How to Make Money While Learning to Code (I Made $5k My First Year!)

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Lots of people start learning to code in the hope of getting well-paid programming jobs further down the road. But what if you could actually learn how to make money coding while you’re still a beginner? Is it possible to get paid to learn to code?

In this guest post, Joe Previte tells us how to make money coding and how he was able to earn $5,000 in his first year of learning to code, despite only spending $30 on his education.

If you’re ready to learn how to make money coding from home or at in-person programming side jobs, Joe’s experience can give you some real-world tips and insights about how to get paid to learn code!

Okay — here’s Joe! Enjoy :)

Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!

Table of Contents

  1. Start Learning to Code
  2. Land Your First Internship or Job
  3. Stay Motivated
  4. Key Takeaways
  5. FAQs

In 2017, I made the decision to leave my graduate school program and pursue a career in coding. My goal was to get paid to learn to code by seeking out freelance coding jobs for beginners along the way. While spending less than $30 on online courses and resources, I earned close to $5,000 in my first year.

I also recently landed a full-time job as a front-end engineer. I proved that it’s possible to make money coding even if you’re a beginner.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how I was able to earn money programming in 2017, and how much my rates for part time coding jobs were. These numbers are before taxes:

💻 $3,510 – From an internship with a web design agency ($25/hour)

👨‍🏫 $1,338 – From TAing/instructing for a local meetup ($15/hour for TA’ing and $25/hour for instructing)

💰 Total: $4,848

Working on a laptop

The purpose of sharing these numbers, which are by no means impressive, is to show you that you can code online and earn money sooner than you think.

In fact, Laurence landed her first tech side gig in just two weeks after starting to learn! She only knew basic HTML/CSS and had an unrelated degree in history, but she landed a programming side job assisting a web developer for $15/hour. You can actually make money while learning to code.

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to start learning to code, how to make money coding, and how to keep yourself motivated. Along the way, I’ll share everything that helped me to develop my skills and make money while learning to code.

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How to Start Learning to Code

Before you can start making money coding, you need to begin learning to code! The first question you’re going to ask is, “Where do I start?” I asked myself the same question, but ultimately settled on using freeCodeCamp because it’s free and well-organized, and has a strong community.

freeCodeCamp is a website where you learn to code by completing challenges and projects to get certificates. They organize their curriculum in an easy-to-grasp manner and break everything up into challenges. It feels like a game and the structure provides a clear path to the end goal of a certificate.

💸 Supplement Free Resources With Paid Products

There are so many free resources out there, but there are also resources definitely worth paying for. You’ll quickly make it back once you start to code for money!

I bought a few courses, but the only one I actually completed was The Web Developer Bootcamp by Colt Steele. If you’re looking for a great starting point, I recommend that course. It teaches you HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Bootstrap, jQuery, Node.js, Express.js, and MongoDB in a short period of time.

Creating projects online

It’s important to supplement your free coding resources with paid resources, because the free resources will only take you so far. Usually, the free pieces give you an introduction. The advantage to a paid course is that it will go into more depth. They will take you beyond the beginner level and help you advance more quickly.

💡 Not sure how to get started? Check out Codecademy’s Web Development Career Path that will take you from no-code to an in-demand junior web developer.

Other paid platforms that offer more advanced coding courses include:

  1. Coursera
  2. edX
  3. Mammoth Interactive
  4. Udacity

Read more about the 11 best Coursera coding courses for aspiring programmers here.

🤝 Join a Coding Community (Online or In Person)

Community, community, and more community. I can’t stress this enough. Learning to code is tough and the best way to overcome challenges is with the support of others. Knowing people who are facing the same struggles (or have already worked through them) makes it 100x easier for you.

Find a few people or a group with whom you can connect. This could also give you connections to beginner programming jobs!

Chingu is one of my favorite online communities. It’s a small, focused community that developed from within the freeCodeCamp community. After taking a placement survey, you join an online cohort of people at a similar skill level.

Thanks to joining this group, I made new friendships with people who held me accountable on my journey. We built projects together and grew together. Even today, I still keep in contact with some of them.

💯 My other personal favorite is the #100DaysOfCode community on Twitter, which you can learn more about in this interview on the Learn To Code With Me Podcast. I’ll talk more about this later, but so many coders use Twitter. If you don’t have it, check it out.

