Monetizing Open Source Projects can be difficult for many developers. I interviewed Mike Perham, Rubyist and Open Source Developer of Sidekiq for his insights in this area. In this interview, I asked Mike about his efforts in commercializing his own open source project, how he marketed, priced, and achieved sustainability of Sidekiq Pro.
(Regarding sound quality, Backup audio was used. Primary audio source failed)
1. Notoriety Doesn’t Pay
In this interview, Mike mentions his huge time investment in building an open source project. Your popularity in a particular community may rise, but charging money can be a viable solution in order to recoup time and effort.
2. Charge for the Product’s Value, Not Cost
There are many different models for pricing commercial open source products. Mike mentions how you should price your product based on how critical it is to an application. Regarding Sidekiq Pro’s pricing, many suggested that he offer recurring payments for continuous revenue, however Mike believes it is beneficial to charge a onetime price, allowing developers to better plan their overall development costs.
3. Marketing: The Proof Is In the Pudding
Build the best product you can. Mike mentions other forms of marketing are not genuine. For example, he believes users should evaluate many Background Processing solutions and organically arrive to the best solution, hopefully being Sidekiq Pro.
4. Crowd funding for Open Source Projects: Bad Idea
Mike expresses that he is not a fan of this funding model. This type of funding can lead to many issues for a project. Financing 1.0 products in a pledge drive format or the ”NPR-ification of Open Source Software” does not guarantee future support, additional functionality, and documentation. Selling a product long term forces you to support and improve upon a product.
5. Business Advice: Don’t be a Business
This insight may of been my favorite part of the interview, so good I may have to retitle this post to “How to Sustain Open Source Development”. Mike discusses how Sidekiq Pro is not a business in the traditional sense. You do not have to participate in building a company or consulting group around open source to make money. You can just build a great product and get paid.