basically uses MATLAB, and what kind of expertise one should have in order to bag these projects?

Also, is it financially viable to start off as a MATLAB freelancer?

  • It is viable if your area of expertise can be done remotely (will get more clients) and if you can find clients. Of course, it's important that you deliver quality as well. I'd suggest you check on freelancer or odesk if there are clients who need Matlab services. – Peter MV Mar 18 '15 at 12:37
  • what do mean by done remotely? – Black Dagger Mar 18 '15 at 16:27
  • Remotely means you're in NY and your client is in London. Or any other city not your own city. We usually refer to this if you cannot meet the client face to face. – Peter MV Mar 18 '15 at 16:55
  • Ok, and why do you think, being away from your clients helps? – Black Dagger Mar 19 '15 at 5:20
  • Well it does not really help, but if you can do your job with clients in another country or on another continent, then you can bid on more projects. My friend is agronomist and he is bound to work face to face with his clients (also bound by geographical area) so he does not have so much clients and often has gaps in work. If he could work remotely without having to be present on client's land, he could have more client. OK? – Peter MV Mar 19 '15 at 13:29
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Matlab is good for fleshing out system performance and designing system mockups prior to prototyping. It is NOT viable for production systems.

Matlab is really good for the following:

  • Imaging problems/systems
  • Control systems and design (simulink)
  • DSP, filters, and linear systems
  • Physical optics and light propagation

Matlab is ok for:

  • Machine learning/classification problems
  • GUI
  • Regression problems

Many companies use Matlab, especially for optical system/image processing mockups and control systems. I personally used it a for a contract with a large orange grower for a fruit defect grading prototype (in addition to C++ and other optical modeling design software like FRED, ZEMAX).

Your biggest issue will be finding clients, but Matlab is particularly prevalent in the aerospace, defense, electrical engineering, applied mathematics, and optical engineering communities.

Note that, if you are not a US citizen, then contracting with US aerospace and defense companies will be quite difficult.

Your second question was about the financial part. Really this heavily depends on your overall expertise, not just your Matlab knowledge. For instance, I have already written entire packages in Matlab for light propagation, and for light polarization modeling. Now that these are finished, I can use them for all clients and charge them accordingly. If you wanted to charge a single client to build something like that, it would be very costly. Also I have a lot of experience using Matlab on optical and optical systems problems. Given this background, I can charge very good rates.

The answer to the financial question is maybe. What other expertise do you bring to the table? What kinds of custom software do you have in your own toolkit? You will need to use yourself as an entire package to determine a rate, then decide if it is viable. Please also take a look at my answer here for general advice about freelancing rates vs employment salaries.

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I've been looking at projects on ODesk for a while and from time to time I will see a Matlab project posted. Usually, the project is about converting Matlab code to C++ code or some other language. Not to say that I've also seen projects where it is mostly just about Matlab itself. I don't think there are anywhere near as many of those projects as say web development, app development, etc.

My personal opinion is that it would be a mistake to assume that you can survive as a freelancer just doing Matlab projects exclusively. I think it would be a great start if you have a lot of experience with it, but you'll need to broaden your skills a little more so that you can bid on more projects. Don't broaden them too much though. You should focus more on trying to be specialized in one area of expertise. For example, "Developer for scientific applications" or something like that (just an example, probably not a good one!). For me, I am a C++ programmer with some financial experience so my title would be something like "C++ developer for low-latency trading systems".

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Finding out who will want to use your skills is the hardest part of freelancing. For Matlab projects, in addition to what daaxix posted, I would also add academia and any sector that collects data...biology, genetics, anything with machines that log data.

Usually, once you land a decent gig, you will find that more work comes and your eyes become opened to new areas that you can target.

For marketability, I would suggest honing your skills on something cutting edge and buzz-wordish...like CUDA+Matlab simulations or something. Or, take an old project that you did with matlab and replicate it using R or Python to broaden your base...it may help land the first few gigs after which you can be more Matlab-selective.

It is the case that many times if a company is looking for "xyz developer" to solve a particular problem, is just means they may have a bit of xyz in-house understanding. If you understand the problem and suggest to them that a Matlab strategy could be effective, they would change their minds. (depending on downstream requirements, of course)

good luck!

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If you are able to build a system simulator in your area of expertise, lots of companies would pay you to use it. This is an example of big system simulator, but this is open source. I don't know what your area of expertise is but let's say instead of telecommunications, it's aerospace: if you are able to model any plane complex system, I guess universities and companies will be very interested. You may need to do a bit of research first and then create a product and try to sell it.

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