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Ask Slashdot: Making Side-Money As a Programmer?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the let-me-talk-to-you-about-fractions-of-pennies dept.

Programming 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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Salesforce? (1)

Kenja (541830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874049)

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? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Write your own (5, Funny)

hivebrain (846240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874063)

There's always room for another bug tracking app.

Re:Write your own (3)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874569)

There's always room for another bug tracking app.

So sad yet so true.

Re:Write your own (-1, Offtopic)

ruyagatu (2839505) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874741)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] my buddy's mom makes $77 an hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her payment was $20895 just working on the internet for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more

Re:Write your own (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874899)

Ah, another asshat astroturfer for a bullshit monkey making scheme.

Go kill yourself and make the world a better place.

Re:Write your own (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874967)

Yea, about that.
Webcam shows are nothing new nowadays and the novelty of a person stuffing household items and small animals into every possible orifice wears off after you watch it a couple of times, so I suggest she starts looking for an alternative source of income.

Re:Write your own (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875001)

Hrrmmm... Let's do some simple math here. Assuming that there's no tax removed from your buddy's mom's monthly take of $20,895, at $77/hour that comes to about 272 hours. That's equivalent to 34 8-hour days. So, you're either lying about "few hours" or the "$20,895" or both. Scam.

Re:Write your own (1)

ak3ldama (554026) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875021)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] my buddy's mom makes $77 an hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her payment was $20895 just working on the internet for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more

I realize this is a troll, but in the context of this story: hilarious. So maybe you should program a message posting bot for different chat boards?

Re:Write your own (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874749)

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?

Son of Bugzilla (1)

Dareth (47614) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874789)

Son of Bugzilla

I hear it was huge in Japan!

Re:Write your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875007)

Seriously? How is he going to build it? Since our friend seems to have some spare time I would encourage him to address the problem of makery by creating a decent build tool to substitute "make".

Re:Write your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875035)

Couple of routines to dump binary data into hex would greatly benefit humanity.

App Store (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874069)

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:App Store (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874221)

Or, you could buy a lottery ticket.

Re:App Store (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874509)

For having an "Angry Birds" level of success? Yes. For making a small amount of side money, more than one would make working for minimum wage? Not that hard.

Not necessarily (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874737)

If you have no mobile devices and have to buy them from scratch to do your development and testing, you will be in the hole.

No, testing environments and simulators don't cut it.

App development for most - unless a bolckbuster app - is a money losing experience.

Re:Not necessarily (0)

wjousts (1529427) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874997)

And if you want to do iOS apps, you need a Mac to even get started.

Re:Not necessarily (0)

james_van (2241758) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875011)

my amd hackintosh begs to differ

Really? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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:Really? (1, Interesting)

Bogtha (906264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874697)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874727)

Then you're ideas kinda suck. Oh, sorry, is innovation hard?
The days of "write a cheap clone of ____, but for iOS/Android, and make some cash" are over. Thank goodness. There was a new market and everyone had the typical rush to be the first on the scene. It was kinda appalling. And now comes the time when people actually want something interesting rather than yet another car-finder app or yet another snake clone. I'm so freaking sorry if that seems HARD to you.

Gimme a program that I can take a picture of the nutritional label that comes on EVERYTHING, and log that I ate it. That's OCR. It's kinda hard. I'll wait.

Mobile development hasn't jumped the shark. It's just no longer easy to do bad work and still get paid. There's still a need for mobile developers. And while you might think there's a glut of mobile developers, but luck has it that most of them are bad.

Re:Really? (0)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874843)

Gimme a program that I can take a picture of the nutritional label that comes on EVERYTHING, and log that I ate it. That's OCR. It's kinda hard.

Its also a stupid way to do it -- there's also a UPC code, and you can get all that information from variously online services. There's already apps doing that.

And, innovation isn't hard, but being successful from it is. You'll put that effort in and some jackass company, likely overseas somewhere, will crank out a cheaper clone along with a thousand other apps, and use their size to get their app showing up higher. Or some other jackass will sue you for one reason or another.

The problem is, its actually *easy* for people to do bad work and get paid, and there's a million of them living in parts of the world where making $500 in total off a knock-off app they threw together in a week is still economically viable.

Re:Really? (5, Interesting)

immaterial (1520413) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Really? (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875071)

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.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874893)

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.

That's really true if you want to sell mobile apps. If you want to sell mobile app writing experience, well, that's a whole different reason to write an app. An app in an app store can act like a resume. There are plenty of businesses out there that want an app with their name on it regardless of whether there is a free version of what it does out there or not.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875005)

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.

Obviously... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874077)

You should work at McDonald.

