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15 Ways to Earn Passive Income as a Graphic Designer

15 Ways to Earn Passive Income as a Graphic Designer

Graphic design is an exciting and creative field that allows designers to make a living by making art. However, like any creative profession, income can fluctuate and sometimes be unreliable. This makes having steady, passive income highly appealing for graphic designers looking to supplement their client work.

The good news is that graphic designers have ample opportunities to earn passive income if they strategically leverage their existing skills. Whether you are an experienced professional or just starting, implementing even one or two passive income streams could significantly impact your financial situation.

What is Passive Income?

What Is Passive Income Definition

Before diving into the various options, let’s clearly define what passive income entails:

  • Passive: Requires little to no effort to sustain once an initial investment has been made.
  • Income: Provides monetary gain on an ongoing basis.

Passive income is money earned regularly with the minimal ongoing workload required. It allows graphic designers to get paid for work done in the past, freeing up time to take on new client projects or simply relax.

Building passive income takes an upfront investment of time, money, or both but can pay off exponentially over months and years. Even an extra few hundred dollars per month goes a long way towards financial security.

Why Earn Passive Income as a Designer?

Supplementing client work with passive income sources comes with many advantages, including:

Steady Income Between Client Projects

Freelance graphic design often involves feast or famine cycles. Passive income can fill in income gaps that occur when business is slow. This makes your total income more predictable and stable month-to-month.

Earn Money While You Sleep

Once your passive income stream generates money, it requires no ongoing maintenance. You can do other things you enjoy rather than trading hours for dollars. This frees up your schedule tremendously.

Funding For Passion Projects

The steadier income provided by passive revenue allows you to take on more passion projects, do more pro bono design work, or even take more time off without financial worry. Consider passive income as your creative freedom fund.

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Residual Income

If you stop actively working, income generated from passive revenue doesn’t also stop. For many graphic designers, this residual income makes retirement more achievable at an earlier age.

Building Multiple Streams

While volatile at first, combining several passive income streams helps minimise risk. If income from one stream temporarily stops flowing, others still generate cash.

When done strategically, building multiple passive income streams over time leads to true financial—and creative—freedom.

Getting Started with Passive Income

Are you looking to earn your first dollars passively? Before deciding on a specific route, reflect on the following key considerations:

Your Existing Assets

What relevant skills, knowledge, resources, software, and previous creative output do you already have that could be monetised over time? Identify what assets you have to work with as a starting point when deciding which income stream(s) may be most viable. Can any previous client work be re-licensed or repurposed?

Time vs. Money Trade-Off

Some passive income ideas require significant initial effort before money starts rolling in. Others need more upfront financial investment to outsource work before launch. Know how much time and money you can reasonably invest before earnings start. Understand the trade-offs involved with each option under consideration.

Income Threshold + Timeline

Given your financial needs and limitations, determine the minimum monthly passive income threshold you aim for. Be realistic about what you need right now vs. in the future. Also, consider your ideal timeline. Some ideas may take months to generate earnings, while others create immediate cash flow. How soon do you need to see returns? How much can you afford to experiment?

By reflecting on these critical considerations in advance, you can determine which passive income model(s) may be most strategic and financially viable in your current situation.

15 Passive Income Ideas for Graphic Designers

The good news for graphic designers? The passive income possibilities are endless with a laptop and existing creative skills. From leveraging previous client work to creating digital products you can sell repeatedly, you already have a solid foundation to build upon, no matter your skill level or experience.

To spark ideas (and inspiration!), here are 15 passive income streams explicitly tailored to graphic designers:

1. License and Resell Existing Design Assets

Passive Income Streams Designers 1

Do you have old client deliverables collecting virtual dust on your hard drive? By licensing past projects, you can passively earn royalties every time your work gets used. This includes logos, fonts, patterns, digital illustrations, icons, and more. For example, vector assets and fonts sell well on stock image and font marketplace sites. Upload your back catalogue and watch the trickle of lifetime royalties start to add up.

