Arduino can be used to make money. It’s a great value data collection device, a good prototyping tool, and a decent setup for education as well. In this guide I’m sharing all the ways I’ve found to make money using Arduino.
1. Use Arduino to collect and sell data
An Arduino can be used to collect data from sensors, or other interfaces, and then that data can be sold for analytics purposes. This is the number 1 way I’ve seen Arduino used to make actual money.
To make money by using an Arduino for data collection:
- Connect sensors or a data collection interface to an Arduino
- Have the Arduino record the data, either locally or by uploading it to the cloud
- Sell that data to a company that will use it
I saw this done at an airport. A company wanted data about plane movements at an airport, as part of a contract with an airport. An Arduino was connected to a radio receiver that could read the signal that planes use to broadcast their position (a system called ADS-B). This is a similar project on Hackaday, though they did it without needing permission and licensing from the airport.
I also saw this used as part of a home smart meter electricity system, though this was just a prototype. Using an Arduino as a prototype to build a commercial product is the next best way I’ve seen to make money using Arduino.
How much can this make? Sky’s the limit! If the collected data can be used to save someone millions of dollars (as is the case with an airport), then even if you only ask for a small fraction of that, it can still be very much worth it.
2. Build an Arduino prototype for a product you can sell
This is the hardest way to make money with Arduino. But it’s also the first thing a lot of people think of (which is why I put it second on this list, to give you another idea first).
Building a product using Arduino means developing a prototype that solves someones problem, finding other people (collaborators and investors particularly) who share your vision for a solution to this problem, developing a manufacturing process, developing a sales channel, and then finally getting the product in front of people. I’ve seen dozens of people try this approach yet only one who made it.
To make a viable Arduino project:
- Develop an idea that solves a product for someone
- Design a robotics or electronics product that solves the idea
- Build a prototype (this is where Arduino can be useful)
- Test that prototype with the people whose problem you’re solving
- Test that prototype with investors and people who can help you manufacture
- Manufacture your product and sell it
I’ve found Arduino is best used as the prototype so that you can show off a working product to investors. Once investors are ready, you can manufacture the product using similar components as are on an Arduino board (and similar software). I see the strength of Arduino in its ability to help you rapidly prototype your idea and see if it’s viable.
To raise funding for your idea, try Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This is the Kickstarter page for that one successful product I mentioned earlier.
If you’re interested in learning more about the process, I also found this YouTube video a helpful overview. Try not to let the complicated nature put you off – if you have a problem that you believe you can solve, there are people out there who can help you put it into motion.
How much can you make? The product I mentioned earlier sells for about $100 per unit. Typically only a small fraction of this, say $10, is profit for the owners and their company. They seem to sell a lot of units though given they have a global distribution network. This suggests they are making enough money to support quite a few people in full time work (I’d call this successful for the inventors!).
If you’re interested in the best Arduino for beginners building prototypes, I wrote a whole guide on that here: chipwired.com/best-arduino-for-beginners/
3. Use Arduino to manufacture goods
One of my father’s first Arduino projects was to control a CNC machine. He wanted to use the CNC machine to build wooden railway tracks for my little brother. It was tough to set up and install, particularly getting the motor control right, but in the end it worked – my brother had a set of wooden train tracks manufactured by an Arduino controlled CNC machine
An Arduino can control a CNC machine or a 3D printer which in-turn can be used to manufacture goods for sale. Items made by 3D printer or by using a CNC machine can be sold online to make money.
To do this:
- Identify a problem that people are having
- Develop a product that solves that problem for those people
- Manufacture it using your Arduino connected 3D printer or CNC machine
- Sell that product to those people
I think the challenge here is to find a niche of products that are worth your time and effort to manufacture and sell. The best example I think I’ve seen of this was someone who 3D printed custom motorcycle parts which were incredibly difficult to get in his country.
How much does this make? This is another sky’s the limit approach to making money. If you manufacture $5 trinkets, then you might only be making a few dollars per item sold. If you manufacture custom motorcycle parts that sell for $1000 each, then you might be able to make decent money. It also depends on quantity of items sold.
4. Use Arduino as part of other work
If an Arduino can be used to improve your current work, to help you get your job done faster, then it can be used to make you more money.
I’ve found this most often with contractors, such as IT or internet contractors, who can use an Arduino to interface with networking equipment and help them do their job quicker. When you’re paid by the job, getting the job done faster can help you make more money.
The other place I’ve seen this is in an industrial setting. There was a team at Boeing who used an Arduino to repair panel components for satellites quickly. A great example of how a cheap tool, such as an Arduino, can be used to vastly improve a complicated control process.
