13 ways to make real money with programming
Before I even begin, I’m not talking about crypto, NFT, affiliate marketing or any of these other forms of “making money”, because they don’t involve any form of programming and there are over one million articles on medium about these topics. In this article, I will talk about real ways you can use your programming skills to make money. I will also talk about some challenges you might face. As someone with over 2 decades of experience in this industry, I can tell you that I have seen people make a living using these methods.
Also note that this is not some millionaire tip that would enable you to get your next superyacht. These are tips that would help you earn decent money, enough to make a living or at least a side-hustle.
Are you good with 3D math? Do you understand 3D coordinate math, vectors, linear algebra, etc? Mix that with some creative design ideas and you can create Blender plugins and publish them on the blender market. Such plugins can help in easy production of motion graphics, animation, hard-surface modelling, procedurally generated art, etc. You can expect to earn $1,000 every month with a good plugin. You will need basic knowledge of python, as well as a healthy relationship with math. The challenge you will face is getting people to know about your plugin. I’ll suggest you create social media accounts to promote your plugins.
This is a much harder way to make money today. You will need at least 6 month of really hard work (assuming you already have years of experience making games) to even stand a chance. Typically you will need 3–6 years to make a decent steam game that I will even want to purchase. Steam games can make good money when made well and marketed well. You will ideally want to create a steam page for your game after a solid vertical-slice has been made. Make sure you release a game-play demo when creating a steam page. You do not want to waste time with cinematic trailers because that doesn’t impress gamers these days. You want to showcase straight-up game play, combat systems, etc. You can create steam game with any language you want to. Most people decide to use popular frameworks like Unreal Engine, Unity3D, Lumberyard Engine, Stride3D, etc. I know a game studio that made over $300,000 from their game on steam. Please note that they had years of experience before spending another 5 years to build their game.
Regardless of what anyone tells you about the limitations of No-code/Low-code tools, the majority of websites use tools like Wordpress, Wix, etc. Wordpress plugins are a good way to make money if you know the right spot to hit. It does not even have to be a very complex plugin, just something that you feel is worth your own money. Ask yourself, will you pay for your own tool?
There are lots of audio plugins that can be built for music producers. Frameworks such as JUCE help make your life a lot easier when it comes to building audio plugins. C++ would be your best choice due to wealth of libraries and potential performance. However, you can write your plugins in languages like C#, Swift, Java, etc. When you do so, there are many websites you can sell your audio plugins. You can also have a private arrangement with music producers and build a specialised audio synth for their work.
Custom Static Websites
You can still make a lot of money by building custom static websites. I’m not even talking about “back-end this, database that”. I mean the good old fashioned HTML, CSS and maybe a sprinkle of vanilla JS. Lots of companies need just this, and if you reach out to enough people, you can secure serious clients. You have to be extremely good at what you do because this market is very saturated.
Mobile app stores
The good old fashioned mobile app store is still making people money. It is a much harder market than it was in 2010 and you have to lower your expectations. Are you okay with making $600 a month? Not bad for a side hustle if you ask me. The three major ways people monetise their mobile apps include charging for it, showing ads and in-app purchase. If you ask me, I’ll say ads are dead. To make any decent money from ads, your app will have piss people off just to make some “bread crumbs” from ads. If you want to charge money up-front for the app, then go to the app store because Play-store users are not as “let-go” with their money as Apple-store users. In app purchase is also a good way of making money on both platforms.
Sell incomplete projects
This could be incomplete flutter projects, Unreal game projects, Unity game projects, Back end services, etc. Your market will have to be other developers who are building or want to build the kind of project you want to sell. It may be hard to find developers who will buy your project, but hanging out a lot on developer forums and developer subreddits can help. You also have to shamelessly advertise your project on these platforms at any given chance.
Sell art-tools on Artstation
My first point was making money by selling blender plugins on the blender market right? Selling art tools on Art-station does not limit you to blender. Software like Maya have their own scripting language (MEL). You could design art tools that would be useful for artists, or utility tools that could help speed-up their workflow, then sell them on Art-station. I cannot stress how competitive this market is. You want your tool to be as customisable and as “procedural” as possible. Think of things like procedural water flow (physics tool), A library of customisable walk animations for toon characters, procedural cities, etc.
Nintendo switch platform is a very difficult platform to get your game on (compared to platforms like steam, windows store, apple store, etc.). If you are able to get your game on Nintendo-switch with decent marketing, you can be sure to make good side-hustle money. It is not a guarantee! Do not go ahead and publish on Nintendo switch without doing any marketing and expect to be Bill Gates. Thankfully, Nintendo switch platforms weeds out lots of potentially garbage games and shovelware (which reduces market saturation).
I’m not even talking about horrible places like Upwork. Being active on social media can help you get clients. The problem is that most people do not know how to use social media. They want to play play play all day and forget social media is also a business tool. Creating a good business instagram page and running a 100 dollar ad can take you somewhere. Your social media page must also be filled with quality work you have done in the past. Most people are not interested in giving their hard-earned money to newbies who do not know much. Use social media as your portfolio and try to make money with it. If you have no project, spend at least 2 years building a quality portfolio.
Donations from a very good open-source project
I have come under fire for criticising open-source in the past. However, it was good intention towards developers who do not get paid properly for their good work (“good” being the key-word). Many of them do not even think their work is worth getting paid for (in the dollar) so they settle for being paid in Github stars. I tell you most solemnly that when you ask, you have a better chance of receiving than when you do not. Create a Patreon account, come on YouTube (or any other social platform) and remind people that it would be nice if they can contribute financially to support your work. Also remind them on your Github page (add a Paypal/Patreon link on your Github page). Your project must be worth supporting tho. No one will support some random Netflix clone web-app which was copied from a youtube tutorial. Your work must be original and useful to people. And no! asking people to support you is not the same as e-begging!
AR/VR Engineering projects
The AR and VR field are still in their infancy. And for those of you who already have skills using engines like Unity and Unreal, this is a good time to get into this fresh market. There are lots of AR/VR engineering projects that engineering companies can use to train staff members or make their work flow faster and more efficient. Many construction companies and manufacturing companies have inefficient workflow. Many of these companies take extensive processes to train new staff members. Many of them are scared to try out new work-flow process because there are no tools to simulate the efficiency of these new work-flow processes. This is where 3D solutions come in.
Teaching On Udemy
People still make a decent living teaching on Udemy. The thing is, do not be scared of carving out a niche topic. Even if you may not get 100 thousand student enrolled, you might do just fine with 10 thousand. Do not make generic introductory courses on Node JS, React, Firebase, etc. There are many courses on that already. How about making a course that will help people build payment gateways using java? How about making a course about rendering with Vulkan API? These topics are very specific and target a particular topic.
Each of these could give you a decent side hustle income and could even replace your full time job. Just like everything in life, you have more earning potential with more experience. Pick a particular field and see how you could make money from it by being extremely good. Do not be that guy that knows a little bit of reactJS, angular, Unity3D, NodeJS, Flutter, OpenGL, Swift, HTML, python, CSS and many more other tech, without knowing enough to make money with any of them.