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Make Passive Income Developing Web Automation Tools

Building open source software is a rewarding endeavor. You get to collaborate with developers worldwide, create freely usable tools, and give back to the community. But while open source delivers immense value, it rarely pays the bills for maintainers.

On the other end of the spectrum, SaaS businesses built around proprietary code can be quite lucrative. However, running a profitable SaaS involves tackling many complex issues beyond just writing code.

There is a third approach that offers the best of both worlds – monetizing your expertise by publishing tools on a platform like Apify. This guide will explore the challenges of monetizing open source work, the overhead of running a SaaS business, and how Apify‘s platform model lets you generate passive income from your coding skills.

The Challenges of Monetizing Open Source Work

Developing open source software can be immensely gratifying. You get the freedom to scratch your own itch and collaborate with a community of like-minded developers. Your work benefits countless people around the world.

However, making a living solely from open source development is quite difficult. Once code is open sourced, the developer relinquishes control over how it is used. Attempts to monetize through donations or sponsorships have not succeeded on a wider scale.

According to a 2020 Open Source Security Foundation survey, nearly 90% of maintainers spend less than 10 hours per week on their projects and two-thirds earn less than $1,000 annually. A GitHub survey found that only 3.6% of maintainers are fully compensated by their sponsorships.

This lack of funding leads to many problems in critical open source projects:

  • Security issues – Unpaid maintainers lack resources to implement proper security practices. Vulnerabilities like Heartbleed have resulted from this neglect.

  • Missing features – Maintainers focus only on essential fixes rather than adding new functionalities users want.

  • Abandoned projects – Burnout and lack of support lead maintainers to abandon projects even if many depend on it. Python‘s urllib3 saw 16% of maintainers leave in 2018.

  • No user input – Without funding, maintainers lack insights into real-world user needs, resulting in ivory-tower development.

The broken incentive model of open source ultimately hurts both maintainers and users. A better way is needed to sustainably fund development while creating value for businesses.

Turning a Profit with SaaS

The SaaS or software-as-a-service model flips the script on monetization – developers retain control over their software and can charge users for access. This shift enabled lone developers to build thriving businesses around their work.

However, running a profitable SaaS involves tackling many complex issues beyond just writing great code:

  • Infrastructure – Managing servers, deployments, scaling, redundancy.

  • Billing – Accepting and managing payments, handling taxes, invoices.

  • Marketing – Search optimization, social media, email, content creation.

  • Support – Documentation, troubleshooting issues, customer conversations.

  • Security – Implementing data protection, access controls and auditing.

  • Compliance – Adhering to regulations like GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA based on users.

Dealing with these operational complexities demands specialized skills in product management, marketing, legal, finance etc. For a solo developer or small team, the core technology often ends up being just a small piece of the overall workload.

According to a Bain & Company survey, 25% of 1-year-old SaaS startups fail due to lack of product-market fit. Within 5 years, 35% fail due to running out of cash. Building a profitable SaaS requires tackling issues well outside of coding.

The Platform Model – The Best of Both Worlds

Platforms like Apify offer a third option that combines the scale and reach of open source with the monetization potential of SaaS:

You Focus on Building Tools

Forget servers, marketing, billing, support issues. The platform handles all that for you. Just focus on coding tools that solve real problems for people.

Get Paid Based on Usage

Set a monthly price for your tools based on the value they provide. Earn recurring passive income without any sales or business development.

Tap Into an Existing Marketplace

Platforms have thousands of existing users who can readily find and integrate your tools. Avoid the cold start of building an audience.

Maintain Full Ownership

You own your tools, code, and pricing. Evolve your tools based on customer feedback to maximize value.

Write For the Cloud

Build tools designed to run at cloud scale from the get go. Take advantage of abundant, on-demand resources.

Apify is purpose built for this emerging "cloud bazaar" model that sustainably connects tool developers with business users looking to solve problems.

How to Monetize Your Code on Apify

Apify makes monetization easy by letting developers publish serverless automation tools called Actors on its cloud platform:

Develop Actors

  • Containerize your code into a Docker image. This is far easier than managing your own servers and deployments.

  • Write a README, input schema, and sample dataset to document usage.

  • Apify automatically handles deployments, autoscaling, monitoring etc. Focus just on coding.

Publish in Apify Store

  • Get a store page for your Actor with usage analytics and customer feedback.

  • Showcase your skills and attract freelance work through your profile.

  • Provide support for users and gather insights to improve the Actor.

Set Usage Pricing

  • Pick a monthly fee according to the value your Actor provides. Current pricing ranges from $1 to $500+ per month.

  • You receive 100% of the rental income. Apify bills customers and provides support.

Draw Passive Income

  • Get paid month-after-month as your Actor gets used without any overhead.

  • Spend minimal time handling ops, infra, billing, marketing, etc.

  • Focus on improving your Actor based on real user feedback.

For example, actor-scraper by Pavels Sisojevs costs $49/month and earns over $2000 monthly in passive income. The web scraper actor by Tugkan Cengiz costs $199/month and makes over $1000 per month.

Benefits for Actor Developers

Publishing tools on Apify offers many advantages compared to open source and SaaS models for solo developers:

  • Get paid for your work – No need to find sponsorships or donations. Recurring usage payments provide reliable income.

  • Own your code – You retain full control and rights over your tools.

  • Passive income – Get recurring revenue without sales, marketing or operational overheads.

  • Flexibility – Work on tools alongside other projects according to your own schedule.

  • Showcase skills – Highlight your expertise to attract freelance work and job opportunities.

  • Instant audience – Reach thousands of existing Apify users needing solutions.

  • User feedback – Improve tools based on real-world usage and needs.

  • Focus on coding – Skip distracting business operations and infra management.

Benefits for Platform Users

For business users, platforms like Apify provide access to hundreds of prebuilt tools for automation:

  • Wide range – Tools available for web scraping, data processing, machine learning and more.

  • Instant access – Use tools instantly without deployment, integrations or licensing.

  • Pay per use – Only pay for what you need, based on usage.

  • Full support – Get help directly from tool creators.

  • Reliability – Tools are vetted and run on enterprise-grade infrastructure.

  • Security – Data handling follows strict regulatory compliance like GDPR.

  • Flexibility – Invoke tools via API from any environment.

  • Compliance – Tools adhere to data regulations, eliminating your liability.

Getting Started Building Paid Tools on Apify

Ready to turn your coding skills into a passive income stream on Apify? Here are some steps to get started:

  • Learn the basics of developing Actors by reviewing Apify‘s documentation.

  • Containerize existing automation code or build new Actors from scratch.

  • Test out your Actors locally and then on the Apify platform.

  • Write a detailed README, add input schema, example datasets and screenshots.

  • Pick appropriate usage pricing based on the value your Actor provides.

  • Publish the Actor in the Apify Store and spread the word!

  • Provide excellent support to users. Solicit feedback. Keep improving your Actor.

  • Sit back as passive income starts flowing in each month from Actor usage.

  • Focus on enhancing your Actors and publish new ones. Grow your income streams.

Make Passive Income With Web Automation

Apify provides a powerful platform for developers to parlay their coding skills into passive income streams. Building and publishing tools as Apify Actors can often be far more lucrative than open source work, without the overheads of running a SaaS business.

The platform model sustainably connects developers with businesses needing solutions, enabling both parties to realize value. So if you‘ve built something useful or have a great idea, turn it into an Actor and let Apify take care of the rest!

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