There was a time when open source software was thought to be the closest thing to charity in the software business. After all, how many times have you heard of anyone making money by giving their product away for free? However, several companies around today have managed to build successful businesses with an open source platform. These include:
Red Hat, Inc., which provides excellent tools for speeding business apps to customers and providing storage solutions that enhance products offered by companies.
Geeknet Inc., formerly known as VA Research, is the current owner of the online retailer ThinkGeek. Prior to this, Geeknet developed computer hardware and was one of the creators of the earliest OS programs. Geeknet was recently acquired by GameStop.
Magento offers a series of open source software platforms that allow e-commerce developers a flexible option for their business. From fast food giants to health care, Magento provides software that streamlines business operations, allowing them to deploy efficient processes that benefit customers.
Whether you have created an open source project or are an expert on one, there are several ways to earn a living. As long as you have an open source license, you can:
Sell Support Contracts
There are a number of excellent software programs that are not only free, but also easy to download, but without the wherewithal to use them, they are practically useless. If you know how to set up and support the software, you could leverage those skills into a profitable business for yourself.
Many companies that have created open source software also provide support and contracts. Commercial support comes in a wide variety of levels. Anyone who can provide quality support could do very well. Further, they could offer telephone support for a premium charge and email support at a lesser charge.
Provide Value-Added Enhancements
Despite the fact that the open source software is available for free, added enhancements to that basic service can be provided at a cost. For example, WordPress is an excellent blogging software that is free to use. However, if those users want to add enhanced themes or additional functionality with plugins, there’s an entire market of developers with a veritable cornucopia of options.
Just because a company provides open source software does not obligate them to provide support or even an instruction on manual on how to best use it. Naturally, this has led to a market for people who have developed an expertise in a particular platform that can be hired to create custom tailored documentation for the company using the software.
For some software systems, having the source code won’t benefit you much. For example, some computer programs such as C++ won’t run directly without the binaries for that operating system. Compiling this binary range can be very difficult. Also, if you have the expertise to develop these binaries on your own, you can provide these to others at a charge.
If you are an expert at installing and/or customizing applications for open source software, you could easily sell your services as a consultant to those looking to customize the use the product for their business. Some have even created customization programs that interface with the open source software to adjust variables without having to edit the source code.
In the end, the market for business opportunities in the open source arena is plentiful. Building a successful business around one is like any other, where being proficient in the field and innovative with your solutions will yield a bigger slice of the pie.