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Cover image for πŸ’° Get paid while contributing to Open Source
Leonardo Montini for This is Learning

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at leonardomontini.dev

πŸ’° Get paid while contributing to Open Source

What if I tell you that you get paid in real money - with Open Source?

Wait, that's not a scam or a get-rich-quick article. Let me explain.

We all love to contribute, first of all, because we believe in Open Source.

But. Once you get in the loop, this activity can become significantly time-consuming and you might consider finding a way to get paid. And that’s totally understandable.

Having a way to receive money, also gives the possibility to contribute for talented people that wouldn’t be able to spend their time for free.

Click here for the YouTube video!
Ok, the YouTube Thumbnail is weird, doesn't make you want to click and watch the video? πŸ˜…


Hi, I’m Leonardo, I share content about Open Source (and some Web Development). Today I’ve got for you some advices on how to obtain a stream of income by having fun and contributing to your favourite projects.

The most common way you might already know, is by getting a sponsor or with crowdfunding, but since these are already quite known, I’ll describe first all the other ones and I’ll get back to it later.

From a regular employer

Now, you’ll be suprised, but you can already get paid for Open Source in your current job.

Contribute during your work day

If you use an Open Source software at work, ask your employer to let you contribute to it during your regular work day. The time spent on a project the company is already using, will benefit the company itself and you’re basically getting paid while improving a project really care about! Not the boring client requests.

If you need an extra leverage for your pitch to your boss, you can put on the table the fact that this is also a good advertising for the company in attracting new employees. Other contributors might notice that your company values Open Source and your HR or technical recruiters can easily assess the new candidates’ skills as they’re already working on a known project and all PRs and code are public.

That’s already a huge win-win condition and this runs in your favor!

Open your project

A slightly different way on the same trend of getting paid by your current employer is by asking to put open source your currently private work.

People all over the world will be able to contribute to the project, bringing a huge benefit to the company and letting you work on Open Source projects while still getting paid.

Success stories

If you need examples, there are already some successful companies giving some paid time to their employees, to work on Open Source. Some examples are Netflix, PayPal or Zalando.

If you want to know more, here you can find three links where they describe how it works.

Enterprise relations

If you’re the owner of the project and the average user is other companies, this opens up to some interesting opportunities.

You can think of offering hosting, premium versions or paid customer support. If you want an example, the popular project Redis is already doing them all!

A more code-oriented solution can be using the Open-Core model. The core version of your software is Open Source, but you can monetize on add-ons or custom upgrades.

Sponsors and fundings

It’s now time to expand on what I mentioned in the beginning, getting a sponsor.

GitHub Sponsors

GitHub runs a project called GitHub Sponsors, and as you might guess from the name, it’s GitHub helping you in finding someone to pay you for your hard work.

Technically. it’s not available worldwide, but according to their website it’s in 68 different regions and the list is quite long. If you’re in an unsupported country or region, they ask you to join the waitlist to get updates on when your location will be available.

A really good reason to get involved is that there are zero fees. If someone donates 10 dollars, you receive 10 dollars. If someone donates 25 euros, you get 25 euros. How convenient!

One more good reason is that it’s all internal to GitHub, no need to use external platforms like Patreon or Kickstarter, that might also take a fee on your donations.

As a side note, in most countries, you still have to pay taxes on donations, so please do your own research based on the country you live in!

Open Collective

A similar option to GitHub Sponsors is Open Collective that also claims to have zero fees under some conditions and is quite popular. Unfortunately I haven’t studied it in details so I will not spend to many words to avoid telling you something wrong.

Actually, if you know more about Open Collective, please drop a comment!

Indirect sources

If everything I said until this point is not enough, there’s also a bonus way to make money, that is by getting noticed by someone for your quality contributions. Your name might end up in the HR’s desks of some companies and it can be the start of a new career. I talked about that in detail in another article on why you should go Open Source, if you’re interested in learning more, you can find it here (Video version).

Not for everyone

Ok, so, I’ve shared with you some interesting ways how to get paid but let’s think about it twice.

Having someone give you money for working on an Open Source project is indeed great, but comes with a cost. If you started Open Source for passion, learning or just out of curiosity, you had no pressure but only fun. Now, if you’re paid, you’ve got responsibilities. For someone, it can be ok, but again, think about it and try to not go into burnout, it’s not a good idea.

One last thing...

There’s still a problem though, getting paid is cool but you also need a project to get started, right? Then you better check out this other article (or video) where I tell you some smart ways how to find the best project for you. Finding a project can be hard, at least, it was for me and I know also for some other friends… that’s why I shared some suggestions based on my own experience.


Thanks for reading this post, I hope you find it interesting!
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Top comments (1)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

How likely it is that that via Google sponsors etc you get enough money to pay (a significant part of) the rent?

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