Side Income / Passive Income Opportunities for Designers

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Two kinds of designers are always in need of passive income ideas, young designers and freelancers.

Nobody has enough of money so this article is useful for everyone, but it is crucially important for young designers and developers because money is always short in the beginning of the career. For quality education, for better equipment, for everything they need to kick off a successful career, they need extra money.

If you are such a young designer/developer, make sure you read this article carefully.

And if you are a freelancer, as I was until a few years ago, I’m sure you’re fed up with juggling so many clients and meeting tight deadlines day after day, month after month. You must want passive income streams more than anyone else.

Let’s utilize our free time and find some passive income opportunities… this idea keeps on crossing the minds of designers and developers all the time. The problem is, not everyone is able to convert this idea into reality. Everyone wants to know this : How to Make Money Online?

They try and try but most of them don’t make much money. Efforts go in vain and time gets wasted.
It doesn’t happen because they do anything wrong, it’s just that they don’t realize all the ins and outs of the trait before they jump in.

Before submerging ourselves in a field for earning a little passive income, we must understand whether this field suits us or not. This is something many people forget to do. And that’s the reason we’ll not only cover the sources of passive income but also figure out which source suits you the most.

Update: I created a general overview of these methods in video format. This is my first video so do let me know what you think about it in comments 🙂 

Selling WordPress Themes

ThemeForest

ThemeForest is the world’s most favorite web templates and themes marketplace.

Many many designers still think that theme selling is probably the most lucrative passive income idea ever. And why shouldn’t they, people have made empires out of selling themes. For instance, Avada WordPress theme has been sold 151,418 times on ThemeForest, and it costs $58. You do the math.

But those designers who think theme selling is the best idea for passive income are dead wrong!
It was a great idea a few years ago, but not now. Oh no, not at all.

Even if you can design and develop a good looking theme, it is only the beginning of the story these days. You need to develop shortcodes, build custom backend, create multiple layouts, make it extremely fast and responsive, provide super quick professional support, provide full documentation and a establish forum website… and there are many other details.

The reason Avada has met with so much success is not because it was a great design, but because it excelled in all the other stuff I just mentioned.

Cliff Notes

  • Theme Forest really brings equal opportunity. I mean really! For instance, Avada originated in Pakistan.
  • There’s a lot of money in theme selling, but will it stay this way or the modern web builders such as Webflow will take over?
  • You’ll need serious programming skills as well. Just being able to design and code HTML/CSS is not enough.
  • You’ll have to work a lot. I mean work your heart out while creating a theme and then providing its support. It’s a passion driven game.

Bottom line: Theme selling is still as lucrative as ever, but you’ll have to spend loads and loads of time developing it, and then continue to provide full support and updates. It’s a full-time job now.

Sell Designs and UIs

Graphic River

GraphicRiver is presented by Envato, the producers of ThemeForest. GraphicRiver is the most popular marketplace for design elements.

Okay, no point trying to be journalist-like and not sharing my opinion in a clear-cut way because it’s a blog, not a newspaper I’m running. So here it goes, in my opinion, it’s a very bad idea to try selling icons and UIs. Why? Because those days are over when these things used to sell. They don’t any more.

Nearly all kinds of icons are available for free, even for commercial use. Directories such as Iconfinder and our friend site Freepik provide all kinds of icons for free.

Even if not free, deal websites such as Mightydeals etc. have milked the market to the limit. Designers just buy a couple of deals and they get sorted for years.

These days, UIs and icon packs and such things are used as promotion tools for blogs. For instance, we often share free icon packs and UIs for our readers. If you also have a blog, you may think about providing these design elements for free over there, but trying to sell them is not a good idea in my opinion. If you think I’m faltering, please do comment and correct me.

Cliff Notes

  • It used to be a lucrative passive income item, it’s not anymore.
  • It doesn’t require constant tech support as themes do.
  • It’s a powerful promotion tool.

Bottom line: If you make it, give it for free. Use it for promotion, you won’t make many sales now.

Start a Blog

Blogging

The basic idea behind earning from a blog is through advertisements. Doesn’t work!

According to a study, more than 92% bloggers are earning less than $100 per month. You know why, because you need loads and loads of readers to earn more. We at Designzzz get around a quarter of a million visitors each month and that’s why we’re able to run this blog in the manner we do.
We earn from buysellads and google ads. There are many other ad networks such as tribal fusion and site scout, but we don’t use them because they do not specialize in design blogs. When a person starts a blog, he/she only gets a few visitors, only friends and family. Only a couple of hundreds I suppose. It takes years to grow from hundreds to thousands. Even if you do get thousands of visits each month (which over 92% blogs do not get), you’ll only make around $100 dollars. I mean seriously, that’s peanuts.

So, does that mean there’s no money in blogging and it’s a bad idea to start a blog? No, it can be a highly rewarding thing. How? Because blogs make you popular! Imagine, even if your blog gets only a thousand visitors, it will make you popular. And popularity can be cashed! How, we’ll check in the next segments.

Cliff Notes

  • It doesn’t require constant attention. You can set frequency of one post per week, or even one post month.
  • You may end up discovering you have a talent for blogging and you can come in the minority 8% and not the majority 92%. Maybe one day you can compete and even beat Designzzz.com… wait, forget I said that.
  • It’s a liberating experience. It really feels good to be able to share your experience and your opinion with like-minded people.
  • It won’t earn you plenty of money but it will make you popular. It can make you a small-scale celebrity. It asserts your image as an expert.

Bottom line: Blogging has loads indirect good sides. A blog really helps if you take on one of the next three passive income ideas.