Key Sites To Sell Existing Assets:

2. Create Design Templates and Kits

Pre-made templates, kits, and design assets require an initial time investment to create but earn passive income forever after through marketplace sales. Expand your shop catalogue continuously over time for growing revenue. For example, constantly expanding your template collection ensures your creations sell passively while you sleep. Think logo templates, business card templates, social media kits, event flyer templates, and more.

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Popular Sites to Sell Templates:

  • Creative Market
  • GraphicRiver
  • Creative Fabrica
  • Etsy

3. Release Digital Products

Expand beyond single templates and assets by offering total digital products, kits and bundles. These require more upfront effort but provide immense value and earning potential. For example, provide complete branding kits that include logo templates, brand guidelines, stationery templates, marketing materials, mockups and more in one organised package. The key is bundling assets that solve a specific audience need or pain point.

Top Marketplaces for Selling Digital Products:

  • Creative Market
  • Etsy
  • Selz
  • Gumroad

4. Sell Digital Downloads on Your Website

Want to keep 100% of earnings instead of paying marketplace commissions? You can sell digital products or services directly on your website with simple WordPress plugin tools like Easy Digital Downloads. By owning the platform, you keep all profits while building an audience and assets that keep passively earning 24/7.

5. License and Sell Brush Sets

Best Procreate Brushes To Download

Custom brush sets also offer residual earning potential but require less ongoing effort than products with a heavier content focus. Quality brush sets tailored to graphic designers, illustrators or photographers can earn well when packaged thoughtfully. Upload to marketplaces, then earn with every download or license purchase forever.

Key Sites to Sell Brushes:

  • Creative Market
  • GraphicRiver
  • Brusheezy

6. Sell Your Photos

Already have a growing library of unique photography? By licensing stock photos instead of letting them sit idle, you create a set-it-and-forget-it residual income stream from doing work initially for a one-time fee.

Top Stock Photo Sites

  • Shutterstock
  • Adobe Stock
  • iStockphoto
  • Alamy
  • Dreamstime

7. Create Online Courses

Online courses represent a scalable income stream with immense upside but require significant initial effort in course creation. The benefit? You earn with every new student signup forever with minimal ongoing work. Double benefit? These courses also naturally boost your authority and expertise.

Popular Course Platforms

8. Start a Membership Site or Community

Like online courses, membership sites and communities require a heavy initial setup but earn residual income forever. Offer unique resources, mastermind groups, tutorials, assets and more that members get exclusive access to with monthly subscriptions.

Membership Platform Tools

  • Memberful
  • MemberSpace
  • Circle
  • Mighty Networks

9. License Your Fonts

Best Serif Fonts For Web Design

Font designers can earn ongoing licensing fees by releasing font families for sale on various font marketplaces. This requires regular updating and maintenance as font file formats evolve. For designers with niche stylistic fonts, this represents fruitful residual earning potential.

Top Font Licensing Marketplaces

  • MyFonts
  • FontShop
  • FontSpace
  • Creative Market

10. Sell Your Website Theme and Page Templates

Already have a professionally designed portfolio website? License your existing layouts, templates and themes by packaging them for sale on theme marketplaces. This allows other designers to passively build on your previous work for their sites over time.

Theme Marketplaces

11. Partner with Merch Print-on-Demand Companies

Print-on-demand drop shipping technology allows designers to upload original artwork printed on product orders one at a time and shipped directly to customers. This keeps designers hands-off from inventory, fulfilment and shipping entirely. Your merchandise earns passive sales and royalties globally as your design catalogue builds.

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Top Print-on-Demand Platforms

  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Gearbubble
  • Redbubble

12. Create an Online Storefront

Launching your online store allows you to sell digital and physical products you design directly to customers for a 100% profit margin. You can also build a complete brand identity and web presence that keeps attracting and converting new visitors into sales 24/7.

Ecommerce Platforms

  • Shopify
  • Square Online
  • Big Commerce
  • WooCommerce

13. Offer Resale Licenses for Digital Products

Allowing buyers to purchase licenses to legally resell your original digital creations dramatically boosts your work's value and earning potential, especially info-products with high market demand. Your income compounds exponentially by letting customers become affiliates who also market your products for a commission.

