Wern Ancheta

Adventures in Web Development.

How to Make Money as an Independent Developer

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Being a developer is one of those jobs wherein you don’t really need to be physically present in an office to do the job. You can work pretty much anywhere you please as long as you have a decent internet connection and you’re productive. In this article, I’d like to share some of the ways independent developers can make money doing remote work. I’ve already experienced most of the things that I’ll be sharing but I’ll also share the things that I’d like to try in the future.

Look for Jobs from Remote Job Sites

Lots of companies are already embracing remote work, that’s why there are also lots of job sites which lists remote jobs. Here are some of my favorite go to places whenever I’m looking for a new job:

I’ve been getting jobs from these sites for about four years now, and they have never failed me. Basically what you do is look for a job you’re interested in. You don’t have to know all the skills listed, you should be fine as long as you know the core skills that they require. Once you’ve found something, just email them with your cover letter and resume and wait for a response.

Get Projects from Freelancer Sites

If you like the idea of bidding for projects, there’s also Upwork (formerly Odesk), freelancer and other freelancer sites. I’ve tried these kinds of sites once but I found they’re overpopulated, most clients are just looking for cheap developers, and I don’t really like the idea of bidding for projects. It’s too time consuming and you have to work your way upwards by taking on cheap projects in order to gain reputation and get higher paying projects. This is great if you’re just beginning, but if you have already some experience you still have to start at the bottom in order to gain reputation. So most projects will be either cheap, boring or both.

Write for Developer Blogs

Developers need to be constantly learning if they don’t want to get left in the dust. That’s why there are companies such as Sitepoint and Envato which provides content for developers of all shapes and sizes. And who’s the best source of content other than developers themselves.

I’ve been writing for Sitepoint for about two years now, for Envato Tuts+ for one year, and recently for appendTo. And I can say that they’re really a good source of income for a side-gig. You can make $150 to $350 per article depending on the detail or the additional resources that you’ve included in the article (e.g. Github repository, intro video, live demo). If you have at least four to six hours to spare in a day, you can pretty much write two to three articles per week. The only downside is you often have to wait for weeks to a few months for your article to get published before you can invoice for it. But the time investment is so low that it’s really worth it.

Aside from Sitepoint, Envato Tuts+, and AppendTo, here are a few other sites which you can write for. The idea is that the more sites you write for, the more articles gets published in a month:

Still not convinced? Go read this article from Jeffrey Way, it’s an old one but the things that were mentioned still applies today (or even increased).

In order to write for the sites I mentioned above, all you have to do is look for their “Write for Us” page. There’s usually a form in there that allows you to introduce yourself, and pitch your idea for an article. Check out some of the recently published articles in the website to get an idea of the articles they usually want to publish in the site. Include as much detail in your pitch as possible and you’re good to go.

Do Some Free Stuff

Sometimes it’s not just all about making money. You have to release some free stuff too. Try creating a blog. If you’re a thrifty person, you can use static site generators along with Github pages to create your very own blog. You don’t even have to bother with the command line, because you can easily get your blog up and running with Jekyll and Github pages. Aside from blogging, you can also create a Youtube channel and upload video tutorials regarding the use of a specific technology or how you dealt with a specific development problem. You can also answer questions on Stack Overflow, or participate on discussions on Twitter, Reddit or Quora. Lastly, push some of your personal projects on Github. You might be asking, why do all these when you could already be making money by doing the same thing? Well, that’s because the more you make yourself visible online, the more channels you participate in, the better chances you get for someone relevant to actually find you. In my experience, I usually get projects because of a blog post that I’ve written years ago. Or because of a personal project that I’ve uploaded on Github. Secondly, this shows that you’re passionate enough as a developer to be doing things for free on your free time. All of these combined makes it really easy for potential clients to find you. It also makes you more hireable.

The things I’ve mentioned so far are the one’s that I’ve already tried. The following are the one’s I’d like to try in the future. If you’re already doing some of these, please let me know in the comments how effective they are.

Create Online Courses

If you’ve already mastered the art of creating video tutorials then you’re more than ready to create courses for the following sites:

  • Envato Tuts+ Courses – yup, it’s not just articles they’re interested in. Envato is a platform for learning all kinds of skills so any kind of content that allows people to learn these skills are welcome. That includes video tutorials as well.
  • Sitepoint Premium – Sitepoint’s platform for video courses and books.
  • Pluralsight – probably the website which has the largest collection of video courses for IT professionals.
  • Lynda

Sell Your Code

If you know how to create themes for various Content Management Systems (e.g. Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla), or you know how to develop plugins for JavaScript libraries like jQuery then you can submit them to the following websites:

These are called “developer marketplace”, it’s a platform where developers sell their creations. Anything that is created with your own code can be listed on a marketplace. The one’s I mentioned above are the two of the most popular and generic one’s. There are also marketplaces for specific kinds of software, all you have to do is look for it.

Write a Book

If you like to invest your time into creating something in the long term, there’s no better way to do that than writing a book. Here are some links you might want to check out:

Create Services and Mobile Apps

The market for services and mobile apps is already saturated. There’s already an app or website for almost anything you can think of. But if you come up with a really unique idea, or if you know of a way to make an existing service better then creating a website or mobile app that offers a specific service might work for you.

Still not enough? There’s actually a Hacker News thread on this topic which was posted a few days back. It’s actually what inspired me to write this piece.

Are you an independent developer? Do you know any other sources of income aside from the one’s I mentioned. Let me know in the comments.