There are plenty of technical skills to master along the way, but the biggest obstacles to earning passive income have to do with mindset—in essence, designers have to unlearn a lot of what has worked for them so far. Here are a few key concepts.
You’re not just a designer anymore.
There are many different ways to make passive income online, but they’re all based around attracting the attention of an audience and monetizing it. That means designers have to stop thinking like designers, and start thinking like publishers. Much of the grind has nothing to do with creating beautiful interiors and everything to do with building an email list, writing content, figuring out search engine optimization, talking to your audience and setting up conversion funnels. If all of that sounds deathly boring, maybe passive income isn’t a good fit.
Instagram is not your friend.
The social media platform is the design industry’s playground, town square, theater and catwalk. It’s natural that designers spend most of their time and energy there. Problem is, it’s not particularly helpful for passive income. Why? Instagram is fairly self-contained—it’s difficult to make followers actually click that infamous “link in bio” URL and get them into an environment where you can monetize them. Pinterest, says digital marketing consultant Leslie Carothers, is a much more useful social network for generating site traffic. But even after she explains that to designers, it can be hard for many to let go. “There’s an ego gratification to Instagram,” she says. “If designers understood that they could refocus their efforts away from the platform—yes, you’re not going to get that hit of dopamine when you get a like, but it doesn’t do much to help you earn 24/7.”
It’s not free.
A passive income source has a much lower barrier to entry than, say, starting your own fabric line, but that doesn’t mean it’s free. Designers who are successful at it usually end up investing thousands on content and a better website, sometimes hiring staff specifically to maintain their social channels. “Having all these income streams has really helped me pick and choose the clients I want to work with,” says designer Claire Jefford. “But I wouldn’t want to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes: I’ve spent significantly building a new website. There is money you have to invest.”
You have to love it.
This seems obvious but it’s not: Some designers come to passive income motivated mostly by the “income” part of it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but if you’re creating content or courses cynically, …….