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Programming The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Making Side-Money As a Programmer? 257

earlzdotnet writes "I've been programming for a few years now, and I have a full time job. I'm one of those lucky souls that actually enjoy programming, so I commonly work on my own open source projects on weekends. However, I wouldn't mind working on a short-term projects (i.e. not more than ~2 months) every once in a while on weekends. I've looked at freelancing before, and I could probably make more money by working at McDonald's on weekends than that. I've also looked into making web sites for small businesses, but it requires a bit too much commitment and support for me, especially since I'm terrible at graphics design. I've tried my hand at writing reusable components to sell to other programmers, but that was pretty pointless (I made one $20 sale). I've seen teaching suggested, but I'm self-taught and probably not experienced enough to responsibly teach people. Are there any other options to make a bit of cash as a programmer? Is programming just one of those things that requires complete dedication, or what?"
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Ask Slashdot: Making Side-Money As a Programmer?

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  • There seems to be a fair amount of demand for small projects on the Salesforce platform. I think there's a web site or two out there for bidding on such jobs, but the URLs escape me.
    • Re:Salesforce? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:22PM (#42874369)

      Find a small business focused erp/crm platform (SalesForce, ASPDotNetStorefront, Epicor, NetSuite, etc.) and become an expert in one part of it. Post forum and blog articles on it, run your own sample site/store/system, and build a reputation. People who want to do the things you post about (something like replacing a default menu or search screen) will pay you to do it for them for a real wage.

      Depending on the customer, I charge anywhere from $80 to $250 an hour for my time, and work about 10 hours a month on average outside my full-time job (in an unrelated field to my consulting).

      One thing I learned, don't be afraid to let your customers know that you do this part time. Many would much rather have a real person to ask question of who won't nickle and dime them. And the companies that would rather work with an 'established partner' will drive you crazy with process and requirements, so letting them know you are just a person doing this part time lets them know you are not the right person for them.

      • Re:Salesforce? (Score:4, Informative)

        by jekewa ( 751500 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @04:47PM (#42875181) Homepage Journal

        There are other freelancer resources out there (like the aptly named [] that list a variety of projects from a variety of people in a variety of languages, so you don't have to try to tie yourself to a particular platform or discipline.

        This is by no means an endorsement, just an acknowledgement that there are sites out there.

        • Re:Salesforce? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @05:21PM (#42875461)

          But unless you're from a third world country, you will make more working at McDonalds than getting any job from

        • Re:Salesforce? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @01:33AM (#42879925) Journal

          I've had less luck at the internet moonlighting sites (freelancer and because there are way too many people competing for jobs (and too many people from India). I've had much better luck going through my local Craigslist. There have been a couple of duds (failure to pay or pay in a timely manner), but I can meet face to face and sell my skills based on an interview (I interview well) and also get a feel for the person requesting the work (I've turned a few down). That extra level of comfort seems to work in my favor.

          There are a lot of "make me a web site for $150" type of offers, but if you keep an eye out, you can usually find better projects (I just picked up one working with the Kinect -- which is something I wanted to learn anyway).

          I've made $2k to $4k most years in side work. If I took on more than 5 or 6 projects, I could probably get that number up to around $10k to $12k per year just working nights and weekends (but I'd rather have some free time). Probably not enough projects to quit my day job, but that's not what I'm looking for, anyway.

      • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

        Indeed. I've only worked with Saleforce for about 10 minutes, but quite a few of the projects I deal with at work involve developing costly integrations between e-commerce and some random ERP.

        Basically, pick any two random platforms, integrate them however you like, and sell the software on the side.

      • I charge anywhere from $80 to $250 an hour for my time, and work about 10 hours a month on average outside my full-time job (in an unrelated field to my consulting).

        If you can get $250 an hour for your part time work, does that mean you're earning more than that in your full time job?If not, why not?

        40 hours a week at $250 an hour is $10,000 a week or half a million a year. I suppose that's possible, but you must be a bit of an outlier.

  • by hivebrain ( 846240 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @02:57PM (#42874063)
    There's always room for another bug tracking app.
    • by frosty_tsm ( 933163 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:41PM (#42874569)

      There's always room for another bug tracking app.

