Are you a graphic designer who wants to earn money from your work but doesn’t want to slave away for hours creating new stuff every day? Earning passive income is the perfect solution for you.
Passive income is a great tool to monetize your work while you sleep. Not all creative work requires you to sit at your drawing table or computer to make money; you can earn passive income day after day without the creative expense.
It’s not all easy to click with your fingers, but it’s doable and beneficial.
What is the difference between passive and active income?
You may have heard of passive income, but if you don’t fully understand it, you may not know how it differs from regular, active income.
Active income is typical for most regular jobs. You are the active component in the work and income relationship. You charge for your time and labor—to put in the hours—and get paid as a result of constant work, whether you’re salaried or wage-based, and self-employed or employed.
Passive income is typically found in self-employment or – what many call – side hustles. To receive passive income, you let your work work for itself. If that doesn’t make sense, think of it as putting in one hour of time and labor but receiving 30 hours of money as a result. So let’s dive into the ways to earn passive income from your graphic designs.
1. Sell tutorials
The best passive income comes from selling something you already do for free. If you are a graphic designer or illustrator, you probably create designs and illustrations on a daily basis. So rather than just making a profit from the results, why not also make a profit from the process of creating those things?
You can easily film a tutorial or take screenshots as you create the work, then turn it into a video or written article tutorial to sell. If your design work is already impressive, there are many people who will want to know how to make it. They will look to you as a leader or a teacher and pay for your knowledge. You can easily make a passive income this way.
Sell tutorials of your most popular work or style. You can sell it through Patreon or other subscription services to keep it more exclusive, or you can sell it directly from your website. You can even write articles about it and use affiliate marketing to receive income or create YouTube videos of tutorials and create an income stream from it.
2. Create and sell templates
Selling design templates is a surefire way to make money. Social media templates or popular trending template ideas can be made and sold on various platforms. You can create Figma presentation templates to sell or Canva layouts that people can edit later.
Templates are constantly being downloaded and purchased by social media managers, content creators and influencers. Even other graphic designers who don’t have the time to create them or average social media users will buy well-designed and unique templates.
You can sell the same templates you use for your own social media pages, keeping the workload passive, or you can design one or two simple templates and sell them from multiple locations. See our list of places to sell your design work online for some starting points.
3. Sell Lightroom presets
One of the best ways to differentiate your style from other photographers or content creators is to use distinctive presets. You can create Lightroom presets and sell them – individually or as sets – to other content creators, photographers or social media users.
Presets can be marketed for portraits, wedding photography, grunge, preppy styles, or anything that makes photos look distinctive. Selling presets is especially popular if you’re already a well-known photographer or content creator with a specific visual style. People will want their photos to look like yours because you inspired them.
For a passive profit, sell the presets you already use yourself. If you don’t want to give away your unique secrets, you can—of course—modify them slightly so they’re not identical. This is a great way to get your work out there and increase the popularity of your personal style.
4. Sell your designs via Dropshipping
If you’re a graphic designer, you’ve probably designed things for fun, made things for family and friends, or expanded your skills by drawing or creating random things. Instead of letting those designs go to waste or being used once never to be seen again, you can very easily add them to an e-commerce or dropshipping site so people can buy those designs on real products.
If you’ve spent time or money creating these designs, they shouldn’t just stay on your Instagram page. You can make money from them. Add it to sites like RedBubble or other dropshipping sites; you can also add an e-commerce store to your own website.
Through these means, you can add simple illustrations or designs to things like t-shirts, cushion covers, cards, stickers, notebooks, wall hangings, clocks or bags.
Note: do not reuse designs that you have been commissioned by other people, they must remain exclusive. But if you have universal designs that you made for one-time gifts for friends, made out of boredom or creative design challenges, you can earn passive money.
5. License your work
Licensing your work allows your designs to appear on household brand products, increasing your audience while getting you cash for no extra work. To get your designs on t-shirts in Target or on custom plates and bowls in Walmart’s homewares department, licensing is the way to go.
Just like forming a successful creative collaboration, licensing allows you to work with brands that share your creative vision and ethos.
You don’t have to be a seasoned or famous designer for this to benefit you. Once your work is licensed, the company will handle advertising and sell your designed products with their brand.
Before licensing your work, make sure you retain the copyright for your artwork and designs and do not sign away exclusive use to others. We’ve written about Creative Commons licenses and non-exclusive use that you should learn about before selling or licensing your work.
6. Affiliate marketing on your website
This one requires active work at first, but with hard work and perseverance, you can become a great passive income earner. By adding affiliate marketing or advertising to your website, you can earn money just from people viewing your work; they don’t even have to buy it.
For it to become income worthy, you will need a solid audience and enough page views on your site. This is where the initial active issue comes from. Once you have a consistent audience and reach, passive marketing comes into play.
Whether you add ads that generate revenue from page views or choose to include affiliate links to products on your website, both are great options for earning a little extra money without much active work.
Be sure to stay transparent about your use of affiliate marketing by sharing a disclosure on your website. It is also recommended to only use affiliate links for products that you actually like and use. Don’t sell out just to make a few extra bucks.
Make your graphic designs work for you
Being a graphic designer or illustrator can be tough. But when you run out of inspiration or motivation to create new works, there are still ways to make money from the work you’ve made before.
Using any of these passive income tips can keep the bank account ticking over without you having to put more hours into your creative work. Passive income takes a small amount of time to set up but lets you earn for a long time afterwards.