Going from practice exercises to working on an open source project can seem like a big step for beginner coders. After all, open source code is very much out there in the real world, ready for anyone to access, because that’s the point of it: to serve as a template that can be manipulated and added to anyone who has a specific idea in mind and no real need to build it right from scratch. Throw out the idea that only experts are qualified to provide valuable work on open source code, find a project actively looking for help from new starters, and get stuck in. Need more motivation? Good: below, we’ve got five reasons why beginner coders should lend their new skills to open source.

5 reasons beginners should contribute to open source projects:

1. It is a great way to learn

This one might go without saying – or rather, it’s been said so many times that it has its own cliché: practice makes perfect. By putting some work in on real-world problems, you’re getting experience in solving issues that you’re likely to encounter later, and breeze through, in your own projects.

2. You get to collaborate with other developers

Learning to work alongside other devs – even when you’re very much not in the same place – is a skill that you’re going to need to master. Working together with others on an open source project is a good way to get some practice before the pressure’s on to get work completed as a team: you’ll learn what you enjoy about the collaborative process and would like to focus on in your career, as well as what you find more challenging and can work to improve.

3. Help is close at hand

Where better to get help than from those working alongside you to achieve a common goal? You’re not annoying anyone as they attempt to go about their workday, and your question is probably one that someone else would have needed to ask sooner or later, too.

4. You can network with developers already in the industry

It’s notoriously tricky to break into the tech industry – and no secret that to find the right career path, you’ll need some advice from the people who’ve been there. While working on open source projects, you can forge valuable connections with other developers who you may never even have thought of talking to in real life, because nothing creates a bond quicker than finding a solution to the seemingly unsolvable.

5. You’re solving real problems

When you’re working through small, simple tasks, it might not feel like you’re doing particularly significant stuff. But, aside from the fact that problem-solving at any level can be extremely satisfying, it’s also rewarding to know that your help allows more experienced devs to focus on trickier problems. Everybody wins: as you, a beginner coder, gain experience at sorting out pesky little problems, the project you’re working on is improved in leaps and bounds, resulting in better open source code for everyone who needs it.

Where to find open source projects as a beginner

It can be tricky finding your first open source project to contribute to when you’re just starting out. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of websites you can use to learn more about open source best practices and find your first project.

How to discover open source projects on GitHub

  • Interested in a particular topic? Visit github.com/topics/<topic>. For example, if you’re interested in frontend development, you can visit github.com/topics/frontend to find open-source frontend projects.
  • If you aren’t sure what topics you’d like to explore, you can browse popular topics for inspiration.
  • If you’re an active GitHub user, you can find personalised recommendations for projects and good first issues based on your past contributions, starred repositories, and other activities on the Explore page.

Find more ways to find and contribute to GitHub projects here.

Happy contributing!