Writers have gotta eat.
Passive income is what puts food on tables and pays for our kid’s school lunches. No shame in that.
A few passive income sources will set you up nicely.
They may not allow you to quit your day job. But they can help stabilize you financially and pay for all the creator tools needed — Zoom, Grammarly, Substack, ConvertKit, etc.
Here are the best passive income sources I recommend. Some will need active work before they turn passive. Others will only ever be partially passive.
Cheeky affiliate links
If you look at the income reveals on Youtube of some of the biggest creators, you’ll be shocked how much they make in affiliate deals.
There are two types:
- Generic affiliate links via platforms such as Amazon
- Customized affiliate deals
The first type is available to everybody. Any online writer can set up an Amazon or Clickbank affiliate account. The financial upside isn’t huge but it can still make you a lot more money than you think.
The second type of customized affiliate deal has more friction. You have to reach out to businesses that sell products and services related to topics you already write about.
Online writers hate selling or pitching, so the opportunity here is enormous.
If you can get the courage to pitch a few potential businesses on becoming their affiliate, you’ll take home an unfair amount of money. The toxic Facebook Groups full of writers will light up with envy…haha.
Place affiliate links in your articles, tweet threads, and email newsletters.
Creator platforms with royalties
This is the lazy way and many online writers rely too much on this passive income source. Still, it can definitely make you money.
Platforms such as Youtube split user subscriptions and ad revenue with creators. A piece of content you made months ago can keep racking up views and money while you sleep.
I have articles from three years ago that still quietly earn money. It’s not Lambo money although it all adds up.
Place some of your content behind at least one creator platform paywall.
A $20 eBook is such an underrated money-making opportunity.
I have one from a while back that still makes sales. The money helps pay for my website hosting and WordPress plugins. And that website helps generate traffic for my work that can further compound my online writer earnings.
If you think about it, money that helps generate traffic that makes more money is the basis of an online writer’s passive income machine.
Take your best articles. Make them into an eBook. Or write an eBook from scratch. Then sell the ebook via your personal website or Gumroad. So many online writers miss this opportunity.
It’s a few hours of your time. Yet it can earn you passive income for the next five years if it’s an evergreen topic. No more excuses.
If you’re a non-fiction writer you’re already a teacher. Congrats!
Courses are a natural extension of your free or paywalled content. I’m a master at the online course game with six published courses. My academy currently sits in the top ten most popular schools on Teachable.
Where most online writers go wrong here is they go too big, too quick.
They make a 20-hour course instead of a 2-hour course. And they overcharge for it. A 2-hour course that costs between $49 and $99 is the best way to start.
The trick is to overdeliver. Give students so much value that they feel like they underpaid. I’ve magically achieved that, although you’re best to be more intentional about it.
A sneaky course is one you sell via email lists and Discord groups.
It’s not a course you plaster all over your online writing that feels like an ad and acts as a giant distraction. That’s what amateur online writers do. They sound desperate and it’s why they’re starving Marvins.
Offer an online course backed by data that fixes a genuine problem.
Most online communities are trash. They need moderation and perhaps a bathtub of soapy water to wash the mouths of those who speak filth.
The best online writers build their email list to own their audience.
They then back up their email list with a Discord group that acts as an insurance policy against email unsubscribes. They then triple-protect themselves by getting their readers to follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn.
An online writer has got to do what an online writer has got to do to survive in the creator economy.
Through the process of building a small community the online writers I look up to introduce memberships for those who want more.
Some audience members want feedback, or coaching, or private Zoom calls. These are all features of a membership smart online writers offer.
Doesn’t have to be crazy money either. I pay $90 a year to be in an online writing group.
A membership to premium community features is highly underrated. It can make you money while you sleep, so you don’t always need another viral banger to keep your dog’s bowl full of tasty Scooby snacks.
Okay, don’t shoot me yet soldier! I know newsletters require active work.
What’s missed is once your newsletter has launched and you’ve got a regular writing habit to write it, the monthly growth is all money for doing the same amount of work.
Online writers are sleeping on newsletters. It makes me tear up.
With social media newsfeeds that rarely meet readers’ needs anymore, the requirement for newsletters is higher than ever.
I’ve personally changed my content diet from junk food to nutritious fruits and vegetables. The best Substacks enter my inbox. And the best newsletters I found by doing an advanced search on Twitter are now also showing up in my inbox every morning.
No more America is going to die apocalypse trash.
This bizarre newsletter phenomenon is real — and it can become a fantastic source of passive income if you’ll only let it. So will you?
Online writers need passive income to survive and, for some, to slowly transition to the work they’ve been waiting their entire lives to do.
If you’re in either of those categories then start making passive income through affiliate links, courses, eBooks, royalties, and memberships.
Remember: multiple writer income streams provide diversification that saves your life in the event of a creator platform recession.