Cover image for Last night my side project made one person happy, and someone else pissed off

Last night my side project made one person happy, and someone else pissed off

chipd profile image Chris Dermody ・1 min read

I've been working on a side project, mydevportfol.io for about 2 years now (on and off). It's finally at a point where it's good enough that people are willing to pay for it, which is an incredible feeling.

I woke this morning a a Stripe notification that I'd gotten a sale overnight. Amazing! Definitely a great start to the day.

But then I opened my emails and saw I had a message from a disgruntled user, that I had wasted their time because they thought it was free...

These were two different people of course, and maybe it's just a natural thing to happen as more people find your app, and I think maybe as devs we're just used to cool stuff on the internet being free.

But as devs I also think we need to make sure that our work is valued, and we should know that software isn't free. Sure, sometimes we'll build cool stuff and put it out there just for the fun of it - eg a chrome extension for managing other chrome extensions I built with a friend a while back, but that doesn't mean EVERYTHING we build has to be free.

Just wanted to share - I'm a big proponent of letting people pay you for your work via donation buttons or putting a price tag on your side project - but happy to hear other thoughts.

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chipd profile

Chris Dermody


I'm a Product Owner who codes. I love building things in my own time, tripcoster.com, mydevportfol.io, referextra.com, livedata.ninja


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In fairness to "a disgruntled user", there is no mention anywhere of the price or the fact that it is a paid service. There are a few other things, in fact, that could lead someone to conclude that it is a free service you are providing:

  • The "How it works" section omits the payment step.
  • "It's in active development" implies a project, not a finished product.

To be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with any of what I pointed out above, and I think that getting your first paying customer is kind of a big deal and worth celebrating. But if you want to avoid getting emails from people who think you're wasting their time, and you also want to "make sure that [y]our work is valued", maybe make it clear?


Those are damn good points actually - thank you for pointing them out. I've been neglecting the homepage for so long, just been concentrating on features and bug fixes.

Will make some ninja edits to that page now and push an update, thanks!


I totally agree that more open source services should start charging for the value they deliver. The "labor of love" is too harsh on the maintainer, who is generally not able to cope up with it all. Just for the record, I've never been a maintainer and don't plan on being one if it takes up too much time.

I believe I once saw a similar discussion in the Django community, the idea being that people should pay a tiny amount (even a cent, for example), every time they do pip install django. Wouldn't have been a bad idea, but then I suppose some large corporation will come along and provide a free version. 🤭

Change is here, though, and open source devs are learning to not be shy in asking for their time's worth. I like how the creators of Django REST API and Laravel have aggressively monetized their efforts. The PHP dependency manager Composer is also seeing a commercial version, in which corporations can point Composer to their private repos along with open ones.

I had a message from a disgruntled user, that I had wasted their time because they thought it was free

As for this user, I think they deserve a kick in the nuts, because they didn't read properly and "thought" it was free. Way to go, idiot! 😁😁

All in all, good and important discussion. We need more of these!


Though I think it's good to take paid for your work, the way you don't mention payment at all until the very end is kinda despicable, since you're taking taking advantage of humans' bias towards the sunk cost fallacy.

Though nobody should be offended for a service like this not being free simply because they themselves are unwilling to pay for it, I'd say they're in the right here due to

A: the inability to inform themself about whether or not the service is a paid servuce before using it, and

B: most sites on the internet being free unless explicitly stated, thus it not being unreasonable to assume your site is free too (due to lack of visible prices)


Yup, I goofed, the user should be aware that it's a paid service up front. As I mentioned in another comment I've been neglecting the homepage for quite a while now, gonna make some tweaks to it now, I definitely don't want to be misleading anyone, and it wasn't an intentional thing to take advantage of anyone's perception of sunk cost.



Yeah, kudos to you for making a post on dev.to asking for people's thoughts, most people would probably just think the user was complaining about paid services and leave it at that ^^


I am splitted between, rewarding the good work, and contributing to the open source ecosystem outside your daily job.

In one hand, all your efforts should be rewarded, because this is mostly time you took over family weekend or working out or taking care of you, and for the service offered.

On the other hand I guess if you make the month with your primary job, you might have used open source tools in your business project, and so giving back is not a bad thing too.

I am more of the second group, I used so many great packages that made my job easier, and giving back is so great at the end of the day. And for me personally, if this stay side project, I know I could never bring this business proof quality to my projects so I would never dare to make people pay for my side projects.

I guess if the offer is fair (like a freemium) it is OK to make people reward you for the good service.