3 Revenue Streams for First-Time Freelance Developers

Beginning your journey as a freelance developer can feel like one small step for man, and one giant pain when trying to find work. You’ll want to find prosperous areas in which to apply your trade, but you’ll often encounter saturated markets that require hard work if you want to be successful. Finding a profitable and fun niche, therefore, is often a tough task.

Putting in time upfront to settle on one or more suitable revenue streams will pay off over the long term. Although you can always fall back on the classic WordPress development projects, finding a specific area to work in comes with major perks. It will narrow down your audience, get you working in a niche you like, and help you potentially capture a corner of the market.

In this post, we’ll look at why choosing your revenue streams should merit careful consideration. Then we’ll discuss three of the more promising options for beginning freelance developers. Let’s get started!

Why You Should Choose Your Revenue Streams Carefully

Amber Weinberg's website.
Many freelance developers offer a number of services – which are essentially individual revenue streams.

In a nutshell, a ‘revenue stream’ is simply a formal term for “a way to make money.” Usually, you’ll have one primary revenue stream, displayed front and center on your marketing and promotional materials.

When choosing a revenue stream to focus on (or more than one), it’s important to consider other factors than simply what options are likely to make you the most money. Brainstorming your options is a smart idea because:

  • It helps you determine which streams will also deliver a beneficial learning experience. In other words, you want to choose areas of focus that can help you work towards your overall career goals.
  • You should be competent and confident in your chosen area so that potential clients are more likely to seek you out. Therefore, you don’t want to consider a revenue stream that you lack knowledge in (or aren’t willing to learn completely).
  • You’ll need to enjoy the niche you choose, as you’ll be spending countless hours working on it.

Having a primary revenue stream is all well and good, especially if you’re a fledgling developer. However, diversifying your revenue streams will take some of the pressure off, since you won’t have to succeed in just one area. It will also give you an opportunity to switch your focus based on interest, clients, income, and a whole host of other factors.

Of course, you also don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Therefore, choosing a couple of niches to specialize in can often be the best strategy.

3 Revenue Streams for First-Time Freelance Developers

Actually finding the right areas to focus on can be a challenge. To help you get started, here are three revenue streams that are worth considering as a freelance developer.

1. Theme and Plugin Development

The Make WordPress website.
The Make WordPress website (and associated developer resources) is a one-stop shop for anything related to developing for the platform.

Beginning your WordPress career by developing themes and plugins is, admittedly, a very unoriginal start. For the uninitiated, a WordPress website’s design and functionality is built around themes (which determine the visual design of a site), and plugins (which typically extend its features and functionality). It stands to reason, therefore, that many WordPress users will want their own themes and plugins. This means that there’s a ready-made market to tap into.

In short, theme and plugin development is the simplest road into developing for WordPress, and can definitely provide an income – albeit a meager one if you choose a saturated or ‘well-stocked’ niche. You’ll want to start at the dedicated Make WordPress site, which is the first stop for developers of all stripes. The developer handbooks and the Codex pieces on developing plugins and themes are also a goldmine.

Actually monetizing your themes and plugins takes a lot of hard work and dedication if you want to reap the rewards. Check out Patrick Rauland’s concise piece to get a solid overview of your options. Since that article was published, Software as a Service (SaaS) and the premium theme and plugin market has exploded in popularity – and both are worth considering further if this is a revenue stream you’re interested in.

2. Website Customizations and Feature Additions

The WordPress Jobs website.
You’ll often find WordPress-related work on dedicated websites, such as WordPress Jobs.

This is another ‘meat and potatoes’ type of revenue stream that can bring in a decent income for any knowledgeable developer. Many (if not all) WordPress websites need some kind of feature enhancement and customization, such as front-end layout design, custom dashboard tweaks, and much more. There are lots of users who don’t have the technical skills to customize their websites to their liking. However, they do have the budget available to pay professionals to do the job for them.

This may sound suspiciously like web design. However, the key difference is that you’re not necessarily going to be a part of the project from start to finish. Essentially, you’ll be a mercenary, selling your services for a ‘one and done’ specific job as part of the entire process. Of course, this could lead to more work down the line. Initially, however, it’s a short-term solution that’s ideal for beginner freelancers.

Any theme and plugin development experience you have will come in useful here. In addition, the Codex will be helpful for figuring out how to customize under-the-hood aspects of WordPress – as will a number of other articles. As you can imagine, monetizing this revenue stream is a bit tougher than with standard web projects, but it can be well worth the effort.

A good place to start is by creating an account at a dedicated marketplace site. A few months of this experience will give you applicable knowledge in a variety of WordPress-related skills, meaning that your overall skill set will receive a drastic boost.

3. WordPress Care, Maintenance, and Technical Troubleshooting Packages

The GoWP website.
Offering WordPress maintenance services is an excellent source of income for fledgling WordPress developers.

For something a bit more challenging– but with the potential to bring in high, consistent revenue–offering WordPress maintenance (or ‘care’) packages can’t be beat. If this is a new term to you, think about all of the ongoing tasks you have to carry out for your own website – theme, plugin, and WordPress core updates, managing comments, and users, optimizing images and posts for Search Optimization (SEO), and much more.

Instead of handling that all yourself, you could invest in a maintenance package in order to delegate these responsibilities to someone else, freeing up your time in the process. Much like customizing a website, there are many users who want to offload this responsibility. What’s more, you’ll find that those same people often need quick-fix troubleshooting for common WordPress errors and issues. These types of packages serve as great additions to an overall site design project, which should work wonders for your cash flow.

We strongly recommend a couple of great articles on the subject of monetizing WordPress maintenance and troubleshooting. Delicious Brains covered the topic concisely but with depth, and WP Elevation has gone into great detail on the subject.


Beginning your journey as a freelance developer can be tough, since finding a profitable source of income requires considerable time and effort. However, by taking the time to weigh up your options wisely, you can save yourself a lot of frustration. Plus, you can find a niche that boosts your skill set along with your income.

This post has looked at some of the best starting revenue streams for first-time freelance developers. You can:

  1. Develop WordPress themes and plugins.
  2. Customize WordPress installations to the client’s specifications.
  3. Provide WordPress maintenance (or ‘care’) packages, and troubleshoot any technical issues that crop up.

Is there a revenue stream we’ve missed in this article that you think is a goldmine? Let us know about it in the comments section below!

Featured image: ulleo.

John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and a staff writer for WordCandy.

The post 3 Revenue Streams for First-Time Freelance Developers appeared first on Torque.

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