Get a Raise (2)

imnes (605429) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874079)

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

Re:Get a Raise (5, Insightful)

Moses48 (1849872) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

iPhone/Android apps (3, Insightful)

icsEater (1093717) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:iPhone/Android apps (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874383)

He could try his hand at platforms being ignored by a lot of mainstream developers such as Windows Phone or even WebOS. Long term, he could have the only app on the market that does what it does and charge the 100-200 users who need it $1.

Re:iPhone/Android apps (2)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42875015)

Don't forget the new Blackberry platform that just launched. Their lorng- or medium-term survival may be in doubt, but there may be some obvious gaps to fill in the short term.

OSS (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

What about ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874133)

What about Rent-A-Coder [rent-acoder.com] ?

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.

Re:What about ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874191)

but I'm someone

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

Re:What about ... (4, Insightful)

cob666 (656740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874315)

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 ... (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874465)

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 "freelancer.com" 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.

"Freelancer.com" 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.

Re:What about ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874713)

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 software and how much it actually costs.

Make libraries for free, get people hooked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874135)

Honestly you should do things that you can post to Github. If you make a useful library then you can get a job that pays more when a large is looking for someone with experience in that technology. You can then spend your freetime making more open source stuff to post. Rinse and repeat.

Read your employment contract for conflict (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874951)

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.

Right... so if you had spent the past year paying a developer to write you some custom software in a specialised niche, and then you learn that at weekends he was using the subject-matter skills you had helped him learn to do consulting for your main competitor you would be fine because it wasn't done on your time? Look, I know that there are shitty employers that try to claim everything the employee has ever touched, but there are pretty shitty things employees can do as well.

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42875065)

You say that they can use their knowledge on their spare time? The audacity of some people!

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874367)

Does your employer offer any incentives to contribute extra work?

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

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874419)

My region I don't even get the $1 for the IP I develop. They automatically own it and I have to request permission to actually own and control it.

Re:Read your employment contract for conflict (4, Funny)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874943)

Do you perhaps work in the Deep South during the early 1800's?

check your current contract (3, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874149)

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.

Re:check your current contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874343)

And check for "we own all your IP even if you develop on your own time" stuff. If you are stuff with a clause like that, then you cannot work for anyone else (even opensource), as you will be unable to give clean license to your work.

Re:check your current contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874423)

I wonder if you have such a clause and you manage to get your wife pregnant, could they demand the child as IP you developed during your own time?

How the hell is something like that even acceptable? Your free time, by defenition isn't their time. They aren't paying you for it or anything anyway.

Re:check your current contract (4, Informative)

niado (1650369) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874621)

These clauses are invalid in some areas (e.g. California). There's lots of complicated legal stuff surrounding this topic. Interesting starter link here. [intellectu...wfirms.com]

Re:check your current contract (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874443)

So we get yet another "web designer" who hasn't a clue of good design, standards, etc. etc, and yet more really bad websites done on WordPress (and no self-respecting web designer would use WordPress that way...).

Arrrrgh.

Not so fast (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874473)

Also just chuck ads in the local paper. "Programming done"

If it's already done, then why would he need to code it again?

Contract work exists, if you can deal with it... (3, Informative)

seebs (15766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874151)

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.

Pooling Resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874155)

I often thought the same. My conclusion was that you need to get a group of top notch programmers together so that you can take on the larger more profitable pieces of work and still only put in a few hours a week.

The next problem is that the people you know that are top notch may not be willing to take the same risks as you.

Support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874157)

"I've also looked into making web sites for small businesses, but it requires a bit too much commitment and support for me"

I used to do this for people I know, but actually having to support stuff I wrote for money:
-killed the fun of it
-started to interferece with day job.

So either go for the apps like suggested or just keep writing stuff in your spare time for fun without pay.

craigslist (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:craigslist (2)

tatman (1076111) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874755)

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.

Don't moonlight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874177)

and expect to keep your current job. Employers HATE that. They pay you to do your job and keep your mind on their problem. If you aren't, they'll fire you.

Re:Don't moonlight! (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874381)

and expect to keep your current job. Employers HATE that.

Unless you specifically signed the right away on hire (and even then, sometimes), your employer has absolutely zero right to determine what an employee can or cannot do during their own, non-work hours. So, I don't give a shit if they hate it or not, it's none of their goddamn business, so long as I'm not A) using their equipment on their time, or B) creating/selling competing products.

They pay you to do your job and keep your mind on their problem. If you aren't, they'll fire you.

They pay me to do the job and 'keep my mind on their problem'... during the hours they pay me for. During the hours they are not paying me for, as I said, they have fuck-all right to dictate what I do.

^This is important, keep it in mind.

