A Guide to Passive Income for Developers

by Kamilla Sterling-Parker

As a designer or developer, you may earn money in a variety of ways. Of course, you may work for a design studio, for a firm as an in-house designer, freelance, or create your own studio or agency.

These are the most frequent methods, although they aren’t the only ones. With so much competition for client work, an increasing number of designers are relying on a mix of diverse sources of revenue to make ends meet.

You may have heard or read about designers making passive money. In this post, we’ll look at how you may utilise your design abilities to earn money in a passive or recurrent manner.

What Is Passive Income and How Does It Work?

When it comes to the issue of passive income, there are many different perspectives and definitions. We’ll be looking at items other than client work or work you’d undertake as an employee for the purposes of this post.

When it comes to client tasks, whether you charge an hourly rate or a flat price, you’re effectively swapping time for money. Your earnings will be restricted by your rates and the amount of time you have available to work.

The methods we’ll discuss in this post aren’t passive in the sense that they don’t need any effort on your part, but the amount of money you can make isn’t limited by the number of hours you can work.

In most situations, you’ll do the most of the work up front, and then you’ll (ideally) be able to profit from it for a long time. Furthermore, you may be able to earn money for the same task on a regular basis, which is where the recurrent component comes into play.

This isn’t always the solution if you’re searching for a quick method to generate money as a designer. Read on if you want to put your abilities to good use in a way that will pay you in the long run.

Active vs. Passive Income: What’s the Difference?

As a direct result of your labour, active income is created. You cease making money when you stop working.

The average client project would be classed as active income for designers and developers. A job as an employee, of course, would be active as well.

While passive income does need some effort to set up and maintain, the amount of money you make is unrelated to the number of hours you labour. And, even if you quit working, you may be able to continue to generate money as a consequence of the plans you’ve made.

It makes sense to search for strategies to include passive income if you’re currently producing all of your money through active means. This may enable you to raise your overall income while simultaneously reducing your reliance on active income or perhaps reducing the amount of hours you work.

Why is it Beneficial for Designers to Have Recurring/Passive Income?

So, what’s the point of passive income for designers if it’s not really passive?

Although these alternatives may need some effort, there are several advantages to these sorts of customised projects.

Reduce your reliance on customers.

Most of the independent designers I know would like to be able to work for themselves rather than for clients. While client work may be very fulfilling, there are also substantial advantages to not being completely reliant on it.

One of the most aggravating aspects of working as a freelance designer is the continual need to acquire new clients and tasks. You’ll have to set up time to communicate with potential clients as well as create estimates or proposals. Your revenue will suffer if it becomes harder to locate new clients or secure work. If you have some extra money separate from client employment, it might help you get through these tough times.

Some graphic designers explore passive income streams to supplement their income during periods when client work is slow, while others aim towards completely avoiding client employment.

As a supplement to client work, this is ideal.

Although it is possible to make a livelihood from passive or recurring revenue, most designers will find it more practical to utilise it to augment their client work.

Working on client projects may account for half of your revenue, while stock graphic sales and blogging may account for the other half. Because there is so much competition out there, earning a living just from client work is difficult for many freelancers, but earning a livelihood from a variety of sources makes it much more feasible.

Your Income Is Diversified

You’ll add some diversity to your income by developing some other sources of income, which should give additional stability. If your client business slows down or you need to take a long break from work, that steadiness might be crucial.

High Earnings Potential

Not every designer who pursues the sorts of projects we’ll discuss in this post will make a lot of money, but some designers may earn a lot more with these methods than they might with client work.

You’re likely to make a lot of money if you produce an e-book that becomes a best seller or if you have a lot of success producing and selling stock graphics. When compared to client work, it will almost certainly nett you a lot more money for the time you put in.

Although not every designer will make more money from passive income, the possibility is greater.

It’s a blast!

Working on client projects, or as a hired designer for that matter, you won’t always have the option of working on projects of your choosing. You’ll be working on anything the customer or your boss wants you to work on. It may or may not be something that you are interested in, but it is your responsibility.