Many online coding courses and bootcamps also have their own private communities you can join. Launch School, for example, is an online developer bootcamp that gives its students access to a community forum where they share studying tips, help each other with problems and talk code.

Working at a computer

Meetup is a great place to start for in-person groups. If you want one on Facebook, check out freeCodeCamp groups. Some are location-specific too.

According to Danny Thompson, who went from gas station fry cook to working at Google, “Through meetup communities through freeCodeCamp and many other websites, I was able to learn how to program. I was able to create an amazing network of developers and people that I could tap into in a moment’s notice. But the bigger thing is, I was able to have people that I can rely on and fall back on.”

“I owe everything in my career to meetups […] where the resources and the compounding knowledge just exists in a way that you can absorb it in your own time and pace.”

If you’re serious about getting paid to code, surround yourself with other coders. You’ll learn more, you’ll progress faster, and you’ll be happier. It might also help you earn money programming for connections you make through these groups. For instance, maybe one of your fellow group members knows of an opportunity to code online and earn money, but they’re too busy to apply or their skills don’t fit. They could pass the details on to you!

🎧 Listen to Coding Podcasts

When you can’t find time to sit down and learn at your computer, turn on a podcast. It’s a simple way to do some off-screen learning. You can also make better use of your commute time–even if it’s only 10 minutes. You’ll at least be hearing and thinking about code, even if you can’t be writing it.

Here are a few to help get you started:

👩‍💻 Make Coding a Habit

Habits are hard to make and even harder to break. What if you could make coding a habit you never wanted to break? Imagine where it would take you and the discipline you’ll have to code for money in the future.

The best way to create a new habit is by doing it every day. This is why Alexander Kallaway created the #100DaysOfCode movement on Twitter.

The basic premise is to code every day for an hour, for 100 days. Sounds impossible, right? You could never find the time. I thought the same thing. So I changed the rules and only coded for 30 minutes a day. You can read more about my first #100DaysOfCode experience here.

⏳ Even if you can only do five minutes a day, do it. It will be worth it.

Once you’re ready to earn money programming, you’ll already be accustomed to sitting down every day to spend time in a code editor.

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How to Make Money Programming: 8 Tips to Find Gigs

Some of you are probably thinking, “Yeah, I can relate to everything you’re saying, but how do I actually make money coding?”

When I was asking that question, I decided to seek advice from a well-known developer. His advice completely changed my entire perspective on getting paid to code.

I asked, “How will I know when I’m ready to code for money and start applying for jobs?”

He said this:

“It’s worth applying now instead of waiting for the right moment. Because by the time you feel ready, in reality you were ready months ago.”

The point is, you can start coding online and earning money way sooner than you think. My first internship started in June 2017. I’d only been coding for six months. Although I found the right opportunity at the right time, it was the decision to start looking for part time coding jobs that helped me get there.

The worst that can happen is someone says you’re not the right candidate for their job, in which case you keep coding and try applying to other coding jobs for beginners later.

Here are eight tips to help you find your first internship or beginner programming job while you’re still learning to code.

🏢 Reach Out to Local/Family Businesses

As a beginner trying to make money coding for the first time, it’s nice to find low-pressure gigs that help your community. Ask your friends, family, or business owners in your local area if they need help building a website or revamping their current one. Or find businesses with terrible websites and offer to build them a website for cheap. For example, start by checking out your local coffee shop, hair salon or mom and pop restaurant’s website to see if there are any opportunities there. 

This can be a great way to gain experience, beef up your portfolio, make connections in your community and get paid to learn to code!

women working on laptop

For instance, Danny Thompson earned $1,800 for revamping a local Mexican restaurant’s website. How did he land this gig? He simply talked to the manager spur-of-the-moment one evening when he was eating there. That’s how easy it can be to find freelance programming jobs for beginners!

📱 Share Your Progress With Friends and on Social Media

Along with reaching out to local/family businesses directly, you can also share what you’re doing; it’ll benefit your job search and ability to find work. It shows your friends and family that you know how to code, and they’ll think of you when they need help or know someone who has an opportunity to earn money programming.

Four friends have reached out to me for help with websites. Two offered to pay me. Voila: more programming side jobs helping me get paid to learn to code!

