As a programmer, you’ve got countless opportunities to start a side hustle and make money online. In this guide, I’ll teach you 7+ ways to make money online using your programming skills. A quick summary of what you’ll learn is listed below:
- Start freelancing part-time and make money
- How to start a blog and make it an online business
- Create and sell online courses [on programming]
- Build trendy mobile and web apps [and make money]
- Participate in bounty programs and contests
- Make money by developing games
- Go Local – get consultation projects
Are you ready to get started? Let’s begin to earn money by coding online.
1. Freelancing In Upwork, Fiverr And Others
I start with freelancing as its the easiest way for a programmer to start making money online. You can get new freelancing projects in 2 ways:
- Create profiles in freelance hiring platforms like Upwork & Fiverr
- You can start a blog about programming, bring traffic and get hired
You may be a full stack developer, or a front end ninja, or a backend wizard. You’ve to clearly assess your programming skills before you start freelancing projects.
Once you have got a clear idea about your skills, create a profile in freelancing sites like UpWork, Freelancer, or Fiverr. You should not try to start a profile on all the freelancing sites at the same time! Start with one platform at a time, build your profile, and get projects. I’ve listed out all the best freelancing sites in the bonus content section.
Upwork – is a good platform for any programmer to begin freelancing. Let’s see how Upwork works. Clients post project requirements in the Upwork platform. If your skill sets match with any of the projects posted, you can place a bid for the project (with a proposal). The client will review many such proposals he receives and if he sees your profile (and proposal) as a good match, the client will contact you for further communication.
Once you start a communication with the client on your proposal, you can discuss more about the project, revise the proposal (if needed), make final terms and win the project.
So how do you win new clients in Upwork or other platforms?
- Make your profile stand out from the competition – write clearly and be specific.
- Focus on 1 or 2 specific areas that you’re really good at. (for example Python & PostgreSQL expert)
- Identify areas with high demand. (for example, Artificial Intelligence-based projects are high in number)
- Make use of sponsored proposals – You can improve the visibility of your proposal by placing a sponsored bid. The proposal will be presented with higher visibility to the client.
- Keep building your portfolio and profile – add new projects to portfolio, get high scores for Upwork skill tests, get good reviews from clients, and so on.
Dave from the United Kingdom is an active freelancer in Upwork. He makes money coding in Python as a freelancer. If you look at the green oval mark in the picture, you see he has made more than 100K USD so far from freelancing (in Upwork alone).
Binod from the United States is another freelancer who makes money programming in PHP & Drupal applications. You can see he earned over 300K USD freelancing in Upwork alone.
You’ll find opportunities based on your programming skills in freelancing platforms. You do research on your own to find skills with high demand.
Upwork is not the only freelancing platform out there. You can try Fiverr, Freelancer, and other platforms as well. I used Upwork just to explain the concept of making money as a freelancer. You can see the full list of freelancing sites in the bonus content.
So we’re done with freelancing. What next?
I’ll show you the most exciting way to make money coding online! Start a blog!
2.Start A Blog
Have you heard the word passive income? Starting a blog is a great way to earn passive income from programming. The concept of ‘passive income’ is simple! You make money even while you sleep, sounds cool right?
You can earn passive income from a blog in 4 ways:
- Make money from online advertisements (Google Adsense, Ezoic etc)
- Affiliate marketing – refer books from Amazon, courses from Udemy, and so on.
- Sell your own online courses
- Sell your own products like Ebooks, Plugins, Applications, and so on.
‘Passive income’ is not the only income option from a blog. You’ll get high-value freelancing projects and consulting offers through your blog.
That sounds great, right? You can make money while you sleep and you can get high ticket projects all by starting a blog. So how do you start a blog? I’ll show you how to start a blog in 3 steps.
- Get a domain name
- Pick your blogging platform
- Select the best web hosting
#1 Get Your Domain Name
You need to find out a good, easy to remember, unique domain name for your blog. Ideally, your domain name should reflect your niche (programming).