      So sad yet so true.

    • There's always room for another bug tracking app.

      You mean, we're still waiting one that doesn't require sacrificing a lamb at full moon and the blood of thirteen virgins to properly install?

      • by mk1004 ( 2488060 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @05:12PM (#42875385)
        Well, at least finding the thirteen virgins on /. shouldn't be too difficult.
        • Well, at least finding the thirteen virgins on /. shouldn't be too difficult.

          Eek, they could use that image as an anti-terrorist-recruitment poster.

          The prospect of spending eternity surrounded by thirteen geeks discussing whether emacs is the best text editor should be enough to put anyone off becoming a suicide bomber.

      • by frisket ( 149522 )
        Bugger the installation, it's actually using the goddam things that drives me nuts.

        You can never find anyone reporting the same issue, and then 30 seconds after posting, your report is trashed as "Duplicate of #32786".

        If not, they then get the wrong end of the stick and spend the next decade discussing the wrong thing.

        • You can never find anyone reporting the same issue, and then 30 seconds after posting, your report is trashed as "Duplicate of #32786".

          I guess their programmers haven't bothered with such newfangled and fanciful notions as "document classification", "nearest neighbour search" and "information retrieval". No, that would make it all too easy for bug reporters to notice duplicate bugs.

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        Ah, I think you I see your problem. You are supposed to use chicken, not lamb. You will find your virgin requirement significantly reduced with the correct input fauna.
    • Son of Bugzilla

      I hear it was huge in Japan!

  • App Store (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Write an app to sell in an online app store. I've friend who have done very well out of Mac one. It would be helpful if you can find a graphic designer to work with you. Pretty apps sell better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or, you could buy a lottery ticket.

    • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:18PM (#42874335)

      Write an app to sell in an online app store. I've friend who have done very well out of Mac one. It would be helpful if you can find a graphic designer to work with you. Pretty apps sell better.

      And when did he do that?

      From what I've seen, that's so 2009. That "write an app and make $$$" days are well over.

      I have a LOT of ideas for apps, but when I look at the Apple store, Android - Google Play, etc ... I see that whatever I want to do has been done to death and it's available for FREE - by experienced app programmers who are much better than me. Try as I may to see if there's something I can do better, there isn't.

      Granted that's just me - not someone who may be much more gifted than me.

      Look it everyone, when you see advice online, it's jumped the shark. The folks who are going to do something that wil make one rich are doing it because they think it's cool (and WELL ahead of the curve) and they get lucky if it makes them $$$$. Yes, it's always hard work, but to hit the money? Luck.

      And then there are times when things have jumped the shark. iOS or any mobile app development has jumped the shark (I've said that too much) .

      Where in programming is a need not being filled? There's your answer.

      I don't know because if I did, I'd be doing it and not spouting it off on the interweb.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bogtha ( 906264 )

        Write an app to sell in an online app store. I've friend who have done very well out of Mac one.

        And when did he do that?

        From what I've seen, that's so 2009. That "write an app and make $$$" days are well over.

        The Mac App Store didn't open until 2011, and it didn't start out so popular at first. The situation for developers targeting it has steadily improved over the past couple of years.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:59PM (#42874747)
        I can't believe you got modded insightful for responding to someone who at least cited some personal experience with "I have no experience with this but you're wrong..."

        FWIW, a friend came to me a bit over a year ago with a simple idea and I threw it together over the course of a couple weekends and put it on the Mac App Store. Literally 4 days of coding and we've made thousands of sales at $1.99 each. That's not make-us-rich money, but it is damn good pay for a few days' work - and it's still selling with no additional effort from us.
        • Do you mind sharing what the app does? I'm curious if it is super niche, and thus was easy to build & easy to sell or very generic and shooting for the masses.
          • It is a niche product. But that's the great thing about having such easy access to "the masses" - there are enough people buying apps now that you can target just a small percentage of them and still make a buck. Great for a side job / hobby.
      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <`ross' `at' `'> on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @04:27PM (#42875005) Homepage
        I think it's important to distinguish between something that's worth doing because it pays a little additional cash wile being fun, versus doing something to make you rich. You seem to be focused on the latter, while the original question seems to be focused on the former.
      • by mcl630 ( 1839996 )