This wouldn’t have happened if I’d kept my coding journey to myself. They knew because I shared my progress on Twitter and Facebook. I recommend doing the same. Even if you help someone out for free, it’ll get you exposure and a potential reference to help you find your first paid coding gig!

social media apps on phone

For example, Sarah Greer, a homeschooling mom turned freelance developer, made her start by telling her friends about her progress. “I was telling all of my friends, hey, I’m doing this thing,” she says, “And I had one friend who said, ‘Well, I actually know this guy. He’s got this local business, and he wants a website, but he doesn’t know anything about it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, let’s just do that. Let’s get in touch with this guy.’ And so I ended up building his website.”

She goes on to say, “I also had a fellow student in [my] class, and she had landed a job doing a landing page for a client. She contacted me and she’s like, ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this JavaScript stuff.’ Can you do that part? And I was like, absolutely, which is hilarious because I was still learning it at the time.”

For yet another example, Adda Birnir says: “[My friend] had a friend who needed a website built. She told her, ‘Oh, I know somebody who is smart and hardworking and is trying to learn this and therefore is not going to charge you a lot to do it.’ So, she put me in touch with this woman. She wanted a WordPress blog and I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to figure this out.’ I probably charged her $500 or something. And I took my little HTML and CSS skills and started playing around with WordPress and just figured it out!”

When you decide you want to get paid to learn code, that means you don’t have to be an expert to accept a gig. It means the gig is like your homework; it just comes with a check!

💻 Join a Freelancing Site

Another way to find paid beginner programming jobs as you’re learning to code is by using freelancing sites that connect you to coding projects and clients, such as Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.

Start with simpler coding jobs and keep your bids low in the beginning. On Upwork, you can filter by Experience Level to find entry-level/freelance coding jobs for beginners. As you learn, you’ll be able to make money coding with more complex, higher-paid coding projects. 

In the beginning, taking on freelance jobs like building simple websites or working on existing sites or applications is best. Here’s more about how to land your first freelance client. A quick glance at entry-level web development gigs on Upwork shows that you’ll probably be able to earn $20-40 / hour with freelance programming jobs for beginners.

To stand out from other freelancers on these platforms, avoid these freelancer mistakes and learn how to write the perfect freelance proposal and you’ll be on the right track to making money while learning to code.

Computer mouse

Chris Misterek used Upwork to double his previous full-time salary. He says “Once I had asked everybody that I knew personally to build a website, and they either said yes, and the majority of those who said no, I had to figure out another way to find people to put projects in my pipeline and have a consistent amount of work to be able to, you know, have income from my family. And so, so that’s when I started looking into Upwork.”

So I made my profile, I went crazy, just applying to anything that I could find. And sure enough, I got nothing for the first three months. But I just kept at it, kept applying and then lo and behold, finally, somebody reached out to me and wanted to hire me for a really small project.” Within just 18 months, he had doubled his salary.

Another example: After two years, Kyle Prinsloo’s freelancing side gig matched his full-time salary.

➡️ Here’s how to make your first $1,000 through freelancing.

💬 Join Local Slack Groups

Networking is key when it comes to earning money while learning to code. Another way to network yourself into a paid gig? One of the best places to find paid programming jobs is in your local Slack groups. If you do a Google search for tech organizations in your area, the chances are good that they have a Slack group where you can potentially find opportunities to code for money.

Since I’m based out of Arizona in the US, these are the groups I found:

I found two jobs through Slack. One was my first internship as a web developer in the Arizona WordPress Slack group. They had a #jobs channel where I saw a posting for an internship. After messaging the person who posted it, introducing myself, and sharing my portfolio, I landed the internship and officially started to earn money programming.

Two men on laptops

The second paid coding gig I found was a Meetup TA/Instructor position through the #yesphx Slack group. I did the same thing as before–messaged the person asking if the opportunity was available, sent my portfolio, and then was hired!

There are lots of opportunities on Slack channels out there to code online and earn money! Do some research on the tech community where you want to find a job, join them, and get chatting.

💭 Be Open to Coding Hybrid Roles to Make Money

My first full-time job in tech was in digital marketing. How did I get it if I didn’t have previous experience or a degree in the field? Simple: they hired me because I knew how to code.

When offering me the job, my boss wanted me to serve in a hybrid role of marketing and web development. I even negotiated a higher salary because of my self-taught tech skills.

When you’re looking to make money coding, be open to opportunities that aren’t only coding-related. You might find something you weren’t even looking for because of your new skills.

