Big money as a salaried person is in Big Tech. If you work hard and keep trying, I believe it’s not too difficult to land a job in Big Tech. After that, it’s mostly about keeping your expenses low. A software engineer’s salary or any salary is only going to scale so much. There is always a cap on a salary unless you have a very powerful position in a very powerful organization. For that, you shouldn’t be reading this.
To get a good bargain apply to other jobs even when you are totally satisfied with your current position. Apply when you are not desperate. This way you can land a good position in a good company at good compensation. You will know your worth. If you get a good offer, you can play that as a card to get a raise at your current organization. The majority of companies only listen to employees’ demands when they threaten to leave. Do not just do it for the sake of threatening. Only do it when the opportunity is actually good enough. Do not tell your current employer your next job’s compensation. If possible, do not tell your next employer your current salary.
If you can work remotely, go remote and live somewhere with fewer expenses and taxes. This is important for people living in developing countries. Understand that a skilled plumber or technician working in a slum will be making less money than an inferior skilled plumber working in uptown. If you work remotely and get a good salary of international standards or even 50% lower than that, there is a high chance you will be making a lot more money than you can do locally. Make money on the arbitrage. This is not true for US nationals but many other countries allow you to work remotely somewhere and if you do not reside in that country, you won’t have to pay taxes in your homeland. You can find tax-free nomad destinations.
Find and keep a job that doesn’t suck the life out of you. Avoid places with a lot of crunch or those that drain you mentally. You can work in a high-paying job but if it drains you completely it won’t be good for the long term. Play the long game. Remember that work should revolve around life and never the other way around. If it’s difficult to remember, imagine your deathbed, would you be worried about taking care of that deadline that made no sense in the first place. I will talk about deadlines in a post later.
There is still only so much that can be earned with a salary. Always keep a side project. Side projects will help you learn, create a demoable portfolio, and someday they might make money for you.
If you want to expedite the process, start creating side products actively. Make a lot of them. Even better start multiple at once and keep shipping. When you are tired of one, focus on the other one. I, for example, keep multiple projects running, have a writing hobby, and read alongside my day job. When I don't feel like coding, I will read or write. If I don't feel like writing, I will work on some marketing tasks for some product. If I don't want to do marketing, I will focus on a product that needs coding. Having multiple projects can help you avoid burnout.
Create tools to solve your own problems, your friends or anyone else you know faces that problem and share it with the world. You will have higher chances of making something useful that people need. Cut the scope too. Do not aim too big with side projects, unless you don’t like making money. Aim small, ship often, and iterate. Start with something that you can ship in a week max. You won’t know what would work unless you ship it. Ship a lot and you will understand.
If you like teaching, content creation can be a profitable venture. Create short courses, learning materials, and blogs and you can eventually monetize them.
Keep a side hustle that you pursue actively. It will keep you young in mind. If it’s not tech-related that could be quite beneficial and give you a good break from tech.
Making good money is not possible while renting your time. You have to own things. It's better if it is a business that can generate repeatable sales. There is a lot to this topic but it demands hard work and I am not an expert either (read: broke). This is a good read to begin with. With only a job, the probability of making it big is equivalent to the inverse of DynamoDB's uptime.