For example, if you’re a PHP expert and you want to start a blog focusing on that language, a name like KillerPHP or NomadPHP sounds logical. If you don’t want to limit yourself to a specific language, choose a name like WebDevBlog or NorthCoders. I’ve seen many programmers launching a blog in their own names like David Walsh or Brad Frost.
So choosing a domain name is more about your taste and preferences. Check for the domain name availability in GoDaddy or NameCheap. Once you finalize an available domain name, register that for yourself.
#2 Pick Your Blogging Platform
You don’t need to think about any platform other than WordPress really. If you’re new to WordPress, it is a free, open-source blogging platform (and content management system) used by millions of bloggers all over the world.
You can install and setup WordPress in your web host within 10 minutes. I see that most of the popular web hosts out there offer automated 1 click installation for WordPress.
So what is the 3rd & final step in starting your blog? You gotta choose a web hosting account.
#3 Select The Best Web Hosting
When you’re just starting, you don’t need a high end web hosting solution (like a VPS hosting or Dedicated hosting). When I first started a blog, I used a shared hosting from DreamHost. Later when my blog grew traffic, I switched to a VPS from Hostgator and from there to LiquidWeb (Managed Dedicated Servers).
Now I use WPXHosting mainly (Managed WordPress Hosting solution). I would recommend you to begin with BlueHost shared hosting plan. I’ve used Bluehost for long and I know the service is excellent.
If you don’t want to spend time on learning the hosting nuances of WordPress (like bandwidth optimization, caching), you can opt for a managed WordPress hosting service like WPX Hosting.
I use the service of WPX Hosting for this blog (GoMakeBig) and our other popular blogs. I use a managed service mainly because I want to save time and don’t worry about anything related to hosting. A managed service will take care of A to Z about WordPress and the hosting environment.
Once you have bought your web hosting account, set up your domain name in the host. After setting up the domain name, install WordPress. As I said above, all the hosts I recommended provides 1 click installation of WordPress. So you can set it up so easily.
After installing WordPress, you should choose a theme/template. If you prefer free themes, you can search in WordPress Themes Directory.
But if you’re serious about blogging, and you’re determined to make passive income from your programming skills, go for page builder template like Divi for WordPress.
Another option you have is to choose a theme from template marketplaces like ThemeForest.
I know you’re wondering right now and probably confused about getting successful with your blog. What if I show you real-life success stories of programmers making money with blogs?
Karim Elghamrawy of AfterNerd is a classic example, to begin with. Karim started his blog in 2017, publishing 2 to 3 articles every week. He writes mainly about Python and other web development articles. Karim has built AfterNerd as a popular blog among aspiring programmers with his consistent effort.
AfterNerd now receives around 250K visitors per month (as you can see from the stats below) on average. Karim makes money mainly from his own online course on Python programming. Apart from his course, he makes money through affiliate marketing (promoting books related to programming, ebooks and other programming online courses).
Karim also runs advertisements via Carbon ads to make some extra bucks. So do you have an idea how much money Karim makes from AfterNerd? So here is my take, he makes somewhere between 2500 to 3000 USD per month (on average) as of now. He’s definitely going to increase this number in coming years.
So was that inspiring enough for you? Well, why should I stop when I have the incredible story of Jeff Attwood (the co-founder of StackOverflow) to share with you.
Jeff started his blog CodingHorror in 2004 just to keep improving himself. He kept blogging consistently for a year, and in 2005 he got a big career breakthrough his blog. Over the years, he got numerous opportunities through his blog, he landed assignments to write books, he got invited to speak at conferences, and finally, the big break of his career Stackoverflow happened because he met Joel Spolsky (the other co-founder) because he blogged consistently.
You read the story of Jeff (on how his decision to start the blog was life-changing) from his own words. Now his blog has a subscriber base of more than 100K programmers. CodingHorror receives an average monthly visit of 200K people or more.
3.Sell Online Courses
Have you heard about Udemy, Skillshare, Thinkific, and Teachable? All of them are online course platforms where you can create your own courses and sell them to students.
Creating online courses is a great way to make money online with your coding skills. The best part – selling online courses gives you passive income just like a blog. You create a course with one-time effort and you sell the same product (your course) to thousands of students all across the world.
