8 Specific Ways To Start Making Real Money In Tech
May 26 2016, Published 3:30 a.m. ET
Fact or fiction? You can start earning money with your tech skills even if you’re not a computer science graduate with 25 years of experience. (BTW: Nobody has 30 years experience on the Web because it was only invented in 1989!)
Fact! Even with just the fundamentals of design or coding under your belt, you’re ready to do “real” projects that people will pay you real money for.
If you’re wondering how that’s possible, I’ll tell you: tech skills are in demand. People, organizations, companies—they all need web content and websites nowadays. And most people can’t and don’t want to design, develop, or maintain a site.
That means there is huge demand for people like us, who want to roll up our sleeves and start learning tech skills.
And you don’t have to worry that you’re new to all of this. As long as you set realistic expectations about what you can do and you’re clear about what your client wants, earning money off brand new tech skills is totally within the realm of possibility.
To get you going, here are eight different kinds of projects you can do as a beginner in tech, the skills you need, and where to find this kind of work (both remotely and in person).
1. Image editing and graphic design
Ever tweaked vacation photos or whipped up a logo for your company’s softball team? Then you can earn money with image editing and graphic design.
It might seem like a small thing to start with, but think of the thousands and thousands of images and infographics you see every day on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Of course, most content that ends up on the Internet doesn’t pass through the hands of a paid freelancer, but there are plenty of ways for you to make money with editing and design skills.
You can find image editing and graphic design jobs through friends and acquaintances, and also through freelancing sites. You may have to do a lot of these projects to get the money to add up, but it’s a great strategy for getting paid to learn, especially if you’re interested in design.
Skills you need: Photoshop and/or other Adobe Suite tools, or alternative options like Sketch or Canva.
Where to look for jobs: friends and family, hobby clubs or sports teams, Fiverr.
If I asked you what the color and style of Coca-Cola is, you wouldn’t blink an eye before describing that iconic shade of red and the unmistakable white script. And of course you can also identify the Golden Arches, the Levi stamp, or the Apple logo without a second thought. That’s branding.
Every organization and group needs a “look and feel” to identify it. So, while you might not start out working for a global powerhouse, you can provide branding services that a company or group could use on social media or in digital marketing, for example.
Now, plenty of designers specialize in branding and have been doing so for years, but there is still room for beginners like you, especially if you have some intuition around design or a background in art or print design. Just remember that you’ll be working for smaller clients at first, like bloggers and local companies.
If you’re passionate about things like typography pairings, mood boards, and color palettes, helping other individuals and small companies with their branding is a great way to get your hands dirty. You’ll also get some amazing experience learning to create graphics for the web.
Skills you need: UX / design knowledge and tools.
Where to look for jobs: small businesses, non-profits, 99designs.
3. Web page and website re-design or design
Speaking of look and feel, if you feel actual physical pain when you see a website that still looks like it was born circa 1995, you’ve got the DNA for re-design or design work.
Now, like branding, there are pros in the industry who have been specializing in web design for years. But this is still a great way for you to get your feet wet, start working on coding projects, and get paid before you even learn to code.
Before a new site ends up in the hands of a coder, someone has to design it.
You can get paid to create the layout, look, and feel of a site without writing any of the code. This will mean putting together user flows and sitemaps, and creating mockups for how each page of the site will look across different devices.
Skills you need: UX / design knowledge and tools.
Where to look for jobs: local companies, Freelancer.com
4. HTML and CSS email templates
Email? Seriously?! Yep, you can make money creating emails, and I don’t mean ones from “foreign princes” asking for help claiming an inheritance.
Every newsletter and email list you’re on is probably relying on a template (or several templates). These templates are built with HTML and CSS (the same code that web pages are built with). So this is a smart way to get your foot in the door with digital marketing, especially if you have any marketing or sales experience.
Skills you need: design fundamentals and HTML and CSS, familiarity with the email marketing platform at hand (like MailChimp, Emma, or Constant Contact).
Where to look for jobs: professional groups, marketing agencies, Idealist.
5. Website components
If you’re ready to dive into some web development but don’t want to take on full-sized projects, making website components is a great option. In other words, instead of building complete web pages or websites, you’ll be creating certain parts of them like menus, buttons, headers, or footers.
This kind of work is perfect if just you want to dip your toe into web development or if you want to offer more services in addition to site design or re-design.
You’ll find that bloggers and small businesses will sometimes need a part of their site updated without investing in an entire site redesign, and sometimes freelancers will subcontract another freelancer for just a part of a website if they’re overloaded with work. You can even design stock components like menus or image sliders and sell them through sites like ThemeForest.
Skills you need: web design, HTML, and CSS.
Where to look for jobs: design agencies, your Pinterest board followers, Craigslist.
6. Website revamp or creation using website builder services
You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. In other words, you don’t have to build a website from the ground up to get paid for your work.
You’ve probably heard of (and most likely used) services like Tumblr, WordPress.com, or SquareSpace. They let you easily put together a landing page or a whole site using drag-and-drop or WYSIWYG tools. Well, you can also find work at the beginning of your coding career by creating sites with these services for your own clients.
You might just be doing the basics for someone who simply doesn’t have the time or interest to set up their online presence. Or you could be digging into the “developer tools” of these services to create a customized page or site.
Skills you need: web design, HTML and CSS.
Where to look for jobs: volunteer groups, Facebook, PeoplePerHour
7. Web page or website development
When you are looking to build something from scratch, it’s time to go full on web developer. That means you’ll be coding web pages or whole sites and getting them up and running on the Web.
You can combine this with other services already listed here (like branding and site design), or you can work along with a designer to put together amazing online experiences for clients.
Where to look for jobs: web designers (to team up with), your LinkedIn profile, Upwork.
8. Website maintenance
Finally, if you’re hoping for regular side income (rather than one-off projects), how about keeping existing sites up-to-date and running smoothly?
You can take the burden of debugging, updating, and maintaining a site off someone’s shoulders by offering monthly or annual site services. While the workload may vary (so be sure to price accordingly), you’ll be sure of your income well in advance.
And you can do this work on sites you’ve built yourself, sites created by other developers, or even sites created with those out of the box builder tools mentioned earlier.
Where to look for jobs: your own website, your Twitter list, jobs.wordpress.net.