How does one turn programming skills into money? Is it magic? Good looks? Maybe a sleek MacBook Pro?
There are several ways you can turn your programming skills into a profitable venture. I’ll tell you about three. If you’re thinking about learning how to program, but don’t know if you’ll be able to make decent money with your desired skills (because of any tech slump or the economy in general), read on.
Get a Job!
The most obvious thing you can do to earn money as a programmer is to get a job. I’ll just lay this out for you as simply as I can.
There are people and businesses out there in the world that will pay you money in exchange for your software development skills. Some of these jobs will pay well. Some will not. Some will be a circus, while others are laid-back coding dreamlands.
This is the best and simplest way to earn a regular income from programming. Hit the job boards, write a great resume, create a portfolio of your coding samples online, and start landing interviews.
Some people really want this kind of life. Others don’t care for “having a job,” or being tied down in the corporate workforce, and the rat race just isn’t for them. Only you can judge if it’ll work out for you, but you should at least try it. Don’t discount the obvious benefit of regular income, a 401(k) plan, health insurance, and even bonuses from time to time.
Start a Service Business
I once got laid off from a programming job, so I started doing web development contract work. I was performing a valuable service for several clients — both small companies and individuals — and got paid for it.
I started off small, doing little web fixes that earned me a whopping $50–100 apiece. I also landed a steady contract gig with an advertising agency that took a lot of time but gave me regular money. It also gave me some good experience and solid portfolio examples to show other potential clients.
If you want to start a service business as a programmer, you’re likely going to be doing some kind of coding for hire. Your client will have a project, and then you’ll write some software to meet their business needs. Once you hand it over, it’s theirs.
The way to turn this into a reliable source of income, as far as my experience has shown me, is to keep the support going over time. Here’s what I mean.
You write a piece of software for a customer and create your work to their specifications. But as you go, you think of ways to make it even better or some other type of functionality that would compliment the current system. If you finish the job, then suggest more work, they might go for it. It’s the classic up-sell. Then you’ve got another job and more money. Repeat often.
Another way to stretch out that one-time job into steady cash flow is to host their website or application. This won’t work for every organization, but can you host the site or their app back-end on your servers? Then you can charge a monthly maintenance or support fee, and be readily available to tackle any issue they face.
The thing to remember here is that you want them to give you money regularly. Don’t stretch projects out to squeeze more hourly fees from your customer. Instead, give them new and exciting reasons to frequently pay you more money. Get creative. Think of new ways you can provide value to your clients, and they will pay for it.
Create Your Own Product
If you want to program, but you don’t want to work for someone else — either as an employee or a service provider — you have another option.
Create your own software product and sell it. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, it’s pretty easy to put a product online and accept payment in exchange for a copy of the product. You can even offer it free, but then charge a monthly subscription for advanced features. Since you can write software (or will soon be able to), you’ve got a bunch of potential products running around that little head of yours, right? If you don’t have any ideas in your head, start brainstorming now. Look for problems to solve and think of ways you can uniquely solve them.
Look at how much software there is out in the world. Think about all the platforms used on a daily basis for both work and play — Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Linux — and you’ll soon realize that you have a very large potential customer base.
The hard part of this approach is selling your product. It’s all about the sale because without any buyers your software is just collecting internet dust. Sure, it takes a lot of effort to build something good, but you can have the best software in the world and make no money off of it. Don’t make an app that just sits quietly in the cold recesses of the web. Actively sell, sell, sell! Hire a sales specialist if you have to.
Can you create a product, market it to an audience, and collect enough money to roll around and throw wads of cash at confused relatives over the holidays?
Do All Three
One thing that I’ve seen a lot of developers do is a mix of two of the above, or all three. I’ve even done it myself in the past. It leads to a stressful life at times, sure, but the extra money always helps. It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely an option.
Start with a job, but if you aren’t making enough money to pay your debts or fund your lifestyle, you’ll need to generate more income. Have a great idea for a Google Play Store app? Create it. Are you pretty good with Unity3d and enjoy making games? Make a great one and sell it on Steam. Then, if you’re bored or just really love working all the time, start a little service business and build web apps for vegan biscotti production companies.
I know I haven’t given you any concrete details about how to start a service business or how to create a successful mobile app. That wasn’t my intention. I want to open your eyes to three complimentary possibilities for generating cash flow.
Sure, lots of people know that app developers can make some serious bank. How much time and mental energy have you given to creating that reality for yourself? Is it just a pipe dream that would be totally badass, or have you given it some serious thought? Have you taken steps to actively move in that direction? Do you have the perseverance to make it work?
If you can program, or plan on picking up the trade in the coming months and years, you’ve got options. You don’t have to work for a non-profit, trading your coding hours for fair-trade coffee with soy milk. You don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day long looking like a wax statue of someone sitting in a cubicle. This isn’t a learn iOS application development or bust type of situation. Nor do you have to resort to black magic.
You’ve got options for turning your love of algorithm encoding into cash. If you’re thinking about getting into software development, do it. You’ll only be locked into something unpleasant if you wish it, and the upside possibilities are fantastic.
Some people like cubicles. Some people love iOS. Others want to code from a coffee shop while helping a non-profit create positive change in the world.
If coding is your skill, you have several paths you can take and they all lead to cash.
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