        Could you say "jumped the shark" a few more times? Oh wait, the saying has already jumped the shark.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Scrabble was already done before, but a guy decided to write Wordfeud anyway... I heard he stopped counting when the income passed 100k NOK = 18k USD per day and it was all done by one man. Snapchat? Huge success, despite seemingly just being the camera + MMS + a countdown timer rolled into one. Most things have been done before but just do it better or combine them in some new way, there's still a good market for it.

      • If you look even closer you'll notice that about 95% of those apps (assuming we're not talking about games) are crap that the developers should pay you to betatest, about 4% are semi-useful and about 1% are good enough that it would be a challenge for a talented programmer-designer duo to make a better app. You're still probably not going to get rich, because people rarely buy the paid versions of non-gaming apps and non gaming apps (by design if they are any good) tend to be used in bursts of a few seconds

  • Obviously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You should work at McDonald.

  • Ask for a raise at work, and continue your open source contributions on the weekend?
    • Re:Get a Raise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moses48 ( 1849872 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:23PM (#42874375)

      Ask for a raise at work, and continue your open source contributions on the weekend?

      There are a few ways to get more pay:
      1) Increase skill-set, ability and move to a job that pays more. (spend weekends training and researching what jobs pay more)
      2) Side job - (if it doesn't conflict with your current work contract)
              a) Use an agent to find you a job working remote or weekends, they exist
              b) create own application (may or may not payoff)
      3) Talk to management about overtime opportunities. Usually doesn't hurt to see what their policies are. If you are salaried they will often look down on this, but they might be willing to give a bonus for an extra project being done in overtime. You can also talk about your career path.

  • by icsEater ( 1093717 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @02:59PM (#42874099)
    You can always develop iPhone and Android apps. Of course, you might not end up making any money. But you could get lucky and strike it big. Even if not, you'll be having fun.
  • OSS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:00PM (#42874109)

    I know you're looking for was to bring in some extra cash, but in the long run submitting patches to OSS might actually be the way to go. You get to see a wide variety of code (both in terms of quality and subject matter) so it's usually interesting, you get to "make a difference" especially if it's a project you care about, and there are a lot of managers out there who look favorably to having such things are a resume (so it might help you bring in more money in the future, just be sure you have your patches associated with you to prove that you were the submitter to a reasonable degree). Probably not what you were looking for, just my $.02.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:02PM (#42874133) Homepage

    What about Rent-A-Coder []?

    This seems to be the kind of thing they do -- no idea of it pays well or anything about it, but I'm someone around her has experience with them.

    • but I'm someone

      Doh, "But I'm sure someone" ... I have no experience with them.

    • Re:What about ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cob666 ( 656740 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:16PM (#42874315) Homepage
      I just looked at that website and browsed some of the projects. Based on how much the people putting up these projects want to spend, you probably WOULD be better off working at McDonalds.
    • Re:What about ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:30PM (#42874465) Homepage

      I don't think many on Rent-A-Coder can actually program. I once put a job on there. I had a simple Python program that would retrieve and format in a standard form WHOIS data from one registrar's WHOIS server. I wanted modules written for about 50 other registrars. That's a simple formatting job; I just didn't want to write all the variants. Three Rent-A-Coder "programmers" in succession tried and gave up. Not one ever delivered a single line of code. This wasn't exactly rocket science.

      I tried "" once for some simple web design work. I was willing to pay about $500 for one well-designed page with some specific original artwork. I got back crap clip art. I finally paid $500 to a student at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and got back good work in a week with no problems.

      "" was difficult about returning my money. I discovered that the regional small claims court in Australia accepts online filings. I filled out the appropriate online forms, paid a small court fee, and within hours of filing a case, Freelancer sent me a refund by wire transfer.

      • I'm shocked, shocked I tell 'ya. You've ruined my faith in mankind. OK, not really.