One of the best aspects of these side projects for passive income is that you get to pick and choose what you work on, allowing you to focus on something you like. Not only will this make your job more enjoyable, but many designers enjoy knowing that the sky is the limit and that they have complete control over what they receive out of it.

Learn New Skills

These kinds of side projects are also a wonderful opportunity to learn new talents or improve on ones you already have. You can work on things you wouldn’t typically get the chance to work on, and if you want to learn a new skill, you’ll almost certainly be able to fit it into your project. The abilities you gain on side projects might be useful for future client tasks or your own company.

In your spare time, you can work on these projects.

Another significant advantage of side projects is that they can usually be incorporated into your schedule when you have some downtime between client tasks. Consider the following scenario: you have a customer lined up for a new project, but they have been sluggish to pay the deposit and sign the contract. Instead of wasting time while you wait for them, put that time to good use by creating fresh stock visuals to sell.

Alternatively, if you have a gap in between clients, you may utilise that time to concentrate on selling templates. You can put your side projects on hold until you have more time available when client work starts up again.

Schedule that is adaptable

If you’re trying to break away from client work entirely or at least rely on passive income for the majority of your revenue, you’ll notice that your work schedule is more flexible. Instead of being available during regular business hours, you’ll be able to work evenings and/or weekends if that’s what you want. It’s also more convenient to travel and work while on the go.

Designers’ Passive Income Ideas

Let’s look at some of the methods designers and developers may generate money in a passive manner.

1. Create and Market Templates

This is a very broad topic because there are so many various types of templates you might make, such as:

Templates for websites

Templates for business cards

Templates for brochures

Templates for PowerPoint or Google Slides

Templates for social media images

These are only a few ideas; the list may go on and on. Essentially, you’d be putting your design abilities to work by creating templates that clients can use to rapidly build a professional-looking design.

Customers love templates because they let them acquire a fantastic design for a fraction of the cost of engaging a designer for a custom project.

2. Create and Market Themes

While developing and selling website templates is a possibility, demand for static HTML templates isn’t as great as demand for themes that work with a certain content management system (CMS).

There are a variety of platforms for which you may design themes, but the most popular are WordPress and Shopify. You can create and develop themes for these hugely popular sites if you know how to code. You may team up with a developer if you don’t know how to code.

Shopify offers a theme marketplace on their site, and if you can get your themes listed there, you can start selling right away without having to create your own audience.

If you make WordPress themes, you may sell them on Envato or set up your own theme shop and sell them from your own website. Elegant Themes and Thrive Themes are two popular theme stores that started tiny, so anything may happen.

3. Using a blog


Blogging does take a significant amount of effort early. Growing a blog from zero to a substantial number of subscribers is not a passive process. It does, however, have the potential to become passive in the future.

The task becomes a lot simpler if your blog reaches a certain level. Whether you’re working or not, your site is getting traffic every day at this stage. You’re probably still putting in the effort to keep the site growing, but it’s likely that your revenue will rise even if you cut back on your working hours.

Starting a blog is an excellent choice for someone who wishes to turn their hobby into a full-time job. It won’t happen overnight, but with a little perseverance and patience, it’s quite possible.

While there are already a lot of design blogs out there, it’s never too late to start your own. There’s plenty of room for new blogs because the readership is so large.

Please check our How to Start a Blog step-by-step guide, which will lead you through the simple process of having your blog up and running immediately.

4. Websites with a specific focus


A niche website is similar to a blog, except it focuses on a single topic. You might develop a site that focuses on one single element of design rather than addressing web or graphic design in general.

In order to attract Google search traffic, most specialised websites create content that targets certain keywords. These are usually low-competition keywords that don’t generate a lot of search traffic. Low-competition keywords are considerably easier to rank for on Google’s first page.

A specialised website may be monetized in a variety of ways, although affiliate revenue and advertisements are the most common.

Building a lucrative niche website requires time and effort, just like blogging. You may not make much money in the first year, but if you stick with it, you may see significant increase if Google trusts your site.

See my guide to speciality websites for additional information on the subject.

5. Create and sell royalty-free stock graphics and resources


Graphics and design resources are in high demand, including:

UI Kits Icons Vectors
Illustrations in PSD format
Patterns\sBrushes
Other designers may be interested in acquiring your resources to use in their own designs and creations, or companies and end-users who lack your design and creative abilities may be interested in purchasing them.

