In 2019 I paid all of my rent, airplane tickets and travel expenses (and then some) with my passive income.
Passive income is income that requires little or no effort to earn. If I was trying to be more clickbaity I could have titled this blog post MAKE MONEY WHILE YOU'RE SLEEPING.
This article explains how I did all of that.
Before I move on, I want to clarify that setting up a passive income system takes time and effort. Very few people will put in the hours to make this work properly, but those that do will get the rewards in the end.
A few more things: this system works easier if you are in a niche (think timelapse photography, vintage Italian cars, vegan cuisine, local travel to name a few examples).
On top of that, as a general guideline to whatever it is that you do: you need to be able to provide value to an audience. Money always flows to whoever provides value. More on that later.
1. My passive income system: an overview
I call it a system because it combines multiple passive income streams:
Digital products: I write and sell e-books, as well as software templates and presets. These products are sold via an e-commerce platform (an online store) and people find them through Search Engine Optimisation and my social media channels.
Affiliate programs: I talk about camera gear a lot. When people buy a piece of gear on Amazon after clicking a link on my website I can make a percentage of the sale. The product on which you make a commission isn't necessarily a product you use yourself.
Referral programs: Similar to affiliate programs. I can make a flat fee as a reward for bringing a company more customers. Same goes for software like LRTimelapse or Adobe Creative Cloud programs. With referral programs you usually recommend the product because you use it yourself, it's a more personal connection to whatever it is that you're promoting.
Membership websites: I offer exclusive content to people that follow me on Patreon. I record and share a lot of my talks and presentations at events and conferences and have monthly QnA sessions on there as well.
Advertisements: I run ads in front of and during my Youtube videos. When a video gets lots of views, I make a bit of money. I can also enable ads on my website (I tend not to, as I prefer to advertise my own products instead) using Google's AdSense program.
There are many more ways to generate passive income, but these are the ones I use myself everyday. I feel very confident in talking about these and recommending the products I use.
My new e-book talks about content licensing/stock footage as well, but that's far from my specialty and won't be a part of this blog post.
A huge chapter of the e-book is about how to grow your social media channels. All based on what I've tried and tested over the last few years of my career.
2. Digital products
So the end goal is to make money passively from wherever you are, right? Where and how do you even start? Let's work backwards:
- You want to make money passively (MAKE MONEY WHILE YOU'RE SLEEPING!!1!)
- What do you need to make money passively?
- You need a product that you can sell to people.
- How do you get people to find your product?
- You need traffic.
- How do you get traffic?
- Through search engine optimisation and social media.
- How do you get more followers on social media?
- You post high quality content that people like.
- What is this content?
- You post about what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at.
- How do you find what you’re passionate about?
- You think of what it is that you love doing.
This is a very simple thought exercise that should get you going in the right direction.
Once you've figured out what sort of digital product you're going to make, you need a place to sell it on.
I went with WordPress to build my website as I like how customisable it is. If you want to build a website with WordPress, check out Bluehost.com. Bluehost provides domain names, website hosting, WordPress installations etc. It's a one stop shop to get started.
There are a range of e-commerce platforms you can choose from to power your online store. Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce are some of the big ones.
Another option to build your website and online store is Squarespace. Squarespace offers a very simple setup and has a built in ecommerce store. I have little experience with Squarespace but a lot of my friends use it and they like it. It is less customisable than WordPress.
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3. Affiliate programs
I have joined a range of online affiliate programs over the last few years but the main one I use is Amazon's Affiliate Program.
You can make up to 10% of every transaction when someone buys something on the platform through your affiliate link.
It's free to join, and you only need to make one sale in the first few months to keep your account active.
Sign up for the Amazon Affiliate Program here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
Another program to check out is the Ebay Partner Network. If you're in a niche that involves products that you can't easily find on Amazon then Ebay might be the way to go. Sign up to the Ebay Partner Network here: https://partnernetwork.ebay.com/
Once you're signed up to these programs, post your product affiliate links on your website and social channels and start making money from other people's purchases.
4. Referral programs
Affiliate and referral programs are quite similar: they rely on a third party to push a sale for a product or service and in return the third party gets a kickback. With referral programs you are an active user of the product that you're pushing, whereas with affiliate programs you're not necessarily a user of what it is that you're selling (random products on Amazon for example).
It's a great idea to look around in your niche and reach out to companies and developers to see if they have an affiliate or referral program that you could sign up to. I reached out to the developer of a timelapse software called LRTimelapse and he signed me up to the affiliate program that I didn't know existed!
You can become an affiliate to my very own website by signing up here: https://www.matjoez.com/affiliate
You can make 50% of every sale that comes through your link.
5. Membership websites
If you consume lots of Youtube content you have no doubt heard of Patreon.com
Patreon is a service that allows people to support their favourite creators. I've been running a Patreon page for over two years now and have seen on average 1 person join the platform per thousand youtube subscribers.
I offer exclusive Patreon only content on there (like recorded talks or presentations at conferences), early access to my upcoming content, exclusive QnA threads, digital wallpapers, coaching, project feedback etc.
An interesting alternative to Patreon is buymeacoffee.com sort of like a tipping service for creators.
More membership alternatives are discussed in the e-book.
If you have a blog that's getting traffic or a youtube channel that's getting views than you can monetise that traffic by displaying ads on it.
Google's AdSense ad network is very simple to set up and plugs in to nearly every website provider (WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix etc).
It doesn't make me a ton of money but all little things add up.
Sign up to Google AdSense here.
If you are new to the world of passive income then this would have been quite a lot of information to take in.
This blog post is a very, very condensed version of my e-book Passive income for creatives. In the e-book I go into extreme detail about how to set up these programs, I show you exactly how much money I've made through which income streams and share much more information that you can use to start making money passively like lead magnets, email databases, newsletters, how to properly grow your social media followers etc.
- Passive income is easier to enable if you are in a niche.
- You need to provide value to people. Money flows to whoever provides value.
- Setting up a passive income system takes time and effort but it will pay off.
- Generate traffic through SEO and social media to your website or online store.
- Create a digital product to sell to this traffic.
- Use affiliate and referral programs to monetise this traffic even more.
- If you have a dedicated audience give them the option to support you directly through a membership website or platform.
Check out my brand new 60 page e-book Passive income for creatives.