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A website by Patrick White

Make More Money as a Software Developer II: Side Projects (Content Businesses!)

Another way of making more money as a software developer is by developing a side project. A mini-business if you will. I’ve got a couple of these myself in the form of CaliforniaBirthIndex.org and TexasMarriageRecords.org along with a YouTube channel that I’m part owner of.

The commonality of all these projects it that they’re content businesses i.e. you make something people want to watch or read and make money by placing ads on the content. There are upsides and downsides to content businesses, but a huge upside is that there’s the real possibility that they can generate true passive income (i.e. they continue to make money without any effort on your part).

Scale (having lots of content) is often key to content businesses. This is because it’s pretty hard to have a few pieces of content get a ton of traffic but much more achievable for a lot of content to get a more modest amount of traffic. This principle is at the heart of my websites like TexasMarriageRecords.org, which works not because any individual page gets that much traffic, but because I’ve literally got millions of pages. If only a fraction of those get traffic in any given month, that’s still a lot of traffic.

This leads us to the term of art “scalable content creation”. Content marketers talk about this a lot, because if you’re trying to produce a ton of content, you want a way to do that that’s scalable and doesn’t involve each piece of content being created by hand.

(As an aside, it’s quite possible to create a modest content business around hand-created content even without hitting the jackpot and becoming a mega-hit. It just takes a awhile.

That YouTube channel I mentioned is DansCourses, is run by my business partner Dan Alberghetti, and I’d call it successful. It makes a nontrivial amount of money each month (and even more if you count the consulting work it’s brought in for Dan) and has some pretty impressive stats: over 100k subscribers and coming up on 30 million views.

The catch, of course, is that Dan started the channel something like eight years ago and has produced nearly a thousand videos in that time. Again, having lots of content is important, but you can also get there with diligent by-hand effort over time.)

So, what are some techniques for “scalable content creation”? Well, one way is generating content from large data sets. When I say “data” think “facts about the world”. A great source of these data sets are public records. Think records of birth and marriage and divorce but also things like business registration, professional licensing, and property records.

Each record represents a number of facts about and the world and often these facts are things people are actively googling to try to find. So, you massage the facts into a form that’s more readable than a CSV file (a nicely designed webpage) and expose it to Google. Promote it a little bit to bootstrap some links and traffic and, sooner or later, you should have a steady stream of traffic from Google. Add ads and you’ve got a business.