Passive Income for Creatives

I’d like to start off by giving a shout-out to the ingenuity of Gen Z.

While millennials like myself often lament over white claws on the slew of broken promises that seemingly define our generation, Gen Z came of age under no delusion that the system would let them down.

Because of this, the art of the side hustle and passive income has experienced a digital renaissance. Armed with the Sword of TikTok and Shield of Robinhood, Gen Z has broken down the doors to opportunities once gate-kept for the wealthy. Nay, they say, to grueling service or retail jobs, or the 9-5 cubicle, as grateful millennials throw cold brew and oat milk in thanks.

This benefits everybody who’s found themselves stuck – truly there is no age limit on making a change, and with Web 3’s hyper connection and shift to remote work becoming a necessity, the future of stable, diverse, and most importantly not soul-crushing income is bright.

So what does this mean for creatives? How can artists stake their claim in this brave new world?

Let’s carve it out.

What is passive income?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term or concept, passive income is money-in that requires little to no action. You might hear buzz terms like “Make Money While You Sleep!!!” and immediately delete that email, but there’s some truth to be had. The most “popular” form of passive income is the stock market – low risk, long-term investments are the bread and butter of retirement accounts. But this isn’t realistic for everyone, and the money from the market isn’t immediate (or always reliable) for living expenses.
Creatives are unique in that our talents are well suited for passive income, more so than many other skill-based work. This may come as a surprise to some. After all, artistic creations are extremely proactive by nature. But once you create the art, the possibilities become endless.

So, what should I create?

This is always the question. It’s the eternal battle between making what you love and making what sells. I believe everyone can find a balance here, but here are a few points to keep in mind while you decide.

General Tips & Tricks

Find a niche – If a market is oversaturated, you’re gonna struggle, and this requires more active time (marketing) to build up a steady customer base. Finding something specific and unique with little to no competition increases your ability to sell passively with less input
Find something to love about it – maybe making templates, in general, doesn’t bring joy or spark passion, but what if it’s a character creator template for your favorite TTRPG? It’s easier to create a “boring” thing when attached to something you actually enjoy
Find the right platform – Etsy is popular and can bring its own traffic, but takes a cut. Running your own site costs money and time, but lets you keep more of the profit. Weigh the pros and cons of each, based on what step of your journey you’re on

Offer small freebies or bonus content – people love feeling like they’re getting a little extra for their purchases and are more likely to pass the info along to other potential customers

Here I’m gonna offer a quick overview of passive income ideas based on the type of art you typically do. This is not an exhaustive list and many of these can apply to more than one discipline. Most if not all of these can be used on popular marketplaces like Etsy, or self-hosted websites with eCommerce platforms that support digital sales, which is almost all of them.

I’ll be going into deep dives on some of these in future posts, so send me a tweet @variant_izzie to vote on which ones you’d like to see featured first!

The Illustrator / Painter

  • Creating social media assets like icons or highlight graphics
  • Animated gifs of your art with popular lettering like “New Post!”
  • Made-to-order prints for stickers, cards, posters, and other novelties
  • Stock illustrations for sites like Shutterstock

The Designer

  • Design templates for a passion or hobby – character creation, infographics, reference sheets/posters, etc.
  • Templates and assets that folks can use on popular apps like Canva or Zinnia Journal, especially for under-served hobbies
  • Vector assets for stock sites

The Photographer

  • Selling presets for lightroom or VSCO
  • Stock photo sites, like Adobe Stock, are great options to put some of those great shots collecting dust in your library to use
  • Print-to-order platforms catered towards photos like

The Crafter

  • Patterns are big for textile-based crafts, and molds for sculpting
  • Tutorials, while good for any discipline, are especially effective for crafters where passive income can be a little more challenging
  • Selling off excess supplies (a little more active, but still a great option)

The Creative – Ideas for Everyone

  • Patreon – This will definitely get its own article but every creator should consider Patreon, and you don’t need to offer much to get it to work. There are other options, like Ko-Fi that offer a similar service
  • Youtube – Offering tutorials on YouTube, especially if you’ve got a unique skill, can be a great starting point. Or just talking about your process, what you use, unboxing videos, etc.
  • Affiliate marketing links are some of the best ways to make passive income regardless of what you do! And the thing is, most people are happy to support a creator by using affiliate links especially if you are honest and upfront about it. And Amazon isn’t your only option!
  • Create a master class or online course. You can offer this as an option on your own website, or use a platform like Teachable.
  • Blogging / Substack – A bit more word-based and old-school, blogs still offer a great opportunity to connect and draw in some passive income with affiliate links, ads, and collaborations

So this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are dozens of ways to get a little extra cash in your pocket to help fuel your creative ventures. I hope this helps spark some interest and ideas and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Happy Creating!

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