How to Make Money Programming Without Writing a Single Line of Code

A guy I know retired at the ripe old age of 32. You would probably like to know how he did it. I’ll tell you: He built a better mousetrap. He developed a web application — not quite Facebook but big enough — and sold it to a bunch of investors. This was well after the dot-com bubble burst in 1999. That web application is still around but I have a hard time believing that the investors have recouped the millions upon millions they paid this guy for the rights.

Here is the funny thing: That guy did not write a single line of the code that ran that site. He hired other people to do it for him. The only thing he did was take the view from 30,000 feet in coming up with the concept, then swoop in for the kill when the time was right.

You and I will probably never get that “lucky.” We might never have that kind of moxie. We might never have the vision. We might lack the confidence to approach venture capitalists.

You know what, though? It does not matter. We can still dip our cups in the programmers’ golden river and drink. You see, programming has little to do with coding. A program is just a set of instructions. If you can think of that set of instructions — even in broad terms — to make a computer do something that people want that computer to do, you can write a popular program. Write a popular program, and you can probably make a very good living without selling your soul to venture capitalists.

The way things are now, if you write a popular program you might even be able to get extremely rich without even selling the program. What do you think happened with Google? Two guys wrote a great search algorithm. It became popular. The world beat a path to their door, and now they’re billionaires.

But how can you make money programming, even if you’re not a coder? Do it the same way the guy in the first paragraph of this article did: Hire other people to do the grunt work for you. Whether you outsource or pay your cousin to do it, you can find someone to write the code that will drive your killer app.

You know where to find them — Elance or Odesk or one of those sites. But how do you find a good coder to carry your project to completion?

Here is what to avoid:

  • coders who can’t speak English well (How are you going to explain what you want?)
  • coders who can’t show examples of previous work (Don’t even bother.)
  • coders who demand a lot of money up front (Pay in phases.)

That’s how you get your app developed. Now what about the money?

Here you have three options:

  1. Sell your app as an old-school closed-source program running on PCs, Bill Gates-style.
  2. Put your app on the web and let it become popular. Make your money off subscriptions or ads.
  3. Sell your app through mobile services.

Of those three, the last two are best at the time of this writing.

That’s it. That’s how it’s done. (No, I haven’t done it myself because I haven’t had an original idea in ages, as you might be able to tell from reading this article — haha.)


Author: Chuck Linart