As you probably know by now, starting a creative business isn’t easy. Especially when you have a lot of other things in your life that you’re managing too.
When I started my stationery shop, I built a business that I had to tend to every day – 7 days a week. The main income stream of my shop was handcrafted invitations sold through Etsy.
Now, let’s look at how one makes handcrafted invitations. After an order comes in, I customize the customer’s design, get the design approved, print the design, hand cut the design and package the invitations with envelopes for shipping.
As much as I enjoy the process, it takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Depending on how many changes the customer has and how many invitations are in the set.
In addition to making the handcrafted invitations, I also manage all of the other tasks that a small business owner is responsible for. These included providing excellent customer service, researching trends, handling the book keeping and somehow creating new designs so that I could grow my shop. It was a full schedule.
In the meantime, while I was working on all of these things, I realized there was a missed opportunity. Although I enjoyed making invitations for my customers, I started wondering if there was a way to make more money while I spent time completing orders.
Also, my customers started to request a speedier turn around process. Many were planning last minute events and didn’t want to wait for me to customize their designs. They hoped to edit the invitations themselves.
Was there a way offer my designs to my customers without having to be involved in the process?
Then, I stumbled upon The Tom Kat Studio. Kim had run into the same problem I had when she started her shop. She is the original creator of the lollipop invitation. This adorable invitation design hit the stationery market like wildfire.
Kim spent many hours making each set of invitations and couldn’t keep up with demand. So, one day she realized she could teach her customers how to make the lollipop invitation themselves. Kim decided to customize the invitation design and email it to the customer. Then, they could print and assemble it on their end.
Introducing printable invitations. Invitation designs that customers purchase, download and then print. These designs save me lots of time and allow me to focus on what I’m good at – designing.
It also allowed customers to receive their designs faster. Our shops could serve more volume and we didn’t have to worry about creating every order that came in.
I’ve been using the printables passive income stream for over six years now. It has changed how I do business. I’m even experimenting with template designs now, where the customer finalizes all steps of the design process.
The best part about having printable designs is that I can focus on the things that I’m good at. Mainly designing and marketing. I am no longer caught in the weeds and trying to do everything all of the time.
My stationery shop is also now scalable. Sales volume doesn’t stress me out any more. I’m no longer up during busy season scared to look at how many sales came in the night before.
My passive income streams allow me put my business on autopilot. I don’t know where my stationery shop would be without them.
What is a passive income stream?
The most successful businesses have multiple ways of making money. Actually the most successful people in the world have many different ways of making money.
An income stream is a way a business or person makes money.
The average millionaire has 7 different income streams.
Now think about it. Can you imagine working 7 different jobs?
Most of these income streams are passive income. This means that they are leveraging their income more efficiently. Instead of trading their time for dollars, they are building the income stream up front and then managing it passively.
The benefit of having passive income streams for your business is that it allows you to leverage your time so your business can grow more. You might have an income stream that you work on every day and three passive income streams that bring in money without a daily time commitment.
There are two myths I’ve discovered about passive income streams. Many believe that they are a super easy way to make money and they require no work.
For most passive income streams, this isn’t quite true.
The best passive income streams take time up front to set up. And it can be lots of time. You might need to create the designs, write the e-book or build the membership website.
Also, many passive income streams require some management after their up and running. You might need to occasionally create new content, market it to your audience and manage customers questions.
Although many of these tasks can be hired out, you can’t just sit back and receive the income all of the time. There’s still work that needs to be done.
What passive income streams should I add?
So, now that I’ve convinced you to at least consider adding a passive income stream or two to your business, you probably need some ideas. There are lots of different passive income streams that you can choose.
No matter which one you focus on, start small. You might be really enthusiastic and spend a lot of time developing your passive income stream only to have it flop.
Make sure that the passive income stream you select is something that your audience wants. Don’t spend a ton of resources – time and money – creating something that no one wants to buy.
And if this does happen? I’ve found that having a trial and error attitude is really helpful when developing passive income streams. If your first idea doesn’t work, try your next one. It took me some time to figure out the best passive income ideas to offer my customers.
When in doubt, just ask. Customers are usually happy to give feedback to help you develop your products better.
If you’re a designer, templates are a great way to provide your customers with a design that they can customize themselves.
There are lots of different types of template designs that you can offer – from mini-session templates for photographers to blogging templates – it’s amazing the design choices out there. Each kind of creative niche seems to have some template idea that you can create these days.
I currently sell invitation templates that come with an easy to use editing service for customers. Although I mostly sell kids and baby stationery, templates are used often in the wedding industry. I’ve seen wedding designers expand their collections to make all of their wedding stationery designs self-editable.
And customers love templates. No one wants to wait for you to customize their design. Selling templates is the perfect solution.
