6 Side Hustle Ideas For Programmers - NO Money Needed

I'm gonna show you how to make money outside your programming job, with no investment required.

None of these ideas I'm about to list require you to spend a dime, but you will have to invest a lot of time. Each of these ideas also provides a way to generate passive income for you. You won't see software-as-a-service appear in this article, because it's very difficult to launch one successfully without a marketing budget, and it also requires way more time. Let's get right into it.

Idea #0 - Overarching Theme

If there's one thing you take away from this video, it's that the most important asset for you, if you don't have money, is an audience of people who want something from you. Whether it's an information product, a service, or something else, there's probably someone who wants it, and you need their email address. Why? It's because, if you don't have money, then paid advertisements are out of the picture. The only other way to get your offer in front of people's eyes is to meet them where they are, and offer them something they want. The following business ideas will all give you both a way to grow your audience, and to monetize that audience.

Idea #1 - Start A YouTube Channel

My YouTube home page.

YouTube is probably the best way to grow an audience for free, and that's why I'm doing it myself... Duh. The big advantage that YouTube creators have over those on platforms like Instagram or a blog, is that it's actually possible for the average person's content to get discovered. YouTube wants viewers to spend more time on the platform, so besides just the search bar, it will even suggest your videos to people who weren't searching for it. Don't get me wrong, you can still use Instagram or a blog, but that should be supplementing your main platform, as it's probably not reliable enough as a main entry point. And let's be honest for a second - nobody on Instagram cares about coding.

Though YouTube is a good idea for most anyone, I specifically recommend it for programmers because 100% of your target audience is on the Internet. A significant part of that audience is also on YouTube. You can also earn money directly from ads on your videos, once your channel reaches a certain scale. Besides just ad revenue, your growing audience can be monetized by selling info products or courses, or you can convert subscribers into email signups with lead magnets. I'll cover info products and courses later in the article.

Here are some examples of YouTube channel ideas you can start today:

  • Teaching concepts taught in computer science courses
  • Technical interview tips
  • Guides on popular languages or libraries
  • Vlogs about your life as a programmer
  • Funny or interesting skits about programming

Idea #2 - Sell An Online Video Course

Coursera's home page. Lots of home pages here today...

Probably the most straightforward way to "sell your knowledge" about a topic is to create a course about it. With sites like Udemy or Coursera, you can sell courses without having to worry about payment processing yourself. I will say, though, that for the most popular languages, libraries, or frameworks, it might be difficult to stand out from the competition. If your focus is primarily to grow your audience, you might consider creating a free course. For example, Dr. Andrew Ng, co-founder of Google Brain and former Baidu chief scientist, has a very famous machine learning course available for free on Coursera. This was actually how I learned who he was. However, if you're creating a free course, in my opinion, you're better off using YouTube, and then distributing workbooks and quizzes as lead magnets to drive email signups.

If you're actually able to sell some copies, then this counts as "passive income," as once the course is created, it can bring in money on its own. But I want to stress the importance of creating a high-quality course. Especially if you're charging a couple hundred dollars, if it's not worth the money, you'll get poor reviews, and lose out on future sales.

Idea #3 - Start A Email Course

My spam email tab... Gross. Don't be like these guys.

An email course is usually offered for free as a way to generate leads, but there's not really anything saying you can't charge a fee. Especially if the knowledge you're offering has high value, like a programming language that has high-paying jobs, you could make money directly off that, like any other course. The caveat is that since most email courses are free, if you want to compete with those, you need to create something of high enough quality to be worth the money. Another caveat is that the type of content you can embed in an email is relatively limited. But the benefit here is that you get people used to seeing emails from you, and actually wanting to read them. I kinda love that.

Similarly to a video course, once you've created your email course, it's technically "passive," but keep in mind that if you're giving the course away for free, you might not be able to monetize it at all, since you can't embed things like Google ads in emails.

If you still want to send people recurring emails, but don't want to create a course, you can try the next idea...

Idea #4 - Start A Newsletter

Trends.vc is a newsletter with 50k subs. Is yours up next?

At the beginning of this list, I mentioned the importance of collecting the emails of your audience. But what do you do once you have people's emails? You have to provide them something of value, otherwise you're no different from the thousands of spammers and advertisers bombarding their inboxes every day. If you don't have a product, or don't have an idea of what to send your audience, try a newsletter. Every week, or on some other recurring schedule, send your audience high-quality content related to news and trends in their niche. (or is it níche? or niché. However you pronounce it.)

Take, for example, trends.vc, a newsletter created by Dru Riley. Now with 50k subscribers, he has two versions of his newsletter - one free, and one paid version with extra perks. In a field like tech or programming, there's always something new going on, so a newsletter is a pretty good idea.

Like all the other ideas, this one comes with caveats of its own. Firstly, it takes a lot of time to make something of quality, and since you have to do it on a recurring basis, you might not be able to simultaneously run something like a YouTube channel. This seems like a no-brainer, but when you consider that you have to find a way for people to discover your newsletter in the first place, it's not so obvious how to work around this. That being said, it's still a really good way to build both profits and an audience simultaneously. You just won't necessarily be building "passive income" directly.

Idea #5 - Offer Tutoring

Offer tutoring at your alma mater, or local community in Facebook groups, or Discord servers. You can do tutoring via Zoom, or potentially in-person. You'll need to be careful about promotion, though, as lots of groups have rules against this, but considering that there's a good chance you know a lot of people in the community, you can get pretty far on word of mouth. Oftentimes, people will just directly ask for help in the groups, and there'll likely be low competition.

If you're looking to build passive income off this, your best bet is to repurpose footage of the tutoring sessions into YouTube videos and other content (are you noticing a theme here?). Keep track of which specific questions your students are asking you, as there's a pretty good chance people are also typing those questions into Google, or the YouTube search bar. Make sure to remove the other person's face from the video, unless they give explicit permission.

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Idea #6 - Offer Mock Interviews

Pramp is a mock interview site, but it's free.

Especially if you have a lot of experience doing technical interviews, you can make money offering mock interviews. There's a very clear niche for this, and it's been validated by businesses like Leetcode and Pramp, though Pramp kinda works differently. In my opinion, mock interviews are better than Leetcode in the sense that you have an actual human there with you. As opposed to a free, crowdsourced service, you can use your industry experience to your advantage. Just make sure your current employer allows this, though. For example, if you work at a FAANG company, you're probably contractually bound to not do this.

Similarly to tutoring, you can build passive income off this by turning clips into YouTube videos, as well as either selling the full videos, or making them available free on YouTube to grow your audience. For content this long, I personally would charge, but it's up to you and your goals.

Follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Tobe Osakwe

Tobe Osakwe

I want to inspire black technologists around the world. I write about startups, technology, and productivity. One day, my technology will change the world.