Previously I have spoken about passive income, the kind of income that means you get paid in an ongoing manner, whether that is through royalties or other means, it is something you don’t have to actively work at earning once set up.
Active income is like your day job, you get a paycheck for working the whole week/month/year/contract.
Now almost all of us work the active income stream. So I will cover off the various active income streams a designer might be normally working.
Yes, this is your regular income that will hopefully cover most of your bills and something you can rely on coming in every pay cycle without any drama.
Most designers do some work after hours or weekends to help boost their income, or get extra stuff to add to the portfolio or it may be that a family member needed some help with a unique birthday card or something. It is not a reliable income and is dependant on you being well enough to do it. No getting sick while freelancing as there is no holiday pay or sick leave!
Writing articles/guest posts:
articles, tutorials or paid guest blog posts can earn you a bit of extra money each month. Great if you have a lot to share.
Short term cash boosts can be found in selling off all your old unwanted stuff. Auction sites like eBay can help you get a little bit of extra cash but once you have sold off all your old books, CDs, DVDs and bric-à-brac you would need to replace stock to sell and it can become overly time consuming trying to find bargains to flip for profit. It’s always good for a spring clean, but not a long term income stream for me as I am not looking to wheel and deal on the auction sites.
websites like Fiverr offer you the chance to advertise your skills on offer which you can add to with additional charges (up selling). The other way is to source mini-projects through elance and freelancer that can be completed quickly with a minimum of fuss.
hand crafted art and cool stuff. Maybe you make the most awesome tea cosies that you can sell. You still need to make each item, pack and send them once they are purchased.
On-selling hosting and domain registration:
most of us can get good deals from our hosting providers, why not offer the service to your clients?
you can sell photos and vector illustrations easily through many sites like shutterstock. Rights managed photos can earn you a lot more, but they have to be pretty spectacular to justify the price tag.
yes, there is always a need for different fonts to use for client branding, so why not look at doing one or two up for yourself?
Website themes and plugins:
with the popularity of WordPress and similar content management systems still rising, you can sell themes and plugins through themeforest and similar websites. Just be aware you will probably need to be doing help support for the installation of the theme/plugin and update them when new updates to WordPress come out.
similar to fonts, there is always a demand for different icons for websites and apps.
can be a bit of work upfront but long term they can give great returns. Also, don’t just assume you have to write war and peace, even inexpensive tutorials and short books like the ‘Top Ten Distractions a Designer faces at work each day and how to avoid them for improved productivity’ can be priced low enough so people don’t have to think twice about the purchase.
if you have a good idea to make an app, getting together with a programmer to make it a reality could help you build some long term income. Just look at candy crush, it is estimated to earn $800,000 per day. Now I don’t expect that level of income, but a couple of thousand a month would be awesome wouldn’t it?
unused concept design layouts can be converted to a generic brand and sold through graphic leftovers to earn you some money from layouts you literally have sitting on your computer right now.
Print on demand online stores:
zazzle and cafepress are two of the websites I run stores on. It isn’t the best income, but a small royalty payment every few months is not something to complain about. Once you have made the designs and set up the stores, the odd bit of promoting here and there is all you will really need to do. Easy. And gives plenty of cool stuff to add to your portfolio. Just don’t spend your profits on cool stuff you see whilst there!
podcasts, music, videos and all manner of interesting content can be sold through iTunes, handy if you have a musical talent to call on, but informative lesson / training videos could be a good start.
you can earn commission from amazon from affiliate links from your website. The return isn’t great but every little bit counts.
hosting ads on your website can earn you a bit of money, but it will probably make you look less professional to potential clients.
Additional Income Streams
websites like 99designs run a competition for you to create a design and the winner and only the winner gets paid. And it doesn’t have to be the best design, it may be the one the client likes best. Aside from a portfolio filler, this can’t really be considered a way to be reliably paid for the work you do. Threadless is another like this in that you compete for your design to be produced if you win and only then do you get a one off payment for the design.
they do offer shares of revenue for the most popular video content from the website, but it isn’t something you can expect unless you have something that will go crazy viral. (Now where did I put that video of Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton eating chocolate pudding out of Mickey Mouses ears…)
yes I said it. Begging. Literally asking people for money. Just like me asking for you to buy me a coffee/beer. Some call it a gift, others a donation. It’s begging for money, plain and simple. I would be very grateful for any money coming my way, let me tell you! If it makes you feel more comfortable, think of it like being an Art Sponsor or a Muse for Design if you do decide to give something.
That wraps up this instalment of a designers journey to debt free, but if you have any additional ideas, tips or questions, add a comment so we can all benefit from the knowledge as well.