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5 ways to make passive income as a developer

Creative and practical ideas to generate passive income using programming skills
5 ways to make passive income as a developer
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Having good programming skills offers many opportunities for self-fulfillment, development as well as financial growth. There are many ways to make money out of coding, and developers are always searching for sources of additional income: both passive and active. In this article we will be considering a couple of good ways to make money by applying programming skills passively, including both simple and not-so-simple methods.

It’s probably not necessary but let’s define it just in case: what is passive income?

Passive income is the income that doesn't require you to do a lot of regular proactive work in order to keep earning it. For example, by owning an apartment in which you don’t live, you can make passive income from renting it out to someone else. And programmers might have more opportunities than others to generate passive income from their skills. Let’s take a look at some of those.

1. Monetize your SaaS product

Creating SaaS is one of the best business models for arranging passive income out there, especially if you work remotely. Basically, for this option, you create software and sell it for a monthly subscription. Why would a developer take up a project like this? The good part is that we’re practically surrounded by SaaS: Adobe, Zoom, Slack and there’s always demand for more. The best part is that you don’t need to create complex software, it’s enough for it to be useful and in high demand. And this last part might be cruel, but it also kind of makes sense - what’s the point of even the greatest software on this planet, if nobody’s using it?

So the catch here is nothing to do with the level of your programming skills: even if you are not at an advanced level, making the product will be the easiest part of the process. Where the trouble actually begins is in maintaining the infrastructure for your product and the endless task of promotion to attract new customers. You’d be surprised how much time and effort it takes to keep those two tasks going. They tend to blow up exponentially compared to the resources spent on actually making the software.There are some workarounds for these obstacles though. For instance, the Apify startup recently rolled out an opportunity for freelance developers to build a SaaS product on their platform and rent it out for users for a monthly rental fee. The SaaS product is limited to one kind though - web scrapers for websites, but the rental fee that devs can charge ranges from a few dollars to hundreds per month. The deal is: Apify takes care of the maintenance, promotion and a 20% cut since the scrapers are built on their platform, and the devs can focus on what they do best (programming) and get regular passive income from their projects. With an available library to guide them through every step of the process, a helpful, well-built community and a list of potential ideas on the website, this shouldn’t be too difficult for a passive income project. 10/10, would code again.

2. Build a trading bot

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With the recent ups and downs in the popularity of cryptocurrency trading, no wonder more and more devs are showing interest in this field. From their side, this is especially relevant for creating automated bots, which seem to do the dirty work for you: sell and buy cryptocurrencies without much manual intervention. The keyword here is “much” which we will talk about a bit further.

This very concept of automatically buying and selling cryptocurrencies is a lucrative thought for those who want to make easy money because it assumes the bot will detect and make the best deals without extra effort from your side. In other words, it is very attractive to those who want to start making passive income. So if you’ve ever had an idea to outsource the generation of passive income to trading bots, you are definitely not alone.

However, it’s important to be realistic when speaking of the capacities and bandwidth of autotrading. Of course, there are plenty of caveats. For instance, although technically it’s called a bot, it cannot work independently from its creator. Yes, bots can automate transactions and do not require manual approval before buying or selling cryptocurrencies. But that’s where their power usually ends. Classic bots can’t go further than alternating buy/sell, and most of them cannot predict emerging trends on the market well enough. They also quite often don’t know when to stop and are limited in the amount of currencies they can work with. And last but not least, building a bot is one thing, but having access to a trading platform and launching it there is another.

So summing up, using robots does allow you to use algorithms for non-stop transactions, making it easier to trade selected cryptocurrencies. But you still need to monitor the process and interact with the system. Besides, you wouldn’t want to give control over your financial commitments to a program, a bot here is rather an assistant or alert tool to the decisions you see as fit to make. You can take a look at free available trading bots before you decide to build one of your own.

3. Build a chatbot

As a web developer working from home, you can build and sell chatbots and give businesses a helping hand with their goals to increase productivity and achieve quality customer service. Companies are constantly looking for people with relevant skills who can make a bot that will efficiently deal with their most demanding and time-consuming customer support tasks. Those include making first contact with a website visitor, answering FAQs and taking some of that pressure off of the customer service agents. That’s on the surface level; if you dig deeper, there are many emerging AI and Bots as a Service (BAAS) opportunities.

As a web developer, you can create chatbots and generate passive income by selling them as a service, using them for advertising, lead generation, customer support and more. There are many places where you can try your hand at building a chatbot. Armed with the right ideas and targeting the right industry, you can earn a decent passive income by building and selling bots.

4. Have a go at blogging

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This way seems much simpler than the other because it doesn’t require technical knowledge. But it can include technical experience if that’s what you will choose to share with your audience. If you are looking for a fixed passive income or active income, there are many blogs available where you can make money by writing articles. Your subject can be something completely unique, a development project that the world just has to know about or not unique at all - people like relatable blogs about the daily grind of remote work as well, and that’s the beauty of it. At the beginning, it might be difficult to get traffic though. You can increase your chances of getting more income by inserting affiliate marketing links into your articles and promoting yourself on other blogs.

You can start your own personal blog or join a blogging platform such as Medium. For passive income, Medium is considered to be one of the best options. You write once and get paid according to visitor reading time. It might be difficult to get off the ground at first, but the advantage here is that there is no limit and your writing subjects are completely up to you. If your blog gets popular enough, an average article can fetch anywhere from $200 to $1000.

5. Giving a second life to a niche website

Sort of an extension of the previous point, but it is still worth mentioning here. One awesome way to make passive income online as a web developer is by creating, developing and upselling niche sites. Not everything has to be about coding and there is a huge market for blogs with niche topics. It’s a rather easy side gig to buy, improve and resell them. If you have skills in blogging, content creation, and SEO, you have great chances for making a niche website a source for your passive income. Pick anything from ecological living to fixing vintage cars, buy that niche website for an affordable price, edit it, add content regularly, create a community, and once it gets traction, sell it for a better price. You can also increase the monthly income it generates and enjoy passive income until you decide to sell. Just be careful, sometimes such a gig stops being just a way to gain passive income and becomes something more - a passion project one does not want to leave behind.

This list of ideas for making passive income is far from exhaustive. Surely, there’re many opportunities still out there in the market that will provide developers with extra coin for extra time. The key is to keep trying and making smart decisions.

Update(Jan 2022): We have also published a more comprehensive developer career guide