So how do you create and sell online courses? You’ve two options here:
- Create your course on marketplaces like Udemy, Skilshare and so on.
- Sell on your own using course hosting platforms like Teachable, Thinkific and so on.
So which option is the best for you? Course marketplaces like Udemy has millions of students already in their user base. If you’re uploading a course in Udemy, you get a very high visibility and reach without much effort. You can promote your course using the popularity of platforms like Udemy, and Skillshare.
Course hosting platforms like Thinkific and Teachable helps you to create courses on your own brand name. You’re in total control of everything here, like pricing, how to market to students, how to create the course, you get the full contact details of your students and so on.
Going on your own (using Thinkific or Teachable) works best when you already have a set of audience (for example: a popular blog or a Youtube channel). You get to market your courses to the already familiar audience you have.
AfterNerd is a classic example of selling courses on his own platform. Karim uses Teachable platform to host his courses currently.
If you don’t have a blog or any existing audience, your best option would be to start with Udemy or Skillshare. When you go with marketplaces like Udemy, you’ll see some money within a few months of uploading your first course.
Later, when you have built your own audience (using a blog), you can switch to your own hosted courses (using Thinkific or Teachable).
Did you get one core idea here? Starting a blog is very important for your long term growth. If you don’t have one yet, start your blog now.
Nick Walter is a great example of selling courses on Udemy. He has uploaded 33 courses in Udemy and has over 180K+ students enrolled for his courses so far. Nick is an expert in Python and Django framework. He also teaches courses on mobile app development.
I think it would be very interesting to calculate how much money Nick would have made from Udemy. My assumption is that Nick would have made more than 1 million US Dollars from his courses so far (if all the 180K + students were paid enrolments).
Udemy’s pricing & payment structure is a bit complex, so it is not so easy to calculate exact figures. However, I am pretty sure that he has made a minimum of 1 million US Dollars so far from Udemy.
4.Build Applications – Create A Business
A programmer is a creator. You know, you can create applications (be it web or mobile). Why don’t you create an app and make money out of it? If things work in your favour, you may even be able to make it a full time business.
Making money from an app is a passive income model. You create an app as a product. People download your products (or subscribe to your Software as a service (SaaS), and as long as they keep using it, you’ve an income opportunity.
Based on your skills & expertise, you’ve different opportunities to create an app. For example, you’re a PHP developer with good experience in WordPress CMS platform and Magento shopping cart platform.
You can create plugins for WordPress, Magento (or any other platforms you’ve expertise) and sell in marketplaces like CodeCanyon.
BooklyPro – an appointment booking plugin for WordPress sold in CodeCanyon is a classic example. The WordPress platform has no appointment scheduling feature by default. This plugin solves the problem and they sold over 29K copies so far.
They sell the plugin for 89 USD as license fees. The codecanyon platform will take a cut as their platform fees and they deduct taxes as well. If we just guess at 50% earnings, the maker of Bookly Pro plugin would have made 1.3 million USD so far from one single WordPress plugin.
Do you see the opportunity here ? If you still want to get amused, look at the portfolio of the creator of BooklyPro. He has created an ecosystem of BooklyPro plugin, where you can buy ‘add on plugins’ for the BooklyPro.
You can see the plugin creator “Ladela” has created one master plugin “Bookly Pro”, and has created 41 supporting plugins for the master plugin. The master plugin has 29K+ sales and all other 41 ‘add on plugins’ inclusive has 26K+ sales. In total, the plugin creator has made 55K+ sales, which means he has made over 2 million US Dollars in revenue from this single plugin idea.
Revolution Slider is an example for a popular Magento plugin sold in CodeCanyon.
They have sold 4500+ copies of this plugin, and this means the creator has made over 110K US Dollars from this single Magento plugin.
Do you know there are lots of popular platforms out there like WordPress, Magento, Woocommerce, Shopify and so on?
I like to call this ‘the add-on economy’ – where you can make money by creating an ‘add-on’ product for another popular product (like WordPress).
