Monetizing early stage open source projects
Image courtesy of Dev

Open-source projects monetization has been in discussion for a long time. There is no general guide for making money by maintaining open-source projects because it highly depends on several factors such as: the stage of your project; what it provides — a service or a product; what your target audience is — devs or users, etc.

This article is focused on the case where your project is in early stage, has a minimal feature set, and a small community.

As a co-owner of an early-stage OSS project ng-sq-ui, I have spent some hours exploring all available options I could find to sponsor our project.

Let’s go through some of the findings:

open collective
A very popular platform for supporting you favorite OSS. The catch here is that your small project probably doesn’t have 100+ stars on github. This platform is practically unavailable for starter projects.

Platform providing bounty rewards for solving issues submitted by OSS project owners. That’s okay if you want to quit your job and start contributing to the OSS community for money. Another option this platform offers is starting a grant. A grant represents a recurring cash flow in the form of cryptocurrency for the work you are doing on your OSS project. The reality is that It’s very hard to find someone to fund your tasks for the next release or your grant, as your project is probably relatively new to the public and has a small community.

In short, it’s a platform like Google Ads, but for developers. The requirement here is to have 5000+ visitors on your web page to be able to qualify for this program. Also, this might not always be a viable option, since not every maintainer would want to show ads on their project page.

Other options we find inapplicable to a brand-new open-source project:

  • Donations — A big and dedicated community is needed to support an already “mature” project.
  • Technical support / dev support — Again, you need a big community and a feature-rich product.
  • Custom features — It’s not always an option for the maintainers, as it might eventually drive you away from the work you want to do and also requires a decent amount of users.
  • Ads — To show ads and earn money, you need a lot of page views, like 5k+/month. Our project currently has 2.4k page views per month.
  • Writing tutorials / books — It’s too early for something like that, as your project probably has 2k lines of code, and your documentation is relatively small.

Is there any option that can provide value to your project?

After hours of research, we have finally found a way to earn something from our OSS project without much additional effort. It’s an alpha-stage project called Dev.

Image credit: Dev

An amount of tokens proportional to the number of npm downloads is distributed to projects registered in their platform on a monthly basis. They also provide an easy means for people who want to sponsor or donate DEV tokens to your project.

One month later, after registering our packages in their platform, our project has received 0.112 DEV tokens.

After that, we went to EtherDelta and sold our tokens for the price of 0.007 ETH per DEV token. This leaves us with 0.000784 ETH (after taxes) gained by just the monthly distribution of tokens. The initial amount might look small but it will grow as your project gains popularity.

Dev provides an easy platform for sponsoring open-source projects. Anybody who wants to donate can easily buy and transfer DEV tokens.

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