Consider taking on hybrid or “tech adjacent” roles that aren’t all about coding (but can help you learn to code faster in some cases) when you’re first learning to code and want to make money. Examples of this include 👇

  • Technical writing: Write content like technical guides, which can help you understand the concepts better yourself. Avg. salary: $34.14/hour
  • Tech support: Remote customer service positions are often available. Avg. salary: $17.47/hour
  • Website theme building: Can be done on a CMS like WordPress, or even custom themes from scratch. $45-100+ per hour
  • QA or software testing: Run tests to find flaws in developers’ coding. $27.87/hour
  • Data entry: Move data from one format to another. Potential earnings: $16.02/hour
  • Social media management: Manage social pages on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or a blog. You can earn an avg. of $18.37/hour

Having a foot in the door in the tech world can be powerful, even if coding isn’t your main duty in that first role! Logan Tran, for example, started out with a job in quality assurance and became a junior software engineer two years later.

✍️ Start a Blog

Establish your personal brand, build trust, and attract more clients by starting a blog. You can write about your coding journey, share industry news and write about other topics that interest you. Once you’ve built up your audience, a blog can also earn you money through monetization strategies like advertisements, sponsored ads, and affiliate marketing. You can also create a Services/Contact page to let clients know you’re open to paid coding gigs.

If you get around 1,000 page views per month, you could make around $10-$25 per month in ad revenue. That’s not a huge amount, but if you manage to build your audience and get more viewers, you could earn a whole lot more! Ryan Robinson, for instance, started a blog that earns over $327,000 annually.

You can get started with a web hosting service like Bluehost, DreamHost, WP Engine, or HostGator.

man blogging

🏆 Enter Coding Competitions

While you’ll have to have a bit more experience for this one, entering online coding competitions can actually win you cash prizes if you rank among the top participants. This is a fun, unique way to get paid to code!

CodeChef, for example, is a coding contest site that holds competitions called Cook-Off and LunchTime. If you score in the top 10 globally you could win $100. HackerEarth is another coding challenge site that offers a range of cash prizes for winning various coding challenges. Prizes are often in the thousands of dollars.

Entering these competitions is a great way to practice your skills, build up your portfolio, and potentially win cool cash prizes. You may not be able to earn a ton from this method, especially if you’re just starting out, but it can be a great way to motivate yourself to take on new challenges and earn a little extra cash along the way.

📱Create your own apps

Obviously you’ll need to be a bit further along than learning HTML/CSS to do this, but if you’re learning mobile app development, you could put together free apps with ads or paid ads. 

With a bit of luck, you might be able to make money programming mobile apps. To make a decent amount, you’ll need to really dedicate time to marketing and treat it like a business. If you’re still learning coding skills, you could even use a no-code or low-code tool to build it. Or, instead of an app, code a plugin or WordPress theme or other online tool you could list on a marketplace to start earning money. 

The apps that are in the top 200 apps on the app store earn around $82,500 every day. The top 800 apps earn around $3,500 daily. Of course, you’ll need to manage your expectations here, but there’s a lot of potential if you find the right niche and build a great app.

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How to Not Give Up While Coding and Looking for Work

Whether your intention is to change careers or figure out how to make money coding from home on the side, it can be frustrating when you don’t hit your goal as soon as you’d like. But don’t give up! Here are a few ways to keep pushing through.

🤓 Keep a Growth Mindset

This field of programming is one where you’ll always be learning. Keep a growth mindset. Remember, intelligence is not fixed. You are not born smart or dumb. You can always learn more and grow. The book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth goes into more depth about how the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but passion and persistence.

Always keep an eye out for something new to learn, and remember the words of Gandhi:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

It can also be helpful to remember that all successful developers started somewhere. Look at old blog posts or social media posts of people you admire or who are where you want to be to see where they started. 

For example, married couple Maxence Henneron & Oxana Ivanchenko built a successful app for keeping homes clean and organized. They are earning $40K in monthly recurring revenue. But it didn’t necessarily come easy. Oxana didn’t have a tech background and learned to code just before they built the app. 

If you look back at her older tweets, you’ll see how far she’s come. In 2019, for example, she tweeted “Went to my first meetup today about #reactjs. I was so scared to go, even cried, because I thought that I was not experienced enough in programming. But actually everything went well! Thanks to @MaxenceHenneron who brought me there even though I was really scared.” 

Compare that to what she achieved in 2021: tweet

You can also join forums/communities like freeCodeCamp’s You Can Do This! forum, where developers share their victories and struggles.

