Although I consider myself a full-time freelance illustrator and designer, I feel it’s important to always look for new opportunities to create income. The bulk of my income does come from larger illustration and design jobs but I also use passive income streams to give me a little boost!
What is "Passive Income"?
Ok, what exactly is “passive income”. Essentially it is income that you earn passively, or by not doing active work like creating a product or providing a service. What happens is that you set up an income stream (whether it be an online print-on-demand shop or an ecourse) and wait for people to buy what you’re offering.
I think that often times people may get the impression that once you set up your passive income stream you can just sit back, relax and watch the money roll in (oh, if only this were true!) but unfortunately it’s just not that simple. I’ll explain more below.
So as a creative entrepreneur, we have a host of options where we can create passive income streams online. First I’ll introduce the sites I currently use.
My Sources of Passive Income
First of all, there will be different sources or ways to make passive income depending on what you do and can provide. As a freelance illustrator, I mainly focus my efforts on stores where I can sell my designs.
My first choice of passive income is the print-on-demand store. There are quite a few options available online but I'll only cover the ones I've actually used so far.
Redbubble was the first online print-on-demand shop I opened. Essentially they have a wide variety of different goods that they can print your artwork/designs on. I like Redbubble because of their large catalog of products, fairly easy user interface, and their networking capabilities. Some of my favorite goods are the studio pouch, stickers and tote bags.
Casetify is a site that specializes in selling custom phone cases, laptop sleeves, Apple Watch bands and tablet covers. Although customers can design their own (uploading their own photos into Casetify templates from their phone or Instagram), artists can apply to have their own “shops” on Casetify.
One of the reasons I chose to sell my designs on Casetify’s cases was because I was intrigued by their ability to print on a transluscent case (not totally transparent, more like a frosted plastic). It's hard to tell from the preview images on the website how the actual product looks so I purchased a couple cases to do a personal quality check.
I was not disappointed! I purchased their new "standard case," which is exclusive to the iPhone 6/6S and up lines. Essentially it's a bumper case with a removable/interchangable backplate. I really like this case and it's nice that I can change out the design so easily!
Read my blog post: A Beginner's Guide to Success with Casetify for more in depth info on selling on Casetify.
Originally I wasn't sure if I wanted to sell my designs on Spoonflower. It wasn't because I disliked the company in any way (I actually think their fabrics are lovely) but I was worried that I may be limiting my ability to license my designs in the future. I eventually got over this fear and this is why: I feel that it's always smart to share your work in as many relevant areas as possible. Eventually I want to license my designs out fabric manufacturers so why not build up a following on Spoonflower?
Another option for earning passive income is through affiliate links. Essentially affiliate links are special links provided by a website, store or program. When a reader from your blog uses the link to go to the affiliate's site and makes a purchase, you receive a commission (usually a percentage of the sale).
Creative Market is an online site where you can sell your digital creative products. I do have a shop which I have yet to upload produts to so keep an eye out for that! Anyway, in addition to selling your digital products on Creative Market, you can also apply to be an affiliate. Essentially they set you up with a special code to attach to any Creative Market product link and any sales made using that link will earn you a small commission. Personally I only promote products that I have actually purchased and used. I think it's important to promote products and shops that you genuinely find useful and of good quality and value. Creative Market actually has a screening process for shop applicants so I haven't come across any bad products so far.
Skillshare is a learning community for and by creators. Lessons are taught through a series of easy to digest video lessons which are sometimes accompanied by additional materials. There are two ways to earn money via Skillshare, either teach a course or be an affiliate. I chose the affiliate route since I currently am not sure what I'd teach (although you pretty much can teach anything). Again the way I promote Skillshare classes is in review form. I'll take a class (I may not complete the assignment but I'll watch all the lessons) and then write a review of my thoughts of the class. You can check out my previous reviews here.
Modern Thrive is a relatively new affiliate I'm trying out. It is a site that hosts ecourses and online workshops that focus on helping creative entrepreneurs develop their businesses. I've only taken one course from them so far so I don't have much to share as of yet. I am currently signed up to take two more courses from them so in the future I may have more insight to share!
I've only recently signed up for an Amazon Associates account. I actually have a lot of things I've purchased off Amazon.com in the past where I could write a review but before the blog, I never really had a reason to make use of their associates program. Again, since this is a new affiliate opportunity I don't really have much to say about it now, but I'll update in the future when I do have more of a history with them.
Other Sites and Methods for Earning Passive Income
Places to Sell Products
- Gumroad - Place to sell digital goods
- Sellfy - Another site where you can sell your digital products
- Society 6 - A Print on Demand site similar to Redbubble
- Etsy - known and the "handmade marketplace" where you can sell your handmade crafts along with digital products
- Skillshare - teach a class and earn income as students enroll
- Blogging - Use your blog to market and sell an ecourse or host webinars
- Sell tutorial ebooks through an epublisher like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing
You Can't Just Set it and Forget It
Once you set up your online shop or affiliate program the money will not just roll in automatically. The next step is to promote, promote, promote!
For online shops, make sure you are on the mailing list for your shop's site because they will often email you with promotion codes and discounts you can then share with your readers and followers. One thing to remember is that people will more likely buy from you when there is a promotional discount! Whenever I promote a discount, I will include the promotional code, a link to my online shop on the site, the duration of the promotion and an image with a few items from my shop that are hot sellers. I will then share this info on all my different social media accounts (once on Instagram and Facebook and multiple sheduled times on Twitter).
Also, take advantage of holiday promoting. Luckily the major holidays that people tend to buy gifts for loved ones also have the most promotions going on. Plan ahead, create new items for your shop and set up templates to create promotional images.
For affiliate linking be sure to know the product you are promoting. Whether a class or a product (like on Amazon) be sure to create a genuine, honest review. Personally I will only promote items that I've actually tested, used or, in the case of courses, taken. Make sure to provide key details on why you feel the product or service is valuable and make sure to share your post on social media. It's also a good idea to tag or notify your affiliate about your review. They may either share or feature your post which could drive more traffic to your site.
To be upfront I've found the most success with my online shops as opposed to my affiliate links. I'm pretty sure it's because I strongly promote my shops since I have invested a lot of time setting them up and creating the products within them. I also do not have as many posts that feature affiliate links. It does take a little longer to create an affiliate post since it involves either testing a product or taking a course and then drawing up a review.
Good luck with your passive income pursuit! Please drop me a line to let me know if you've had any success with any of the sites I've listed or if you'd like to suggest a source that I haven't mentioned!
A Beginner's Guide to Success with Casetify - Casetify is a website where you can design your own phone cases, Apple Watch bands, laptop cases and iPad cases. Are you an artist or designer? Did you know you can set up shop on Casetify and sell your own designs? I've found Casetify to be a nice source of passive income. Check out my post for tips on setting up your shop for success!