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Passive Income is Dead. Long Live Passive Income

What you can expect and achieve as a side-hustling designer. Realistically.


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Nick Groeneveld

3 years ago | 6 min read

Money, how to earn money on Medium, and passive income are some of the most popular topics on Medium. I do no believe this to be a coincidence anymore.

This is in part my fault. I write a lot on this subject as well. In fact, my best performing posts on this platform all have something to say on one of these topics albeit it being focused on money in UX, design, and tech as well.

Yet, I think there’s something interesting going on.

Expectations on what you can achieve are way off due to clickbait titles and authors that just want to sell you an expensive course.

Having enough passive income to quit your job seems to be the holy grail for a lot of people. It is the dream where you only have to work for a few hours a week, or not work at all, to get yourself a six-figure income.

It is not as easy as they say it is. Yet, people will make you believe anybody can earn a six-figure passive income. Here’s what you can really expect from your passive income side projects.

The road to passive income comes in three steps

If you break down the road to passive income you will see that there are just three steps you will need to follow. These are the following.

  1. Create your content
  2. Monetize your content
  3. Invest

Create content people are willing to pay for. This is the first step. Once you do this, you can start building your audience. When money starts dripping in, invest this money. By investing, I mean creating a website, hiring a designer, or actual investing (do your own research, I’m not qualified for that).

I wrote a post on how to get started with creating your own content by using your own old visual, UI, and UX design work.

The second step, monetizing your content, requires you to get an overview of your passive hourly rate. I’ll explain how that works in a minute.

Calculate your passive hourly rate

About eight months ago, I started my passive income side projects. I think of myself as being quite disciplined. I can keep doing a job for some time without losing motivation or energy. Even still, I found myself looking for that extra piece of motivation at times.

To get a better view of your actual passive income, you will have to calculate your passive hourly rate. You can calculate this by dividing your total earnings by the estimated number of hours you have put in.

Passive hourly income. Credits to the author.
Passive hourly income. Credits to the author.

Let’s take a look at the first two months of my side hustle adventure. I estimate to have put in about an hour per day to get things going. On some days I spent a bit more, while on other days I spent a little less time on it, depending on how much energy I had left after my 9-to-5 job.

If you add it all together, it has been about 60 hours of work. Since then, I made just over $100 or, if you break it down, $1,66 an hour.

That’s almost $6 an hour below US minimum wage.

Is it worth it? Not at the moment, but it might be in the future if you look at the income on a month-to-month basis.

In my first month, I made $18,20. That’s $0,60 an hour. In my second month, I made about $75, or $2,50 an hour.

Going from less than a dollar an hour to well over two dollars in just one month is a big step up.

This happens because of a compound effect. The posts you wrote a month ago will still earn you money this month and the month after.

Because of this, a percentage of your income will be passive. The percentage of your extra income that is actually passive will increase every month if you keep adding more posts to the mix, in addition to the posts that are already live.

That’s how it is going to work. The posts you write will earn you money over time. After your initial efforts to write your posts, the money you will earn per hour will increase as time goes by.

Just imagine what will happen in one year when you managed to have written one post a week. Imagine every post you release will keep earning you $2 or $3 every month. You might just find yourself earning a nice bit of extra money on the side. But this time, in a passive way.

Don’t fall for the “How I made $x0.000 in just a few days” type of post

You will see a lot of posts on how someone has made an absurd amount of money in very little time. In most cases, just a few days. Don’t get me wrong. It is possible. However, that doesn’t mean you can do that right away.

It probably took the author years of hard work to get to a point where he can do just as he claims in his posts. It just shows what happens when your passive hourly rate is very high.

Yet, that person still has to put in the work by doing some sort of account management, networking, promoting his posts (or products), and technical maintenance.

If you add up all the hours of hard work and effort he must have put in over the years, you will see different numbers. Those numbers will be more in line with the numbers you can expect to make.

My point is, don’t let things discourage you when you cannot make $1000 a month passively, just like the success stories you find online. You have to pursue that position. Actively. Only then you can do it passively.

How to stay motivated when don’t pick up right away

It can be difficult to get through the difficult first months of creating your passive income side project.

Aim for milestones to keep yourself motivated. Start small and increase the range of the milestones along the way. I remember getting my first milestone. I wanted to earn my first dollar on Medium. Yes, just one dollar. I managed to get the milestone in June of last year.

That first dollar felt like a hundred dollars.

It has motivated me to keep going. Since then I got many more milestones. I got my first $10 story, $5 dollars-a-day for the first time, and $100 total. These milestones will motivate me even further. Currently, I am chasing my first $100 in one month and $1000 total earnings.

Of course, these milestones are not life-changing money. It isn’t even about the money. It is a tool to keep you motivated.

I went from my first milestone of getting just one dollar to chasing a $1000-milestone. All because of the right motivation. You can do this too.

Apply this to your passive income side project. Set goals for the coming four weeks. These could be about your number of followers, posts written in a given time, or money earned. Anything that keeps you going. Once you get your first milestone, it will motivate you to keep going and to go even further.

Final words

Building your passive income side project is a lot of fun. Everybody can do it. Just don’t think that it will be easy or that you will make it just a few days of work.

You will need to put in the work for a long time and you will have to start at the beginning. Work on your passive hourly rate. Sure, it will be a low number at first but get your motivation from seeing your hourly rate rise throughout time.

Let your first earnings motivate you to keep going. Look for milestones along the way to help you stay motivated and don’t let yourself get distracted by big money posts. By doing that, you might just get there.

As I said before, you have to be active to allow yourself to become passive. Good luck!

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Nick Groeneveld

Designer & consultant. Working on providing designers the tools they need. Join the Designer’s Toolbox at https://bit.ly/jointhedesignerstoolbox


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