Open Source is the future of development. Many big companies are diving deep into open source, including Microsoft who made their .NET framework open source so that it can grow exponentially.
But, what is open source? Put simply, it means that the idea/material/information is made public. For a developer, it means that the code is readily available for others to see and modify, or even use in their proprietary product. The usage depends on the different type of open source licenses.
Open Source Software(OSS) is software whose code is available for free. The source code can be reused, enhanced, or just inspected. You can read, “What is open source?” to get a better idea.
Open source contribution is one of the best ways to get exposure. The good news is that you can also earn money by contributing to open source projects.
If you ever asked for tips from an experienced programmer, one of the tips they will always give is to contribute in open source. However, they never speak about making money from open source.
The Open Source Model is at the core of open source collaboration. However, it doesn’t discuss how a developer can make money with open source. First things first, open source contribution is an excellent way to enrich yourself. Second, it can add significant value to your resume as companies look for candidates who have contributed to open source.
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So, how can you, as a developer, earn an income while utilizing all the advantages of the open source movement?
Getting sponsored by a company to work on an open source project
One of the best ways to earn money from open source is getting sponsored by a company. Many high-profile open source projects also require expert insights or someone who can do a particular job professionally. For example, major open source projects have senior members who are paid by interested parties to keep working on the project. Linus Torvalds is a good example. He can easily be supported by big companies such as Google, Microsoft, etc. as they are using the open source product developed by Linus.
Getting this kind of sponsorship is not as hard as it may sound. All you need is expertise and the ability to present yourself well in the open source community.
Getting paid for working on a particular feature
If you are not getting full-time sponsorships, don’t worry, as companies also look for talent that can work on a particular feature or an extension. The key feature is important for them, and hence they are willing to spend rather than wait for an open source developer to come up and solve it for them. Remember, in the highly competitive business world, time is money, and if they can get a task done fast by paying money, they recognize the potential for profit.
Offering support to open source projects
Open source projects might be easy to grab, but they are not easy to manage. Odoo, an Open Source ERP and CRM is completely open source. Anyone can get it free from their official website. However, while the installation process is well-documented, it does require professional touch to master.
Many companies also require customized modules for their open source software, and this creates the potential for a developer to get paid while working on an open source solution.
Develop a freemium product and take advantage of the freemium model
A freemium model works by developing two versions of the application. The basic version is free to use and is also available under open source. On top of it, an advanced version, generally known as a premium version, is created. This way, companies can make money on their product, as users who like the free version are more likely to purchase the premium one. You as a developer can easily add value to their premium version and earn hefty amounts.
RedHat, a popular Linux distro, uses this approach. You can read more on the topic in the Quora post.
Do consultation work on open source projects
Consulting is one of the best ways to make money with open source projects. It also helps you to gain important community visibility that in return can help you gain more projects. You can offer consultation in the following ways.
- Provide consultation to big projects with the help of your expertise. You can help big companies train, support, or provide custom consultation regarding a particular technology.
- Verify the abilities of other developers by looking at their work. You can choose to look at the open source projects they have worked on and gauge their level of expertise. This unique talent of understanding others’ works can help companies that are working on big projects.
- If you already have a good presence in the market, you can easily get training requests or even speaking requests. If you are really good, you can even land a request for writing a book on a particular technology and get paid for it.
Ask for donations
Donations can also help you earn extra money in addition to your main job. You can use LiveEdu as a primary platform to get donations. All you need to do is stream your open source project development on LiveEdu, and build followers that are willing to support your endeavor.
Sell Instructional Material
Last, but by no means least, you can sell instructional material. Many open source projects don’t have good documentation. You can write the documentation, and try to pitch it to their developers. If they pay, great, and if they don’t, you can just submit it for improving the solution.
You can also write instructional materials such as tutorials to help improve the solution. You can either submit it for free or ask the owners for some payment. In both ways, you can only benefit, improving your exposure in the market.
Making money from open source has always been a bonus for the developers. We went through some of the best ways to make money from open source projects. If you are an open source contributor and are earning money by doing so, don’t forget to comment below, and let us know your thoughts of how open source contribution and making money gels together.