View Full Version : How do Linux programmers make money?

December 11th, 2006, 07:33 AM
Ok, I'm a freelance programmer and I need to make a living from my work. How can I do this while being Linux friendly?

December 11th, 2006, 07:56 AM
Of course.

Actually, you won't make money from the coding itself like for closed-source programms, but many companies make money by providing support for the said application (like redhat or Suse for example).

You can make money by selling a packaged application (install CD, written manual, etc... that's a service the GPL allows you to charge for), selling customer support, selling consulting fees...

Some people are being paid by a regular commercial company to code for linux, too. They contribute to everyone, but the company paying the programmer has someone handy that knows exactly how the software works (like an expert).

Hope you get my point.

- trib'

December 11th, 2006, 08:23 AM
Hmmm.... That would be great if I was working for a corporation who was willing to pay me for my hard programming work but I'm not hehe. Selling support isn't always viable either, especially when your software is easy to use and install and there are a million howtos available. Surely only hobbyists could do this kind of programming work for free?

Shay Stephens
December 11th, 2006, 09:35 AM
Surely only hobbyists could do this kind of programming work for free?
Not just hobbiests, but those motivated to do it regardless of their status. Usually it's something that you believe in, something you need, or something you want someone to have.

But there is nothing saying you can't charge for your program. Crossover Office charges for their work. They do good stuff, and I have sent them money. So in a way, I have helped support wine development, and I am not a programmer ;-)

My interest in free software is for the freedom, not just the beer ;-)

December 11th, 2006, 10:16 AM
CrossOver is proprietary.

Shay Stephens
December 11th, 2006, 10:39 AM
CrossOver is proprietary.

Ok, but that doesn't change the idea that you can charge for your work. I buy mp3's that don't have drm (mp3tunes.com), I donate to manybooks.net for the free ebooks I download. If someone made an awesome free(dom) program and charged for it, I would pay for it.

December 11th, 2006, 11:09 AM
While it may be frowned upon by some, you could also make a proprietary program but have a linux version. Many would use photoshop or other proprietary programs, if they only had a linux port.

December 11th, 2006, 11:17 AM

As a programmer you have lots and lots of options to get money while working on linux appl.

For example:

- Support (pay-per-call, on-site, etc)
- Donations
- Costum made modifications for explicit users

I dont know if there is any book about buisness models in free coding but you should have a look.

Also you choose your buissenss model by the way your applications is used - will it be for the enterprise use mostly or is it for the "everyone" user? Is it new or are there a lot of "forks", etc.

What you get while openly coding is the support of the community (eventually), faster growing rate, more stability, etc.

But know this: without a good buisness model and good marketing also the best properitaryan software can not succeed.



December 11th, 2006, 11:34 AM
Well I like the idea of charging for support and accepting donations, but I dont think either of those things could be used in a proper business plan. A good program should be easy to use and well documented in such a way that the user doesn't need much support. Obviously some things like operating systems are more trivial and more likely to break than others and do require a high level of support but the average simple application should be intuitive. Donations are good if people are willing to pay but I'm not sure how many Linux users would be willing to make donations when they seem to enjoy free stuff so much (no offence intended).

One idea which I do like is having people pay for customised versions of the program. The problem with this is that if your program is open source then people would just make the customised versions themselves rather than pay someone to do it.

I think the best way to make money off a program might be to charge for usage... If it's a program that works online then there could be a way of charging people to access the server material.

I'm not against open source, I think it's great that people who can afford to release their software are doing it but I also recognise that there are people out there who need to make a living from their programming. I'm one of those people and that's why I'm looking for a decent business model so I can release software and still make a decent living off it. With proprietary it was easier for me because I could just charge straight out for the product I had made. However I would like to go open source if it could be profitable.

December 11th, 2006, 12:39 PM
What is the product you are making? If it's some sort of game, you could have an Open Source engine and charge for the game-data (graphics, sounds, maps, the like).

I dunno elsewise, provide binaries for a cost, the source for free. And say only binaries will be supported, the source is your headache or something of that sort.

Insert advertisements inside the program (I hate this idea, but just saying)

December 11th, 2006, 01:12 PM
What you fear is that your work will be unrewarded and you'll not make money from it.

If your program is needed, and your time well spent you can consider writing open source code to be an investment of time into systems which you later be the most perfect expert in.

Just because someone can bake their own bread doesn't mean they do, no people are lazy and want someone else to do their work for them. this is why programmers can make a living off companies that don't have an internal programming department but want a small or large change in your software.

