5 Side Hustles For Any Programmer Looking to Make Money

Feb. 26, 2021, 3:45 p.m.
Beginners · 12 min read
5 Side Hustles For Any Programmer Looking to Make Money

The idea of a side hustle sounds like a great use of time.

Ideally, it's an activity that doesn't take a lot of time but pays well.

I mean who doesn't want extra income to cover food, subscription services, and rent?

And if you make enough, then you can quit your day job, start investing or have an early retirement.

This plan sounds great -- in concept.

The reality is that you'll most likely have to balance your life between a side hustle, your free time, and a day job.

So you should make sure you're doing something a) that you really enjoy or b) is sustainable and makes good money.

That's not saying you can't have both, but you should weigh your options before giving up your free time to the "hustle". 

I'm going to break down the process and pros/cons of five ways programmers can make money, no matter the skill level. 



1. Create a Course on a Learning Platform

Become a Writer on Udemy

Every year thousands of people learn to code.

If you possess a level of understanding in any area of coding -- Python, HTML, CSS, JavaScript -- you can teach someone else who is just learning. 

Even if you're new to coding, you can still write a course based on your beginner experience of learning to code. 

Udemy is a learning platform where you can publish your guide, course, or tutorial for others.

Platforms such as Coursera and Skillshare are also options. 

And if the course catches on, then you can make a reasonable amount of income.


Potential Monthly Earnings

To give you some numbers, it's reported the average Udemy course creator makes around $15-30 per month while top creators earn $2,000 per month.

The average development/programming course on Udemy is around $80 and Udemy has 35 million students worldwide, so it's not unreasonable to think you could make about $80 per month if just one person buys your course every month.


Pros and Cons to Making a Course on a Learning Platform

Pro #1: It is a one-time project.

You can make one course, publish it on Udemy, and make money. Courses don't typically require constant updates or maintenance so it's a set-and-forget situation.


Pro #2: You get free access to features of the learning platform.

Udemy offers a free course on how to build your course, free reviews of your videos, and built-in messaging, quizzes, and course announcement tools.  


Pro #3: There are no fees to create, host, and publish courses.

It's 100% free to create and publish a course on platforms like Udemy.


Con #1: There are revenue shares on these learning platforms.

Udemy does take an administrative fee for each course sold, with the percentage depending on how the user finds your course. You should keep in mind the percentage of the earnings could be anywhere from 97% to 25%, depending on the user acquisition. 


Con #2: There is a decent amount of competition.

There are 10,000+ development courses on Udemy. You'll need to make sure your course is high-level and stands out to get sales. 


Is Making a Course on a Learning Platform a Good Side Hustle?

Overall, yes if you are willing to split the revenue.

Learning platforms often handle all of the marketing and course-creation tools, leaving you to just focus on creating your course.

The administration fees, in those cases, are justified.

However, the larger concern is there is no guarantee your course will sell and make anywhere near $2,000 a month.


Helpful Tips For Making a Course

  • Create multiple courses to improve the chances of selling a course.
  • Write follow-up courses to get reoccurring revenue from users who like your teaching style.
  • Best-selling development courses on Udemy are 10+ hours long.
  • Best-selling courses use "beginner", "complete guide", or "bootcamp" in their titles.
  • Prices tend to rest around $20, $50, and $100.



2. Do Freelance Work

Become a seller on Fiverr

Another side hustle option is to work on a freelance platform such as Fiverr, Freelancer, Gun.io, and Upwork.

Sign up, create your seller profile, post your service/gig, prices, and a brief description of the service you offer. 

Then people interested in your work request your services.

There are specific programming and tech categories on these sites where you can post services ranging from site audits/reviews and coding lessons to website development and chatbot creation.

But there is no need to limit yourself to just programming. Other categories include graphic design, writing, video, and digital marketing. 


Potential Monthly Earnings

It's hard to estimate earnings given it depends on how many people buy your services and how much you charge for service. 

It's worth looking through several categories to see the starting price of other sellers in the field and whether you can offer a similar product or improve on the offer.

Many freelancer platforms also have a "Browse Jobs" category. But you need to be cautious when bidding on a job.

Don't set a low bid price just to undercut another seller. Set a price that you think is fair for the amount of work required. 


Pros and Cons for Freelance Work

Pro #1: You set your own hourly rates.

We recommend freelance services such as Fiverr where the seller (aka you) gets to set the hourly rate, without bidding. You get to determine the price of your talents, not the competition.


Pro #2: You choose which gig to accept.

