Virtually all maintainers are either volunteers or full-time employees of large companies. Foundations on average don’t pay maintainers. A few projects manage to fundraise by selling support contracts or getting feature-scoped sponsorships.
All these models fail to align incentives with those of the project. Volunteerism is self-evidently not sustainable, as people’s life circumstances change. Full-time corporate employment scales poorly over time and especially when the project succeeds. Support contracts take significant time away from the actual maintenance work. Feature-scoped sponsorships reward increasing future maintenance burden without funding it.
What I’m doing is different, and I’m hoping it will be more sustainable, as well as reproducible for others. I am a professional full-time independent open-source maintainer. I’m funded through retainer agreements with a number of clients, and I get to focus primarily on maintenance work.
I’m not selling support hours or hard project deliverables. Instead, my clients get value in three ways:
- they mitigate the business risk of a project they depend on going unmaintained, with its security and development velocity implications;
- we establish a channel for reciprocal access, ensuring better outcomes for both them and the project; and
- at the highest contract tiers, I’m available for advice on any topic I am an expert in, beyond the strict scope of the open-source project.
Filippo Valsorda | I’m Now a Full-Time Professional Open Source MaintainerJosh Beckman
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