Designers may profit from these sorts of materials as a form of passive revenue. You’ll have to invest in the effort to produce the digital items up front, but you’ll be able to sell them again and over again. Many of these items will continue to make money for years to come.

It’s also quite simple to get started because there are a variety of websites where you may sell your products.

FilterGrade Vecteezy Envato Market Creative Market Etsy
You may sell your items on bargain sites like MightyDeals and InkyDeals, as well as stock picture websites (depending on the sort of product).

6. Create and Market Fonts


Fonts are something that every designer adores. If you have the ability to design beautiful typefaces, this may be a lucrative business.

Of course, some fonts may be downloaded for free, but high-quality, professional typefaces can bring in a lot of money. Many of the platforms and marketplaces described in the preceding section might be used to sell your typefaces. In fact, you can learn some strategies from a designer who generates a six-figure income selling typefaces on Creative Market in the video below.

7. Open a store or marketplace of your own.


It’s a fantastic idea to sell fonts, images, and other creative assets on marketplaces and third-party websites, however there are certain drawbacks, such as:

You don’t have complete command.
Each sale will be subject to a cut from the marketplace.
Any moment, marketplaces might modify their terms and conditions (Creative Market reduced the commision for shop owners last year).
Depending on the market, you may not be able to establish your own rates.
You won’t have your clients’ email addresses and won’t be able to sell to them directly in the future.
You may also sell on your own website. This method requires more time and work because you’ll be starting from zero with your traffic and audience, but it avoids all of the difficulties listed above.

Even if you want to sell your digital items on other websites, it’s a good idea to sell them on your own (as long as the marketplaces you’re using allow it).

The technological aspects of opening your own store are simple. SendOwl is a very basic solution that is both inexpensive and easy to set up, especially for small businesses. You’ll be given “purchase now” or “add to basket” links that you may include on your website or distribute on social media.

SendOwl is free for 30 days, so you can experience how simple it is to start your own store.

You’ll want to choose a full-featured e-commerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce if you’re planning to create a large shop or marketplace with hundreds or even thousands of goods.

WP Engine is the finest WooCommerce hosting package, making it simple to set up a fast and secure e-commerce site.

8. Create T-Shirts


Print-on-demand businesses, such as t-shirt sales, have opened up a number of opportunities for passive revenue streams. You may sell your own t-shirt designs without having to pay for inventory or handle the real product using services like Merch by Amazon, Printful, and Printify. They manage printing when orders are placed, as well as shipping to customers.

9. Make a profit by selling merchandise


Although t-shirts are a popular choice, print-on-demand services may also be used to sell other sorts of products. You may sell a broad selection of items showcasing your designs via Merch by Amazon, Printful, and Printify.

Other markets, such as Redbubble, Zazzle, and CafePress, were founded with the express purpose of assisting graphic designers and artists in making money via the sale of personalised products. All you have to do is upload your designs and you’ll get paid when someone buys something with your design on it.

10. Organize an Online Course


Create an online course that trains aspiring designers using your design abilities. There are countless alternatives for courses you might design, as well as a variety of venues or methods for selling them.

Skillshare is an online course marketplace where you may build your own courses. This is an excellent place to begin because many of the courses are short (think of them as video tutorials), allowing you to get started without devoting months of effort.
Udemy is a very popular learning portal. You may generate money by creating your own video courses and selling access to them to others.
With the aid of Thrive Apprentice, you can sell courses on your own website. You’ll have complete control and won’t have to share revenue with anybody else if you go this way.
Developing a course will undoubtedly take some time and work. However, once it’s built, it may provide passive income for months, if not years.

11. Become a Self-Published

Author Writing books or e-books is another method to generate passive money using your design skills. You don’t have to wait for a publisher to offer you a publishing contract. Nowadays, everyone may become an author.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing makes it simple to publish your work. You have the option of selling your material as an e-book, a print book, or both. You won’t have to spend money on printing hundreds or thousands of books before selling them. When paperback books are sold, Amazon will print them on demand.