Another way to code online and earn money is to create simple, standalone web applications in a specific niche.
EMICalculator is a simple web app that helps to calculate Equated Monthly Installments. They make money from online advertisements, and they receive over 500K visits every month.
DiffChecker is another simple application that helps to find the difference between two documents or images. They receive over 1 million visits a month on average. They make money by upselling desktop version software and also from carbon ads.
If you research well, you’ll find lots of ideas like this to make passive income from your programming skills.
Creating mobile apps is another great way to code online and earn money. You can create mobile apps for android devices & apple devices.
5.Programming Contests & Bounties
Do you like to try a fun way of making money coding online? I am speaking about bounty programs and contests! Unlike other methods we discussed so far, this is not a sure shot way to make money programming. But its definitely fun and explores the skills in you.
A bounty program usually rewards you when you find a security issue /bug and report it with proof (how to reproduce the bug). All big companies like Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Github, and many thousands of other companies run bounty programs related to security.
For example, Github offers 30,000 US Dollars as bounty rewards for anyone who submits a valid critical security issue. They have various bounty rewards, the simple ones starting from 500 USD. Just like Github, many other companies have bounty rewards in different categories.
The problem with bounty programs is that, you cannot ensure a steady flow of revenue. Just as the name ‘bounty’, you hit a jackpot when you actually find a critical vulnerability. If you cannot claim any valid security issue, you don’t get a penny!
Another interesting way to make money programming is through contests! Have you heard about a competitive coding platform named TopCoder?
TopCoder runs competitive programming challenges (published by other businesses or clients). You can join and take part in these challenges. If you win the challenge you’ll get paid (according to the challenge rewards).
TopCoder is very popular and is visited by more than 0.5 million people every month. Just like bounty programs, you can not ensure a fixed monthly earnings with this platform. If you enjoy competing with others (for fun), or you like the spirit of winning, give this a try. And be informed, there are programmers who are earning a living by doing TopCoder as full time.
Okay! You still have got more opportunities to code online and earn money using competitions. Google runs coding competitions like code jam, hash code every year. HackerEarth runs hackathons and coding challenges every month.
So that’s it! Let’s move on to the next idea to make money online programming.
If you’re good at developing games, you can make passive income. Games are a combination of good designs, 3d models, and programming. If you lack any skills, form a team (2 or 3 persons) to compliment your skills.
- Upload your games in Google Play Store or iOS App store or other popular game marketplaces.
- You can monetize games using in-app advertisements and in-app purchases.
- Making money from advertisements is an easy to follow route, but often not producing great returns (unless you get millions of downloads).
- The best strategy to make high returns (money) is to adopt in-app purchases. Design your game strategically that forces players to make purchases to win the game.
7.Go Local – Get Projects
As an expert web developer or programmer, you can always make extra money by taking consultation projects. Do you know you’ll get many projects from the local area you reside in?
For example, you’re a mobile app developer living in London, United Kingdom. Many startups and small businesses would be searching locally (in London) for app developers who can help with mobile application development.
If you list yourself in local directories, you’ll get reach to those who search local developers. Google My Business is a great option to get projects locally. I’ll show how.
If you’re not familiar with Google My Business, it is the Google maps based results we get when we make a query in Google. A result screenshot for the query “web developers near london” is shown below.
If you can setup an office address in your home or some co-working space near your place, you can also list in Google My Business. Once you get listed in Google My Business platform, you can improve the listing to rank higher for search keywords related to your niche.
I’ll show you some interesting data about keywords. Let’s find out how many people search with the keywords “web developer” and “mobile app developer” from the London area.
If you look at the screenshot (above, green markings), you’ll see the number of average monthly searches happening from the London. The keyword “web developer” has a monthly search volume between 1000 and 10000. Similarly “mobile app developer” has a search volume between 100 and 1000.
If your Google listings rank for these keywords, you’ll get leads for new consultation projects.
You may be from New York, United States or from Arizona, or from another country like India, or Canada. You’ve to create the listing based on your location.
Apart from Google My Business, you can also list in local business directories that are popular in your area.