        And, yeah, I see people offering $100 to migrate a web site from Flash to HTML including animations, and someone else who looks like they want their homework done.

        People seem to expect miracles and professional software for pennies ... like the guy offering $50 to write the credit card processing for an allegedly complete MMO.

        It seems like it would be prone to shady players and clueless clients who don't know anything about

        • by earlzdotnet ( 2788729 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @06:17PM (#42875943)
          Once someone offhand asked me if I could write something like that quickbooks has(managing rental properties). I said "probably for the subset of it that you need, but it'd take a lot of time." And then he said "Could you do it for under $100? Quickbooks is too expensive for me to buy." Literal facepalm.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:03PM (#42874147)

    Full-time programmers often sign an employment contract that assigns all IP to their employer for $1. Be very open with your employer about producing software that you believe belongs to you as opposed to them. Labour laws are regional so this may not apply. Does your employer offer any incentives to contribute extra work? I'd start there.

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:20PM (#42874349)

      If an employer asks you to do this, don't fucking sign it. I've had many employers over the years. Every agreement I've ever signed has said anything done on my time with my equipment is mine. Done on work time with work equipment is theirs. Don't accept anything more restrictive than that, its not worth it. Make them change it or find another job, they'll get the idea pretty quickly.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        It's worse than that. I've been presented with a contract that said that not only everything I produced of IP while working for them, whether done at work or not, would be theirs, but that all existing IP would also be theirs, unless every single item was explicitly listed, from the day I was born until then.

        This is a huge company, and this is their standard contract. The HR person had not have anyone refuse to sign before I did. Apparently Americans are fine with contracts like that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Does your employer offer any incentives to contribute extra work?

      Wow, I just can't stop laughing at this one ... please go on ...

    • Full-time programmers often sign an employment contract that assigns all IP to their employer for $1.

      I've never, ever, signed an agreement that says that stuff done on my own time belongs to my employer. And in fact that's one of the things I specifically ask about during interviews, along with any expectations of non-compete, non-disclosure, and attempts to influence my non-work life.

  • by magic maverick ( 2615475 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:03PM (#42874149) Homepage Journal

    Before you start doing freelance stuff, check your current contract for whether or not there is a clause about you telling them (and getting approval) before starting another job. You never know...

    Also, if you can make websites, you don't need to have design skills or anything. Look into reusing WordPress templates (or similar free design templates for other platforms) and then just build websites around them. Plus, if you use WordPress, you don't really have any issue, 'cause there are so many other people who can just then take up the support after you disappear.

    Also just chuck ads in the local paper. "Programming done", but beware of cranks.

  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:03PM (#42874151) Homepage

    It's certainly possible to do programming work in your free time if you can find someone who needs a small amount of stuff done and can deal with being the secondary priority to your real job. I've been doing it on and off for at least a decade now, and I make enough money at it to make for tax headaches. Requires a lot of attributes that you might not need in the regular scheduled day job world; you get to be the entire team, testing and QA and documentation included. No safety net. Can be sorta stressful. Can also be fun.

    • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @05:25PM (#42875501)

      I have been doing side jobs for a long while now, and I've can't stress the parent post enough - it's a lot more work than just programming. Like, 80/20.

      It means that I have to be an incredible communicator, since I'll not only be the entire technical team, I'm the analyst, tax accountant and lawyer as well. I need to distill the verbal needs into discrete requirements, estimate costs, lay out contractual obligations, and so on. It's a heap of work. It's _real_ work, same as I do in my day job, just more varieties of it in less time.

      Say I'm contracted to build a website - nothing too fancy, 1 main page template, 1 subpage template with 5 variants, a sign up form, bunch of javascript, database on the back end. I can manage that in a few hours. Actual effort including changing requirements, various designs, deciphering their documentation, getting hosting/account/access, fixing the provided assets, walking through setup, helping the copywriters populate the pages etc = 40+ hours. Doing it well enough that they feel I'm not only professional but exceptional - and they're getting their money's worth - quite a bit more.

      Don't get me wrong, it can be personally rewarding both financially and intellectually, but it is a job, and it's not even my primary job.