Re:Don't moonlight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874411)

Then perhaps they should be willing to pay more. Employers that don't pay enough to convince people not to moonlight, aren't really in a position to be that picky about it. They're likely sufficiently short sighted to not understand the increased cost that comes from employee rollover.

Re:Don't moonlight! (2)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874475)

and expect to keep your current job. Employers HATE that. They pay you to do your job and keep your mind on their problem. If you aren't, they'll fire you.

Wow, I feel bad for the awful working conditions you must have. But what you say does not, for the most part, hold true in general.

Certainly, make sure your current contract (if you have one) doesn't forbid outside work or try to claim credit for everything you do 24/7 while employed by them. And don't take any work that comes even close to your employer's core business (anticompete agreement or not!). But if my current employer banned moonlighting, they'd need to fire 90% of the IT department.

That said, you should keep your outside jobs quiet. Making more than your coworkers, even if you work more for it, only leads to resentment; and when times get tough and your employer starts looking at cutting raises, benefits, or whole bodies - You don't want to stick out as the guy who doesn't "need" your job (even if true).

As for how best to get started - Slashdotters, having a heavily internet-centric worldview, will recommend places like Elance or Rent-A-Coder; YMMV, but those have a strong vibe of acting primarily as the high-tech version of a group of Mexicans standing outside Home Depot (Elance even shows whether or not the client requires a W-9 right on their main listings!). Instead, look for legitimate temp agencies in your area, contact them to see if they do any tech contracting work, and see if your availability works for them.

Competitions, trading (2)

gregor-e (136142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874205)

You could try your hand at various programming competitions such as those offered on TopCoder [topcoder.com] or Kaggle [kaggle.com] . 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 [interactivebrokers.com] and TradeStation [tradestation.com] .

Re:Competitions, trading (2)

dahl_ag (415660) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874389)

Also check out the Forex markets. Brokerages like IBFX.com 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 / learn about forex, so I may have completely mangled things.

It's like running a small business (5, Informative)

Bovius (1243040) | about a year and a half ago | (#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:It's like running a small business (3, Informative)

MangoCats (2757129) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874425)

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 you.

Wait. You get paid? (3, Funny)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874235)

I am doing this all wrong.

I've had a great experience making mobile apps (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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":

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Bnts26oxfhXACMYf_leCZvFENk2mqEV55f8UIaOrcpA

Re:I've had a great experience making mobile apps (2, Funny)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874499)

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?

Re:I've had a great experience making mobile apps (1)

Graydyn Young (2835695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874619)

I'm a mobile developer as well, and while I whole-heartedly agree that putting an indie up on the market is a great way to go, I think developing for BlackBerry is a terrible idea. I also started out doing BlackBerry many years ago, but if Poster is going to learn a framework, they can do a lot better than a platform that could easily go under in the near future. Windows Phone could be a good option for a one man team, due to the lack of competition on their store. Otherwise, Android is great if you intend to release a legitimately useful app. Or the IOS market can be good if you can bring some kind of novelty to the table, since it's users are notoriously easy to part from their money. The only reason some other suggestions on this board may be better than an indie app on a mobile marketplace, is that mobile apps can be kind of like lottery tickets. You might make a lot of money, but you probably won't.

Re:I've had a great experience making mobile apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874941)

I'm a mobile developer as well, and while I whole-heartedly agree that putting an indie up on the market is a great way to go, I think developing for BlackBerry is a terrible idea. I also started out doing BlackBerry many years ago, but if Poster is going to learn a framework, they can do a lot better than a platform that could easily go under in the near future. Windows Phone could be a good option for a one man team, due to the lack of competition on their store. Otherwise, Android is great if you intend to release a legitimately useful app. Or the IOS market can be good if you can bring some kind of novelty to the table, since it's users are notoriously easy to part from their money.
The only reason some other suggestions on this board may be better than an indie app on a mobile marketplace, is that mobile apps can be kind of like lottery tickets. You might make a lot of money, but you probably won't.

One of the disadvantages of Android and iOS is competition. My only experience in that realm is writing an app for all of the platforms and getting the following return:

BlackBerry: $3,000
Android: $200
Windows Phone: $60
iOS: $30

I'm not saying that going after another platform is bad idea at all, I'm just saying that my experience on BB has been stellar, and enjoyable, and therefore that would be my recommendation from personal experience.

Side code projects for moolah (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re:Side code projects for moolah (1)

Dr Herbert West (1357769) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874395)

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-sized projects the money can be pretty breathtaking as well .

As a side note, what's the OP's problem with making 20 bucks? Do more advertising, expand your user base by 10000, and you've done quite well.

