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Software Engineer Side Hustle: How To Make $5300 in 1 Week

Want to start a software engineer side hustle? One of my students went from nothing to $5300 in just 3 weeks. Here’s how.

Ramit Sethi

Ed, 34, is a software engineer. He’s married and lives in a big city. He’s got a degree and a master’s in computer science and has spent the last 8 years programming for defense companies. But, despite working up to 11 hour days and earning more than $100,000 a year, Ed still wanted a software engineer side hustle.

Ed Computer Programmer Portrait
I’m highlighting Ed for people who write me saying, “Ramit, does your material work? I already earn a lot and I have NO free time.”

Yes. Yes, it does.

This case study is not just for coders. It’s for anyone that has a passion or a hobby, and wouldn’t mind making an extra $2-3K per month — or like Ed landing a $5,300 contract within 3 weeks of starting my Earn1K course.

Let’s look at how Ed went from a “sustainable hobby” to a “profitable side project” in less than a month.

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How Ed made $5300 in 3 weeks with a software engineering side hustle

Ed considered himself an entrepreneur.

“I’ve been doing iOS development for the last 4 years. I had a side company with a daytime work partner. We’ve been selling apps through the app store – for like $2.99 or $9.99. We made maybe a couple of grand in sales, but then Apple takes their 30%, and we split it 50/50, and then taxes, so the bottom line wasn’t much. I’m an Apple fanboy though, so at least I get to write off my iPad and iPhone as business expenses.”

The app store is a pretty competitive place – so by a lot of measures Ed was already doing okay, but it’s that same success that was holding him back.

“I had almost signed up for Earn1K in 2011. I did a bunch of the live webcasts Ramit put on, and I was like ‘ehhh, I should be doing it.’ But I didn’t pull the trigger. I thought because I had a side business I knew enough to be dangerous. I guess I thought I didn’t have to pay for the knowledge.”

So Ed passed on E1K and continued developing apps. “We did one iPad app this company wanted to use for internal training. We made more money with that app in a five-week period than in an entire year of sales. That’s when I realized there was a market for building to spec. But that sale kind of fell in our laps. It was lucky. And we priced it wrong. We did a fixed price, which means we lost our shirt in the hourly rate because it ended up taking double. My partner is pretty busy now — he’s got two kids and is doing an MBA. So I started thinking about doing this on my own.”

That sounded like a good idea, but Ed realized he had a problem.

“I live a pretty structured life. Not like crazy, but I make yearly goals and I try and review them every quarter. So last year one of my goals was to make $20,000 with my company — and I didn’t even come close. I was looking at it all wrong, I was thinking ‘how am I going to get a paycheck?’ instead of ‘what are the steps to starting a side business that can earn a couple thousand a month?’”

When I reopened Earn1K, Ed signed up. Three weeks later, Ed learned my Craigslist RSS technique and landed his first $5,300 client software engineer side hustle, the very next day.

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“$5,300…I was amazed”

“So the whole course was great, but the one thing that got the sale — and I never would have thought this in a million years — was using Craigslist to find work.”

A lot of people don’t know how to use Craigslist. They waste dozens of hours clicking through ads and sending off emails, then give up when they get exactly zero results. But it is a marketplace, and if you know how to use it, there are good clients that will pay you for your service.

The key is getting SPECIFIC. I teach exactly how to do this in Earn1K.

“The next day I got a sale. The ad popped up, I emailed them with the script from the course. They emailed me right back, ‘Hey, you want to Skype? You look like you are a good match.’ Within a couple of days, we had worked out the details and pricing, $5,300. I was amazed. I always figured Craigslist was for shady deals, or people selling used things out of their garage but these guys are great to work with. I told them, $50 an hour for this project, then we’ll increase the rate after we finish the demo product.”

Ed didn’t just use my scripts to kickstart his side business. “I used a ton of Earn1K content. I think I’m a pretty good writer, but Ramit’s email scripts were much more polished. And the psychology of pricing helped me get what I know I deserve for the project without scaring them away.”

Now Ed understands the difference between setting a GOAL to earn more and ACTUALLY taking the steps to make it happen. “I was like, holy shit I have clients!”

What advice does Ed have for engineers who want to start earning money on the side?

