Lauren Shroll

Lauren Shroll

CodeSubmit Team

Is Programming as a Side Gig Worth It? (+ How to Find Gigs)

Dev Topics

As a programmer, sometimes you're looking to sharpen your skills, make some extra income, or even explore a new career path. Side gigs can be a potential avenue to making those goals a reality.

Keep reading for a run-down on what you should know before taking on a single side gig. Plus, we outline a handful of places to find side gigs and some other options to get started in the gig economy.

Are side gigs worth it?

The most important question to answer when it comes to side gigs is whether or not they are worthy of your time.

There are many reasons people jump into taking on side gigs. On the other hand, finding well-paid and consistent side gigs is hard and may not make sense for everyone.

Here are a few questions to consider beforehand:

Are you looking to earn extra money?

If so, side gigs can help make that happen. However, if you're currently employed, a good first step is to see where you can negotiate compensation in your existing role. Interviewing for a new role with higher compensation may also be a more viable option.

From a financial standpoint, get clear on what you want. Realistically, side gigs are not a get-rich-quick scheme or passive income approach. However, they can help when it comes to maximizing your 401k benefits at work or even having extra cash on hand for your personal goals.

Do you have the bandwidth available?

Taking on side gigs requires more than just completing the gig work itself. You need to network and do outreach, build a portfolio, and manage any admin work and client communication for the gig. Having a steady stream of work typically requires more than just putting in a few extra hours. All of that comes with additional stress.

It's important to figure out where you can dedicate time in your schedule, without impacting your work-life balance. For example, you might currently hold a specialized role in a company where your expertise is needed on a slightly less-than-full-time basis. As a result, you might find yourself open to taking on a side gig or two. Or, if you're fully occupied from 8 to 5, maybe you're looking to take on a gig or two on the weekends, or in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

Considering your bandwidth and your current workload, is taking on side gigs doable? Does it make sense for you and your family? What are the major trade-offs to allocating more time to a new income-focused project?

What are your career plans?

Side gigs are a great way to carve out a new and ambitious career path. If you're looking to work as a freelance developer in the future, side gigs can become the building blocks to breaking out as a solopreneur.

Taking on a side gig can also pave the way for a future job opportunity when life takes a turn. Having a couple of connections through working various gigs can help expedite the process of finding a job once you start searching again.

Is learning important to you?

The final factor to mention is the non-monetary value of side gigs. Some see this as their key reason for taking on side gigs. Jumping into gig work allows you to sharpen your programming skills by learning new concepts and technologies. Plus, you gain additional experience that helps build out your portfolio.

Everyone is different when it comes to determining what makes side gigs worth pursuing. Adam Leffert, a Freelance Full-Stack Cloud Architect, shares his take:

"Whether or not programming is worth it as a side job for you depends on how long you plan on doing it. It takes a significant investment of time and effort to get to the level where people will pay you to write software, then an additional investment every year to keep your skills up-to-date and expand your skill set."

In general, the consensus is that taking on side gigs is playing the long game. It's key to consider the end goal and what makes this effort personally worth it.

If you've determined that side gigs are worth exploring, read on to see where you can find them!

How do I land programming side gigs?

Answering this question involves noting a point that repeatedly surfaces online. Finding side gigs requires "planting seeds" to reap the rewards later. You do this by staying in touch with prior connections. In other words, don't burn your bridges!

Existing Network - Generally speaking, your best approach to landing side gigs early and more easily will come from talking with colleagues and former employers. This approach to networking works especially well for those who are more introverted. You might be one conversation away from connecting with a manager or startup founder who's in search of your expertise.

One programmer shared their experience in a recent Hacker News thread:

"I've always just leveraged existing connections. I'm not great at selling myself, but I've done a lot of good work for a handful of people that ARE good at talking me up.

Reach out to people that you've done good work for and let them know that you are looking for some side gigs. You might not get anything right away, but things could start trickling in. This has opened up a lot of opportunities for me."

Events - Beyond your existing network, making new connections by attending tech meetups and conferences is another great way to land opportunities. At events, pass out business cards or direct individuals to a webpage that shares your rates and portfolio of projects. Approaching sponsor desks and directly asking around is generally a good approach here.

Online Resources - Looking online, there are several resources to tap into. One spot featuring a decent number of gigs is the monthly Who is Hiring? post by Hacker News (or, check out this index to narrow your search). If you're on Facebook, there are a few groups that are specifically dedicated to finding side gigs and freelancing work, such as Jobs for Front-End Developers.

Technical Blogging - If you're an avid writer, it's also possible to land side gigs by pushing out content through an online blog or niche site, and having prospective clients and content agencies reach out. If you're already actively blogging or sharing on a social media platform, consider using that same platform to advertise that you're openly seeking new side gigs.

Freelancing Platforms - Several platforms can help you find gigs without having to go out, network, and research on your own. We did a little research to compile the list below. A few of these sites also offer longer-term freelancing work and the chance to nab a full-time job.

Read on to learn where to look!


