Freelancing is mostly associated with active income – you get paid for the hours you put in or for a certain workload, ideally a finished project. However, there is another way to earn money with freelance passive income.
Passive income is something you don’t put direct effort into once it is established as a source of revenue, but once you go through the effort of setting it up, it will bring in money.
As with most things that seem a bit too good to be true, it is quite difficult to start earning a significant passive income. If you do it right though, your efforts will eventually start bringing in money while only requiring minimal work towards maintenance.
Why Passive, Recurring Income?
The benefits of passive income almost speak for themselves, but here are a few of the top reasons that generating a recurring, passive income should be on your list of priorities:
- Stabilize your income: One of the biggest downsides to being a freelancer is that your income will not be stable month to month, especially in your first few years. Losing a client or not winning a pitch can make your income drop drastically, which is not a great position in which to put yourself.
- Work once, earn forever: There are only so many hours in a day, which means that your active income is always going to have a limit. Passive income, however, requires a lot of initial work – but once you have it set up, you simply need to put in a few hours of maintenance here and there to keep things afloat.
A stream of passive income provides a more stable, recurring means of earning money that you can rely on when the freelancing side of your business gets quieter.
Passive Income Opportunities
Got you interested?
Then check out these ways of earning passive income as a freelancer and see which one suits you most. We’ve also included some niche examples for different freelance fields.
1) Selling ad space on your blog or site
One of the first things that come to mind when it comes to passive income ideas is monetizing your marketing instruments. Your blog or website can serve twofold: first and foremost, it attracts customers.
With enough visitors, you can turn it into a revenue source for yourself and other companies, too. Selling advertising space is a great way to earn some money on the side while continuing to build up your audience.
2) Guest blogs and eBooks
Another way of generating passive income is by selling your know-how and experience in the form of guest posts. If you publish informative and helpful articles on your blog anyway, why not trying to sell them to others?
Not only can you get an extra income source, but you also attract more attention to your own services.
If you really enjoy writing, you can also try publishing an eBook. As a freelancer in your particular niche, you probably have a lot to tell others who would like to walk the same road. It takes a lot of effort to create an eBook, but they also have huge potential if successful.
You may think there are already enough resources available out there, but everybody has their own way to explain similar concepts. Share your experience adding your own note.
3) Affiliate marketing
Becoming an affiliate of a potentially-helpful service for your clients is sometimes frowned upon, but it can be a good, honest way of earning some extra money. Recommending a hosting site of your choosing to clients can save them a lot of research time.
You can also recommend services that you use or have used or a certain book that you found extremely helpful. Be upfront about earning a small cut on a sale, though. If you can earnestly say a service or product is worth it and earn something doing it, go for it!
Here’s an example of an affiliate disclosure you could use on your blog:
Please note that some links below are affiliate links, so I may receive a commission if you take action – e.g. signup or make a purchase – after clicking on one of the links. This has no extra cost for you, though!
4) Selling unused work
Often freelancers will create things that don’t make it into the final version of a project. Whether it is photos, graphs, written content or anything else, you can probably find a buyer for it somewhere on the internet.
Be careful about what your contracts say, however; you can only sell content that you legally own. As long as that’s the case, don’t let your unused work gather dust. Turn it into a profit instead.
Read more: IP rights for freelancers
5) Create subscription models
Subscription models or memberships can entail a ton of things depending on your freelancing field. Whether it is site maintenance, SEO work, extra content on your newsletter, or something else, a subscription means you offer some amount of work or an extra piece of content on the side but won’t have to worry about finding clients for it.
If you can establish yourself as someone with expertise, people will be willing to pay for additional content from you. Those small monthly payments add up, but make sure you consider the time spent communicating with your clients as to not get underpaid. Make that extra content worth your time. You may want to check how to use Patreon for freelancers.
Another way to share your experience or expertise in your field is through e-courses. These require a good amount of effort to set up but can become a great source of passive income. There are a lot of ways to go about offering e-courses: depending on your business strategy you can try sending them per mail, posting them on YouTube or selling them on a dedicated platform like Fedora or Udemy.
7) Sell templates or WordPress themes
This one is especially important for graphic designers and developers. Themeforest or Envato are good sites where you can sell your templates and create passive income. As WP themes are very popular at the moment, these are a very good passive income source for freelancers.
8) Video Content: YouTube
The way people are consuming video is changing a lot. TV is taking second place and alternatives such as Netflix or YouTube are entertaining people now.
If you like being in front of a camera, creating YouTube videos can be an alternative to create income streams. If your videos get lots of views, you can benefit from ads. You can also try other approaches such as sponsorships or affiliate programs.
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Passive Income Options for Web Designers & Developers
There are multiple different recurring income opportunities specifically for web designers and developers. A few popular ideas include:
Website maintenance includes carrying out any necessary updates, tweaking the layout and back-end of a website, monitoring security, and ensuring the website is running and working as it should be. Some clients will pay a monthly or weekly retainer to have you responsible for the maintenance of their website, which will include being on-call should anything go wrong.
Although it requires a bit of your time every once in a while, it can also be a passive income when everything works just fine.
Offering web hosting to your clients can be a lucrative means of passive income, but you’ll need to know what you’re doing to ensure that if something goes wrong, you are able to protect your client’s website with minimal downtime.
Designers and developers have the huge advantage of knowing how to create and set up a website to have it ready to go far quicker than the average person. Many people are willing to pay to have a ready-made website that they can simply start adding posts to, rather than having to deal with the hassle of arranging hosting, designing the website, and all the other backend elements that go into web design and development.
Flipping websites – which means buying a domain, setting up the website, and then selling it for profit – can be a great means of passive income if you are quick at getting websites up and running.
Passive Income Ideas for Freelance Writers
While the ideas listed above (guest blogging, writing an eBook, etc.) are applicable to freelance writers, there are a few other passive income opportunities perfect for your skills.
Write and Publish a Book
Writing a book does not equal instant passive income. It is hard work pitching your book to agents, editing it, and even then, there is no guarantee the book will be a hit.
That being said, writing a successful book can be a fantastic stream of passive income for many years to come. If you already have a platform such as a popular blog, you may find that getting an agent is easier than cold pitching an idea.
Self-Publish a Book
These days, it is easy to self-publish your own book, either turning it into an eBook, an audiobook or a printed book.
The two most popular options to self-publish your own book is to go through either Amazon or to publish the book yourself on your own platform (i.e. if you have your own blog already).
Have any questions or other suggestions on earning passive income? Get in touch with us via the comment sections below, we are always happy to hear from our readers!
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