7 Ways to Earn a Side Income as a Developer

Kyle Prinsloo

Kyle Prinsloo

Leverage your skills as a Developer to earn side income


There are a ton of side income opportunities in the world today.

Especially as web developers, we have plenty of opportunities to grow an extra income on the side with our unique skillset.

Sure, you may be on the learning journey to work at a top tech company, and that's definitely an awesome path, but not the only path. You will be missing out on a chance for a diverse, recurring income stream if you don't at least stop to consider how else you can apply your hot skillset.

The thing is - I don't blame you for not stopping and considering the alternative.

As soon as you start your journey in the world of web development, you're inundated with stories of success and how to achieve the same result.

You know the type - "How I Got a Job at Google After Only 3 Months of Learning JavaScript" or "Learn From Me: How To Get a $100k Dev Job in No Time" or "Getting Hired by Amazon as a Software Developer with a 2.9 GPA".

The stories themselves are great - they can serve as a form of inspiration to motivate you when things are tough. They also show you the possibilities of what your skillset can achieve job-wise and even provide you the roadmap for doing so.

Often though, and where developers get caught up, is that they are so focused on this end-goal of "working an 8 - 5 job at a top tech company" that they miss out on a span of great money-making opportunities that their skillset (even at an early stage) makes available to them.

In some cases (more than you may think), these "alternative" side-income methods can grow to become sources of full time income and, what's more, many of them allow you to be your own boss and that is a fantastic situation to be in.

There's also no reason you can't be working at a top tech company and have side income as well.

In this article, we're going to look at 7 different ways in which you can leverage your web development skillset to earn an extra income on the side.

1. Start a Web Development Blog

This is a classic.

As web developers, we are encouraged to learn in public.

Benefits of starting a blog

There is no better way to do this than to write about your process in a way that can provide some value to others.

By writing technical posts, you are forcing yourself to be honest about what you know and don't know. This confrontation with your knowledge-shortcomings is an eye-opening method of relearning a topic you thought you already knew well.

In other words, writing a technical post allows you to improve your mental model about a particular topic to the point where you can put it down in words in a cohesive way.

The result is a piece of writing that not only helps someone else understand a tricky process or way of thinking, but also serves as a very well-rehearsed study note that you can return to later.

It's important to realize that developers are all on a learning journey but each one comes with a different learning background. What this means is that your post on "How to Create a Two Column Grid Layout with CSS" can be hugely beneficial to many people starting with CSS but completely irrelevant to others who have been writing CSS for years.

Remember, not everyone is at the stage you are which means there is someone who will benefit from your writing.

Monetizing your blog

Alright, so we've covered why starting a blog if beneficial for your own learning but you're here to learn how you can make a side-income.

Step 1: Drive Traffic Repeat the process of writing relevant and helpful posts in the world of web development consistently and you will start attracting readers who enjoy what you write and gain a tangible benefit from it.

Once you have traffic, there is a wide variety of ways you can start generating revenue from your blog.

Generally speaking 👉 More posts = more traffic = more money.

Once you've started creating quality posts, there are many ways you can drive more traffic for free.

Here are two ways:

  1. It might sound counter-intuitive but post your same blog posts on sites that already have a massive developer audience (assuming that's who your posts are targeting). Places that you likely already read as well (ex: Medium, Hackernoon, Dev.to, etc). This is a great way to drive traffic for free, especially if you're just getting started.
  2. Answer other people's questions on places Reddit, Quora, Stack Overflow and participate in discussions in places like Facebook groups, Twitter threads and other online communities.

Note: this does not mean you should spam links to your blog posts in these places. Don't do that. Provide a useful answer and if you happen to have a post that goes deeper into a topic, then consider adding the link.

You're playing the long game here. Build a positive reputation. Ensure your blog is linked on your profiles and if you provide good answers and insights, people will go check you out.

Step 2: Turn Your Traffic Into Income We're not going to dive into every single way you can monetize your blog but here are two common ways.