“You can be a great engineer but suck at working with people. Most engineers are kind of nerdy – we just want to sit alone in a corner, and code, and be left alone. But just having the chops for tech skills doesn’t cut it. It’s all the ancillary skills like being able to write well, communicate well, the course shows you all that. It’s what will set you aside from the average person.”

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  1. avatar

    You misspelled engineer.

  2. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    Fixed. Thanks!

  3. avatar

    I still can’t get past the fact that as a 8 year programmer, he was okay with a $50/hr rate. Maybe it’s just Ruby but a good Ruby programmer with a few years can easily make $100, probably $150/hr. Even other languages it seems pretty low. That might be the Craigslist effect though, networking might be better for that. But great advice in terms of communication.

  4. avatar
    Dave Oatley

    @Anoel, I think you’ve missed the point. Have you done Earn1k? If so, you’d know it was a only a starting point and you would have tools to bring that price up significantly. He even said they agreed to raise the rate after the initial project.

  5. avatar
    Ellie K

    Anoel: I think you are correct.

    Ramit Sethi: You can blame Downtown Josh Brown, The Reformed Broker, for my visit. Someone left your URL in his blog comments (just kidding about blaming Josh… I leave annoying comments on his blog, I am merely another reader). Where to begin?
    “Ed, 34, is a software engineer. He’s married and lives in a big city. He’s got a masters in computer science… 8 years programming for defense companies. But, despite working up to 11 hour days and earning more than $100,000 a year, Ed still wanted a side project.”

    If Ed were sensible, he would be thankful for his $100,000+ per year job, and not risk losing it by moonlighting. If he’s working 11 hours per day, he should spend his spare time with his wife. If he doesn’t want to do that, he should get enough sleep, rather than playing with iPhone apps dev. If he loses his full time job because of a side job making $5,300, he’s going to be very unhappy.

    Next, you say:
    “I’m highlighting Ed for people who write me saying, “Ramit, does your material work? I already earn a lot and I have NO free time.” Yes. Yes it does. Read on, jackasses.”

    What? “Jackasses?” Calling your potential customers, i.e. us, your readers, “jackasses” is not the best way to make friends and influence people. It promotes hostility. It might intimidate some readers, those who are young, or not-so-young but lack confidence, and thus lead to sales for you. But that is such a loser approach. I have a degree from Stanford University too, just like you, so I know that there is some validity to my objection.

    Finally, you conclude with this:
    “[Says Ed] ‘I figured if I can earn more, than my wife and I can use it … to travel. I’ve lived my whole life in the same 10 square miles.'”
    Wait. You said that Ed lives in a big city. He’s mighty unusual if he’s lived his whole life never venturing any distance greater than 14.1 miles away from his metropolitan home 🙂

  6. avatar
    Ramit Sethi

    Hey, the jackasses comment was way off the mark. You are right and I don’t know why that made it in my final edit. I deleted it. Thank you for the comment. I don’t agree about what you think Ed should do “if he were sensible,” but that’s for him to decide. Again, thank you for pointing that comment out — I write a lot of jokes and most don’t make the final cut. This one should not have.

  7. avatar

    Hah! I saw the jackasses comment and didn’t even blink. I guess three years of reading Ramit has jaded me 🙂

    Ed, awesome case study. I love reading about people who manage to fit in earning more on top of a job or school. It shows you know how to prioritize and don’t make excuses. Rock on!

  8. avatar

    Awesome article!

  9. avatar
    Horace Lai

    Is there a second part to the video? Where can I download/buy it?

  10. avatar

    I can’t find the video you mention. I get the newsletter, and check the Private List site all the time, but I don’t see the Craigslist RSS video. Can you tell me where to find it?

  11. avatar

    Hey ramit,

    On your optin below the post the codes shows up like this one my iPhone:
    optin ad_tracking=”case-study-ed-grif”]Sign up for my FREE newsletter and get instant access[/optin]

    Probably worth fixing if your analytics says many readers use their iPhone. I’m guessing it doesn’t which is why it hasn’t been. Either way super value or info.

    It’s really about what goes on between your head. Thanks again

    (I meant ears)

  12. avatar

    That was pretty mind blowing article.I may have to dig deep into craiglist and see if it could help me turn fortunes for me.

  13. avatar

    Where do you live…. In the south , 100k is a lot. Mortgages in southern usa are less than 1500 for fairly big houses.