It’s hard to make money as an open source software developer. There are options, but they have a lot of downsides.
You can work for a big company that can afford to let you do work that doesn’t directly relate to its products. But sometimes it’s hard to balance the work you’re not passionate about with the work that you are. You shouldn’t work for someone that you don’t want to work for — it’s a lose-lose.
You can cram in your commits after hours and on the weekend, but this can make your personal life suffer or make your stress levels peak. People need balance in their lives, and this path isn’t great for that.
You can get a job at an open source company. The first company I created (Nodejitsu) was an open source company, and I can tell you, when it's a fit, it's great. But most open source companies have a specific scope, and that might not include the mad science you had in mind.
There are crowd-funding sites that help support independent developers, but they also take a cut of any income you make through their sites. The worst part about crowd-funding is that the developer has to market themselves in order to make any money. Very few developers are good at marketing. If they were, they might be founding companies instead.
None of these are really great ways to make money when you are a developer who is writing open source software.
But there is another option. We, the profitable companies who are making money by building products that leverage work done by passionate, hard working open source developers, need to give back!
At Voltra, we’re going to contribute 5% of all sales of the Voltra Music Server to independent open source developers who have created work that we use in our products.
We implore you do the same. There is a huge amount of mutual benefit that comes from creating direct relationships with these developers. They matter more than you realize. And if you don’t know who they are, ask your engineering team, because they do.
Our first round of contributions will go to Feross Aboukhadijeh and Mathias Buus. Visit their Github profiles to learn more about what they've done and what they're working on now.