  1. Ads. If you don't know where to start, then you can always start with Google Adsense. Once you're comfortable with Adsense, you can check out a more premium ad agency like Carbon Ads.
  2. Affiliate Programs. You can join affiliate programs (like the Zero To Mastery Ambassador program) and earn money by linking to your favourite products or courses. Many bloggers do this by joining Amazon’s affiliate program and recommending their favourite products.

2. Ecommerce

E-commerce is already huge but it’s going to keep growing and you can be a part of it.

You don't even need to be in web development to create a side income with e-commerce but I've included it here because you can create your store without some of the hassles that non-developers need to face.

Should you build your own online store?

As a developer, you can create your custom own store without needing to rely on any other vendors or platforms.

Think about it, if you know HTML, CSS and JS, you can easily create an online store. In fact, I know that ZTM even teaches you how to build your own full-scale ecommerce store.

If you have some basic design skills then you can even design it yourself. By leveraging templates on sites like Dribbble for inspiration, you don't need to be an expert in design to get a beautiful site live. You can also leverage the endless amounts of free resources (stock photos, illustrations, icons, etc.) out there as well.

As far as payment processing goes, there are plenty of options like Stripe, that are pretty much plug and play. This way, you don't need to fiddle with setting up complex payment gateways.

So, while you spend a bunch of time building your own online store is a very cool project, why re-invent the wheel?

Use Shopify, then customize

I'd recommend you just setup your store on Shopify to get your store live in the shortest amount of time. It has pretty much every feature you need to get a quality store up and running. The cost definitely pays for itself with the time you save.

You can then focus on leveraging your skills on customizations vs. "re-inventing the wheel".

Being a developer gives you an edge because you'll be able to tweak and edit your site and its setup to your heart’s content without paying someone to do it for you.

If you want an approach that is kind of in the middle, you can use WordPress, which powers almost 40% of the world's websites. It has free plugins such as Woocommerce which can also make setting up a store an absolute breeze.

There is an important learning here. There is no point spending weeks on setting up something custom when a tool can allow you to get the same result in days.

It's important not to be inefficient because you think this is not "The Developer Way." If a tool exists for your use-case, don't let a toxic pride culture get in the way.

Be efficient, use the tool, and reap the benefits.

Don’t want to create and manage your own store?

An even easier approach to ecommerce than creating your own store is to make money by helping maintain / update / build one for someone else that doesn’t have the skills you do. Things that will be simple for you (even minor updates to Shopify and Wordpress) will still feel hard and complex for 95% of people.

Make money by coming to their rescue.

3. Get Work on Freelancing Platforms

Getting clients through your own website is the best way to get freelance work.

But if you don’t have a website or have little experience with marketing or driving traffic, this may not be possible when you’re just starting out.

Step 1: Get a website built for yourself

If this is the case for you, no problem. Get your website running and start building your personal brand. Don’t know how? Learn to build your own professional portfolio website here.

Step 2: List yourself on freelancing platforms

You won't have any traffic to your website yet so start getting your first projects and building your reputation by listing yourself on platforms like Upwork and Fivver.

Sure, they may have a bad reputation among some but there is method to the madness of being paid $5 for a job that is valued at way more. It provides you with the opportunity to prove yourself and build your reputations so that you can get more valuable follow-up projects.

I was able to turn one of my early $5 clients into a recurring client who I still have today.

I'm not saying that you should do work for $5 forever because once you've proven yourself, you'll be able to start charging more. There is also a way to set yourself apart from others on these platforms.

The way to do this? It's simple. Do your research.

Check out your competition on these platforms, scrutinize their profiles, see what you can improve upon - maybe it's the lacklustre profile description or their shaddy looking profile picture.

Review the profiles that have the best ratings and make the most money as well. What is common amongst those profiles?

Use all this information to craft a profile for yourself that shouts "You can trust me to do the job professionally and on time."

Use this guide to learn how to create a rockstar Upwork profile that will make sure you stand out.

Step 3: Overdeliver

When you get that first job, you absolutely need to overdeliver on the client's expectations.

You need to communicate quickly and clearly and go above and beyond to show the client what would possible by hiring your for additional, higher value projects.

