Thoughts on business ethics in our diy community or: How do you make money in open source?

I want to start off by stating that this more about people who are just looking to make a little extra on the side, not open a full business. Obviously the general guideline is that if you do the work and do it well then you should be compensated fairly for it. This is how, for example, we can have different options of vescs based around a single original source which then branched out. (I know, I know, the word is taboo, don’t care). The same goes for all these new “computer” remotes we’re getting lately thanks to @Wajdi, @solidgeek, and others. They did the original design, but they kept it public. Other people decided to make a bunch of remotes based on their design and sell them, and that sounds perfectly fair in this context. Basically, design is free, but materials, time and work can and should cost money. Where it gets murkier for me is on the mechanical side of things. Say I show off a design that I worked on and then 3d printed. I have had a few people PM me asking me to upload the STL file so they can print their own. To be clear: I am quite happy to share files and info like this, I have uploaded some stuff to thingiverse. I think is very important that we remain as open and generous with our knowledge as possible, everybody benefits and improves from that. The thing is, I’ve also been asked once or twice to do some design work, which I happily did for free because the guy was new and asked nicely, so I figured I’d help him out. That takes time though. I’m now starting to work on some stuff that will be CNC’d, and if it works, I’ll share it here and maybe offer some for sale if there’s any interest. However, pretty much anything I design can be reverse-engineered and then someone else with more resources to invest will benefit from it instead.
So my question is what information is considered okay to keep to yourself so you can profit from it without worrying too much about competitors, at least for a little while? Since I’m not doing this as a business, just offering things I make on request I’d probably be at a disadvantage compared to people who make their living from this. Is this just how it is? How do you build a name for yourself here? This might be answering my own question, but is it enough that people know that you CAN and WILL produce things for them on request, within a reasonable time-frame, even if you’re not displaying them in an online store? What does everyone think?


Reliablity - good service etc. Being helpful Delivering on time Being transparent When things go bad you don’t disappear or stop answering questions

Yeah, theres no need to make your own website. Just create a thread and explain what you do. If things go good open a store as its easier to manage orders.

I’m not clear on what your business is based on but gl

EDIT - making money from open source comes from donations, but sometimes when the part is hard to make e.g. firefly remote you make your money there.

Thanks. Cnc and printed stuff, my own designs. The problem is that I don’t have my own CNC machine so I have outsource locally, and that adds to cost, and so on. I do have my own printer. My idea was that I show what Iv’e designed and tested, and then offer to produce a few more for sale if enough people want them.

Sounds good but what are you making?

Anything new or is it just bog standard motor mounts and pulleys?

Or is it cool unique designs?

The words not taboo, trademarked , but not tabooed. It’s like how people don’t get sent to court everytime someone says Mickey Mouse.


sell morenthan it costs

Cool unique designs hopefully. I have some fenders for trampa trucks, as well as some risers to match them to a regular deck. I’m pretty much designing what I need and then seeing if anyone else needs them too.

Very true, the question is how much more? Too much and you wind up with a vesc 6 situation…

1 Like

I’d say, it’s pretty easy to build a name for yourself here. Time, quality and showing off your ideas will get people interested and we will also pay a bit more for custom stuff, quality, innovation and last but not least you being a stand up guy. It feels good to give back, even if what you give is “just” to be a customer from someone who makes cool shit.

Which also i think highlights the problem, in a round about way. Not everyone who comes to this forum will notice that you sell stuff. Many will want the lowest cost possible or the retail experience of a webshop. And WAY more than that will not come here at all, which also makes the big money not be here either. The problem you describe of ethics and designs is not really a problem if people say “Hell no, i don’t wanna pay that copycat, i want the real deal from the inventor who i respect”. But in the big world, no one will know where the thing was first invented and they will just think “yeah! this looks good… and cheap!”