      I've found that I can manage as long as I set strict limits. I have to cut off potential clients as soon as they start making demands that aren't compatible with having a separate full time job; meetings during my normal working hours, travel, iterative development, taking vacation time from my primary job to work on a contract, etc. I stress the importance of having a predictable schedule - they can have it fast, but they can't have it now - I can't count the times a client left a voicemail with something like '...and it turns out we need it by tomorrow's 8 am meeting'. I try to stick with known business contacts, and maintain my business relationship with them - which is more time spent.

      In my experience, projects of smaller size end up being horrible. I avoid Rentacoder and other similar sites since they appear to be unable to pay actual market value for the many of their tasks, or focus on items of dubious use - like the old request for forum-specific email harvesting programs. Outside of certified job posting sites, I have to worry about even getting paid. (If you want a scare, read []

      I don't know how you could do this casually and profit. It takes dedication of time and energy. I probably spend 30-40 hours a week on my side contracts when I'm active, but I work less than every other week, on average. Everyone wants an early completion date, but they rarely have their projects lined up in a row. I also find myself scheduling breaks, days I don't work, just so I can unwind a little.

      It's ironic, but it takes a lot of stress to get yourself to a point where you can relax and enjoy what you're doing.

      I think that if your goal isn't money, but rather to have fun, I recommend what other posters have suggested - find an OSS project. Something you can enjoy for itself, but not something that you're contractually obligated to spend your nights and weekends on.

  • craigslist (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:03PM (#42874159)

    Look around craigslist, there are always people who need little programming things done, scripts and such. A few years ago I was making an extra 800-1000 per month doing these kinds of gigs on my spare time.

    • by tatman ( 1076111 )
      How many hours did you spend to earn the $1K a month? Too often I find people want "a website" for $100 but don't realize that it will take more than a few hours to get it done.
  • by gregor-e ( 136142 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:06PM (#42874205) Homepage
    You could try your hand at various programming competitions such as those offered on TopCoder [] or Kaggle []. Some of the prizes in these competitions amount to serious dough.

    Alternatively, you could try algorithmic trading. Several online brokerages offer an API, such as Interactive Brokers [] and TradeStation [].
    • by dahl_ag ( 415660 )

      Also check out the Forex markets. Brokerages like use MT4 which has an open API of sorts. (I am just beginning to look at this myself... For similar reasons to the OP). Some nice things about Forex is that most brokers use the spread for their fees, no other fees or commissions. Also, forex has some nice margins. (50:1 leverage). Together, this means that you can trade for much lower investment than in markets like NASDAQ.

      Disclaimer: as I mentioned, I am just now beginning to look into / lear

  • by Bovius ( 1243040 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:08PM (#42874225)

    I have good news and bad news: you can totally get little contract jobs on the side for extra cash as a developer, but you have to put time and effort into drumming up clients, list as if you were doing contract development full time. You have to convince each new client that you're worth their money. I've had some luck doing contract work for previous employers that already know I'm trustworthy, but I can't just turn it on and off like a money faucet.

    Your other option is to make something and sell it yourself, which is even more of an up-front investment of time with less guarantee of a return. You'll be spending even more time doing marketing and business management.

    So, the short version is you're not likely to get easy money without putting more effort into it, unless you've already built up numerous business relationships. Sorry! I wish I could just write useful code and get paid for it too, but it turns out I have to keep convincing someone to give me money for my work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MangoCats ( 2757129 )

      Totally concur with this... when you freelance, you're not just coding, you're the whole business, including marketing, sales, accounting, collections, spec capture, coding, testing, customer service, etc.

      If you make $x/hr coding at your day job, you'll probably need to make $2x/hr for your coding time to cover all the other stuff doing little freelance jobs - if you're looking to make a similar overall hourly rate.

      It can be a lot of fun, it can also help you appreciate all the stuff your day job does for y

    • The other red flag in the OP's question was "I enjoy programming." But programming you do for yourself is very different from programming you do for someone else. While as a freelancer one may have a better opportunity to pick and choose projects, generally people aren't going to pay you to do fun things you enjoy. Making your own application can be fun, but making an application someone else wants, to their specifications, with all the buttons and menus where they want them...not so much.

