5 passive income strategies every designer should consider

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It’s never a bad idea to diversify your income sources—especially if you’re actively looking to earn some extra cash. Luckily, as designers, there’s plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to generating passive income.

Today, we’re sharing five strategies that creative practitioners rely on for generating a cash flow outside of their day-to-day jobs. Just remember—passive income always involves some sort of initial investment—whether it be time, effort, or money. But once you do the upfront legwork, you won’t need much effort to upkeep this kind of revenue stream in the long-run.

So, here’s how to work smarter—not harder—using a few passive income strategies:

1. Create and sell design templates

One of the most popular passive income strategies designers like to take advantage of is selling design files online. If you think about it, tons of non-designers actively seek ready-made templates for all kinds of needs. Think about creating design templates that are universally useful such as:

  • Presentations
  • Resumes
  • Website layouts
  • Business cards
  • Mockups

The list can go on. Upload and sell your design templates on popular marketplaces like Creative Market, Etsy, or Shutterstock to start bringing in some extra cash.

2. Sart a side-hustle selling merchandise

Another great revenue stream for designers to explore is selling custom merchandise. Nowadays, print-on-demand services make it easier than ever for creatives to sell merch without the hassle of order fulfillment (check out Printful.com or Printify.com for a few good options).

When it comes to designing for merch, Lisa Champ recommends “mocking up your product (or a few) and asking people if they would buy it first. Naturally, you’ll get a lot of conflicting information doing this, but it’s a good way to identify trends of what people want or don’t want.”

Selling merch as a designer especially lucrative if you already have a large audience who follows your work, so you might want to consider building your following before launching your online shop. For more advice on making and selling merch on the side, check out these 5 tips for getting started.

4. Share your expertise

As a designer, you’ve got a lot of knowledge to share. Why not help new designers by sharing your valuable insights while earning some extra money? You can charge for tons of helpful resources you create in the form of workshops, books, online classes, mentorship sessions, etc.

Of course, you’ll need to invest time in creating these resources, but once you make them available, they can become a lucrative source of income in the long-run.

Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to share valuable insights! Plenty of new designers can benefit from learning about your own experience and career trajectory.

4. Sell custom design tools & assets

Do you enjoy creating and using your own design tools? Well, chances are other designers will love using them too. Creative people love experimenting with new resources, so you might want to consider selling your own design assets to the creative community at large. Think about assets like:

  • Brushes
  • Fonts
  • Textures
  • Grids
  • UI Kits

If you’re going to sell these kinds of assets, just make sure you market them effectively. Show your tools in action! Display design work you’ve created using your tools to get potential buyers excited to emulate the same look and feel. Here are a few great examples of designers who use Dribbble to market their tools for sale:

  1. Grid Builder

  2. Retro Supply Gouache Shader Brushes

  3. Mrs Carter

5. Create a Patreon

You might already follow and support your favorite creatives on Patreon, but have you considered this as a revenue stream for yourself? Patreon is a subscription-based service that allows creators to earn monthly income by providing exclusive content to subscribers (AKA “patrons”). Here’s a great example of an illustrator’s Patreon membership options.

If you’re someone who already creates content on a regular basis and loves engaging with your audience, you might want to consider creating a Patreon. You can offer subscribers tons of valuable content and have fun getting creative with it! A few ideas include video streaming your process, writing helpful articles, or giving away design freebies. The options are endless!

Now that you know how to build passive income using your creative skills, get out there and see what works! It’ll take some experimenting to see what catches on and successfully sells, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t earn a ton of extra income right away. Passive income is a long game, so start small and figure out how to best put your creative skills to work!


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