This platform matches top-tier software developers and designers with high-paying, recognizable clients. To get listed on the platform and accept your first job, you need to take a test and be vetted by a Toptal expert. Their name hints at the caliber of talent they're seeking; only the top 3% of freelancers are accepted! According to programmers online, the vetting process is intensive but worthwhile for the number of opportunities and quality of clients on the platform. This platform seems to be a top pick for many.


This platform is geared toward programmers and designers and is known for providing quality work that pays decently. Good gigs involve a little more competition, and individuals need to sign up for a paid plan to access the best jobs on the platform.

Featuring a growing community of over 25,000, maintains a pool of technical talent that is skilled in the most popular programming languages. The platform features hiring companies that range from startups to Fortune 500. Like Toptal, facilitates the talent-matching process. Joining their talent pool requires completing their "quick and painless" assessment process.

As a large marketplace featuring a lot of smaller clients, this site is great to pick up shorter-term jobs and build out a portfolio. There's a variety of jobs available, and the platform offers flexible payment terms. Additionally, the platform makes it easy to communicate with clients.


As the name implies, FlexJobs allows anyone to search for the job type that best suits them. They offer part-time, remote, hybrid, freelance, and even full-time jobs to searchers. Plus, their platform provides resources like events, webinars, and paid career services that support individuals in their side gig or freelancing journey.

Upwork & Fiverr

Finally, it wouldn't be a complete list here without sharing these two platforms. These are grouped as they are fairly similar. Both allow individuals to create a profile and either apply for listed projects or list their rates and services. The upside of these platforms is that they allow you to easily dip your toes into gig work, set your rates, and level up your skills.

These platforms also tend to be competitive and push for low-ball pricing for projects. Given the competition, it's typically harder to stand out as someone charging a rate worthy of their time, especially when first starting out. According to several programmers online, these platforms are not often sources of high-paying clients, and projects can be more demanding.

What are some other ways programmers can make money?

There are many articles online that break down additional side hustle ideas for developers. A few commonly suggested ideas include mobile app development or creating online courses, YouTube videos, and ebooks. All of these can generate some additional income, but typically, these options appear to be best suited for those who have developed a following online or may have a little more time on their hands.

For those who are looking for a few unique opportunities with an easier entry point, here are a few options to consider:

Bug Bounty Hunting

As a developer, you can be paid for finding vulnerabilities in software and websites. This can be a rewarding side project and may be a good option if you have a little bit of free time and are interested in security. Depending on the vulnerability or threat level, the payout can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, or even millions in rare cases. We have an article here that offers a deeper dive into this topic, along with several great resources to get started!

Open Source Projects

If you're already active in the open source community, it may be worth considering how those projects can be monetized to support you and other contributors. Open source projects can be monetized through crowdsourcing, dual licensing (where payment is required if users derive and sell proprietary software from the project), the sale of ancillary products or services (e.g. paid support packages, plugins, templates, or certifications), or a fully productized version of the project. We wrote an entire article on this topic, so check it out for more info.

Technical Content Writing

As mentioned, you can get gigs by having an online presence and posting content to a personal website. An alternative is contributing to platforms like SitePoint, which is a website that pays for written tutorials (geared to all experience levels) from developers. They accept well-researched articles on web development and design, entrepreneurship and digital marketing, development environments, and low-code/no-code tools.

Online Tutoring

Geared toward those who are a little more advanced in their career, mentorship is another option to make money online. Programmers can meet virtually with individuals 1-on-1 to work on debugging or problem-solving in real-time. Codementor is one platform that focuses on bringing developer mentors and mentees together and features over 100 categories that individuals can choose from to receive help and mentorship!

Best Practices When Taking on Side Gigs

Here are a few key items to note as you jump into programming as a side gig:

Taking initiative counts. In taking intentional action to call, email, or reach out and share how you can help, you manufacture your luck. Even if you hear "no", you create a connection, and that individual or company knows about you and your expertise to refer others your way.

Manage scope creep. With software development, it's hard to specify at times how long a particular project or task can take. However, no one wants this issue to turn into completing a bunch of free work, or leaving a job unfinished. This can be a huge nightmare for all parties involved. When taking on any side gig, set clear goals and deliverables.

Get a deposit up-front. Everyone wants to get paid for their hard work. With gig work, payment can sometimes get a little tricky, especially if a project gets scrapped or the client drags their feet. A good approach is to request a portion (in the range of 15-50%) of the payment up-front. Another approach is to set up a system of invoicing and put together a contract that clearly outlines the payment terms.

Getting started is hard. There's no sugarcoating it. Finding and tackling side gigs is difficult. Many online resources tend to showcase side gigs as being easy, glamorous, or a quick source of cash. Taking on side gigs takes time, energy, and bandwidth. It's not the path forward for everyone.

Over to you!

There are a lot of key considerations when it comes to side gigs. You may finish reading this article and realize there's more work involved than you feel is worth the time invested.

On the other hand, this may be your sign to explore a new opportunity while sharpening your skills and making a little extra money in the process.