Write a Book

Write a book

It takes years of practice and learning of the art of writing and communicating to be able to write a good book. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend those years. The thing is, techies don’t care too much about writing. They want knowledge, not literature. If you have valuable knowledge to share with them, you can write a good book.

But, there’s an ugly side of the picture. Just writing a book is not enough. Oh no, it’s only the beginning. Even if you have found a topic that is in demand but there isn’t much content available on it, and then you have written a really cool book, how would anyone know about it? This is where a blog can really come in handy.

In the promotion activity and helping your book sell, your blog can be really helpful. A blog with only a thousand readers can sell 10-50 books each month. This is how blogs can help you.

Cliff Notes

  • Books don’t need any kind of tech support.
  • Anyone can write one. You don’t have to be a wordsmith.
  • You need to find a niche topic. A topic is the pivotal factor that makes book sell.
  • Make sure you focus on knowledge and knowledge only. Share your experience.
  • You need strong expertise on a topic. Writing a book is for the seasoned experts only.

Bottom line: It’s a great idea to write a book if you are a seasoned professional. But make sure you have means to promote that book before you decide to write it.

Make a Course

Udemy

Udemy is world’s most popular video course marketplace.

If you are not too screen-shy then making a course could be a better idea than writing a book. That is because the users these days do not like to read as much as they like to learn from videos.

For making a course, you’ll need the same kind of homework that you’d do for a book. It will include pondering over the structure of the content, it will include dividing the total content into chapters, and so on.
The only difference in making a video course is that you’ll have to come on screen and present it, just writing it down wouldn’t be enough. In that case, you’ll need a camera and good quality microphone.

There are two ways to sell your course. One is through a marketplace, such as Udemy and the other is that you can sell it on your own website.
Udemy is a good idea if you don’t already have an established website because if you launch it on Udemy, you won’t have as much trouble promoting it as you would if you launch it on your new .com.

If you do have a blog established, then launch a course on your website. That way, you’ll get to keep 100% of the money you make.

Cliff Notes

  • In modern world, it is a better idea to make a course then writing an ebook.
  • You’ll have to do the same kind of homework for a course that you’d need for a book.
  • Promoting a course can be a big problem. If you don’t have a website, use Udemy or similar marketplaces.
  • In courses, you do have to provide a little bit of customer support. You do it by answering comments and participating in the teacher/student forum.
  • Make sure you’re camera-friendly. Rehearse your lectures so that you look spontaneous and energetic while delivering lectures.
  • You’ll need an understanding of audio/video editing software in order to create lecture videos.
  • You’ll also need equipment and space for recording videos and audios.

Bottom line: Courses are better than ebooks. In fact, courses can bring you more money than your day job… but you’ll have to make sure that you’re not boring. You’ll have to use sound and video cuts to add interactivity. It requires more time to create a course than to write a book.

Old Fashioned Teaching

Teacher

A good teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.

Teaching is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. It really makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile. You find your success in the success of your students. And, it’s of course fun to have authority.

Teaching is one of those few professions that can be taken up is a part-time job/business. You can establish a tuition center in your home or personal office. You can also take a part-time job for teaching.

For designers and developers, teaching can be really useful because they keep on getting fresh ideas from their students. And, these students can generate an income stream to their former teachers once they join the mainstream.

  • Just like writing books and making courses, teaching requires experience and expertise.
  • Students become your walking business cards. They recommend people your name and they can bring you clients when they come into mainstream.
  • You may realize you have more talent for teaching than actual designing. So you should try it at least once.

Bottom line: If you are thinking about creating a course, think about taking on teaching as well.

Build an App

Building an app

This is like starting a software-as-service. You may even end up being bought by Google of Facebook. It could be your ticket to crazy-rich land. But… you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you. But, things like these don’t happen every day.

What you need is a superb idea. You need to identify a need that no one has yet been able to spot. And you need to be able to create an app that caters that need.

Cliff Notes

  • It is an electrifying experience building your own app, your own flagship product and promoting it. It’s a highly motivating environment.
  • You get freedom to build anything, freedom to go crazy. But it is also important that your app gets users so the idea of the app has to be out of this world.
  • When you create such a product, it requires hard work. Serious had work. You’ll have spend countless hours on it.
  • Chances of failure are sky high. Things can fail and facts suggest that they usually do. You’ll have to plan it out very very carefully to make sure you don’t end up with the majority.

Bottom line: if you have some bank balance and not too many responsibilities only then you will be able to take on with revolutionary idea. If you have to pay loads of bills at the end of the month, it’s not for you.

A few other options

Sell stock photography: if you are an eye for photography, sell photos. It’s a clean and easy way to make money. But make sure your photos are the ones that people really need, not the photos no one will ever need.

Guest post on other blogs: if you can write for your own blog, then why not write for already established blogs who pay good. Listverse.com pays a flat $100 for each post and a web design blog A List Apart pays $200 for each post they accept.

Design contests: many designers start from here. This is a good way evaluate your design skills, but I think design contest sites are a waste of time.

Affiliate programs: almost every product selling website in the world offers affiliate programs. Many bloggers take part in these affiliate programs and then try to push the products down the throat of their readers. This is the reason I don’t take part in such programs, but maybe you can stay impartial.

Design for T-shirts and apparel: web stores such as Zazzle.com help you sell your designs on T-shirts.

Summing Up

There are loads of passive income ideas, but we need to understand that there is no such thing easy money. This is a fact that we only figure out with age and maturity. I urge all my young readers that please do not try to find shortcuts. Set your focus on a goal, find your talent and choose your favorite passive income idea from this list and just get going. In a few years, you’ll be really thankful that you started early.

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