How much can this make? If you’re using it to get your job done faster, it could make you hundreds of dollars per week. In an industrial setting, such as Boeing, it probably didn’t directly result in extra money (though project success is often rewarded eventually).
I wrote a whole guide to uses of Arduino in industry, if you’re interested, check it out here: chipwired.com/arduino-in-industry/
5. Build and sell custom shields and components
Shields or components that you design and build can be sold for use by other people in their projects. If a few people have a problem, such as an interface to a sensor, that can be solved using a shield (or other component), you could design and build this shield and sell it to them.
There may be liability or warranty issues depending on how often you do this, who your customers are, and which country you’re in. While the larger players (such as Adafruit and SparkFun) have big manufacturing operations that can produce dozens of shields, I’m sure there’s room in the market for someone to build their own shields at home and sell them to others.
To develop your own shield:
- Develop a good idea of the functions of your shield
- Design the PCB with the right software tools
- Send the files for the PCB to get manufactured
- Purchase the electronic components to fit on the PCB
- Assemble the shield
- Sell the shield
I found this really in-depth guide to the process here.
6. Build Arduino tools for someone else
This approach is to offer your services as someone who can build tools with or for Arduino. Using the knowledge you’ve gained working with Arduino, you can offer your services up to help others implement their ideas.
This can be by building shields, building products, helping develop working prototypes, or writing code for Arduino.
I like this one because you don’t bear the risks for coming up with the original idea, for manufacturing, or for selling the product. You do the work and are (pretty much) guaranteed to collect money for your services.
How much does this make? I saw someone on Upwork selling their Arduino skills for $40/hour.
7. Use Arduino to teach about electronics and coding
People are interested in learning about electronics, robotics, and coding. Arduino is a great tool that can be used to explore the impacts of electronics and coding in a meaningful way. I like to think of it as what you build is what you get, it’s very obvious how your actions of code and circuitry turn into something that works.
You could offer classes on electronics and/or coding that use an Arduino as the tool to teach with. These classes can be aimed at adults or children.
For the electronics side, some ideas of lessons include:
- How resistors, capacitors, inductors, and LEDs work
- How electronic motors work
- How WiFi, Bluetooth, and IoT works
For the coding side, some further lessons include:
- How computer memory works
- How file systems work
- How processors and instructions work
- How code is compiled to instructions that are executed by a processor
The Arduino is the tool that you use to teach these lessons; rather than teaching about Arduino itself.
These lesson ideas are the sorts of things I would’ve liked to have been taught when I was starting out. I had to assemble this knowledge from physics class, various other classes, and books and data sheets. It was tough.
8. Write software or build tools that help people use Arduino
People pay for tools that help them accomplish their goals. If you can build these tools that genuinely help people with their Arduino projects, you can receive payment as compensation for adding that value.
There are already some examples of software tools that have been written to help people with Arduino development:
|PlatformIO||A software platform for embedded development, including IDE, debugging, and testing environment.||Free for the community, $249/year for business support.|
|Arduino Cloud||Helps to store your Arduino projects in the cloud, including helping you build IoT projects with a cloud interface.||Free for two projects, then $2.99/month.|
This shouldn’t be limited only to software tools. Any tool that you can make that would help someone accomplish their goals for Arduino can make money. Some ideas I reckon might work for Arduino include custom debuggers, communications protocol devices (e.g. USB simulator), or even something that improves shield compatibility (i.e. 3.3V and 5V).
Here’s a process to follow to develop a tool like this:
- Identify any problem that you’ve struggled with when you’re building an Arduino project
- Develop a tool (software or hardware) to solve that problem
- Sell the tool to people who have a similar problem
I’ve never figured out a good tool to sell myself, but that’s what I’m working on these days.
9. Consult on Arduino projects
If you know how to do something better than someone else, and that other person would be willing to pay you for your knowledge, that’s an opportunity for consulting.
I’ve included this last on the list because it’s the hardest to do. I’ve never seen anyone consult on an Arduino project. I guess it’s possible – such as if you’d been able to solve an Arduino problem for the Boeing team I mentioned earlier – though I’ve never seen it done.
At a guess, you could charge anywhere from $50/hour all the way up to $700/hour. If I were trying to price some Arduino consultancy work, I’d take a look at the value I was generating from that work; if I was helping someone solve a million dollar problem, I’d probably be charging the higher end – if I was helping someone solve a hobby project at home, I’d be looking at charging the lower end.
Chris is an electronics engineer who has tried a few times to build a product that can be manufactured and sold (it’s a tough journey!). He more often sees Arduino add value by being used as a tool in a wider engineering or data process.