Are you a graphic designer who wants to earn money from your work, but doesn’t want to slave for hours creating new stuff every day? Earning passive income is the perfect solution for you.
Passive income is a great tool for making your work make money while you sleep. Not all creative work needs you to be sitting at your drawing desk or computer to make money; you can earn passive income without the creative outlay day after day.
It isn’t all click-of-your-fingers easy, but it’s doable and beneficial.
What’s the Difference Between Passive and Active Income?
You might’ve heard of passive income, but if you don’t entirely understand it you might 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—putting in the hours—and get paid because of constant work, whether you are salary 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 make 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’ worth of money as a result. So let’s dive in on the ways to earn passive income from your graphic designs.
1. Sell Tutorials
The best passive income comes from selling something you’re already doing for free. If you’re a graphic designer or illustrator, you’re probably making designs and illustrations daily. So rather than only making a profit from the results, why not also make a profit from the process of creating those things?
You can easily film or take screenshots of a tutorial while creating the work, then turn that into a video or written article tutorial to sell. If your design work is already impressive, there are plenty of people who will want to know how to make it. They’ll 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 them via Patreon or other subscription services to keep them more exclusive, or you could sell them directly from your website. You can even write articles about them and use affiliate marketing to receive income or create YouTube videos of tutorials and create an income stream from that.
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 could create Figma presentation templates to sell or Canva layouts that people can edit later.
Templates are downloaded and bought all the time 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, which keeps the workload passive, or you can design one or two simple templates and sell them from multiple places. 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 set your style apart 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 portraiture, wedding photography, grunge, preppy styles, or anything that makes photos look distinctive. Selling presets is especially popular if you are already a known photographer or content creator with a specific visual style. People will want their photos to look like yours because you’ve inspired them.
For a passive profit, sell the presets that you already use yourself. If you don’t want to give away your unique secrets, you can—of course—edit them slightly, so they’re not identical. It’s 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 be used once never to be seen again, you can very easily add them to an eCommerce or dropshipping website for people to buy those designs on real products.
If you’ve spent time or money already creating these designs, they shouldn’t just stay on your Instagram page. You can make money from them. Add them to websites like RedBubble or other dropshipping sites; you can add an eCommerce store to your own website, too.
Through these means, you can add simple illustrations or designs onto things like t-shirts, cushion covers, cards, stickers, notebooks, wall hangings, clocks, or bags.
Note: do not reuse designs you’ve been commissioned for by other people, they should stay exclusive. But if you’ve got universal designs you made for one-off gifts for friends, made from boredom or creative design challenges, you can earn some passive money.
5. License Your Work
Licensing your work allows your designs to appear on household name-branded products, increasing your audience while racking in cash for no extra work. To get your designs on t-shirts in Target or on custom plates and bowls in Walmart’s homeware section, licensing is the way to go.
Similarly to forming a successful creative collaboration, licensing allows you to work with brands that share your creative vision and morals.
You don’t have to be a seasoned or well-known designer for this to benefit you. Once your work is licensed, the company will deal with advertising and sell your designed products using their brand.
Before licensing your work, ensure you retain the copyright for your artwork and designs and don’t sign away exclusive use for others. We’ve written about Creative Commons licensing and non-exclusive use which you should learn about before selling or licensing your work.
6. Affiliate Marketing on Your Website
This one takes some active work at first, but with hard work and perseverance, you can become a great earner of passive income. Adding affiliate marketing or advertising to your website can earn you money just from people looking at your work; they don’t even have to buy it.
For this to become income-worthy, you will need a solid audience and enough page views on your site. This is where the initial active outlay comes from. Once you have a consistent audience and reach, passive marketing comes in.
Whether you add adverts that garner income from page views or choose to incorporate affiliate links to products within your website, both are great options to earn a little extra money without much active work.
Ensure you stay transparent about using affiliate marketing by sharing a disclosure on your site. It’s also recommended only to use affiliate links for products you genuinely 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 earn money from the work you’ve previously made.
Using any of these passive income tips can keep the bank account ticking without needing you to put more hours into your creative work. Passive income takes a small amount of time to set up but keeps you earning for a long time afterward.