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I'm an UG Student and an Entrepreneur. I have started a small company with which I'm trying to provide solutions, to various companies in my city, through my software. I put in 30-40 hours of coding and development. I've been a huge fan of Open Source projects and I've also built by software on python.

But now when it comes to selling my software to my customers, I expect money. (Am I being a Hypocrite?)

  1. Is there any OSS license under which I can make money and also make my source open? Please suggest.
  2. Or any other way to make money with my softwares? (I guess I deserve some credit. If not the code, atleast the ideas? :D )
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Similar to this one –  Philip Jun 27 '11 at 14:55
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30-40 hours of coding and development? you must be exhausted! ;-) –  Steven A. Lowe Jun 27 '11 at 15:22
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@Steven A. Lowe: Hey, I remember when I was a student and to cram that many hours on a personal project could have been months of time on weekends (when I wasn't working) and late nights. :) –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 27 '11 at 16:22
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I personally think a 40 hour project is a pretty decent sized task. I mean, let's assume you aren't an expert in the field your project is in. This means an expert may have been able to write the exact same thing in say 20 hours. But still, even if this expert is payed $10 an hour, you're still saving that expert $100 by selling it to him for $100 (where $200 is the "actual" worth of it, but you can sell it multiple times) –  Earlz Jun 27 '11 at 20:04
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I find it hard to believe that there is going to be a great amount of monetary value in 30 - 40 hours of student coding. A professional coder could probably replicate the functionality in 8 - 16 hours, or less if it doesn't already exist somewhere else. –  Jarrod Roberson Jun 27 '11 at 20:06
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5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

If the whole thing is Open Source and people can download the software and use it, it could be hard making money just from that. Some ways you could make money:

  • Support: People pay you to configure and set up and maintain the software, they get their bugs fixed on a priority-level, etc...

  • Training: People pay you to train them how to use and administer your product.

  • Customization: People pay you to customize the software to their particular needs.

  • Extension (similar to customization): Make the "basic" version available for free, and any plugins are not open source and are purchased as needed. Of course this only works if your program actually has plugins.

  • As a service: if your application is some kind of hosted application, you could make the code freely available, and then make money off of hosting and administering it for those who do not want to host it themselves.

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Training is another option. –  squillman Jun 27 '11 at 15:45
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The three biggest sources of revenue from open-source software are support, training and customization services. The same can be said of any software you as the service provider don't "own", such as MOSS (SharePoint). A lot of code houses use SharePoint customization as their bread and butter. Red Hat makes billions on support of a Linux distro; the OS itself is free to download and install, but the consulting and architecture design inherent in support of large Linux systems has value independent of the OS itself. –  KeithS Jun 27 '11 at 16:16
    
I think this is just perfect. idea of making the basic version free and making the extension be purchased is pretty good :) thanks @FrustratedWithFormsDesign :) –  byteofprash Jun 27 '11 at 18:09
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This needs to be written in 32 point letters across the intertubes: You Can Sell Open Source Software. Really! If you developed it, you can absolutely sell it and give away the code. You can even use a license which forbids others to sell the software.

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But CC != open source (although plain share-alike might be similar to copyleft licenses). Open source licenses include the right for the licensee to give away (including to sell) the software themselves (but they also have to pass on all these rights). See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Definition –  delnan Jun 27 '11 at 14:55
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@delnan: That is the OSI definition of Open Source. The matter of opening the code to the public does not need the license you release it under to be a free software license. The term open source is often used as just opening the source for viewing, while free software is limited to specific things as that’s a term heavily influenced by the FSF, and not as ambiguous. –  Kissaki Jun 27 '11 at 16:13
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40 hours of coding isn't a big project. Let's say 2 man-week in an enterprise environment, likely with more testing and documentation that you made. Consider making it a loss leader, i.e. don't try to earn money directly from it.

Instead, use it to gain reputation. Offer it for download on your company web page; create a wiki for it so that people get used to coming to your site. Maybe a few of them will buy your commercial software, if you're selling to individuals. If you're selling to companies or contracting, presenting yourself as the author of moderately popular free software X will be a plus that sometimes allows you to win the contract or charge a little more. If you ever need a salaried job, a portfolio will be a plus on your resume.

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Depends on what you mean by "making money". Open source software does not preclude making money (Red Hat, the most prominent and successful example, made $32.5 million last quarter), but you can't demand that people pay for using the software - even if you demand this before giving out a licence yourself, this license inevitable includes the right to pass the software on (be it for for free or not). This is why companies making money with OSS don't charge for that at all but rather sell support, training, additional software/tools that aren't open source, etc.

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Only the OSI definition of “open source” limits you to specific licenses. If you just mean to open your source code for viewing, you can do whatever. –  Kissaki Jun 27 '11 at 16:16
    
@Kissaki: Strictly speaking, you are right. But since the vast majority of people associate "open source" with a degree of freedom (e.g. the right to compile the published source code, fork it and distribute it under the same license), and mostly everything called open source falls under this definition, I'd be very careful to call something open source if it doesn't meet most of the OSI criteria - it will only get lots of flaming and hatemail rather than comminity contribution. –  delnan Jun 27 '11 at 16:28
    
I did not think of free software when reading this question on open source. I have always thought of open source as, well, source open for viewing. That’s what the term says. Hence my comment. That’s also why I prefer the FSFs definition and using the term free software to differentiate from open sourced software. How do you call software with viewable source, which is not free software? –  Kissaki Jun 27 '11 at 17:58
    
To clarify: I doubt the (great) majority goes by the OSI definition. At least that is my impression. –  Kissaki Jun 27 '11 at 18:01
    
The reason why i wanted to make it open source is, I have learnt a lot from the open source community and hence I want to give back something to the community. So , it is ok if I post my entire code in Github or other programming related forums and just charge for my client for the extension alone? Will that do justice? And btw is there any license which allows that? :) –  byteofprash Jun 27 '11 at 18:15
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Make it open source and sell it anyway. Binpress allows you to do this and there are quite a few projects that have. Just because your code is somewhere out there doesn't mean that everyone knows it's there. Of course, I don't recommend trying to sell it for $1000 either though or people may get very angry at you.

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