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Side Hustle Ideas for Web Developers

Side Hustle Ideas for Web Developers
By Mastering JS Weekly • Issue #61 • View online
We firmly believe that every US-based web developer should have a side hustle. Outside the US, you still should have a side hustle unless there’s some legal reason or contractual obligation.
Remember: a good side hustle is about much more than just making some extra money. It’s about pushing your comfort zone, growing your reputation, and finding your niche.
An ideal side hustle should be:
  1. Help practice skills you use at your day job. For example, driving for Uber is a bad side hustle for a web developer. Every hour you’re driving Uber passengers is an hour you’re not improving as a web developer.
  2. Be low stress and low risk. A side hustle should feel more like a creative outlet than a chore.
  3. Make a modest amount of money. A side hustle that doesn’t make any money is a hobby. But a side hustle that makes too much money can end up requiring too much time or being too stressful. A good goal to shoot for is to cover your monthly housing expense (rent, mortgage, etc.).
  4. Require minimal upfront capital. Day trading stocks/crypto is not a side hustle. Ditto for real estate or flipping houses. A big upfront investment means more stress (#2) and the distinct possibility that you’ll lose rather than gain (#3).
Here’s a few common side hustles that are a good fit for web developers.

1. Tech Blogging
Conveniently enough, we also recommend that every web developer start a blog. The benefits of tech blogging are too good to ignore: you’re simultaneously building your reputation, reinforcing your own understanding, and improving your written communication skills.
If you know how to write HTML, you know how to build a blog. Plus, using Netlify’s free tier, you can host your blog for free, as long as you’re OK with a `.netlify.app` domain name.
The downside is that most blogs make very little money. Optimistically, you may be able to hit goal #3 after a year of dedicated work. But the odds are low if you aren’t a full-time blogger.
One easy way to prop up blog revenue is to be a contract writer for tech companies. Many companies offer per-blog-post contracts, like LogRocket. Often, you’re able to cross-post paid blog posts on your own blog as long as you link to the original. Here’s an example.
2. Contract Work
These days, every company needs a website, blog, eCommerce, SEO strategy, and a bunch of other tech work. Small companies often don’t have the time to set all this up themselves and don’t have the need or funds to hire someone full time.
If you have experience running your own blog, you’re experienced enough to manage a static website for a couple of small businesses. Once again, you’re just providing some basic services on top of Netlify.
One key mistake to avoid: as a contractor, you don’t want to be on call supporting an ambitious web application. If you’re the only contributor, then you need to keep it simple (static site, JAMStack, off-the-shelf eCommerce) so you’re not responding to outages and issues on a regular basis. If you’re not the only contributor, make it clear that you’re just a contributor, and someone else is responsible for outages.
3. Open Source Libraries
Open source libraries are an excellent side hustle. If you find yourself running into the same problem over and over again, write an open source library to solve it. Write about your open source library on your tech blog, and you might find people start using it.
Or, if you don’t want to write your own open source library, you can always start contributing to an existing project that you use. There are a number of developers that make over 1000 USD per month contributing to Webpack, and a few on Vue.
Open source libraries generally have a longer ramp-up period than contract work, and even longer than blogging. It can take years before your project sees significant adoption. But the upside is potentially massive. Webpack has raise over 1M USD on OpenCollective, and that doesn’t even include revenue from ads or their store. In Ruby, Sidekiq makes over 1M USD per year.
The tradeoff is that successful projects get a lot of support requests. There have been over 40k issues reported on the TypeScript repo. Given that the TypeScript repo was created less than 7 years ago, that’s an average of 20 new issues per day. Open source maintainers often burn themselves out by doing free support work.
Despite the downsides, open source libraries are likely the best side hustle. The upside is huge, and working on open source projects has a symbiotic relationship with tech blogging and with contract work.
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