How Do You Make Money From Open Source Software

You have decided to start a business in this specific open source software niche and now you are left wondering how the business owners actually make the money from this type of software. Or you are already running the open source software business and would like to improve its revenue. This article will enlighten you on several ways that you can utilize to make money from your open source software projects.

 Make money with open source finding bugs.

Those programs are also called Bug Bounty programs and will offer you money to find bugs in Open Source Software.

There are two main ways you can get paid in Bug Hunting programs:

  • Finding errors/bugs and reporting them.
  • Solving Errors and Submitting a Pull Request to update the Open Source Project.

The size of the reward varies based on the company, but luckily there are huge companies out there ready to pay you real money to find and solve bugs in their products.

How to find Bug Hunting Programs for Open Source Projects

Companies like Google, Mozilla, and Apache have bug hunting programs with rewards of up to $150.000 (Android), for those able to find and solve errors in their Open Source Software (OSS) code.

Of course, those are not the only companies willing to pay for your detective skills. Every medium and big company that’s hosting an OSS, will have a bug-hunting program.

Luckily some platforms are listing all of them in a single place, like bugcrowd.

Although finding and solving bugs is one of the most frustrating/funny experiences for a developer, you might want to start freelancing with real and returning customers.

Guy with a GitHub TShirt

Maintain Open Source Project through donations

While not typically used by large for-profit companies, some individual developers make pretty good money by taking donations for their open-source work.

The downside of this model is that it’s really hard to build predictable, sustainable incomes.

Although you might not want to relate to Donations to pay bills, with the right community and projects, you might end up building an amazing side revenue.

Make money Double Licensing

If you have an Open Source Project that is getting lots of traction, consider the idea of creating two different licenses:

  • A free one for Open source projects.
  • A paid one for commercial projects.

This is pretty common, as it allows small teams and individual to build their Open Source Projects while monetizing enterprise users and proprietary products.

You might want to also provide premium support to Enterprise users, creating a real business around your product.

 Provide Premium Support to Open Source Products

This is one of the most mainstream ways of making money with Open Source Software for a developer.

Because Open Source Software is usually everything but User Friendly, you might want to sell and provide those commodities that the free Open Source Project maintainers are not providing.

Think about Kubernetes, pretty much every cloud provider has its own hosted version, and they are asking you money for it.

Here’s some idea to sell support and development services for Open source products:

  • Code and bug fixing.
  • Add new and extra features.
  • Write documentation.
  • Sell training.

Why selling support?

Open Source Projects maintainers do not always have the time to provide the necessary support to users. This is where you come in:

You can charge others for the help they need and aren’t getting it for free from the original author.

A great example is WordPress developers, which sell fully-fledged websites, and web apps, based on Open Source Software.

Developer sit in front of a monitor, coding JavaScript in an Open Source Project.

Always check the Open Source Software’s license

Before making any changes to the original OSS codebase, make sure the license supports such activities.

Pretty much every Open Source project is, or should be, shipped with a license. Different licenses have different boundaries within which you can base you services.

For example an Open Source project shipped under the MIT License, will allow for closed versions of the same project (versions which code is not publicly available). On the other hand, a GNU GPLv3 license will force you to release any kind of improvement of additional features, as Open Source.

You can learn more about licenses on choosealicense.com.

If the License doesn’t allow you, limit your support to everything that doesn’t modify the author’s original source code.

Write and Sell books about an Open Source Product

Books are a great way to monetize your knowledge. If you know a lot about Open Source Technology, You might want to consider writing a book and selling it on platforms such as:

  • Gumroad
  • Amazon

It doesn’t need to be 400-page long, it just needs to provide the needed value to acquire knowledge around a given product or tool.

Now, I don’t think every tool can be explained in a book, usually, videos and short on-point tech posts are more useful and common, BUT, I’ve bought amazing books about niche topics where videos were not helping.

Sell associated content and monetize Open Source Projects

As a developer, you might want to sell content related to Open Source Software.

Think about WordPress Plugins or Shopify Apps as the perfect example of associate content, with huge markets full of potential customers.

If you want to get started with plugin development for WordPress, I really suggest you this full WordPress plugin development course.

If you want to start with Shopify app development, on the other hand, I suggest you this full course of Shopify for developers.

Not all OSS have things like plugins though, but there are different types of content you might want to produce and sell, such as:

  • Video courses.
  • Guest Technical Posts.
  • eBooks.

Let’s explore them briefly.

4. Create a video course

Guy from behind Editing a video

Creating one single video or a full course where you teach how to use an Open Source product is a great way to:

  • Start building an Online Presence.
  • Educate people and create a community.
  • Present yourself as an expert of such a product.
  • Monetize your content.

If you are just starting out recording videos, a YouTube channel might be the best choice, as you’ll need some practice to feel comfortable in front of a camera.

On the other hand, if you’re already an experienced teacher and/content creator, you might want to create a fully-fledged course and sell it on platforms such as Udemy or SkillShare.

Conclusions:

The open source trend is gaining momentum with corporate bigwigs and future-minded freelancers alike. The profit potential of open source technologies is a veritable goldmine. We are going to take an eye-opening peek into the world of open source business models and clientele. 

You can make money out of Open Source Project but keep in mind that:

  • Make some side revenue is easy
  • Making a living out of that requires above-average time and effort

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