I am a Mechanical Engineer, currently employed full-time for a large multinational. I am considering the option of leaving my full-time job to do similar work freelance, for various reasons: mostly because I am not doing enough of the type of work that I want to do in my current job and I suspect I may be able to earn more by going freelance.
So, I am wondering how I can gauge how much demand there will be for my skills in the market, before I take the plunge and quit my current job. I have a family to support and mortgage to pay, so I need to have a good level of confidence that I can earn at least as much as I am now, before I could make the jump.
In particular, I am wondering if it would be a good idea to take on some small projects 'on the side', which I could work on in my spare time (whilst keeping my full-time job)? I am a a little concerned that, if I end up not finding enough spare time for them, that it might damage my chances of finding repeat jobs later on, if the work is not of sufficient quality. Also, if my current employer finds out I am 'moonlighting', that they might not like it.
How do I estimate potential income for switching to freelance work, particularly when I don't actually have any contracts yet? Is it realistic to expect that I could earn more working freelance than I am currently full-time?
I have an academic background in Fluid Dynamics and I would like to develop into a specialist in Fluid Dynamics/CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics).