Turning Your Programming Skills into Money without Black Magic

The MagicianHow does one turn programming skills into money? Is it magic? Good looks? Maybe a sleek MacBook Pro?

There are several ways you can turn your programming skills into a profitable venture. I’ll tell you about three. If you’re thinking about learning how to program, but don’t know if you’ll be able to make decent money with your desired skills (because of any tech slump or the economy in general), read on.

Get a Job!

The most obvious thing you can do to earn money as a programmer is to get a job. I’ll just lay this out for you as simply as I can.

There are people and businesses out there in the world that will pay you money in exchange for your software development magic. Some of these jobs will pay well. Some will not. Some will be a circus, while others are laid-back coding dreamlands.

This is the best and simplest way to earn regular income from programming. Hit the job boards, write a great resume, create a portfolio of your coding samples online, and start landing interviews.

Some people really want this kind of life. Others don’t care for “having a job,” or being tied down in the corporate workforce. Only you can judge if it’ll work out for you, but you should at least try it.

Start a Service Business

Once, I got laid off from a programming job, so I started doing web development contract work as a freelancer. I was performing a service for several clients – both small companies and individuals – and got paid for it.

I started off small, doing little web fixes that earned me a whopping $50-100. I also landed a steady contract gig that took a lot of time but gave me regular money. It also gave me some good experience and solid examples to show other potential clients.

If you want to start a service business as a programmer, you’re likely going to be doing some kind of coding for hire. Your client will have a project, so you’ll write some software to meet their business needs. Once you hand it over, it’s theirs.

The way to turn this into a reliable source of income, as far as my experience has shown me, is to keep the support going over time. Here’s what I mean.

You write a piece of software for a customer, and create your work to their specifications. But as you go, you think of ways to make it even better, or some other type of functionality that would compliment the current system. If you finish the job, then suggest more work, they might go for it. Then you’ve got another job and more money. Repeat often.

The thing to remember here is that you want them to give you money regularly. Don’t stretch projects out to squeeze more fees from your customer. Instead, give them new and exciting reasons to pay your more money. Frequently.

Create Your Own Product

If you want to program, but you don’t want to work for someone else – either as an employee or a service provider – you have another option.

Create your own software product and sell it. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s pretty easy to put a product online and accept payment in exchange for a copy of the product. Since you can write software (or will be able to), you’ve got a bunch of potential products running around that little head of yours.

The hard part is writing the software. Of course, then you’ve got to sell it. But I’m not going to talk about the particulars… I just want you to know that it’s an option.

Look at how much software there is out in the world. Think about all the platforms that support developers – Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Linux – and you’ll soon realize that you have a very large potential customer base.

Can you create a product, market it to an audience, and collect enough money to roll around and throw wads of cash at McDonald’s burger flippers for fun?

Do All Three

One thing that I’ve seen a lot of developers do is a mix of two of the above, or all three. I’ve even done it myself in the past. It leads to a stressful life at times, sure, but the extra money always helps.

If you have a job, but aren’t making enough money to pay your debt or fund your lifestyle, you’ll need to generate more income. If you’ve got some time on your hands, you’ll be able to supplement your shrinking bank balance with a little action on the side.

Whichever you choose is up to you, but pick a path and either create a product or market a service. Have a great idea for a Google Play Store app? Create it. Are you really good at putting up WordPress blog sites with custom themes? Start a service business and offer yourself to small businesses.

If, after doing this, you’re still low on money and have plenty of time, add the third item to your weekly todo list. Have a job. Provide a service by creating a compelling web presence for a local beef jerky production company. Then, if you still want more, write a game for iOS and sell it to people foolish enough to give you their money.

In Conclusion…

I know I haven’t given you any concrete details about how to start a service business or how to write a successful Android app. That wasn’t my intention. I want to open your eyes to three distinct possibilities.

Sure, lots of people know that app developers can make some serious bank. How much time and mental energy have you given to that prospect? Is it just a pipe dream that would be totally badass, or have you given it some serious thought? Do you have the perseverance to make it work?

If you can program, or plan on picking up the trade in the coming months and years, you’ve got options. You don’t have to work for a non-profit, trading your coding hours for fair-trade coffee with soy milk. You don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day long like a damn dairy cow. And you don’t have to be stuck in the iOS app garden just because everyone and their grandma and their uncle’s cat has an iPhone.

You’ve got options. You’ve got three distinct (yet complimentary) options for turning your love of algorithm encoding into cash. If you’re thinking about getting into software development, do it. You’ll only be locked down into something unpleasant if you wish it.

Some people like cubicles. Some people love iOS. Others want to code from a coffee shop while helping a non-profit create change in the world.

If coding is your skill, you’ve got some serious options.