Another significant advantage of selling on Amazon is access to their customer base. Of all, millions of people purchase on Amazon every day, so getting your book listed there might be a good strategy to boost sales.

Despite the fact that Amazon offers access to their own audience, you will need to perform some self-promotion. You may distribute links to your books or e-books on social media or through your website/blog. If you have an email list, this is also a viable alternative.

You may alternatively sell your books or e-books on your own website to keep complete control and avoid having to share money with Amazon or any third party. SendOwl makes it simple to sell e-books. Selling the books on your own might be the greatest choice with the highest ceiling if you have your own website and are interested in creating a long-term business.

Affiliate and referral programmes are number 12 on the list.
There are several methods for you to generate additional money as a designer by including affiliate or referral networks into your work. These programmes might be used for the items and services you propose to your clients, such as:

12. Hosting a website


Themes and plugins for WordPress
Shopping carts or e-commerce platforms
Services for email marketing
You’re probably already promoting certain items and services to your clients, so this may be a simple method to supplement your income.

You may advertise them in various ways, such as on your website or blog, through a YouTube channel, or through social media, in addition to making suggestions to your clients.

13. Web Hosting Reseller


For web designers who develop websites for customers, reseller web hosting may be a fantastic source of passive revenue. You may build your own web hosting packages to sell to clients, and you can even include hosting as part of other packages or services.

You’ll pay for a reseller hosting account with a big hosting company, and they’ll take care of all the technical aspects. You won’t have to touch the server; it’ll just be a private label hosting service that your clients will think is one of your own.

As a hosting reseller, you’ll be able to profit from hosting on a monthly basis.

14. Create and Market Printables


Want to put your design abilities to work creating easy downloadable goods that you can resell? Printables might be the solution.

A printable is a downloaded file, generally in the form of a PDF, that users may print at home and use for a specified purpose. Planners and organisers are highly popular, but the options are infinite.

You could make printables for a variety of target groups, and they don’t have to be related to design or technology. You may utilise your abilities to make printables for any target audience. This is a fantastic approach to incorporate a personal interest into your design firm.

You may sell printables on numerous different marketplaces or directly through your own website, just like the other sorts of digital items discussed in this post. Printables are popular on Etsy, or you may sell on your own with SendOwl or Shopify.

15. Make a website for members.


A membership website is another alternative if you’re serious about developing a long-term internet business. If you have a blog and are searching for a method to monetise it, this might be a wonderful option, or you could establish a standalone site without the need for a blog.

To gain access to premium material, your membership website would demand a subscription (typically monthly or annually). Design lessons, downloadable materials, or anything else of interest to designers might be included in the content. Alternatively, you might expand out and develop a membership site that caters to an entirely new type of user.

Because recurring payments keep flowing in until your subscribers unsubscribe, membership websites offer a huge earning potential. It’s not simple to get started, and it takes time to build up, but if you have a long-term goal in mind and are ready to put in the effort, it may be an excellent choice.

Suggestions for Earning Passive Income


Understand Your Goals
There are a variety of reasons why you would want to start a side project. Perhaps you’re just searching for a project that will allow you to accomplish the things you like while also giving you more creative flexibility than your regular job. It’s also possible that you’re utilising the side project to get experience while learning new abilities.

Many designers are driven, at least in part, by the possibility of earning money. You may be searching for a side hustle to supplement your full-time income, or you could be a freelancer wanting to make better use of your time in between client projects.

It’s critical to understand your goal and objective since they should guide how you manage your side project. There is no such thing as a good or bad incentive. You can pretty much work on whatever you want whenever you feel like it if your main goal is to have fun and appreciate your creative freedom. If your goal is to augment your freelance income, on the other hand, you should approach the side project with a more structured and business-like mentality.

Your objective will also have a significant impact on the side project you pursue.

If you want to make money, you’ll need to pick something that has the ability to provide that revenue.
If you’re searching for anything to merely supplement your current income, you might want to seek for something that allows you to make a little bit of money rapidly.
If you want to use the side project to eventually replace your full-time income, you’ll want to think about the long-term revenue prospects of any ventures you’re considering.
Be realistic about your time constraints.
One of the most difficult aspects of side projects is the unavoidable time constraint. Examine your calendar and be as realistic as possible about the amount of time you can devote to a side project.

