Open source software refers to computer software whose source code is available to the general public for free for use or modification from its original design.

If you’re an open source developer or are planning to get into open source, you are right in wondering whether you can make money by giving your software away for free. And not just your software, but the source code as well.

So, how do open source developers make money?

In this article, we will explore 5 ways open source developers can make money while giving away their software to the open source community.

Keep reading!

How Do Open Source Developers Make Money?

Open source and making money seem to be two concepts at odds with each other.

How can you make money from something that anyone can download and use for free?

The answer is: You have to get creative.

For one, you need not make money solely from your open source software that you are giving away. Secondly, you can still make money from it … but indirectly.

So, here are five ways that open source developers make money:

  1. Sell services
  2. Consulting
  3. Offer add-on modules for a cost
  4. Charge for support
  5. Develop an enterprise, closed-source version with extra features

Let’s look closely at each of these income sources for an open source developer.

#1. Sell services

Selling services is how most open source developers make money. Services can include anything from installation to customization and integration services.

Many companies will use open source software because it is “free” but will then pay for support and services. This is how the company that owns the product or service makes money off of open-source software.

The same goes for developers. They can make money by providing services to those who use open-source software. Open source developers can also be called upon to create new software products based on their expertise.

For instance, an open source developer may be asked to build a custom security module that goes with their open source software. Or they may be asked to help integrate their open-source software with an enterprise application that their client is using.

#2. Consulting

Companies will download open-source software with the intention of modifying it or integrating it into their own systems. But because the company does not have the in-house expertise, they will need to hire a consultant – aka, the open-source developer – to help them with the task.

This is how many open source developers make money: by being hired as a consultant to help a company use the software they have developed. And because open source developers usually have a lot of experience with the software they develop, they can charge a premium for their services.

Consulting can take many forms. It can be done remotely or on-site. It can be a one-time project or an ongoing engagement. And different companies that download the software will often have similar but not identical needs, so the open source developer can sell the same service to multiple companies with just minor changes.

#3. Offer add-on modules for a cost

Just as other companies can hire the open source developer to build custom modules for a fee, the developer can develop such add-on modules herself and charge a fee for these.

These modules could be anything from a new feature that the developer has added to the software to a completely new application that uses the open source software as its foundation.

Add-on modules can include anything that extends the functionality of the software. For example, a developer may create a new module that allows the software to be used with a different database system or that adds a new feature to the software.

#4. Charge for support

An easy way for an open source developer to make money is to offer support for a fee. This can be done in addition to selling services or add-on modules, or it can be the only way that the developer makes money from the software.

Support can be offered in many ways, such as through a forum, email, or even over the phone. The important thing is that the developer offers some way for users of the software to get help when they need it.

Many companies that use open source software will pay for support, because they do not have the in-house expertise to deal with problems that may arise.

Also, providing support has a side benefit for the developer – it makes it more likely that the users will use the software properly, get a good impression of it, continue using it and recommend it to others.

#5. Develop an enterprise, closed-source version with extra features

Many open-source software programs are built by hobbyists for hobbyists. But sometimes there is room to build a professional, enterprise version of the software.

In such a case, the developer could offer a dual-licensing model, where they offer both an open source version and a closed source enterprise version. The enterprise version can have extra features that are not found in the open-source version, and it could come bundled with support from the developer.


Being an open source developer can be a great way to have a career in the software industry while benefiting the community. But how do open source developers make money?

As this article has shown, there are many ways to make money as an open source developer. This includes selling services, offering consulting, offering add-on modules for a cost, charging for support and developing an enterprise, closed-source version with extra features.

So if you’re thinking of becoming one, don’t worry – there are many ways to make a living!