If you don't like the work or don't want to take on the gig, you don't have to. Part of freelancing is working on your own terms.


Pro #3: You set your own work hours.

There is a large amount of flexibility that comes along with freelancing. You set the date when the finished product is delivered to the client.


Con #1: It can be competitive on freelance platforms.

Thousands of people post their services on freelance platforms, making many categories oversaturated. It may take time to get your first client.


Con #2: You can easily fall into the trap of being underpaid for your work.

It's easy to undervalue your work because so many other people are offering similar services. 


Is Freelance Work a Good Side Hustle?

Yes, the flexibility and agency associated with freelance work can be worth your time.

But you need to be cautious.

Don't take underpaid jobs or it defeats the purpose of doing the side hustle -- you'd just be spending your time being underpaid. 


Helpful Tips for Freelance Work

  • Sign up for multiple freelance platforms to have a better chance of getting hired for a gig.
  • Avoid platforms where you don't set your own hourly rate.
  • Don't exaggerate your experience level to potential clients.
  • Don't take too many gigs at once.
  • Ask the client for recommendations and feedback after a completed job.
  • Don't undersell your work or time. There are people out there who will pay more for high-quality work.
  • If you are unsure of your pricing, start with a conservative hourly rate and slowly increase as you get more experience.



3. Enter Competitive Programming Contests

Enter a Coding Competition on TopCoder

If you like competition, then competitive programming may be the side hustle for you. 

Companies such as Topcoder, HackerRank, Google Code Jam, and the ICEP Programming Contest all offer coding contests.

Topcoder, for example, offers single-round matches (SRM) every week where registration for the match occurs less than 5 hours before the match. 

There are two divisions to guarantee the problem set meets the competitors' skill level. Within these divisions are rooms with a maximum of 20 coders from the same division.

Competitions are timed, with speed and accuracy being the two determinates of point distributions and overall success.


Potential Monthly Earnings

On Topcoder, the total purse prize for contests is $5,000, with a 70:30 split between division one and division two competitors. 

Within each division one room, 50% of the room reward goes to 1st, 30% to 2nd, and 20% to third.

Division two room rewards are divided 60% to 1st and 40% to 2nd. 

But competitive programming isn't the only contest offered. Data Science, Design, Machine Learning, and Development competitions are also available, depending on the platform. 


Pros and Cons to Competitive Programming

Pro #1: You get to put your skills to the test.

Coding competitions are fun ways to improve your coding confidence and ability to perform under pressure. 


Pro #2: You can be compensated for doing something you enjoy.

Coding competitors are rewarded for their knowledge and skill, not the completion of a professional job. These contests are meant to help you grow as a coder, not just complete a gig/project for someone else.


Pro #3: There is often no purchase necessary to enter or win a coding competition.

Competitive coding contests are often free to enter and win!


Con #1: You're not going to be paid unless you place high

Unlike taking a freelance gig, there is no guarantee that the time you put into coding will make you money.


Con #2: You will most likely not make a ton of money

Unless you regularly enter competitions and are at the top of each contest, you will most likely not make a large amount of income from these contests. 


Is Entering Competitive Programming Contests a Good Side Hustle?

Kind of. This side hustle falls more into the "you do it because you enjoy the work" category rather than the "sustainable and lucrative" category.

You can't expect to make much from contests, but you can expect to gain confidence and knowledge that could prove beneficial when pursuing another one of these side projects. 


Helpful Tips for Competitive Programming

  • Enter contests that distribute funds across divisions/rooms so you have a better chance of winning some of the purse money.
  • Enter competitions with the goal of improving your skills, not making money.
  • Don't spend too much of your time competing unless you find yourself excelling or really enjoying the process. 




4. Make a Blog

Create a Blog on Wordpress

Creating a blog is a great way to monetize your skills, knowledge, and talents on a specific subject.

You could make a blog on anything -- programming, gardening, art, video games, anime.

My only recommendation is that the blog should center around something you find interesting. This will make the entire process much more enjoyable.

Use WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger, or GoDaddy if you are looking to get up and running quickly. 

There is no shame in using the tools available, especially if they make things fast and easy.

Or if you are looking to do everything from the ground up (i.e. the front and backend) then look into building a web app using Django

This open-source web framework is designed for "rapid development and clean, pragmatic design" that allows for rapid app creation. 

Building your site's brand and consistently writing SEO articles will take a few months of hard work.

But none of these things will make money up to this point. 


Potential Monthly Earnings

You need to monetize your site by selling your own products, becoming an affiliate, or placing ads on your site. 

