Art Licensing

4 Ways to Grow Your Passive Income

March 25, 2020


I'm a full-time artist and online educator. You can find my watercolor designs on products all around the globe. This blog is where I share all of my latest art business tips for you!


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If you don’t already have any passive income built in to your business, now is a great time to think about how you can put this place!

What is passive income, exactly? It’s income that doesn’t take you much time or energy to earn, after you’ve already put the system or product out into the world. 

For example, my Skillshare classes have been earning me income every single month since I launched my first class in 2016. Each new class I add, grows my earnings from that platform. I also receive referral bonuses for every new person who signs up through my classes specifically. 

Passive income doesn’t mean you aren’t putting any work at all into the project and receiving free money. It means you put in the work one time, and continue to earn income from it with little upkeep. I say little, because none of my passive income sources involve zero upkeep. But it is minimal, and definitely worth the time. 

I believe that passive income is absolutely essential for any creative business owner (or maybe even any business in general!). Why? Because as business owners, we are limited by our time and our energy. 

It’s simply not sustainable, especially as a one-woman show, to do only work that is based on a time-investment. For example, if painting commissions are a majority of your business, what happens if you get sick? Or a family member needs your attention? You immediately get behind on your commissions, and therefore can’t take on any new customers. Once you can focus again, you’re spending all your time catching up just to make ends meet in your business. 

I notice most creatives don’t start out with any passive income in place – including myself. But over the years I’ve grown this part of my business more and more because it gives me what I wanted in the first place by leaving my day job: freedom. 

Here are the three ways I earn my own passive income. Note that this is a non-exhaustive, and you can absolutely get creative with your ideas! 

Passive Income Idea #1: Online Classes or Educational Resources

Not everyone wants to be a teacher. In fact, I hesitated to teach for a couple of years (a combination of imposter syndrome and not wanting to lose focus on my own art). But once I started, I realized I loved it. It’s fun to help people grow their creative or business skills and I genuinely enjoy it. If it’s not something you do enjoy, don’t force your energy into it. But, if you have an inkling that you can do something like this, try!¬†

Skillshare or other teaching platforms are a great place to start teaching because they have a community built-in. So if your audience is small, I suggest starting there and creating really high quality classes. The higher quality of a class you create, the more you will find success because it will resonate with your students. You may even get noticed by the Skillshare team, and they will help promote your class too. There are tons of resources on their blog about how to create a successful class. 

Passive Income Idea #2: Digital Downloads

I separated this idea from #1 because not all digital downloads have to be educational. In this example I mean things like: a PDF guide to your favorite travel spots, coloring or activity sheets for kids, sewing patterns, brushes for drawing apps, fonts or other creative resources. You can sell these on your own website, or on sites like Creative Market. 

Digital goods like these are where you can both get really creative in your approach, and it doesn’t take as much time for you to create like a class. The pricing for these types of things vary, but if you are priced on lower end, you can likely increase your sales volume than if it were higher-priced. Just make sure your pricing isn’t too low, because it will be perceived as lower value. 

Passive Income Idea #3: Affiliates

This is a very small part of my passive income, but is worth mentioning. As an affiliate, you can earn a percentage of sales of the product or service you are promoting. For example, in my Amazon art supply recs shop, I earn a small percentage of any sales there. 

There are tons of ways to become an affiliate for your favorite products or services. Many online educators offer affiliate programs, so if you are huge fan of a class you’ve taken in the past, consider reaching out to them to become an affiliate. Note that this does take some promotion on your end, but many affiliate programs are fairly low-key.¬†

Passive Income Idea #4: Licensing

You know I’m all about art licensing, right?! With licensing, you can create a piece of artwork and license it multiple times for different clients and their different products.

For example, I can paint one pattern and license it as wallpaper for one company, and then simultaneously license it as sewing fabric for another. That’s because I don’t sell my copyright to these companies; I retain the copyright so I can continue to license it for years! 

In best-case scenarios, you receive royalties on the sales of these products for years to come. A royalty is a percentage of the sales of these products, and you get a check in the mail every quarter throughout the year. Sounds pretty dreamy, right? It takes some time to build up, and not every client is as good as the next. But done consistently, royalties can be an amazing way to earn passive income. 

And…announcing our new Art Licensing Facebook group!

You can now join us in our brand new Facebook group! There you can chat with the community to discuss all things art licensing, and hopefully find friends to keep you accountable, ask questions, and grow your licensing business. See you there!

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    Hi! I'm Juliet, an artist and surface designer. I create watercolor artwork and teach online classes for artists.


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