I think making a profit is probably not that hard, but will require some hard work still. Making a living or making a good profit is probably very difficult, basically you end up in the old “you gotta have money to make money”

I think for small stuff, say 10-20 $, you can probably charge a 100% more. As the price goes up the % probably goes down, i would not pay 600$ for a battery i can get for 300$… but i might pay 50$ extra for a BMS for that battery that has the custom thing i want.


All valid points, especially about choosing who to buy from. I could probably make my own enclosure but I went with psychotiller’s instead because he’s known for making them really well. I guess it’s kind of a delicate balance between how many people will be willing to buy from “the source” vs. people who want the cheapest alternative, or else make it themselves.

old adage, a poor man buys twice. people who go cheap will end up either hurting themselves or having to buy again when cheap items fail.

If you’re running a money making operation then you have to charge what you need to charge, and there’s no getting around it.

I talk with board ( deck ) builders all the time, and one of the things that people are not natrually comfortable doing is charging enough. They spend all this time pressing up boards by hand, and think they have to price competitively with Sector 9. If you’re not trying to move dozens ( or hundreds ) of decks a year you don’t need to be as price competative.

If you’re doing 5 builds a year then each one is a special case and needs to be charged dependent on its cost, your time, and your energy. And if it doesn’t sell then what you need to fix isn’t your pricing model.

*Disclaimer I’m the worst offender of my own advice.

As someone in this space here’s my 2 cents.

I came at this by complete accident. Initially I designed my own parts and built my own stuff. Later, I started making things for people. I would say that is the best way into the community is to be of service. Listen to what the community needs and make that thing. Solve problems that the community faces. They are your market. Look at what @Kug3lis has done. He listens and innovates.

For reference, I make this thing for peeps:

Google Photos

To the thorny bit.

Do I share designs openly? No.

Should I be sharing my designs openly? To me the resounding answer is yes.

If you’re concerned about locking your idea away so no one else can get rich on it then that is exactly where the idea will stay - locked away where no one can see it and as a bonus no one will get rich. Besides, the real money is in mass-production, not one-offs or short runs. I imagine that’s the space you’ll occupy when you start out - one-offs, which is perfectly fine. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Nothing that is done here is rocket science. If someone wants to reverse engineer my designs I say go for it. Better yet, just ask me for the design. I’ll give it to you. I’ve given designs away for free in the past, I’m sure I’ll do it again in the future.

I should be more transparent and share my source with everyone. I’m cleaning out my github and going to post my skateboard stuff there. I’ll try my best to comply with the OSHWA best practices, and use a BY-SA copyleft license.

Why would I give away my IP? I want this to be a resource for the community and the businesses that support it. If someone wants to take my source and innovate with it that’s awesome! Honestly I can’t see why they would - I’m no great CAD artist. There are a ton of people out there more talented and innovative than I am. To them it would be trivial to replicate what I’ve done. Am I worried about bad actors? No, I really don’t care - I’m not trying to build a business, I just make stuff to help the community.

Honestly, scarcity and cost is the only advantage I have. Work within that envelope and you’ll be good.


Don’t sell yourself short. I didn’t even know I needed the X-Braces until I bought a set. Now builds but 1 have them, the bindings on the urban ATAT made it impossible or it would have them too. They are a perfect solution for keeping truck bolts from.sinking up and cracking a deck, plus they look badbass.


I’ve fallen into this trap too! I occasionally do light electrical work for people in my neighborhood, and in all cases I’m never sure how much to charge for my time and energy (pro tip: if it’s on the ceiling or high on the wall, it should be more expensive). Partly this is because I want to be seen as a good guy who is fair with pricing. Of course the fact that I’ve been asked multiple times suggests what people are saying here- start small, be reasonable and reliable, let your work speak for you.

I reckon it is mainly a resource problem that is making it hard to start up.

Getting designs done is easy, but then getting prices down will have to be done in bulk and it ends up being too much or too expensive with too small an order.

I just find it a lot easier to get it done for personal use only and just simply let the public pick up the design and who knows, some might like it and start making and selling.

Also there is other things in life that has a higher priority for different people.