      Don't fall into th

  • by macbeth66 ( 204889 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:10PM (#42874235)

    I am doing this all wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:12PM (#42874259)

    A couple of years ago I tried this myself, although I didn't start out with the intention to make any money. I was working on some mobile apps for BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet. They were offering a free tablet to people who made an app, and I'm a real sucker for "free" electronics.

    I discovered it was fun making mobile apps, so I have kept at it, spending perhaps 500 hours of time over the last two years. For the first 6 months or so income totalled about $3,000, which was enough to make it fun/rewarding, but not lucrative. But eventually, I made an app that did really well, and it only took 8 hours to make version 1. In the last 16 months or so I have earned about $190,000, and sales on BlackBerry 10 are already more than they were on PlayBook.

    If you enjoy C++ development, I'd recommend the BB10 platform. I wrote this up last spring on my "secrets of success":

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pla ( 258480 )
      and sales on BlackBerry 10 are already more than they were on PlayBook.

      LOL... Silly shill, that would require them to actually have customers to target with your app. But tell me - How much does plugging for Rim pay these days?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:13PM (#42874273)

    Look into creating code for AV control systems, AMX and Crestron being the big dogs in the game. Both offer online classes on how to write code for their control systems. Many AV companies are looking for good coders either to hire or contract. A few of my acquaintances who are independent have a deal with a luxury yacht builder to supply the code for the entertainment/living control systems they install on their boats, to list an example, but get the top level certifications from the above mentioned manufactures of these control systems and you can make some good change on the side. These systems are in use in all environments, plenty of need and opportunities.

    • Mod this Anonymous Coward up. Niche markets are great for little side projects-- they tend to have a userbase that is starved for choice, so they are more inclined to spend money... and when you're talking software, a niche market can be comprised of hundreds of thousands of people.

      AV covers more than lighting systems for home entertainment, it can involve visuals for nightclubs, cool DMX interfaces, etc. This industry has some nice perks (rock and roll, hookers and blow), and when you get into stadium-si
    • I like the idea, but I fear the startup expenses may be a bit cost prohibitive:

      From Crestron's training site: []

      You must be logged in as an Authorized Crestron Dealer or Partner to take these courses.

      Something tells me becoming an Authorized Crestron Dealer or Partner is not a cheap process.

      ADDENDUM: Here's a list of registration fees [] for non-Crestron dealers; looks like about a grand per class is the standard.

  • Botnet? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MarkGriz ( 520778 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:14PM (#42874285)

    Botnet programming can be quite lucrative, but I hear FPMITA prison is a real bitch.

  • I've looked at freelancing before, and I could probably make more money by working at McDonald's on weekends than that.

    Where did you get the idea freelancing paid next to nothing? Are you looking on Craigslist and shitty places like that or something? Freelance iOS developers, for example, can earn in the region of $100/hr quite easily.

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

      I think he was lookign at websites- rentacoder,, elance, etc. The hourly rates there are very low, because they're used to hire people in 3rd world countries and by people who have no real respect for your work. And plenty of high school/college kids who bid low thinking it will lead to future work. Freelancing pays well, but only if you drum up the work yourself.

  • You want money and that's understandable, but one way to get there is to do work for non-profits. Others see what they have and may refer you as a result. You can also then make money maintaining that same system for the non-profit and others.

    • You have a good idea in targeting non-profits. However, I want to make the point that doing work for non-profits doesn't mean it has to be non-profit for you. Most non-profits get money through government grants and/or private donations in order to operate. Hiring a programmer to take care of their software needs would certainly qualify as an operational expense they could justify. It most likely isn't going to be the going rate, however, since budgets for non-profits are usually very tight.
      • Hiring a programmer to take care of their software needs would certainly qualify as an operational expense they could justify.

        That's a really good and valid point. The salary level depends on the non-profit. Non-profit doesn't mean they don't pay salaries, even good ones. I guess the point I was trying to make was that if you're starting from zero, doing a little free/low-pay work to build a background isn't a bad thing. It can lead to maintenance contracts and other more lucrative pursuits.

