Curious about writing packages for profit

Hi. I’ve been lurking here for a couple months, but haven’t got around to introducing myself or asking the questions that have been on my mind. I found this forum by searching for “free software considered harmful”, which led me to this blog post, which mentioned License Zero, which led me here.

I would very much like there to be an open, efficient market for reusable software components (i.e. packages, like NPM packages, not just programs to be used by end users). Probably for the same reasons most of you are interested in such things. For one thing, it would be nice if I (and others) could make a good living as an independent developer selling components. I also think it could result in higher quality software than the current status quo, where almost all components available for use are “free”.

I have a lot of thoughts about this subject, but I suspect they’re mostly not original. I’d really like to catch up on what other people in the field have been thinking and saying, but I’m not sure where to find such things, aside from this forum and a few blog posts like the one I mentioned above. It would be great if there was sort of an introductory summary on the topic somewhere that people could point me to.

I guess my initial questions boil down to:

  1. Is it currently possible to make a living as an independent developer of reusable packages?
  2. What needs to happen before it becomes practical, or maybe even easy? Or is there no way to get there from here?

My impression is that it’s currently very difficult, if not impossible. Not just because “writing software is hard”; I don’t expect that to become easy, but at least I know how to do it, more or less. I’m thinking of other problems having to do with pricing models, marketing/discovery, enforcement, cultural shift, and so on.

I’m happy to post more details about my thoughts, but like I said, they’re probably mostly things you’ve all already thought of.

@aldel, welcome!

You are certainly not alone in thinking about these problems. Folks here, myself included, have also been involved actively trying various new approaches, even in setting up “missing infrastructure”. That’s how I saw License Zero, and how I now see strictEq.

I don’t think there’s any “definitive guide” to any part of the software business. By some perfectly reasonable definitions of “hard”, making a living in software is always hard, no matter how you go about it. That includes by making and selling libraries, frameworks, and utilities without sharing anything publicly, as many firms large and small have done in the recent past, and are still doing now.

However, folks do tend to end up around here, and around “sustainability as a service” projects more generally, from an open source starting point. In other words, they’re folks who know how to do software in the open, but want to make money, rather than folks already making money selling “closed” software who want more open in their lives.

Among that group, just like any other, there’s a lot more talk and blogging about how things could be than attempts to make it, either in the form of developers actually putting software out for sale or other developers trying to make that easier.

Do you have a project that you would like to offer online?