10 Side Income Ideas for Programmers

Sources of active and passive income that are suitable for coders and actually work

Posted by Tariq Abughofa on October 15, 2019 · 13 mins read #finance #entrepreneurship

If you are a solid software engineer already there is a good chance that you make a good income. However, if you want to diversify your income sources and save for retirement, you need to look for additional way to gain extra money. Although it probably won’t make you rich, it can support your life style and it can grow to make a brand for yourself, push forward you main career, and, if you hit the jackpot, it goes big.

Side Hustle Ideas

There are two ways of making side incomes. The first one is having a side hustle. The same as with your primary job, you are trading your time and effort with money. Although, you’re also gaining new skills and experience which make you more efficient and skilful as you go and in return you can ask for a higher payments or you get much more customers.

1. Sell used items

Not a big source of income but it can get you some money especially if you like spending on new technology products like cellphones, TVs, and laptops. You can sell your used items on eBay, Kijiji, or Craiglist.

2. Running an online store

e-Commerce is eating up the physical retail world on a fast pace to the extend that they are calling it the Retail Apocalypse. It made really easy for anyone to start an online business right from their own house. Also depending on the solution you use you might not even need a warehouse space for your product.

The most famous solutions for e-Commerce are Amazon, Shopify, and Wix. Setting up a store with a complete payment method is super easy and doesn’t even need much programming skills. Another option that might make things even easier is drop shipping if you want to be a retailer instead of being a producer. With this online-store you don’t need to keep goods in stock but instead you transfer the orders and shipment details to the original manufacturer or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer.

The biggest challenge here is to find products that can grab people’s attention, determine your competition and in what ways your different and then plan the right ways to market these details to your customers. You can use Facebook ads, Google ads, social media presence… etc.

3. Freelancing

You can also offer your services and skills on an hourly basis for freelancing. Many famous services allows you to join the gig economy online such as Fiverr and Upwork. As you get hired more and you establish yourself with a solid rating, you can charge more. Not to mention it increases your experience. If you prefer you can offer skills other than your programming knowledge there. These website have a wide range of services such as design, writing, video, translation… etc.

Passive Income Sources

The next list contains passive sources of income. These source might require a lot of effort in the beginning weather to gain the necessary skills and knowledge or to setup things and gain your audience. This tough period can be long or short depending on your effort, luck, and weather you made the right decisions. However, once you passed that phase, you start getting passive income which requires little to no effort to maintain.

1. Selling software or plugins

Instead of making a software for an employer, you develop your own solutions and sell them. This requires more than just your programming abilities. You need to develop business and marketing skills to know what the market needs and who to make something that appeal to your audience.

There many stores you can use for this such as Code Canyon. Also, It doesn’t have to be a full software. It can be a plugin for a framework or a CMS like WordPress. These usually has their own online market store.

2. Passive Investing

This is a must-do for every person planning for retirement and it’s not hard to setup but it requires some discipline. First you need to start a habit of saving some money on the side in your bank account. Once you a sizable saving account, you should start put this money invested in stocks. You need to make sure you know what you’re doing and don’t go with stocks randomly. Also you should focus on long term gains and that’s why it’s called passive investing. You put the money and leave it their until retirement. Expect for occasional planed re-balancing trades. But never impulse sell of your assets. I will go into details on how to do passive investing in a future article.

3. Starting a personal blog

This is a must-do for every software engineer. Not only for the side income, but also because it can push forward your career and increase your opportunities. It creates a personal brand for you, expands your online visibility, and expand potential interest in you from recruiters and entrepreneurs. Also, I believe the best way to establish your knowledge and organize it is to write it down and structure it in text.

Now, you might ask, how can you generate revenue from a blog? there are several ways to do so:

Monetize it with ads: the most basic and famous solution to use here is Google Adsense. Google puts ads on your website through this program and shares the revenue which depends on the ad clicks.

There are also other ad services that are specialized for tech blogs such as Carbon Ads.

Affiliate marketing: You can also promote products on your blog and get paid for it. Most big retailers offers affiliate programs which share the profit with you on each sale that happen through your website. The most well known ones are Amazon Associates, Bestbuy, Indigo, …etc.

Make sure to be honest with your reviews and do not go around recommending every expensive item you can find. Otherwise your audience will feel your dishonesty and you will lose your following.

Your own Merchandise: successful branding allows you to start creating your own products which ca be T-shirts, caps, stickers, accessories, … etc. Which you can offer and promote through your blog.

Fan support buttons: donate and payment button is a way for fans to show support for your blog especially if you provide content that helps them with problems and getting ahead in life. Buy me a coffee is an example for creator support buttons.

4. Starting a YouTube channel

Similar to the the blog, you can start blogging though videos on YouTube. It depends on you preference and what you are comfortable with but it can more appealing to people to have videos and it can go bigger. When you reach certain audience size, YouTube will start paying you per view which will be your main revenue here. In addition to that, you can menotize your channel the same way you do with a blog. Another popular menotization method that many YouTubers do is Patreon which helps creators have a membership-based YouTube business.

5. Creating programming courses

Computer science skills are desirable as their is high demand for jobs in the field. A lot of people are looking to gain knowledge in this field whether they are programmers looking to expand their skills, studying programming as their main source of income, or switching to this field to find more profit .

Since you already have these skills as your primary source of income it would make scene to teach them. If you do it online, the market is huge and your audience can be anyone in the world. Platforms like Udemy make it quite easy to create your courses and make money from them without having to worry about marketing. But you have to make sure to create a high-quality course.

6. Write an eBook

If you are specialized in a certain area in computer science you can find a certain topic that you feel doesn’t have enough resources or you can contribute more to and write a book about it. Services like Kindle direct publishing make it super easy to publish your work in either paperback or eBook format and it has low costs. You will keep making money from royalty for as long as people are buying from your publishing list.

7. Creating SaaS products

This one is the hardest of all the sources in the list and the most time consuming. It requires a large set of skills including marketing and entrepreneurship skills. The first step is to find the idea for your product and validate it’s market potential. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a new idea but it might be a twist on an existing one, a better service, or targets a more specific audience. After that the development process comes in which requites creating a good enough product to release but not a complete one. This balance is important since this version aims to test the market and measure the interest. There is a a good quote that comes to my mind on that:

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.

The next step is to start marketing your product especially among the targeted audience social circles. That include email lists, social media, targeted ads, …etc. Next, measuring the retention, asking for feedback and analyzing it, and enhancing the service. Finally, perseverance. Nobody succeeds from the first attempt. You might create 2, 3, or 5 products until one catch on or you might succeed from the first one. There are no guarantees. However, you build your skills and learn from the mistakes every time.

If this one succeeded, it will be the best source of income you would ever have. You generate money from periodic subscription, investment, selling the product, going public if the company went big… etc.

If you have the patient and the persistence needed and you want to start, I suggest to you to have a look at the Indie Hackers community. It is an exceptional place to get tips, support, and the motivation from other people experiences and stories.


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