I failed as a Designer at my Passive Income Side Project

How to stay motivated and productive as a writing designer


Nick Groeneveld

2 years ago | 5 min read

Every new project you start has that new car smell all over it. Everything you do just works. It is just awesome. However, after some time things will change. Your motivation will change. It is very common within projects.

That inevitable drop in motivation hit me after three months of working on my design side project.

This is update #4 — Motivation, dips & failure

There’s a lot that didn’t go according to my original plan. For example, I wanted to write this post at the end of September. We’re currently at the end of November. My goal was to write two posts a week. I managed to write two posts in close to two months instead.

This post is about losing motivation and how to regain it.

First things first

Before I start I first want to take a look at the goal I created for myself to help me stay motivated. Due to the decrease in production, my revenue took a bit hit. Therefore, I only took a small step towards my goal of getting myself an iPad Pro to help me do my design work.

30% down. 70% to go. Credits to author.

Now, before we’re going to look at what you can do to increase motivation and productivity, we first are going to take a look at the regulars. That’s the milestones, goals, and key performance indicators.


Even though I went through a period I consider to be a failure there are some things I am very happy about as well.

In one of my previous posts, I spoke about setting milestones to keep yourself motivated. More on that later.

There were a couple of milestones and achievements I managed to obtain over the past few months.

  • Most earnings in a day — $14.
  • Most earnings by a single story on one day — $10.
  • More than $100 of earnings on Medium in a single month.


In my previous post, I wrote about some pretty big goals I had for September.

I wanted to achieve 300 Medium followers, 100 mailing list subscribers, and 100 monthly organic website visitors. In addition to that, I had a big goal of having over 500 monthly organic website visitors by the end of the year.

In September I made close to $120 on Medium. It means that was in that 4 or 5% that earns more than $100 a month on Medium. It took me about 2 months to get there. And believe me, I’m not the best writer. If I can do it, I am sure you can as well.

The month after I had my loss of motivation and now my earnings for October will end up at about 25% of what I made in September. My November earnings are turning out to be only 50% of what I made in October, so that’s another big decrease.

No top 5% position anymore. It will take hard work to get back there.

Updates on the key performance indicators (KPI)

When looking at the key performance indicators, I’ve seen some great improvements compared to the previous point-of-measurement. That’s pretty crazy since I didn’t write much for the past few weeks.

Here’s how things stand.

  • Medium followers — 331 (+94)
  • Mailing list subscribers — 117 (+46)
  • Monthly website visitors — 1.7k (+200)
  • Monthly revenue — $30,92 (-$93)
  • Articles written — 2(-10)
  • Monthly organic traffic — 1150 (+1083)

I believe that the increase in (most) key performance indicators is due to a delay in how most algorithms process content.

Most of my articles start to get views after a few weeks or even months since their initial release. The same goes for my website. Google starts ranking your pages after quite a long time. That happened during the period where I didn’t do a lot.

My website numbers are currently flatting out so that’s a big indicator that I really have to start again.

How to increase writing productivity

This period hasn’t been a failure for me entirely. I’ve learned a lot which in turn will help me in the future.

Here’s what I’ve discovered in regards to staying productive and motivated while working on your passive income design project.

Create a habit of being aware of things that pop into your mind

You never know when inspiration might hit you. Believe me, it doesn’t always happen during work when you have a pen and paper ready to write your ideas down.

Most of the time I am not even aware of certain thoughts or ideas that pop into my head. Just recently I began to write things down as soon as I would think of them.

By doing so you create a list of ideas for you to write about. The thoughts and ideas you put on the list only have to be one or two sentences. That’s enough to get you started.

Whenever you feel unproductive or demotivated, take a look at your list of ideas. Pick one and go from there. You don’t have to come up with new ideas all the time.

Allow yourself small wins

Achieving goals and milestones is something that keeps you motivated.

Most of us have a knack for setting goals that increase in size and difficulty over time. I believe that this has contributed to my decrease in productivity as well.

Here’s the good part. If you know you get motivation from achieving wins, why not set a few quick wins for yourself? For example, my goal was to write one post in November. That’s a very small goal compared to my usual writing numbers, but it was one I needed after not writing for over a month.

It worked. I wrote the one post I wanted to write. It motivated me and now I have written a total of three posts and updated another two posts.

Keep it simple and go from there!

Press the reset button

One final piece of advice. This one is a bit random in comparison to the other two. It is also a bit vague so bear with me.

Allow yourself periods of lower motivation. It is only natural. The worst thing you can do is fight something that will happen anyway. I allowed myself some time off.

Sure, Medium earnings dropped, website views dropped, and my mailbox kept filling up. However, after a few weeks, I started to feel new energy and motivation grow.

It comes back naturally if you just give yourself some breathing room.

Moving forward

So, what’s next? This week I’ve created or edited a total of five posts. It is the small win I needed and just wrote about in this post.

Looking to the future my goal is to keep this low level of activity up for the rest of the year, which means I’m aiming to release another two posts on Medium and two posts on my website in December.

Let’s see if I can turn this small win into a bigger win to end 2021 on a high.


Created by

Nick Groeneveld

Designer & consultant. Working on providing designers the tools they need. Join the Designer’s Toolbox at







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