14. Release Online Video Courses or Shows

Online video content represents an evergreen source of passive income due to immense viewer demand on sites like YouTube. The more videos or episodes you have, the more potential income streams exist. You can generate revenue directly through platforms such as Skillshare or Teachable or indirectly through channels like affiliate marketing, sponsors, and ad revenue on monetised YouTube videos, leveraging Affiliate Marketing WordPress Plugins.

15. Start a Podcast

Podcasting builds your brand and industry authority and offers diverse income potential through avenues like sponsorships, affiliate marketing, exclusive listener groups on Patreon and advertising.

Choosing the Best Passive Income Streams

Freelance Graphic Designer Contract Template

With endless options for earning, the key is identifying and committing long-term to ideas aligned with your unique strengths, assets and goals. Reflect on the following criteria when deciding which income stream(s) may be most viable:

Ideal Client Avatars

Who are your perfect buyers? Understand your niche audiences inside and out—their pain points, preferences and purchase habits. Only create products tailored specifically to your devotees. Say no to anything misaligned.

Pricing + Positioning Strategy

Study existing player pricing before deciding your own. Underprice competitors at first while building authority, then increase prices over time as you gain a loyal following and social proof. Perceived value beats discount pricing long-term.

Platforms + Existing traction

Some third-party platforms have pre-existing traffic and built-in audiences ready to purchase your creations immediately. This exponential reach amplifies earning faster, making marketplace partnerships ideal when starting.

Uniqueness of Offering

Study marketplace saturation and gaps before investing heavily in any one idea. Offer truly unique, must-have templates, assets or offerings difficult for competitors to replicate. Differentiate with high-value bundles, exclusives and niche focus.

Enjoyment Factor

Ideally, choose streams aligned with activities you find inherently exciting and engaging. Passion projects you enjoy working on have the highest likelihood of turning into fruitful—and sustainable—income streams long-term.

Skills Required

Consider your expertise along with strengths and weaknesses. Play to your superpowers rather than forcing skills that are not innate or require extensive outsourcing. Build on what you can execute nearly effortlessly.

Income Potential

Research existing marketplace creator earnings to identify higher-paying outlets for your offerings based on typical pricing benchmarks. Understand audience willingness to pay more for exclusive high-quality work.

Effort Level

Weigh the minimum viable effort needed to launch vs. potential long-term profit based on your available bandwidth, resources and lifestyle goals. Pass on any ideas requiring heavy time investments unlikely ever sufficiently to pay off.

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Creating even one scalable passive income stream frees up graphic designers substantially while providing financial security and creative freedom. The opportunities are limitless for leveraging your skills and making money while you sleep. Get out there, start creating, and collect passive earnings today!

Turning Graphic Design Skills into Passive Income: Q&A

How much money can I make from passive income as a graphic designer?

The income potential is truly uncapped based on your niche, marketing reach, and catalogue size. Many designers earn an extra $1,000 to $5,000+ per month passively—high-performing sellers on platforms like Creative Market top over $100,000 annually.

How long does it take to build profitable passive income streams?

Some income starts immediately with the upload of your first products, templates or assets to marketplaces. However, building sustainable long-term passive income takes patience and consistency. Set realistic expectations to make steady earnings throughout 6 to 24 months.

Can I monetise assets created for previous clients?

Absolutely! But ensure you have a signed agreement or contract allowing you to resell or license any client-commissioned work now legally considered your intellectual property. Some client contracts sign away certain exclusive rights or place restrictions you must adhere to.

Where do I start? Which idea is best?

Start by mining your existing creative assets and back catalogue of deliverables for viable products or templates as your initial inventory to upload to marketplaces. Simultaneously, create 1 to 2 new passive income offerings in your spare time based on your skills, interests and audience.

How many passive income streams should I build?

Balance is ideal for sustainable income. Start with 1 to 3 streams based on your bandwidth, then slowly add additional income sources over 6 to 12 months. Too many streams may compromise quality and strain your capacity. Build incrementally over time.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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