Open Source developers aren’t free or cheap either

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Just heard from a friend that a client looking for a “Joomla Expert” hung up on them after hearing their rates. Apparently some people still think that just because they can go and download a free copy of Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress that means any service provided in that domain should be cheap or free as well.

Reality is that Free in open source mostly refers to freedom to read and change the code to make it suit your project goals.

The benefits for the client are

  1. a custom developed software which tends to be more modular, secure, and isn’t going to leave their business at the mercy of proprietary software vendors.
  2. most of client’s money is invested in custom development for their own good and not wasted on software licensing fees

Many “Joomla experts” are Software Architects, Web Developers, Programmers, and web designers who have learned all the ins and outs of this great content management framework, and when they take on a project, they charge their fees according to the going market rate for their expertise.

Software Architecture or Web Development firms incorporate the operation cost, fees for multiple people assigned to a project, and the expected profit into one hourly fee. This fee cannot be compared to the hourly fee of a full time individual employee in a company or a freelancer.

In fact this is how these firms make their profit, which is providing custom solutions and consulting services. The fact that many people volunteer their time to participate in an open source project, doesn’t mean that they can be exploited or hired for next to nothing fees.

So please Don’t mistake free license software with free beer!

[tags]opensource, developer, business, consulting, fees, cost, operation[/tags]

14 thoughts on “Open Source developers aren’t free or cheap either”

  1. Wow, a post that says it all. I have people all the time asking me why I charge so much for a custom theme, or custom plugins, etc etc. Time is money people! LOL πŸ™‚

  2. Need to figure out how to add this to my resume!

    It is also like the old saying about fixing something with a hammer.

    “Anyone can swing a hammer…no skill needed. You pay me the big bucks because I know where to hit to fix the problem!” πŸ™‚

  3. Well said, Rastin. “The fact that many people volunteer their time to participate in an open source project, doesnÒ€ℒt mean that they can be exploited or hired for next to nothing fees.” Agreed, and if people want to see the development of professional level plugins, there is always a cost associated to that development and in the securing of future releases.

  4. @Joe I think the hammer analogy is a little weak, perhaps try using the “the stroke of the artist” analogy. Or a master Chef who knows the recipe to the great cuisine from everyday food items

  5. If you compare Joomla to DotNetNuke, more money is made from templates and extensions for DNN. Those who use DNN have more money to spend and expect to spend money which is typical with a .NET application. Joomla attracts people who want something for free and they expect everything else to be free or low cost.

    .NET programmers make more money than programmers for open source applications because their target market is more affluent. Its unfortunate, but people don’t value the talent and the amount of work that went into Joomla because its free.

    A good example is that no one values public education because its free, but once the student goes to university and has to pay their own way, they appreciate the value of their education.

  6. @cyprich – I must say I almost agree with you in some aspects.

    People who are willing to open their wallet to pay for licensing fees, are perhaps less likely to question the cost of custom development, and I do agree that Free and Open Source software does attract some people who often don’t have much money.

    Although I’m not sure if .Net programmers have more income than open source developers. I guess I’ve met enough starving .NET developers and rich Open Source developers to counter that argument.

    In my opinion ability to make money boils down to the developer’s business skills and not the level of freedom in the software license.

  7. @peter – Thank you! yes there is always a cost associated with custom development and quality work. Custom development cannot be mass produced, and that is what keeps open source development lucrative.

  8. @Rastin – I come from a motorcycle/car technician background so I can relate to the hammer analogy. Johan’s “The nail on the head” made it come to mind. πŸ™‚

  9. I am curious to know what is the range of the fee for an open source developer in today’s market. Any suggestions? Thank you for sharing!

  10. @judit – the rates are the same as hiring a Software Architect, Programmer, Graphic Designer within any specific market. They type of technology used doesn’t determine the rate, it is the skill and experience of the teams and companies that you hire that sets the price.

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