The sooner you get consistent traffic, the sooner you can monetize. It's difficult to estimate earnings when it depends on the product, affiliate commission, and/or ad you choose.

Google Ad Sense estimates that placing computer and electronics ads on a 50,000 monthly page view blog can earn around $4,530. 

Amazon Affiliate Services provides anywhere from 1-10% of the sales commission depending on the sales commission for the product.

For example, if you have an affiliate link on your site for a $49.99 pair of Anker Soundcore Headphones, and a visitor to your site buys the headphones using your link, you get 3% of the sale -- $1.50. 

Of the three options for monetization, any combination could be the winning formula.

Selling your own digital product could prove the most lucrative given you do not have to split the profit, but it may not sell as well as a product on Amazon. 


Pros and Cons for Creating a Blog

Pro #1: You get to share your knowledge.

You can write about anything you have an interest in and teach others who also share this interest.


Pro #2: You can generate semi-passive income.

You have the possibility of making income off of your articles/products/courses. The reason I say semi-passive is you would still need to put in some effort every month writing new articles and finding the best affiliate deals and products to sell on the site. 


Pro #3: It's the epitome of a passion project.

A blog is something that can be set up and updated on the weekend or after work. It does not need to take up the majority of your time unless you want it to.


Con #1: Blogs require regular posting and upkeep in addition to patience.

It takes time to write articles, it takes time to get consistent traffic, and it takes time to make money from that traffic. While blogs can blow up in one night, there is still some effort required on your part in order to get it there.


Con #2: Low traffic means low income.

Blogs only make money if you sell products or place ads on them.

It's that simple. If you don't have traffic that buys the products on your site, in ads, or from affiliates, you will not make a significant amount of income from your blog. 


Is Creating a Blog a Good Side Hustle?

Yes, if you have the time to make it work or are willing to wait for it to gain traction. One of the nice things about a blog is that you can work on it whenever you want and in any capacity.

But you should know the more effort you put in, the higher chance you have of it gaining traction and making money sooner rather than later. 


Helpful Tips for Creating a Blog

  • Block out a schedule for when you are going to make the blog, write articles, and monetize.
  • Stick to that schedule as closely as possible. 
  • Promote products you use or have an interest in.
  • Interact with your audience in comments and social media posts.



5. Write on an Existing Blog

Post on an existing blog like Medium

If you're just looking to start writing and share some of your programming knowledge with others, then writing on an existing blog is a great option.

DigitalOcean, SitePoint, and Linode all have paid writing opportunities if you are an expert in their field.

There are also free blogging platforms such as Tumblr and Medium if you are looking for a place to write more freely and advertise.

Medium, for example, does allow affiliate links in your writing as long as there is an added affiliate disclosure. 


Potential Monthly Earnings

Writing guides for larger companies like DigitalOcean can earn you up to $300 for one piece. 

There are also micro-payment platforms like the Medium Partner Program or payment pointer on Dev.to.

Medium pays writers a portion of the money made from paid membership subscribers. This portion is based on how long that member spends reading your article for the month.

Medium charges $5/month to be a member, so if the reader spends 10% of their total monthly reading time viewing your article, you get $0.50. 

Dev.to also provide's micro-payments to authors when "Web Monetized browsers visit their profile and posts".

Potential earnings from affiliate links, once again, are dependent on the product provider, product, and commission.


Pros and Cons for Writing on an Existing Blog

Pro #1: You get to piggyback off of the platforms existing SEO.

Posting on a large, established blogging platform allows you to reap the rewards of their traffic. Your article will instantly get views based on that platform's existing user-base.


Pro #2: You get paid for writing about something of interest.

Writing is rewarding when you get to write about something you enjoy and you get paid as a result of your knowledge.


Con #1: You will most likely only get micro-payments from most of your writing.

Unless you write guides for DigitalOcean and Linode, there is no guarantee of payment. Articles published on micro-payment blogging platforms will require a large number of viewers to see any sort of significant income.


Con #2: You'll have to write often and with strategy.

You may have to try "click-bait" titles or other strategies in addition to frequently publishing articles to get the viewer count you want. This means you may have to compromise on the content you want to cover.


Is Posting on an Existing Blog a Good Side Hustle?

Yes, this is a good side hustle if you can write tutorials/guides for an established company or find your niche on a micro-payment blog.


Helpful Tips For Writing on Existing Blogs

  • Post longer content on micro-payment blogs to increase the read time of paid members.
  • Find a niche where you can consistently create content. 
  • Write content that is informative and easy to digest.
  • Write often and with the purpose of crafting a strong article.

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