Software engineers are in high demand, with job growth expected to hit a whopping 25% over the next few years. Along with this tech surge, freelancing continues to grow in popularity as well, with 60 million Americans having done freelance work in 2022.
To make the most of these opportunities for earning extra income, a great strategy is to blend them into a single side hustle. On average, Americans who engage in a side hustle dedicate a little more than 13 hours per week to it. This commitment enables them to boost their earnings and also offers a platform to refine their existing talents.
In this article, we’ll explore 11 side hustles suitable for software engineers. Plus, we’ll provide valuable tips to help you succeed in this dynamic industry.
Understanding software engineering side hustles
As a software engineer, a side hustle typically involves teaming up with clients on a freelance or contract basis, taking on a variety of software-related projects.
Whether you're on the lookout for extra cash or are aiming to sharpen your skills or explore different areas of software development alongside your full-time job, software engineering is one of the best side hustles.
You could find yourself developing websites, crafting mobile apps, or even providing tech consultations and troubleshooting services.
These opportunities are both for seasoned pros eager to push their boundaries, and also for aspiring developers wanting hands-on experience and a standout portfolio.
11 software engineering side hustle ideas
If you’re considering a software engineering side hustle, here are 11 options to explore. We’ll go over some of the tasks each role requires and the potential earnings you can expect.
1. Mobile app development
From fitness apps to e-commerce solutions and beyond, the skill set of a software engineers often fits perfectly with creating mobile apps. You may work with startups or businesses aiming to boost their digital footprint. Your tasks might include gathering client requirements, strategizing UI design, implementing different software development methodologies to complete the project, and testing to make sure the app runs smoothly.
Websites like Upwork can be a useful way to find clients who need mobile app development. You can create a profile to show off your portfolio and write personalized pitches that will help you get projects and be part of a company’s digital success.
As an app developer, you have the potential to earn between $20 and $40 per hour—a range influenced by factors like your experience, the complexity of projects, and the unique value you provide to your clients.
2. E-commerce website development
Venturing into e-commerce website development will have you creating and enhancing online stores for retailers and entrepreneurs.
Your tasks span from developing engaging storefronts with a responsive design to integrating secure payment gateways and optimizing user experiences.
The earnings potential within the e-commerce development field can vary based on factors such as skill level, experience, and project scope.
On average, a Shopify developer or a WooCommerce developer typically earns an hourly rate ranging from $15 to $29. Similarly, for those who possess more general coding or web design skills, the hourly earnings tend to fall within the range of $15 to $30.
Platforms like Upwork offer an easy way to connect with clients looking for e-commerce expertise. Simply showcase your e-commerce portfolio—which might include online storefronts and product displays—and reach out to potential clients to secure your first project.
3. Online coding courses
Creating online courses lets you share your programming expertise with eager learners on platforms like Udemy. You can create in-depth lessons on areas like web development, coding languages, app creation, or AI. The courses can even include hands-on exercises or fun projects for your students to work on.
You also don’t need professional filmmaking skills. You can simply videotape yourself explaining concepts, add a voiceover to your screen recordings, and even use user-friendly programs to create stunning visuals that make learning easy.
Pricing for these courses can vary widely. Some courses may be priced as modestly as $20, while others can command higher prices. Your earnings as a course creator are closely tied to two key factors: the level of engagement your courses achieve and the number of students who decide to enroll and make a purchase.
4. Affiliate marketing for tech products
Engaging in affiliate marketing for tech products offers a unique way to promote cutting-edge software and tech items while earning commissions. This side job involves partnering with software and tech product companies that align with your passion for technology. Your role is to market these products to your audience through various platforms like websites, blogs, social media, and more.
By embedding special affiliate links in your content, you can track the sales generated through your promotions. You earn commissions based on a percentage of sales made through your links.
Specific earnings from affiliate marketing can fluctuate significantly, as they are typically a percentage of the total sales. This percentage often falls within the range of 5% to 30% of the total product cost.
What sets affiliate marketing apart from traditional business models is that it doesn't demand you to manufacture the products or handle customer service; instead, you focus on marketing strategies and delivering value to potential customers.
5. Plugin and template development
Template and plugin development involves creating tailored components for platforms like WordPress and Shopify. These elements serve as essential building blocks to enhance website functionality, aesthetics, and user experience.
Plugins enable seamless integration of specialized features, ranging from e-commerce capabilities to SEO functionalities. On the other hand, themes and templates provide visually appealing designs coupled with user-friendly interfaces.
Once you've made these plugins and themes, you can set up your own online store to sell them. But remember, you'll need to let people know about your products. That's where platforms like Upwork come in handy.
Upwork connects you with clients who are already on the lookout for plugins and themes for their businesses. It's an easy way to find people who need what you're offering without the hassle of searching around.
On average, a web designer might charge between $15 and $30 per hour for their services. However, specializing in certain aspects of web design, along with your personal experience and skill set, can open the door to higher-paying clients.
6. API and SaaS solutions
Tasks involve understanding the unique challenges of a business, designing APIs that facilitate smooth data exchange between different software systems, or crafting SaaS platforms that offer efficient solutions. Your expertise can lead to enhanced automation, streamlined processes, and improved user experiences for clients.
Platforms like Upwork can connect you with clients seeking your tech expertise. With an average hourly rate of $15-$30 for software developers, your earnings can grow with the experience and complexity of projects.
