How You Can Start a 5 Figure Side Business as Software Engineer

Brian Jenney
6 min readApr 22, 2024
It’s like Uber… for cats!

I’ve started too many failed businesses to count.

  • First there was the diary app that never got past 1 user.
  • Then the startup for real estate transactions that I worked on for 3 years only to get an investor offer of 10k. 😿
  • Next was a real-time CSS tool which seemed cool but no one wanted.
  • Who could forget the learning management system or the app for actors to upload their auditions? Those were more like glorified side projects… that cost me a lot in AWS credits.

Now, finally, I’ve found some success with my current business. Last year I made around 20K in sales. I’m a full time engineering manager and father too. This is more than a side hustle and way less than a full time commitment.

If you’re a software engineer interested in starting your own business I’m going to lay out some practical, no-nonsense advice for you to start and what I’d do differently if I was beginning today.

As a coder, you have a top tier skill and help others makes boat loads of money by implementing their ideas. Why not build your own?

Unfortunately, you’re probably going to make 1 of the 4 business-killing mistakes I did. I want to help you avoid these pitfalls and get the best chance at success.

Step 0: Keep it simple stupid.

When I started out, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought my skill as a software engineer was enough to come up with a product people would pay for.


I missed some obvious steps:

  • Does anyone want what I’m building?
  • Are there any other businesses seeing success with a similar offer?
  • What is my offer?
  • How will I market this product?

Let’s break down how you can go from idea to minimally viable product (MVP) to your first customer in 4 steps:

Step 1: Research

One of the best indicators that you have a product or service that people will pay for is if there is already a product or service people are paying for that is similar.

If you are starting off — I recommend a service based offer like teaching others a skill or a short course that helps a customer get from point A to point B quickly.

For example, teaching bootcamp grads how to write unit tests. Perhaps a NextJS crash course. Public speaking for shy software developers maybe?

A service-based offer does not scale easily. That’s ok.

Your goal is to ensure your service works, get customer testimonials and great results. Eventually you will see trends and common issues. This is when you commoditize your service into a course, book or recording so that others can benefit without paying the high price for 1 on 1 time.

1 on 1’s should be high priced (reasonably). It ensures the customer takes the program seriously and prevents you from dealing with flakes and generally attracts better customers.

Step 2: Make an offer they can’t refuse

I started my business on Instagram with less than 500 followers. I’ve grown to ~10k with a few lucky viral posts. You can follow me at BrianJenneyCode if that’s your thing.

My offer back then?

“I work with software engineers to crush their next interview without doing 100s of LeetCode problems. We don’t stop until your hired”

I got my first 3 customers this way.

You don’t need a large following to start making money. You need a good offer.

A good offer should make a guarantee with an outcome and reverse the risk in the customer’s mind.

My new product is my Not Another Course offering which I guarantee will shorten your path to senior software engineer through practical exercises you won’t find anywhere else.

This offer needs some work and I think the product actually offers too much. When I re-package it, it will be sold as a developer survival guide to get through the first 6 months on a new job. All the additional material will focus on this very specific goal.

Step 3: No one knows you exist… yet

I scaled my LinkedIn from 1k to 25k followers with some luck, consistency and barely any viral posts.

Same thing with my Instagram. I have 2 viral posts which netted 90% of my followers.

Consistency > intensity every single damn time.

I barely make any money from either account. I have made lots of amazing connections, business deals and landed speaking engagements. I like writing there and I don’t plan to stop.

Likes ain’t cash my friend. You can’t have 0 followers either.

Start on some platform. IG, TikTok, LinkedIn. Whatever.

Your posts should speak about the topic related to your service. Show your expertise, give a sneak peek behind the scenes on what your building and ALWAYS have a call to action.

Encourage them to book a call with you to discuss their problem and IF they are a good fit, explain your solution and ask if they’d be interested to learn more. If they are, the conversation should turn to your offer, the specifics of your program and finally the cost.

If your product is a course or app, a link to the site is sufficient.

Step 4: Pay to play with ads

One of my regrets with my current marketing strategy is that my social media presence is directly tied to my sales. Not Another Course doesn’t need me so closely tied to it however. It is a standalone product.

It will be difficult to sell this business to someone else since I’m so closely tied to it. I don’t mind that because I enjoy the personal touch and community aspect but maybe you don’t want the same for your business.

One way to make sure your business does not rely on you being a micro-influencer is to experiment with ads. I have Google Ads and Facebook Ads.

The Facebook Ad is for getting 1 on 1 clients for my coaching service. Google is for driving traffic to Not Another Course. The FB ads have a lead magnet — a document with a ton of videos and links to resources with a call to action at the top and bottom to schedule a call with me. They have to fill out a form in order to get the document and I can use their email to follow up with them.

I recommend only doing ads once you’ve proven your product works and have a few paying customers.

Step 4: My super simple tech stack

When I first started out I had a very simple stack for my business

Website —

Payments — Stripe

Appointments — Calendly

Creative (ads) — Canva

Literally that’s it. 20k per year for less than $100 in subscriptions.

Entrepreneur vs Intra-preneur

Honestly, you probably should NOT start a business.

There is a lot of money to be made as a software engineer and it’s a hell of a lot more straight forward.

If you’re interested in learning to code and switching careers, join my current business: — a coding school for career changers.

If you find ways to drive innovation within your own company then you will be rewarded. Get into leadership positions and you have a chance at multiple 6 figures in many cases.

I know a couple developers who are over-employed who make nearly 1 million dollars.


I like the game of business. It’s fun for me to learn. I want to get better at it and have a large impact on the developer community. I’m totally unsure where it will take me, but I’m enjoying the ride.

Thanks for reading.



Brian Jenney

full-stackish developer, late bloomer coder and power google user and owner of