Do you have a few hours each week that you can devote?

Is your free time becoming more irregular and infrequent?

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of a new side project idea, only to rapidly discover that you don’t have the time to make it work. Before you begin, think about your time constraints and choose a side project that will fit into your schedule.

Keep in mind the requirements that will continue to exist in the future.
Ongoing time needs should be addressed in addition to the preceding point. For example, you may have time now to build a WordPress theme or plugin to sell, but will you have time in the future to provide ongoing maintenance and updates? The more time constraints you have, the more projects with little on-going time obligations should be considered.

Anything that requires a significant quantity of customer service or assistance will necessitate having some time set aside to deal with these concerns. This does not rule out the possibility of selling any things or products, as some require far less maintenance than others.

For example, creating and selling an icon set will result in a modest number of customer support emails, with the majority of the requests being simple queries or assisting customers who are having problems with downloads or payments. Selling website templates, WordPress themes, or plugins will almost certainly result in a greater number of customer support inquiries, many of which will take more time and effort to research and resolve.

Stock images, printables, and e-books are all fantastic options for designers who don’t anticipate to have a lot of time to devote to continuing support and service. And if you don’t require ongoing assistance, things like themes, plugins, blogs, community websites, and online courses are fantastic options.

Also, keep in mind that not all projects have the same earning potential. While top-selling WordPress themes will necessitate designer/developer assistance, they also have a great potential for profit.

Every week, set aside some time for yourself.
It’s critical to set aside the time required for your side project. If you have a full-time job or are freelancing full-time, you’ll most likely need to devote some nights or weekends to your side project. Most individuals, including myself, struggle to complete side projects if time is not set up expressly for them.

Each project will have its unique time constraints, therefore take into account your personal circumstances. If you’re working on a project that will take a long time to finish, attempt to set out time in your calendar on a weekly basis to devote to it.

Begin small and work your way up
One of the most difficult elements of side projects, in my opinion, is restricting the scope. In most cases, it’s natural to try to do too much at once, which might compromise the project’s quality and success when time is short.

If you’re working on a blog or a website as a side project, you could have a lot of huge ideas and ambitions for the site. Most of the time, it’s preferable to keep things simple to begin with, focus on doing things properly, and then grow and add more features or areas of the site later.

If your side project is to start a template or theme club, concentrate on producing your first template or theme and doing the best job you can. Later on, you may concentrate on adding more templates and themes, but don’t try to accomplish too much at once.

You’ll constantly have to cope with time constraints when working on side projects. You may develop success over time by understanding the restriction and correctly focusing on starting small, and you’ll do it on a solid foundation. It’s easy to become irritated and quit up before achieving the results you desire if you try to do too much at once.

Think about if you want to be sustainable or if you want to leave.
Consider not only the time you’ll have available, but also if you’ll want to work on your side project a year from now.

Consider if the project’s time needs can expand faster than the money generated by the project. You could, for example, establish a community website for designers. It’s likely that the site may expand fast, necessitating additional effort on your side to keep it up and running. It’s also conceivable that, despite increased traffic and time spent working on the site, the site does not generate substantial revenue for you.

How will you keep the site going if this happens? Will you be able to use the site’s revenue to hire someone to take care of the upkeep? Will you be able to quit your full-time job or reduce the number of client projects you work on to devote more time to the project?

You may also think about if the idea is something you would be able to sell in addition to its long-term viability. If your side project is a website or blog, you’ll almost certainly be able to sell it whenever you’re ready to go on to something new.

Obviously, the details of the project’s sustainability and exit strategy can alter and grow over time, but it’s a good idea to think about them early on and at least begin to build a plan.

Conclusion
One of the things I enjoy about the design and development business is the endless possibilities for side projects. There are always ways to have fun and explore on your own, and side projects can even help you earn money.

However, in order for the project to be genuinely successful, you’ll need to make the greatest use of your time, and I hope the passive income strategies for designers discussed in this post may assist you with your own projects.

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