      • You have a good idea in targeting non-profits. However, I want to make the point that doing work for non-profits doesn't mean it has to be non-profit for you. Most non-profits get money through government grants and/or private donations in order to operate. Hiring a programmer to take care of their software needs would certainly qualify as an operational expense they could justify. It most likely isn't going to be the going rate, however, since budgets for non-profits are usually very tight.

        Exactly, at my previous job we actually made software exclusively for non-profits. The key there is to make software which can be used by multiple non-profits of the same type... but I don't intend to make something like that because of the associated support required

  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:25PM (#42874401) Homepage Journal
    If so, working on personal projects that don't necessarily have any likelihood of financial reward may be much more satisfying than doing paying work in your spare time. I've certainly found that to be the case. I spend my spare time on projects that are just things I'm personally interested in. Often they're very obscure, and only of interest to a small number of other people. However, I enjoy them very much. Sometimes I publish them as free software, and when I do, it is very cool to meet the few other people with similar interests. Because I'm interested in a wide variety of things, I've got enough ideas for personal projects to keep me busy for hundreds of years, so I almost never get bored.

    I also was very lucky that a very-long-term project project in which I invested a huge amount of time (thousands of hours) starting in 1995, with absolutely no expectation of financial reward, actually started making me a non-trivial amount of money starting in 2009. I'm certainly not going to claim that this is a likely outcome, but it can happen.

    As an example of a small and very obscure personal project, in July of 2011 I rewrote the Apple I ROM monitor to work on an MC6800 microprocessor (rather than the 6502), because the Apple I hardware design was theoretically capable of being configured for the MC6800. It's of no practical value whatsoever, and will never make me any money, but I submitted it as a RetroChallenge contest entry and actually won second place and a small prize. Just recently someone in Australia actually installed an MC6800 in an Apple 1 replica, did a little hardware debugging, and got my monitor code running on it. (I'd only run it in simulation with MESS.) It was very satisfying watching the video on Youtube.

    • This is why I specified "short-term". I wouldn't want to do this every weekend. I enjoy the time that I get to do my own thing with my own projects. However, sometimes a bit of pocket cash is worth not having that freedom... for a while. Personal projects also help me avoid burn-out so I wouldn't dedicate every weekend for 2 years to it or something.
  • Team up with a business partner who has better ideas and is more business-savvy than you. Such people typically can't code anything. Together you can achieve what none of you could have done alone.

    - Jesper

    • by greywire ( 78262 )

      I don't know (personally) any programmer (engineer, designer, or most any creative type) that doesn't have a long list of ideas that could make money. Problem is not in the idea but in finding the time to do it, or the investment $, or whatever.

      I have to second the idea of business partner. Somebody who's not a programmer but can maybe spot a need in some area you might never think of. Its hard to find the right chemistry though, the right balance between the business side and the creative side. It ha

  • Supposedly, there are elements of the tax code that makes it undesirable for people to hire self-employed programmers. Instead, they would rather hire from consulting companies. The tax code does not classify them as professionals in the same way as doctors, lawyers, and licensed engineers. Here is a possibly out-of-date article that may be relevant: []

    I cannot find the references,

  • Learn the salesforce platform or similiar. Boring, but $100-$200 per hour minimum range for any work done is standard.

  • This isn't a typical setup, but here's my situation. I was employed as a programmer by a company whose regular business had nothing to do with software development; they had what they thought would be a short-term contract need. Long story short, they kept me around for five years, during which time there was one company who used them / me to support and continue development of a ColdFusion business web app. When I was let go last year (due to, of course, lack of actual business need), I asked that employer
  • Pick a platform and start making games and apps. It's low cost to get into. It's fun. And even though I've not made much money at it yet I may in the future. I honestly don't understand why every programmer doesn't do this on the weekends.

  • My mother-in-law was taking a C++ class taught by an accountant. One project included code that was syntactically incorrect (the purpose of the assignment was not to find the syntax errors).

    My point is, if you wanted to teach, you could and do so in a more responsible manner than others.