⏰ Wake up Early to Make More Time for Coding

If you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like, see if you can make more time to study by waking up early.

When I didn’t have enough time, I started waking up at 5:30 am to get in a half hour before my day started. I don’t do this anymore, but it was a key piece in helping me progress faster.

It wasn’t fun, but it was worth it.

According to Kazumi Karbowski (@Kaziski_) on Twitter, “I recently switched from late night coding to early morning coding (I’m a mom of two lil ones at home and a part time job). I’ve been loving it so much.”

Check out The 5AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life for even more tips about maximizing your productivity in the morning.

🖥️ Do Another #100DaysOfCode

I was close to finishing my second round of #100DaysOfCode and my friend asked, “What are you going to do once you finish?”

My answer? “Celebrate, take a week off, then start the next round.”


The beauty of the field of programming is that there will always be a new framework, tool, or technology for you to learn in the near future. It is a forever-changing industry. There will always be more to learn, more ways to improve, and more ways to grow. Remember, you don’t have to know everything to earn money programming.

How to Make Money Coding: Key Takeaways

After reading my article, I hope you can leave knowing these three things:

  1. You can learn to code on your own. I spent $30 on Udemy courses (and only actually finished one of them) and still launched my career. Anyone can learn to code–at any age, with any amount of time. All you need is motivation and a desire to challenge yourself.
  2. You can figure out how to make money coding sooner than you think. You’re probably ready now. If you can solve a programming issue or build something for someone, you can learn how to earn money by coding the same things. Don’t be afraid to offer your skills up and see how you can help someone.
  3. You can’t give up. Coding is tough, and finding your first paid tech gig can feel impossible. But it’s not. Stick with it and keep learning every day. The more dedicated you are, the sooner you’ll get there.

How to Make Money Coding FAQs

What type of coding makes the most money?

According to Stack Overflow’s 2021 survey of 46K+ developers, the top 10 highest-paying programming languages in the United States are: Clojure, F#, Elixir, Erlang, Perl, Ruby, Scala, Rust, Go, and LISP.

Keep in mind, however, that the amount of money you can make while learning to code will also depend on other factors like the type of projects you work on, their difficulty and scale, your area’s cost of living, how many projects/clients you can take on, etc.

How do I find my first paid freelancing client?

Finding your first paid freelancing client can be challenging, especially when you don’t have referrals, a portfolio of work, or testimonials — but with a little effort, it’s definitely possible. Leverage your networks and offline relationships, let people know you’re available for freelance work, create a portfolio of your own self-built projects to show potential clients, and use freelancing platforms like Upwork to get your name and services out there.

👉 Find more tips on how to land your first freelance coding client

How much money can you make coding as a beginner?

As Joe Previte proves, you can make $5,000 (or more) in your first year learning to code. From paid internships to TAing/instructing to freelancing and creating websites for people and businesses in your community, it’s possible to make thousands in your first year alone (and plenty more once you’ve gained experience).

How can I overcome imposter syndrome when making money coding?

Getting paid while you’re still learning to code can make you experience imposter syndrome — like you’re not good enough to be charging for your services yet. You might feel like a fake or a phony. But these feelings are completely normal — even programmers with decades of experience may feel like this from time to time. Here are a few tips to help you overcome imposter syndrome while you make money coding as a beginner:

  • Visualize success
  • Write out your feelings in a journal
  • Focus on your accomplishments
  • Engage in positive self-talk
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Establish a support network/community
  • Know that your time is valuable 

Don’t underestimate yourself; everyone starts somewhere and you don’t have to be a perfect programmer/web developer to make money coding! So, what next? Register for LTCWM’s free technical side gig training to learn about a proven 4-step framework for landing technical side gigs.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and it helped you learn more about how to make money programming! Please reach out to me on Twitter @jsjoeio if you’d like to stay connected, share your story, or say hello. I love meeting others who are on a similar journey. And if there’s any way I can support you on yours, please let me know.

About the Author

Joe Previte

Joe Previte is self-taught and works as a full-time front-end developer. An avid traveler, he’s visited 11 countries and has studied four foreign languages. In the summer of 2016, he rode his bicycle down the coast from Seattle to San Diego raising money for a nonprofit. In his spare time, he does freelance work, teaches basic coding skills at a local meetup, and leads an online meditation study group.