If you’re an expert on your topic and have been in your industry for awhile, one passive income stream to explore is writing an e-book.
Unlike a printed book, an e-book is usually self-published. This keeps the costs down and allows you to share your knowledge with your audience more easily. Instead of waiting around for a book deal, which may never come.
An e-book can also be very valuable to your business. As long as you choose to write about evergreen content, your e-book can continue selling for years to come. And your e-book can reinforce that you are an expert in your field – making customers more confident to buy from you.
Although writing your e-book isn’t that complicated (you can even compile some of the content from your business blog), there are some technical pieces that come with actually publishing your e-book. Check out these mistakes to avoid when writing your first e-book. And get writing.
As a pencil and paper kind of girl, digital planners aren’t really my thing. But they have been gaining popularity. Every mom blogger seems to be publishing a digital planner.
The best part about so many planner options is that everyone can find something that works for their organizational needs.
So if you sell products or services in a specific niche, you could create a planner for someone working in that niche. For example, I design and sell stationery, so I could create a planner that targets Etsy shop owners, mom entrepreneurs and other creative businesses.
A photographer could create a planner that has a photography theme and is designed with a photographer in mind. Or a teacher might branch into creating a planner for fellow teachers.
To keep this income stream passive, you will need to offer your planner in a digital or printable format. (You can create a printed planner if desired, but your income stream would no longer be passive).
In addition to designing a planner, you can also make digital stickers and planner accessories.
One note, though. Designing a planner is not easy. There’s a lot of pieces involved and it can get complicated. If you choose this passive income stream, consider hiring a seasoned designer to help you get all of the pieces in order.
I LOVE digital art prints. There’s something about purchasing an art piece that I love, printing at home and framing it. Within an hour. It’s an amazing way to change the look and feel of a space. Quickly.
If you’re an artist, selling your art prints digitally can be a great way to grow your sales. While your art prints are selling passively, you have more time to focus on creating your art.
Check out KiwiNBerries for a great example of the possibilities for selling your art digitally.
If you have an eye for pictures, selling stock photography or product flat lays may be a wonderful way to earn passive income for your photography skills.
After you take your photos, you can upload them onto the stock photography website, add some metadata tags (so your work can be found) and start selling.
The downside about stock photography websites is that they pay low commissions. Most sites pay between 20 and 25% of the sale. But it is completely passive income.
Another option is to sell your stock photography passively is in bundles. You can group your images into themes – such as floral or summer – and open a shop on Etsy or Creative Market. Although you’ll have to spend more time building your audience, you get to keep more of your profits.
Beyond traditional stock photography, product flat lays and mock-ups are also very popular. A product flat lay is an image that uses related props and background. You artistically compose the shot, leaving room for someone else to add their own product or logo to it. Find out more about taking flat lay photos here.
Another way to share your expertise about a subject is by creating an online course. Online courses are very popular today and continue to grow about 3% a year.
You can learn more about creating your own online course here. I loved this class and discovered lots of ways I can turn my expertise into a course.
For hosting your online course, I recommend Teachable. It’s a great place to make and sell your course – with lots of technical support if you get stuck. Plus I don’t need to make my own website to start selling courses. A win-win.
Calling all handicraft makers. This is the passive income stream for you. If you’re a crafter who creates original patterns for your work, you could consider selling them digitally to other crafters.
Ashleigh the crocheter behind the blog Sewrella has built a successful blogging community around her business. She has multiple passive income streams for her business including selling crochet patterns in her Etsy shop.
The embroidery designer Alice Paulson, who built her business around the blog Posie Gets Cozy, also sells digital embroidery patterns (along with many other things) in her digital shop.
Makers love patterns and new projects. Providing these customers with creative pattern downloads is a great way to expand your business and craft.
As a former teacher, finding creative lessons for my students was my number one priority. I always had great ideas for teaching, but never the time to make lesson plans and materials.
Enter Teachers Paying Teachers. This website began to pick up credibility in my last years of teaching, so it’s been around awhile now. I even remember reading how someone made a million dollars from their sales.
It’s basically a marketplace – similar to Etsy – for selling teacher resources. You can get more design guidelines for creating and selling on the site here.
If you already have an Etsy site, you can also add education worksheets to your current shop. Teachers always need designs, so this is a great audience to sell to.
Print on Demand Products
A few years ago I discovered the joy of print of demand products. I love to design, but don’t always want to sell my designs via email. I needed to find another way to sell products with my designs.
It wasn’t cost effective to print hundreds of a product and ship from our shop. If the design wasn’t profitable, I was stuck with inventory and a huge business loss.
Enter print on demand products. I can create a design, add it to a print on demand product and sell the design to my customers. I’ve made everything from mugs to library book bags. The possibilities are endless.