Charging for changes rather than the product it's self is not such a daft idea, it's not just you who can make money either, if the work becomes too much you can very easily delegate some paid work to others in the community which builds up around these things.

All code it freely available too, this means you can share in a greater wealth of available code and libraries, as has already been pointed out some libraries are licenced as GPL not LGPL and if your going to code a proprietory product you have to make sure you don't use any of these libs because you'd be committing copyright infringement if you did.

We've had several people on the wine lists who have asked for new features or particular bug fixes and offer to pay for it.

The last point I want to make is a social one: there is enough to go around; no one is out to get you; no one wants to see you starve or suffer so don't worry too much about giving others freedoms that you consider at the moment to be self defeating because they're not out to make a quick bob out of your hard work.

Erik Trybom
December 11th, 2006, 03:08 PM
I think open source is often an excellent way of making programs, and I also believe it leads to higher quality programs (in general). However, I don't think the GPL is an appropriate license for every kind of program.

Let us say you write a computer game. If you license it under the GPL, then you cannot prevent others from downloading it for free. You can hardly charge for support, because no one needs support for a game. You can do some of the things argie mentioned above, but I simply don't think it would be profitable compared to selling the game under a stricter license.

On my current computer I'm mixing free software (Ubuntu etc), free-of-charge proprietary software (Opera, Skype) and software that is not free at all (Comsol Multiphysics, Matlab). That is the best approach in my opinion. Some software does not benefit from being licensed under the GPL, but every program can be made to run under Linux, and that's the second best thing if you decide an open source approach is not for you.

December 11th, 2006, 05:05 PM

As a programmer you have lots and lots of options to get money while working on linux appl.

For example:

- Support (pay-per-call, on-site, etc)
- Donations
- Costum made modifications for explicit users

I dont know if there is any book about buisness models in free coding but you should have a look.

Open Sources 2.0 (By Oreilly Media) is really good book on this subject. It's written by the people in FLOSS that have gone through all of these things before. The dual license (free software, paid support) seems to work well for enterprise level projects. Advertising on the main page seems to work well for smaller projects and as always a "Donate" button is pretty effective. The efficacy of these is somewhat dependant on the size of your user-base. You may even find it to your benefit to form a partnership with another FLOSS project with similar ideals and share donations/recommendations with them.

Anyway, just a few ideas.

December 11th, 2006, 05:13 PM
Okay, make a business plan:

1. what is the program? It should be something that does not exist, or a fork of something that needs to be done better. Ex: Nvu. There is not really a GOOD WYSIWYG in the FOSS world.

2. Get a beta out and a site up.

3. Have a place on the site for donations.

4. Get another job until this can pay the bills.

This is the same modle I would use for proprietary program. You can't just show up and expect to make money. If you make something great, you will get paid though.

Shay Stephens
December 11th, 2006, 07:35 PM
Isn't this the same "problem" faced by the music industry, fear of selling non-drm music files? It's their fear that keeps them from doing it even though there are independent labels and artists doing it themselves. I would buy more music if I could get it the way I want it.

If you want to sell something, sell it. If people want it, they will buy it.

December 11th, 2006, 07:40 PM
-Ask money for binaries, provide the source for free
-Ask money for binaries, ask money for sending people a CD with the source
-Provide everything for free, ask money for support
-Provide a free version, ask money for an add-on
-Make a proprietary Linux release (though many will disagree, I don't see the problem)

I'm sure there are others;)

Henry Rayker
December 11th, 2006, 07:45 PM
Am I the only one who thinks coding on your own is pretty hit-or-miss, regardless of whether it's proprietary or open source?

You're going to spend a lot of money and time preventing piracy if it's proprietary (money on cd-protection or whatever else as well as legal fees taking care of business) or lots of time coding all of the protections yourself.

You're going to lose possible purchases if it's open sourced...but the way I see it, if someone is going to pay for it, in the first place, they'll donate when they get it for free...otherwise, they'll get it for free one way or another.

April 18th, 2010, 09:19 PM
In my research about Linux, I've read several articles about Linux development, and from that I gather that the vast majority of work done on "linux" is done by employees of commercial companies such as red-hat, novell, ibm etc.
the point of the GPL is definitely not to give something away for free, but that doing so is an inalienable right, and proprietary licensing agreements are detrimental to democratic/free society.

April 18th, 2010, 11:07 PM
One of the big reasons is that it looks very good on future job applications. If you've worked on Operating Systems that's pretty much the best thing you could have on any application.

April 18th, 2010, 11:16 PM