As the world becomes increasingly more digitized, there are more opportunities than ever out there for software engineers to earn income on the side. Whether your goal is to leave your 9-5 entirely and live off your passive income streams while you kick back at the beach, or you just want to earn some extra money pursuing a new interest, put your knowledge and expertise to work in one of these side hustles. The best part about side income endeavors is that you are your own boss, you decide when to work, and you can explore work you are passionate about.
1. Share Your Insights on Respondent
Respondent is a research participant recruitment marketplace that pairs high-quality research participants (like you!) with market researchers. Software engineers can earn as much as $200 per hour by sharing their opinions and specialized insights with top-notch companies that are working to create real products that aim to help real people.
Respondent makes the whole process of setting up your profile and finding quality projects easy. After you create and verify your profile, you’ll be notified about opportunities that match your interests/experience. You then apply for projects that you’re interested in, and once selected, you can choose a time for an interview that fits your schedule. Then you get paid!
A few recent user testimonials highlight the benefits of Respondent:
"The best way to earn extra income online! Respondent is a reliable platform that has so many opportunities to participate in paid studies."
"I love to contribute to products and new things which will have impact on millions of people either directly or indirectly. I feel like I have contributed something for the research and my thoughts and ideas are taken into consideration for shaping products.”
Sign up to become a participant on Respondent here.
2. Develop Educational Resources
You’ve spent years developing your craft and honing your skills, and there are budding software engineers all over the world that are eager to learn from you. Why not put together educational resources that can help others develop their expertise, and make you some money at the same time.
There are many different ways to earn money by creating educational resources. For example, you could self-publish an ebook on Amazon KDP or you could create a blog about your specific area of expertise and monetize it through advertising or affiliate marketing. You could also create a video course and host it on YouTube or on one of many e-learning platforms like Coursera.
Though the investment of time you spend up front developing materials can be substantial, once you create your ebook, blog, or course, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years down the road. If you don't want to invest the time to create educational resources, you can also partner with someone who has and just become an affiliate.
3. Teach Others How to Do What You Do
Software engineering is certainly a hot market right now, and there are many young students and older people looking to make a career change that need good teachers. You can advertise your private tutoring services at a local university or on sites like Thumbtack or Wyzant. There are also plenty of educational institutions looking for part-time adjunct instructors.
Pay will of course depend a great deal on your students. Some adjunct faculty positions pay up to $150 per hour to work with advanced students. Working with K-12 students might not pay as much, but the impact you could have on a young learner is vast.
Whatever option you choose, take some time to learn about this market and identify what it is people really want to learn how to do right now. Generally speaking, it’s best to get really specific about what to teach, rather than trying to be a generalist.
4. Find Freelancing Gigs
The world had already been shifting toward remote work environments, and then COVID hit. Now there are more companies than ever looking to hire remote software engineer contractors rather than hire full-time in-house employees.
According to FullStack Labs, newbies in the field can expect to make $50-$75 per hour on freelance projects and pros with years of experience can make $100-$300 per hour.
There are many ways to find these software engineering gigs. Start by asking your network for opportunities that may be a good fit for you. If that doesn’t pan out, take a look at job sites or freelancing sites like Upwork. Though it can take some time to build a profile and get enough positive reviews, freelancing sites can be a good place to find lucrative side income opportunities.
Just like with teaching and creating educational content, you can generally charge more for freelancing gigs if you specialize in a specific area of your field. A look through some job postings can give you a good idea about what companies most need right now and where it would be beneficial to develop your expertise further.
5. Build and Sell Applications
Although it can take a lot of work and maybe a little bit of luck to hone in on a great app idea, building and selling an app can be one of the most profitable ways to develop a passive income stream as a software engineer.
Software engineers use many strategies to monetize apps on Google Play or Apple’s App Store such as ads, charging per download, in-app purchases, or the “freemium model,” where the basic version of the app is available for free, but users have to pay for advanced versions.
Reddit user Nerrolken advised software engineers going this route to keep apps simple rather than trying to think of the “next viral app.” He created a $2,000 a month passive income stream by creating ~25 simple apps (i.e. a simple stock revenue calculator and random character generator for writers) and selling them for $1 a piece.
As hot as the DeFi and blockchain space is right now, we’d be remiss not to mention dApps (decentralized apps) as a very hot opportunity for software engineers. A dApp runs backend code on a peer-to-peer network. Web 3.0 seems to be the future, and the time is now to get in on the space. By creating a dApp, you won’t be dependent on centralized platforms like Google or Apple to host your app, you don’t have to give them a cut of your profits, and you aren’t at risk of censorship.
No matter what type of app you want to create or where you plan to host it, look for inspiration by thinking about apps that would help you with your hobbies and work needs. And you never know, with some practice and luck, you might just stumble on a viral app and turn that into your full-time job like Nerrolken did.
The Bottom Line
Developing one or multiple side income streams can be a great way for new software engineers to get some experience under their belts and build their portfolios. Or it can be a very lucrative way for seasoned software engineers to dramatically increase their income on their own terms. Whichever camp you fall into and whatever your motivation is, developing a side income stream can be a very fulfilling way to pursue new interests, be your own boss, make more money, and make your mark on the world.