Re:Side code projects for moolah (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874491)

I like the idea, but I fear the startup expenses may be a bit cost prohibitive:

From Crestron's training site: [crestron.com]

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 [crestron.com] for non-Crestron dealers; looks like about a grand per class is the standard.

Botnet? (4, Funny)

MarkGriz (520778) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874285)

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

Re:Botnet? (1)

Alopex (1973486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874871)

Government-sponsored programs like Stuxnet and Flame are all the craze these days

uh? Freelancing pays well (1)

Bogtha (906264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874329)

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.

Re:uh? Freelancing pays well (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874373)

I think he was lookign at websites- rentacoder, freelancer.com, 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.

Find a non-profit. (1)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874333)

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.

Re:Find a non-profit. (1)

_anomaly_ (127254) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874497)

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.

Focus on moving up the food chain (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874379)

You'll probably do better focusing on excelling at your current job and acquiring new skills.

The pay rate for unusual skill pairings is much better than either skill alone or common pairings.

So what do you know besides programming? Do you know the subject matter? If not, learn that.

Always make sure you learn a bit more than just what you need to get by. If someone you work w/ is doing something you don't know how to do, learn at least a little bit about that. If thye outrank you at work, learn more.

The key is being ready when the opportunity appears.

Does your day job pay you enough? (4, Interesting)

Eric Smith (4379) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874401)

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.

Re:Does your day job pay you enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874769)

I've found that when people are paying me money I tend to take the project a little more seriously.

Team up with someone else (1)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874415)

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

Re:Team up with someone else (1)

greywire (78262) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874567)

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 has worked for me in the past (but the economy killed the project), and I am in the process of another side project now. But its time permitting, in my case.

I would say these days, except in rare cases, you're not going to make money on an app, or any piece of software. Its like being a rock star -- most don't make it! But if you work at it, you can make a living. There's plenty of studio musicians you've never heard of. There's plenty to be made in services, whether you have something unique or you just provide great, reliable service. Don't think too big, you may not make it as a rock star..

Re:Team up with someone else (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874615)

Together, you can achieve what none of you could have done alone.

Divorce, bankruptcy, and a restraining order?!

Re:Team up with someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874827)

Meh, I achieved bankruptcy & multiple restraining orders all by myself.

Local/State/Federal regulation may apply (1)

ljhiller (40044) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874461)

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:

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/27/business/how-a-tax-law-helps-insure-a-scarcity-of-programmers.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm [nytimes.com]

I cannot find the references, but the reason I remember this factoid is because there was a man who went postal, citing his inability to make a living as a programmer due to tax laws.

Craigslist (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874515)

Put an ad in the craigs list m4m section. My friend makes $1000 for a couple hours on Friday night.

Re:Craigslist (1)

al.caughey (1426989) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874807)

And does your friend still respect him/her-self on Saturday morning?

Do college homework (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874607)

Offer to do assignments for people at a cost. Once you've done a certain amount, they all just recycle on each other.

Business software (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874623)

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

I freelance (1)

jitterman (987991) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874685)

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 to allow me to "take" this customer with me.

I negotiated a $75/hour rate, which saved the client about $35/hour while padding my own pocket nicely. I have a regular full-time salaried gig again, but I have kept the customer with the agreement that they have to understand that my ability to respond real-time during the day would be limited at best, and am still going strong with them.

The point is, to fit it in with a day job, you can advertise your services (I personally advise getting clearance from your employer - some hate moonlighting - but that's up to you of course) and let the customer know what your personal availability is, and then hope to find that lucky situation that works for both of you. My situation was certainly partial luck, but given that, a clear understanding between parties has worked out nicely for both of us.

games for phones / tablets (1)

Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874725)

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.

True Story (1)

tatman (1076111) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874733)

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.

Side job? Find a niche ecosystem. (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874813)

> 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...and I'd do it again.

> Are there any other options to make a bit of cash as a programmer?

As a side job? Find an ecosystem, even a niche ecosystem where people are actually buying components (Exchange plug-ins, Blackberry apps, mainframe software, whatever) and write something simple. Do that once or twice a year and enjoy!

Takes some effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42874831)

You can make money on the side programming, especially with web development projects. The problem I see with the original question is that the person asking doesn't want to work on anything long term (less than two months) and doesn't want to support existing projects (no long term support) and doesn't feel skilled enough to sell one-time modules. That doesn't leave a lot of room. What can you do in less than two months, do well and not have to support in the future? Not much, really. I think one of those requirements needs to go.

Work for a full-timer (1)

Vrallis (33290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874875)

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 even better as that is where his skills were so he could fully support it himself.

not worth the management overhead (4, Interesting)

bokmann (323771) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874903)

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.

someone you previously wrote code for (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year and a half ago | (#42874965)

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.
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