The number of product offerings by print on demand companies has also expanded over the years. Even Etsy is allowing designers to add print on demand products to their shops.
If you have a business blog, adding affiliate marketing as a passive income stream is an easy way to expand your revenue. You can add related items to your niche, recommend things for your customers to buy, service options to help your customers and even supplies to assist with DIY projects.
When writing a blog post, consider ways that you can add affiliate links to your post. Be sure to disclose in the blog post that there are affiliate links per the FTC guidelines.
I also include affiliates in my blog’s side bar. These are my favorite companies that I’ve worked with for years and are happy to promote their products.
Creating an App
I recently read in Chillpreneur that Denise Duffield Thomas attempted getting into the app business awhile back. A bit unsuccessfully, as she admits in her book, but not every business venture can be perfectly executed.
If you have a service or product that could be enhanced with a mobile app, you could create your own app. Now, note this is an extremely time and money intensive project (as Denise explains).
But once your mobile app is created, it can be a passive income source. It will continue to sell forever (I’m pretty sure you will need to update it at some point, but I’ll leave that for the technical experts to explain).
SVG Cut Files
Have you ever seen those cutting machines by Cricut or Silhouette? I have one sitting in my garage right now that I never could figure out how to use efficiently.
Basically, the idea is that you feed it a design and the machine cuts it from a material. Currently vinyl seems to be the popular material of the moment. Crafters are adding these designs to create mugs, t-shirts, baby rompers and other fun, unique ideas.
In order to make these adorable designs, the crafters need SVG cut files to use with their machines. These cut files are sold as instant download digital designs. If you’re a designer looking to expand your shop’s offerings, this might be an area to explore.
As many of you know, party printables are one of the main products that I sell in my stationery shop. I love designing and celebrating, so this was the design space I landed in.
Although most of my designs need to be customized by me (so they aren’t truly passive income), I still offer a variety of instant downloads in my shop.
If you are a design who wants to help others celebrate, you can create different designs based on your favorite (not-copyrighted, of course) party themes. Check Etsy for some inspiration and get designing.
Love video and have a growing YouTube channel? Although I’m not as into the video revolution, marketing your business through a YouTube channel is a great way to build an audience.
And if you’re already creating videos on YouTube, you could post ads on the videos to make additional income. The best part is that you create the video once and the advertising continues rolling in. Whether or not you are continuing to post more videos (although, growing your YouTube channel will create even more passive income down the road).
It also turns out that YouTube viewers love consuming content. So if you have a knack for being on camera, YouTube ads might be where it’s at.
Some business coaches judge this passive income stream with mixed reviews. They don’t think you should encourage yoru traffic to leave your site by clicking on an ad or be redirected to a sponsor’s website.
And this might be true. That being said, if your business blog has enough traffic, my thought is that not everyone is going to be interested in buying your product.
But if you work closely with the correct sponsor on a blog post, or you have good advertising selected, you can make money passively from those who aren’t interested in your products.
By adding advertising and sponsorships to your business blog, you can earn some money from everyone who visits. Whether they purchase something from you or not.
So, if you have started your business blog and you have high traffic numbers, consider joining an advertising network or working with a company on a sponsored post. It might a new passive income stream you haven’t explored yet.
And the best part is that once the advertising is set up, it truly is passive income.
Can I create an entire business based on my passive income idea?
I’d have to say yes with a lot of hard work. People are creating these types of businesses all of the time. It’s one of the business models that you can pursue when starting your online business journey.
Look at Sarah Titus for example. She created a million dollar business based on selling printable binders. It’s pretty amazing.
Keep in mind, though, that not everyone is comfortable with starting a completely passive income business. We live in a work hard culture. Although you’ll have to work really hard in the beginning, you might not feel complete when that hard work mindset is removed.
You might actually miss the blood, sweat and tears that goes into building your business. Now, my thoughts are that if you miss it that much then build another business. But, for some of you, this mindset might not be that easy to change. If this is you, check out some tips for getting over the guilt you feel about making money from passive income.
Although starting a business can be hard work, growing your business can be even harder. You might find that you need to develop creative ways to leverage your time so you can make more money. There are only so many hours in a day.
Creating passive income streams for your business leverages your time effectively. Choose one, choose many. Develop a business that makes money completely from passive income.
Whatever you decide, remember that passive income is a great strategy to use. Although not easy to build, passive income streams will give you more time to market your ideas, develop future products and have location flexibility (if this is something you’re looking for).
Ready to get started? Choose a passive income and talk to your customers about it. See if these are products or services they’re interested in. Also, find other businesses that have been successful in developing their own passive income streams. They are great inspiration for pursuing this type of business model.