7. YouTube coding tutorials
Creating YouTube coding tutorials lets you share your knowledge as a programmer with a global online audience. By creating engaging and informative videos, you have the chance to empower aspiring coders and tech enthusiasts while building a community around your channel.
To make the most of this side hustle, focus on creating content that's accessible to learners of various skill levels. Walkthroughs, problem-solving sessions, and coding challenges can really capture your audience.
However, you should be realistic about monetization. While YouTube does offer potential earnings through ad revenue and memberships, building a substantial income takes time, consistent effort, and a sizable viewer base.
To monetize your YouTube channel, consider joining the YouTube Partner Program to access ad revenue and channel memberships. Additionally, you can explore sponsorships, merchandise sales, and even offer premium content through platforms like Patreon. You’ll need to balance your passion for teaching with a practical understanding of the income potential.
8. Freelance software development
If you want to manage your own schedule and share your coding expertise with businesses across the globe, software development freelancing is a great option to showcase your tech skills. Upwork’s platform provides you with the opportunity to find coding jobs, whether you're a versatile full-stack developer or a specialized back-end expert.
Full-stack development involves handling both the design of a website and its technical aspects. On the other hand, a back-end specialist focuses on the technical backend that ensures everything runs smoothly.
If you choose to offer full-stack development services, you can expect to earn between $16-$35 per hour, while back-end specialists often charge $20-$40. Keep in mind that these figures can rise with experience and the complexity of the projects you take on.
9. Custom software projects
You can use your software engineering expertise to create special software that's tailor-made for different businesses. Think healthcare, finance, and even small startups—they all want unique software to make their work better.
For example, a doctor's office might need a special system to keep track of patients, while a new online store could use software to manage its inventory. These are like custom tools for their jobs.
Getting into custom software projects involves more than just coding. You might need to understand a business's unique needs, plan how the software will work, and then put it all together.
As a software developer, you're looking at earning around $15-$30 per hour on average. However, your earning potential can grow depending on your specialization.
If you focus on User Experience (UX) design, you could make between $25-$39 per hour, showcasing your talent in creating user-friendly interfaces. Alternatively, if you specialize in a specific programming language like Python, then your hourly rate might reach around $20-$40, reflecting your proficiency in a sought-after skill.
Finding clients who need these custom solutions is where Upwork comes into play. You can create a profile there to showcase your skills. To build a portfolio, you can create mock projects.
For example, design a simple customer management system for a fictional coffee shop. Show how you'd organize customer data and orders. This gives potential clients a taste of your skills and creativity.
10. Tech blogging and writing
Getting into tech blogging means sharing your expertise while tapping into potential earnings through ad revenue and sponsored content. While the average blogger’s salary is $48,690, tech blogs may earn more due to their need for an expert voice, ability to tackle high-value subjects, and their in-depth insights.
Tech blogging involves creating content that appeals to tech enthusiasts, whether it's breaking down difficult concepts or reviewing the latest gadgets. Earnings come from sources like ads placed on your own blog, technical writing for other companies, or even setting up subscription models on your website for exclusive tech insights.
Tasks include writing with clarity, establishing yourself as a credible source, operating a content management system, and dedicating time to research and writing. Ultimately, tech blogging is a blend of knowledge sharing and entrepreneurial spirit, offering a chance to inform, entertain, and potentially earn.
Offering consulting services involves being a tech advisor or mentor for businesses, guiding them through business decisions surrounding software selection, digital transformation initiatives, and system optimization.
Your tasks may include setting up client meetings, staying updated on the ever-changing technology landscape by keeping a close watch on industry trends, and explaining abstract ideas.
You might also recommend software solutions that align with a business's specific needs. This may involve suggesting tools or platforms that can enhance operational efficiency, or developing comprehensive strategies for improving existing technological systems.
Tech consultants can expect to earn anywhere from $12-$30 per hour, but you can earn substantially more depending on the scope of the project.
Tips for succeeding as a software engineer
Below are some helpful tips for success as a software engineer.
- Set achievable goals. Software engineering can be overwhelming. Break down projects into smaller, achievable goals. This makes tasks more manageable while also giving you a sense of accomplishment.
- Master one language before moving on. While there's a myriad of coding languages out there, focus on becoming proficient in one before jumping to others. Mastering one area of expertise equips you with a strong foundation to tackle others more effectively.
- Prioritize testing and debugging. Writing code is only half the battle—testing and debugging are equally crucial. You’ll need to know how to regularly test your code to catch and fix errors early, ensuring your programs run smoothly.
- Develop mock projects. To gain practical experience, create mock projects that mimic real-world scenarios. This helps you apply your skills, troubleshoot challenges, and showcase your work to potential employers.
- Cultivate a network. Connect with fellow software engineers, attend tech meetups, and engage in online forums. Networking opens doors to learning opportunities, mentorship, and potential collaborations.
- Embrace lifelong learning. Technology evolves rapidly. Keep up by dedicating some spare time to learning new skills and tools for your next project. Explore new languages, frameworks, and tools to remain adaptable and relevant in the ever-changing tech landscape.
Start your side hustle with Upwork
With a booming software engineering market, there is plenty of room to explore a variety of different side gigs in this industry. With opportunities in app design, affiliate marketing, creating custom software solutions, and more, you can earn extra money, generate passive income streams, or simply share your expertise with others.
As the tech industry continues to thrive, Upwork offers a gateway to connect with a vast array of software development opportunities available across the globe. With their user-friendly platform, customizable profile options, and real-time communication, you can find your niche and start your side hustle today to leverage your technical expertise.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.
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