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Earning money in surprising ways

Some people might wonder what I'm working to earn my money - esp. as I'm available on IRC most of the day (unless I'm asleep) and usually always have time to discuss SeaMonkey topics, esp. when it comes down to project coordination issues.
OK, a few people might know me as a student, and theoretically I still am, but I haven't seen university (from the inside) for quite some time (though I probably should take my 4 missing exams some time soon and finally actually write up my diploma thesis). But I always feel I need to give some work back for the money I'm earning, and studying is actually not the most attractive distraction from that work...

But, what is this work then, which I earn my money with, if I have time for SeaMonkey most of the time? Well, most surprisingly, SeaMonkey actually is that work. How, you might ask? Well, I stumbled into that the same way I stumbled into the whole Mozilla project...

When I had done the first German Mozilla localization in early 2000, I realized I needed a web page for it and set that up as a sub-page on my personal website www.kairo.at, later transferring it to its own site of mozilla.kairo.at (or, nowadays, www.seamonkey.at). I had to pay for the kairo.at domain from the beginning, but hosting it on the dedicated web server of a friend of mine was cheap, and so the Mozilla localization website did not actually cause additional costs. Traffic on those pages exploded as more and more German users became aware of it, and as time passed, I had to redefine my agreement with that friend to make me co-owner of the server and be paying half of its hostings costs. I still was reluctant to throwing some random web banners to people just to pay for hosting, especially as I felt that what banner ad services displayed to people at that time was not what I wanted to put up on an open source software page.

In summer 2002, with traffic still exploding (the default start page of German Mozilla was this website after all) and a new hosting option for our server needed, I decided to do a poll about sponsoring solutions among site visitors, and as a result, created a donation system that allowed people to specifically sponsor my Mozilla German website with non-intrusive ads (this is still running there today). It was accepted well enough that I could at least pay my web hosting costs as intended - at least when evening out good and bad months. Still, all the time I was investing in Mozilla work was not paid for, though it started competing with the time I had to spend studying.

In 2004, I realized not only that a more modern redesign of the German website was needed (based on the new CBSM website system I had written), but also that with Google AdSense, there was finally a solution to display mostly non-intrusive banners for and by decent businesses and be sure they pay well enough - and my new design, based on mozilla.org's "cavendish" design, happened to have space in its top bar for a standard banner. Because of that, I decided to try an AdSense banner on the site and see how it works out.

And there, something astonishing happened: In the first month, AdSense earned me a few hundred dollars - introduction of a special suite start page with a Google search field in March 2005 made that even jump into the four-digit range! Suddenly, I started to earn money with Mozilla! Not that this made me feel completely comfortable though, as it put some personal pressure on me to give back this value to the community by dedicating even more time to the project and the community.
After a continuing rise of AdSense income, I finally founded my own one-man-business around that and my CBSM webhosting system in January 2006. Even though income declined since April 2006 (no, never saw 5 digits there, but it's still a few thousand dollars) I'm still able to live off what the community channels to me through clicks on AdSense ads on the SeaMonkey German web page and on search results from that Google field on the default start page.

And that's one additional reason why I'm donating as much time as possible to the project - it's where my primary income stream is originated. Thanks to Google for their great AdSense system and thanks to all German SeaMonkey users as well as the SeaMonkey community, who make it possible to have SeaMonkey as a part of my business! And, I guess it's not really bad if someone like me is having commercial interest in addition to personal liking to spread SeaMonkey as well as possible. You can be sure I'm trying to pay back every cent with the time I'm investing in the project. Unfortunately, giving money away to others is not easy to do legally (there's always the problem that it might mean that legally that person is considered as "working for you", which means you need contracts and pay taxes), but for example, I could pay biesi's recent FOSDEM visits from my business as I can state need him for technical advice there. :)
I may still find other possible ways to contribute, but mainly I will contribute my time, as time is money after all ;-)

It's always nice to hear someone's found a way to make a living from open source development, it's really nice though to be one of those people - esp. if you're not working on one of the really big products. As long as that income is flowing, be sure to hear a lot about me in this project. Oh, and don't forget to spread SeaMonkey! :D

Entry written by KaiRo and posted on April 27th, 2007 15:46 | Tags: business, history, L10n, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | no comments | TrackBack


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