Take advantage of the opportunity to build a relationship with this client. If you do, you will earn more work from them.

If you've overdelivered, you will also be able to get them to give you a positive review and use this review to improve your personal website.

Rinse and repeat and soon you'll also be getting clients from your own website as well and you'll be on your way to financial freedom.

Take this career path if you want a step-by-step guide to becoming a freelance developer from scratch.

4. Create an Ebook or Course

Creating something like an ebook or a course that other people will actually buy takes a lot of work but it is definitely possible. Everyone already doing it has had to start from zero at some point as well, which means you can too.

Of all the side income ideas so far, this is one is likely going to take the most amount of time. The main reason for this is that you can't just create a high quality piece of content (that's step 1). You also need to find people to buy it.

Picture this, you spend weeks or months writing an ebook and then launch it on Amazon... well, who buys it?

How do you get people to buy your ebook or course?

The best long-term way is to build an audience. Ideally, you want to own that audience (like an email subscriber list) but to start you'll need to establish yourself on another platform, like Twitter or Facebook or Youtube.

Focus on 1-2 channels max and post consistently.

You need to establish credibility among your targeted audience such that they trust you and know that you create high quality content to the point that they would be willing to spend money on a paid product (ebook, course, service) that you release.

Building an amazing ebook or course without any existing audience and just hoping it will be a success is a recipe for disaster.

At least with a course, you can speed things up by listing your course on a platform like Udemy that already has a large audience.

However, this "speed boost" comes at a large cost as Udemy (and other platforms) will take a large % of the income earned because they know they are providing you with a massive benefit (their audience).

Developing your own following/audience will still be a massive increase to your success even if you do choose to list your course on a platform like Udemy.

You've probably started noticing a theme here as well. Building an audience is helpful no matter which side-income projects you choose.

Want a real world example? Let's take a look at Andrei's journey:

  1. Back in 2018, he wrote his very first blog post, Learn to code, get hired, and have fun along the way on Medium and started to build a following. This post was successful because it provided huge value (and still does) by helping thousands of people learn to code and get hired for absolutely $0
  2. Then he wrote more helpful posts which allowed him to further build his following on Medium and Twitter
  3. He then created his first course, Complete Web Developer and put it on Udemy which further built his audience
  4. I'll skip a few steps but this eventually allowed him to leave his full-time job as a Senior Developer and from there, Zero To Mastery was born!

This makes it sound easy. It definitely isn't. Just like Andrei, you'll have to put in a ton of work and dedication. But if you do, it can be extremely rewarding. And just like Andrei, it can all start with just one blog post.

Here's some some great advice from Ryan Gum:

5. Create niche websites to Rent or Sell

This one is a bit less known than some others in this post. It's also quite a bit harder.

As a developer, you can build websites using just HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

You can use these skills to build a website in a particular niche such as "Atlanta Hairdresser". I am oversimplifying the steps but here is what you'll need to do at a high-level:

  1. Purchase a domain in your selected niche
  2. Build a simple website for this niche
  3. Start creating relevant posts and content to get traffic to your site and to rank on Google

Once the site is ranking on Google to the point where it's getting some organic decent traffic, you can then start approaching businesses in this particular niche you have chosen (in our example, hair salons and barbershops in Atlanta) and offer to rent or sell the website to them.

A business which rents or buys the site from you will now be able to advertise their services to this highly targeted, relevant audience you've built.

There are also marketplaces, like Investors Club, for buying and selling websites. Check out these marketplaces to get ideas for the types of websites that are for sale and how much they are being sold for to give you an idea of how much you could make.

6. Copywriting

If you're not a natural writer and need to sharpen your copywriting skills, your first step should be reading this guide on how to write well. From there, you can also take a copywriting course like this one.

Then you'll be ready to turn your copywriting skill into income.

Make money writing website copy

As a web developer, something that often goes overlooked is the actual copy that goes onto these websites.

At some point, you will realize (if you haven't already) that the copy on websites is crucial to a successful website. Good copy is the way you convince visitors to buy what's being offered on the website, no matter how technically "good" your website is.

