After I told you why you needed passive income especially if you are self-employed, you rightfully asked me: HOW? There are many many ways to generate passive income and here is how I generated my first stream of passive income by getting royalties from artwork I created. Now if you think, “oh I am not an artist, I can’t draw, I don’t know how to work with Photoshop” have no fear – neither did I when I started. Just remember, that passive doesn’t mean lazy. You have to put in the work into setting up the system.
Print on Demand Stores
It is also important to note that when I first started my online activity I didn’t set out to generate any sort of income. I was 22 and just wanted to connect with like minded people. At the time I had fallen in love with a US Soldier. We met in Berlin where I was studying and most Military bases are in the south of Germany. I had no network. No-one at home could relate to the acronym language, the endless waiting for deployments to end, phone calls coming in from the war zone. So I set out to find my people. I joined yahoo groups and later had a myspace page (now you know how old I am…in my heydays MySpace was still a thing.) I quickly realised that cute little graphics about Army Wives and the like were in huge demand. I wanted them. But most of the “tags” at the time were, let’s say “not my style”. And while I was a grass widow with endless bored nights and weekends, I taught myself different graphics programs. First PaintShop Pro, then Photoshop and then Illustrator. I was offering my tag designs in various request groups and they were going like hot cakes. At the same time print on demand websites were booming and anyone with MS Paint could publish an image on a shirt or mug, I mean literally anyone was publishing – with little regard to aesthetics! Market gap. I started my first Cafepress shop in 2005. I was a niche store targeting Military families, especially wives.
Now, the US had just gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of service men and women were deployed. So I made hundreds of designs for farewells and homecomings. It was so much fun. In the hight of my sales I made 2500$ in monthly royalties. Cafepress was doing the rest from printing, to shipping to customer service.
So far, so good. Here is the but. When you get into designing anything, be it websites, logos, prints or other art you will have to deal with copy cats sooner rather than later. That really annoyed me. Also Cafepress changed (and keeps on changing) the way their royalty system works. In the beginning you set the markup of a few dollars and then got those dollars if the item sold in their marketplace or from your store. Now, you get only a 10% commission for sales from the marketplace. They will change it to 5% if you don’t upload new designs and don’t log in for 3 months (Ugh, my freedom loving heart aces.) If you want to make a living off of a print on demand shop you have to put in many hours, designing and creating new products, adjusting designs for specific products and writing meaningful tags. That is mainly what I call “monkey work”. Not what I wanted to do. So I kicked back. I haven’t touched my stores for years and they is still making money. That is what I like. But I also monkeyed away for many years adding millions of products and I was part of a tight knit yet large target group.
You can check out Cafepress here:
If you want to look at my Zazzle stores to get an idea they are here:
Here are the pros and cons of print on demand platforms (POD) for selling your art:
- Free to set up a shop (at least for Zazzle, Cafepress has a paid pro shop)
- POD owns the whole delivery chain from production, to payment processing, to customer service and handling returns
- There is a large marketplace give a chance for big exposure
- You are paid monthly into your PayPal account (or as a check, there is a minimum payout of 25$-50$).
- You can help drive traffic to your own products or other artists’ products through an affiliate program (for Zazzle). That means even if you are not an artist you can sell products on your website through a referral link.
- Forums are a great resource to get help and connect with other like minded designers.
- You have limited say over the commission you make, more so at Zazzle than Cafepress, but also Zazzle recommends a certain markup and factors that into their marketplace positioning.
- The payment structure changes at the discretion of the POD.
- Copyright policies may make your art unavailable over time. This happened to most of my Military designs. The Army itself got involved and imposed certain guidelines as to how the word ARMY has to appear in a design – let’s just say pink zebra letters are not according to the guidelines and thus I now have over 400 images that are flagged and cannot be sold.
- In case of a cyber attack your images are vulnerable to theft. This is just a hypothesis. But I do believe PODs get hacked by Chinese companies and they then get the high res uploaded images to put on their 99 cent item. I actually found one of my patterns on an iPhone 4 case in a dollar store here in Germany! Say what? This cannot happen if you make your own products (but why do something a machine can do way better than you?).
- Design idea theft is also a downside. A good idea usually gets copied very quickly and that is also the case with POD designs especially when designers are using the same stock clip art or vectors for their designs.
Selling your own digital art or photos
In order get more control over the payout structure it is best to sell your designs yourself either on your own website or with a partner who in return gets a commission (like etsy, iStock, creativemarket) for bringing in the volume. I too had my own clip art store that went quite well until my shopping cart software went under. I have yet to redo my store. More about that on another day 🙂
The Game Plan
- Decide which group you want to design for. Make this group very small and make the member very much like you. Then you can really relate to them.
- Decide which type of digital art you want to create: photos? printables? web graphics? wordpress templates?
- Master the program that is best suited for your art:
Photos: Photoshop, Lightroom, Aftereffects…
Printable: Word (think templates), Excel, Adobe Illustrator,…
Graphics: Photoshop, Illustrator,…
- Create your art. Serve a need. Fill a hole. Put your heart into it.
- Sell your art!
– on your website (look here, this lady is making and selling her own beautiful stock images)
– on a print on demand platform (zazzle, cafepress, spreadshirt, minted.com)
– on a digital art marketplace (etsy, creativemarket)
Are you ready to dive in?
Miss Money Mind
PS. Remember the latest printable? You can get it on a tank top or a tee shirt! Way cool, right?!