  • > making web sites for small businesses

    What is this - 1995? Why is a programmer doing marketing?

    > reusable components to sell to other programmers

    Good choice to avoid that. Programmers tend to like their modules free AND with source code. AND they suck up your time with edge cases (which is why they probably began looking at your component rather than writing their own in the first place). In three different companies now I've had a hand in killing off standalone components targeted at programmers

  • I did something like this (though more sysadmin stuff than anything), but I worked for a former co-worker who started his own full-time contracting business, mainly web design work. I got paid by the hour for odds and ends, but I was there to relieve his workload and add some fine-point expertise. If something came up support-wise it was on his shoulders to find someone to handle it if I wasn't available. It worked out pretty well for both of us. If I was doing more coding work then it would have been e

  • by bokmann ( 323771 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @04:16PM (#42874903) Homepage

    speaking as the owner of a successful 7 person software consulting firm, its not worth my time to manage you.

    We have tried time and time again to try to utilize people for '15 hours on the side'. It fails miserably. You aren't there when I need you to unblock someone looking at your work, and if you have any other commitment, overtime on your main job, a sick kid, a band rehearsal, a stubbed toe, its evident that the '15 hours on the side' is your lowest priority... and that's fine, I mean, I wouldn't give up time with my kids for some beer money on the side, but generally, our priorities don't line up and its only a matter of time before I pay the price.

    Contribute to open source, build a portfolio, then determine if its something you're ready to commit to.

  • Many of the successful freelancers I know pretty much stayed with clients from previous fulltme jobs. They may branch out to clients inthe same field. breaking into totally new areas is not easy.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @04:38PM (#42875085)
    The full set of task include:
    -developing clients
    -obtaining a project
    -specifying the project
    -writing tests for the specification
    -writing the code
    -testing the code yourself EXTENSIVELY
    -documenting the code
    -teaching the program to the client
    -storing the code in a versioned database
    -fixing bugs (for months or years)
    -documenting bugs/enhancements in a database in case they return again
    -marketing the code to secondary customers if allowed
    -downtime between projects
    -learning/obtaining new hardware and software

    If you freelance, you do these all yourself. Maybe a quarter of your time will be spend coding. There are many open-source/online aids to help you with some of these tasks. Newbies and college kids think a programmer spend 90% of their time programming. Hah!
    If you work for as developer for a software company many of these tasks will be off-loaded to specialists. Then you might code as much as half your time.
  • Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bocsika ( 929320 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @04:49PM (#42875201)
    I did two jobs on the same time.
    Spend the life together with your family, your kids.
    Forget the bits and nerd stuff.
    Read and walk with your children.
    Get a dog, that makes you move out more frequently.

    The electrons in the CPU do not deserve your precious time, they are immortal, you are not.
  • As with getting a job, it's often who you know not what you know.

    When I started contracting on the side I had let my friends know about my interest in other work. Someone contacted me one day with something that sounded interesting so I went forward with it. I was quite open with my day job about it. They of course weren't totally cool with it, but they had no legal standing as it didn't conflict with my day job responsibilities or dance into NDA items. Of course they had a right to feel uncomfortable, be
  • Tutor High School Students. Probably can make $40 to $80 per hour, depending on the prosperity of the school district, and the desperation of the students and/or their parents.
  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @07:31PM (#42876577) Journal

    I haven't seen anyone else mention it, so my answer is: Staffing Agency

    If you become one of the 'go to' coders for a staffing agency, especially a smaller regional one, you can make almost full-time money and completely set your own schedule.

    Your options depend on where you live. In a tech focused large city, you probably have at least a dozen options, if you include larger staffing agencies with a tech division. In BFE, North Dakota you will probably have only the larger chains, but they can be ok.In my area, they call them 'IT talent agencies' but that's just the West Coast. They do coding stuff along with 'UX' and w/e else they call marketing these days.

    Do whatever work you're willing to do. Just be clear and consistent. The Staffing agency people won't know WTF most of your job description means anyway. Just do good work.

    I would suggest doing some basic network engineering along with coding. Web coding is bad for the mind, and routers have the comfort of a command line.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.