The usual business model for freelance designers is to earn your money from client projects, but it’s not your only option. There are plenty of ways you can generate passive income, either as a nice top-up to your client earnings or even one day replace them.
The notion of earning money while you sleep is about as good as it gets. The best way to go about it depends on what skills you have to offer and how you can channel them into extra income. Here are nine tried and tested ways you can earn money while you sleep.
Monetise your own blog
The first option you’ll see many designers take is to start their own blog, build an audience and then monetise it in some way. Your blog could become an advertising channel, a place to promote your passive income products or somewhere you suggest other products to your audience through affiliate programmes.
Whichever approach you take, the trick is to build your audience first and then implement your passive income strategy. If you take the advertising route, you’ll need to keep them relevant and non-intrusive. Promoting your passive income products is fine, as long as they have genuine value to your audience. While the affiliate marketing approach means you’ll need to promote products that are genuinely worth the recommendation.
Publish and sell stock graphics
One of the best ways graphic designers have been able to generate passive income over the years has been by selling stock graphics on the web. There’s still a huge demand for quality graphics people can buy and put straight into their design or site. So, if you create something like an icon set that becomes popular, your sales per month figures can get pretty exciting.
An icon set, for example, can get you anywhere between $10-$100 per download on the popular resource websites. Obviously, that fee needs to be justified by the quality/appeal of your icons and gettting that balance right is vital to maximising your passive income. You’ll also have to spend more time marketing and maintaining your stock graphics to hit the kind of income that could replace or exceed your client work. This approach is getting more competitive too, which is something you’ll need to consider.
Build and sell your own WordPress themes
Another tried and tested formula for making passive income is developing and selling WordPress themes. Assuming you have the technical skills to build them, or a developer who can recreate your designs, this is a good option too. If you don’t have those skills, the good news is they’re pretty approachable and you can learn more about the process from this great intro tutorial from ThemeShaper.
Once you have your first WordPress theme developed you can submit it to sites like ThemeForest or Mojo Themes. This is another competitive space – even more so than stock graphics – so you’ll want to think about how you can create themes that offer something the usual crop don’t.
You could say this fits into selling design resources, but I wanted to make a specific mention for typefaces because custom fonts become more important every year. The cleanest, most lightweight approach to making a website stand out has got to be high-quality, unique typefaces.
Hi-res images and video background can look great for some clients, but the timeless minimal approach of typefaces and colour refuses to go away. In fact, it has never been so important in the days of a mobile web where every resource can slow down performance. There’s your selling point right there and there are various ways you can sell your fonts for passive income.
Design logos for T-shirts and apparel
This is probably the most fun option on our list today – especially if you have a knack for the graphic side of design. Designing graphics for T-shirts, apparel and other products has never been easier and any one of your designs could be put on countless T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases or god knows what else. Every sale gets you a cut of the final price and there’s no shortage of websites where you can simply upload your designs and wait for the money to come in.
From the sites I’ve seen, I would say Spreadshirt looks like the most interesting and the shopping experience is great too.
Probably not as fun as designing your own T-shirts, but potentially more profitable is the joy of being a hosting reseller. Find a good, reliable hosting provider or two and send all of your clients their way. You could even offer to take care of clients’ hosting for them, play the middle man for any technical issues that may come up and charge a monthly or annual fee for the privilege. Guaranteed, monthly passive income – precisely what it’s all about.
Create tutorial courses
Design remains one of the most popular industries for people to get into and you can turn that interest into passive income. Create tutorial courses and you can either sell them on your blog or submit them to sites like Udemy, where thousands of people search for tutorials every day. Knowledge and the prospect of a better career is high on the list of things people are willing to pay good money for. And, if you’ve already go the know-how, you may as well profit from sharing it with others.
Publish a book
If producing eLearning material isn’t your thing then an alternative option could be to write your own book and promote it through that wonderful blog of yours. There are tons of places you can sell your book online as well – not all of them as obvious as Amazon. Once again, as a designer, you’ll most likely be playing on the idea of helping people learn and improving their career prospects. It could be something along the lines of design tutorials or something more conceptual – like how to travel the world as a freelance designer.
Develop a software subscription service
As I mentioned earlier the ultimate aim with passive income is to have a steady monthly stream of cash coming in for work you’ve already done. And there are few better ways to achieve this than developing a software package that users pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to use. Sure, you need the technical skills or a developer to make it happen (not to mention the right concept) but the effort will be well worth it once you get those regular subscribers.
So don’t feel you have to rely on your client work as your only source of income. You can combine any number of these passive income techiques to give your wages a healthy boost and many designers completely replace their income to spend all their time marketing their passive channels. So give it a try and see how much money you can make while you sleep at night.