I hope this is on topic, if it isn't, please let me know and I will delete.

I am a CS student and I love to make useful and fun software. I was in the process of putting together a website to use as a portfolio, when I realized I don't want to make a portfolio. I want to make a store (that could serve as a portfolio to those who are interested).

I have many different software ideas, some are big and those would obviously not be free. However, some are smaller. I have a few that would be useful to regular users but could also be viably sold to web development companies and turned into an actual product.

Anyways, I am not sure on how to price my products. My specific question is if it is possible to give software out for free and still make money, perhaps by asking for donations at the time of download initiation or through advertisements. If so, how viable of an option is this.

This is mainly for software that is not application specific. (i.e. it couldn't be sold through the chrome store or anything like that)

  • 4
    Hello, and welcome to Freelancing@SE! Unfortunately, I do think that this is off-topic, if because freelancing is more providing services for clients instead of having a store. For this particular problem, you might want to try Startups@SE. Dec 19, 2014 at 15:18
  • Okay, I wasn't sure because the help center says: "Freelancing Stack Exchange is for questions relating to self-employed and freelance workers." Can a mod move this if they feel it is off topic?
    – Luke
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:21
  • I would say this is on topic, but a little open ended. Could you try narrowing down the exact question, and what research you have done already about it?
    – Canadian Luke
    Dec 19, 2014 at 18:30
  • In my -little- experience, not so viable. Perhaps you could look into trial versions? Regular users would need to purchase, but it can still serve as a portfolio, because people who just want to see what you did can.
    – user19
    Dec 21, 2014 at 7:22
  • I advice you to start by working on a completely free version of the product. If it get very popular, implement some revenue system in it. Because unpopular software are going to make you next to nothing.
    – user702
    Dec 23, 2014 at 23:34

2 Answers 2


I can only really supply anecdotal evidence because public online advertising numbers are hard to nail down.

It depends on which platform your software is (and where you want to advertise). My experience is mostly in android and web advertising.

An android app that I developed makes about $1/day per 10k app downloads. This app remains open mostly for the time the user is using it.

I've setup ads for a couple of friends and family members, one in particular had about 1000 unique views a day and the income was in the order of USD cents.

The online advertising revenue stream is saturated because over the past few years more and more people have cottoned on to advertising income. Software advertising isn't as common which means it's (1) less predictable & established and (2) not as familiar to users. People are used to seeing ads on free android apps. The same may not be said about PC software.

In any case, it's going to be necessary to generate a significant number of ad views in order to generate reasonable income.

Unless you have a sure way of generating these kinds of numbers, it's going to be difficult to achieve significant income from advertising.

If this is going to be used as a portfolio, I'd recommend releasing a 'lite' version to show what the app consists of and then a paid version with full features. This allows for a potential client to try your software without paying anything.


Well, you're sounding like you want to go down the entrepreneurial path. Good luck with that.

I used to have similar questions when I started out as an internet entrepreneur.

Yes, you can make money while giving away your software for free. Take WordPress for example. Among all the CMS softwares, it has the highest market share. The software is open-source, and so, anyone can download and customize it as they see fit. That is WordPress.org. On the other hand, WordPress.com provides services which use the same software and the user doesn't need to worry about the code and security of his/her website.

That was just one example. The revenue method would vary depending on the product. But yes, it is possible to earn money even after open-sourcing your software. You may also choose to ask for donations via a website for your software. Mostly, open-source softwares have a positive side - a loyal community. As a friendly advice, I would say that you need to talk to someone who has done similar work, or at least knows what you're talking about. :P

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