Since copywriting is something that is commonly outsourced to an "expert copywriter" or marketer, you'll suddenly be seen as the complete package for some clients. Rather than needing to find a developer and marketer, you'll be able to deliver the full package!

So make sure to add your new "Copywriting" skill to the "Services Offered" section on your Upwork/Fiverr profile.

Make money writing guest blog posts

Making money from writing website copy is not the only way in which you can make money from copywriting.

Many blogs offer guest post opportunities for high-quality content. A few excellent examples are CSS Tricks and Smashing Magazine. Some blogs will offer you cash for guest posts or you can offer to write them for free as a way to drive traffic to your own site and build your own brand.

In fact, this post is a guest post. I’m providing value to ZTM readers and the value I get in return is getting to introduce myself to a brand new audience that might not already know about me and my work.

As a web developer, you have a specific knowledge set that you can use to create highly-relevant, sought-after blog posts and other content that companies will pay you for.

Want to write for ZTM? Pitch your post idea here.

Bonus: use this strategy for other skills

This same strategy can be applied to other complementary skills like design. Being able to create things like mockups, wireframes and high fidelity designs will not only make your own projects and websites better but this also increases your chances of getting more freelancing clients.

Key Takeaway: Having a unique, diverse combination of skills will set you apart so that you can create higher quality work, get more clients and charge more money.

7. SEO Consulting

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) know-how is another skill that you should add to your arsenal as a web developer, especially if you're considering going freelance full time.

It's the practice of improving a website's ranking on search engines like Google and Yahoo.

This is absolute gold for businesses and they pay a lot for people to improve the ranking of their sites. Higher rankings means more organic search traffic which as you know by now, means more sales.

Some of the work and skill of an SEO is non-technical. This includes things like researching keywords, analyzing website traffic and trends, competitor analysis and building backlinks. This SEO Fundamentals course for developers is a good place to start to learn these fundamentals.

There is also a technical side to SEO which is where your skills as a developer will definitely help you. You already know know how to fix broken links, increase the speed of slow sites and write semantic HTML, all of which are ways to boost the SEO of a website.

Here's an SEO Cheat Sheet for Web Developer's that you can use for your projects.

The de facto source of practical SEO strategies is Brain Dean's Backlinko. Do yourself a favour and subscribe to his emails.

By learning SEO, you will have yet another service to offer when a client comes your way which means you add more value to them and allows you to charge a higher price.

If you want to specifically use your SEO skills to earn a side-income, then you can advertise your services on the various freelancing platforms that you're a part of.

You can also leverage the learnings you have from your client work to improve the SEO on your own site to get your even more clients!

Conclusion

As a web developer, you do not need to be confined by one career path - there are many options out there for you to make money, whether full-time or on the side.

Don’t get me wrong, it will take some work and initiative but there is so much room for growth and opportunity to build a diverse income stream. Many others have done it and are still doing it with great success, you can too.

As cliché as that may sound, it's just the reality of having the perfect skill set for today's digital landscape.

Going freelance full-time might even be a better option for you although this can be tough to achieve in the long-run without a clear plan.

If you would like help in becoming your own boss and nailing the freelancing journey, consider joining 4,000 other developers who invested in the Complete Freelancing Bundle on Study Web Development (use code ZEROTOMASTERY for 25% off) where we help web developers launch and grow their freelancing business.

More from Zero To Mastery

undefined preview
Popular
Learn to code (for free) in 2021, get hired, and have fun along the way

I've taught 500,000 of students how to code over the past 3 years. Many of them used this exact step by step guide to learn to code and get hired as a web developer from scratch, for free, in under 6 months.

undefined preview
Popular
Mistakes I Made When Learning To Code

This article will help you save time and avoid the mistakes that a lot of beginners make. If I could go back in time, this is how I would have saved myself from countless hours, days, and months working on the wrong things.

undefined preview
Popular
ZTM Career Paths: Your Roadmap to a Successful Career in Tech

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced professional, figuring out the right next step in your career or changing careers altogether can be overwhelming. We created ZTM Career Paths to give you a clear step-by-step roadmap to a successful career.