5 Passive Income Opportunities for Freelancers
When it comes to increasing our income, freelancers face a challenge. We’re used to trading our time for money — even if we charge a per project rate, rather than work for an hourly rate, we don’t get paid until we’ve put in a certain amount of time. But there are ways to make money without that direct connection between the number of hours we work and the amount we get paid. That sort of approach to making money is known as passive income — although passive income is a bit of a misnomer. It does take work to bring in money that way, although there is definitely potential to increase the ration of money to your time.
1. Sell Stock Work
There are marketplaces for just about every kind of creative work that a buyer can customize for their own uses. Stock photography, content and web designs are all sources of income, but you can focus even more specifically on one target niche. Maybe you can create a WordPress theme in minimal time — putting together several such themes and posting them to a marketplace like ThemeForest can bring in a small but steady side income. An alternative is selling those themes through your own website: DIYThemes, for instance, has successfully sold thousands of copies of the Thesis theme.
2. Create Niche Resources
If you’ve chosen to work with a particular niche, you have the opportunity to create resources for that niche based on your own work. Maybe you’ve built a template for websites for a particular niche — offering your template for sale to businesses that want to build their own websites but don’t know where to start can bring in sales. So can informational resources, such as a guide to writing content for such websites or an ebook on how to market such a business online.
3. Develop Merchandise
The number of online t-shirt shops is a bit overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell merchandise. There are plenty of other options for a good design — stationary, coffee mugs and posters can all be starting points. It’s generally more practical for a freelancer to work with a company like CafePress simply because many of us just don’t have the time or capital to devote to ordering and mailing out large quantities of merchandise. Etsy and similar sites can also be an option if you’ve got the resources to make limited runs of your merchandise.
4. Sell Subscriptions
An online application can be a good opportunity to sell ongoing subscriptions, but you can use the same business model to sell access to a membership site or a monthly newsletter, depending on where your talents lie. This approach can be one of the least passive options, in that you do need to make sure that there’s new content or maintain an application on a consistent basis, but it can also have one of the highest opportunities for growth.
5. Offer Side Items to Your Current Clients
It’s not uncommon for website designers to resell hosting, but that’s not the only way to add passive income opportunities by selling to your existing clients. You can create a set of training videos for using the CMS the client’s site is based on or maintain a custom application for them. The key to finding such side items is looking for what services or products make your clients’ lives easier, without requiring constant work from you.
Acting on Passive Income Opportunities
Many freelancers have hills and valleys in the amount of work they have at any given time. Those valleys can make ideal times to start exploring passive income opportunities, and even just one or two projects for yourself can make those valleys a little easier to bear. Starting when you’re in a valley can be particularly important because it can take some time and experimentation to see which approaches will work for you. These passive income opportunities aren’t automatic businesses: to make sure that you bring in some income off of them will require marketing and significant development time. That time can translate into income — not necessarily a full-time income, but enough to supplement your freelance earnings year-round.