The question is rather. How to choose open-source in favor of a paid job, overtime work, or any other paid alternatives.

I do open-source and have no doubts it is useful for other people as well as myself. I have an ongoing internal conflict when I want to do open-source but in the meantime, I have other paid alternatives. My variants: do commercial projects, automate routine tasks, learn new tech, write a blog. There are many possible alternatives to advertise and market myself.

I see many people propose it as a way to build a network, a way to market oneself, get into the profession. These suggestions aren't very helpful in the current state of my career.

What are other reasons to do open-source? I don't expect it to get me rich or famous etc. Rather what other arguments should I consider to have a healthy balance between paid and open-source projects?

  • It appears that you are looking for arguments as to why to do open source. Follow both the money and your heart. We can't answer questions about your own motives.
    – David R
    Dec 25, 2021 at 15:59
  • @DavidR You definitely cannot but what you can, add arguments to why open-source may be beneficial compared to other alternatives. It isn't the question about motivation etc. but rather what else didn't I include into consideration or don't know about the subject? Dec 25, 2021 at 16:38
  • I suggest editing the question to ask what are the benefits of doing open source for people in your position (and add some information about where you are in your career). There are different benefits for single freelancers starting out, experienced ones mid or late career, and for corporations. Asking what are the benefits makes a better question for this board instead of asking us to make a judgement call for your life.
    – David R
    Dec 26, 2021 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


open-source doesn't mean work for free, it means contributing to a bigger picture, if you're good and relevant people will give you money so you keep doing it.

we have people that are silent major contributors to major projects that don't make a dime and people that build silly libraries that just provide neat wrappers and documentation around other apps and make a fortune in donations, patreon money and etc.

this is the solo scenario, I won't go much further into building a company around open source because we this is its own rabbit hole.

here's what you should keep in mind:

  • generate value
  • purpose
  • monetizing

generate value

generating value can be done privately or with open source, in private you will be generating money for your clients, in open source, you are contributing to the human race codebase.


what is your main goal? to be rich? famous? recognized? build something everyone loves? reflect on that for a few minutes, then read the next section


after you decide what is your priority in life, you can decide on how you want to tackle this software thing.


If you want to be rich, you can either make a flashy framework that helps people be super productive with very little knowledge, invest a lot of time in docs, video tutorials, examples and automation and set up a patreon so people can give you money and sponsor your work.

Or you can build a sas project and try to make it as an entrepreneur, sell your apps in any app store, etc.


if you want to be a famous developer, you can either build a very hard open source project, be one of them presenters that travel around the world talking about the importance of insert project/methodology/technique/company here either for an open source project or as a professional evangelist

There are many many ways to go about open source

  • people use it as a way to drive human society forwards
  • shield common knowledge from the corporate greasy greedy fingers
  • a way for businesses to let people try their software for free and make it impossible to set up at scale so they can sell you managed services or support
  • a way for companies to promote brand awareness by creating or donating to open source projects
  • a way for companies to get free work
  • a way for big companies to collaborate and build common tools

there are so many ways to go about it, some will make you money, some won't, just like regular businesses, and just like regular businesses you need to know what your priorities are and why you are getting into it. everyone needs to make a living, so money naturally comes to question and people are more then willing to give you lunch money if you build something useful, but you need to be smart about it.

effort does not equal results

  • on one side we have geniuses that made incredible breakthroughs and died poor, miserable, and anonymous until history reviewed their case
  • on the other side we have people making millions from the dumbest projects, ink cartridges, goji berries, salt crystals, etc.

By your profile and pic, I'm assuming you're a young engineer at the beginning of your career. So I'll share some personal advice. I'm a bachelor in computer science, 7 years as a programmer, 2 as a devops, 3 as a software architect, and just recently promoted to team leader, and having worked on a couple of unicorns and silicon valley companies there are some patterns that emerge.

I see a lot of bright young engineers like yourself trying to find out what they want from their careers and you might still be getting distracted by the thing that lures all young engineers, which is trying to be smartest person that knows a lot about everything, can code in several programming languages, make mobile apps, do frontend, know AI, do cloud stuff and solve any problem.


I know I was like that, and although setting out to be the best will push you very very far, it is best to manage your expectations. Decide on what is really important for you, then set out to achieve that. Open source, privately, set out to achieve something that will make you happy, not the center of attention, then plan accordingly.

I'll leave you with a quote from House M.D.

"It doesn't mean anything."


In my opinion, doing open source projects improve development skills because code is examined on a very granular level. You're submitting code to a project that's closely monitored by others that are highly critical, understand/recognize pitfalls or insecure code. The benefit may not be financial. But it's certainly unlike training/experience you'll receive anywhere else on or offline. Contributing to open source undoubtedly distinguishes one from those who've not done so.

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