Passive Income for Graphic Designers: Creating Work That Pays for Years to Come

The idea of creating passive income in a field of work that you enjoy is pretty simple once you wrap your head around it. An easy way to visualize it and justify the additional work to yourself is by imagining a client that requires five hours of work on various projects. Pretend one of those projects is one of the ideas listed below, and by devoting five hours of time spent in work mode to completing said project, it should turn into something marketable in just a week or two. Then the fruits of your labor will (hopefully) pay dividends into the future with very little if any upkeep required.

Most of these will require at least a bit of effort initially, but they may pay off bigger than you had hoped. The benefit of any of these, is that they can potentially land you additional clients if you’re a freelancer, as as all of these require a bit of cross-promotion and utilizing your existing skills as a designer.

Start A Blog

passive income for freelancers
This is actually a really fun way, and potentially one of the most lucrative ways, of generating additional income, but to do it right, it’s going to require a lot more time than some of the other methods listed below. It can also turn into more of a time suck than you can even imagine. Getting it up and started isn’t the hardest part; easily, the most difficult part is the amount of time you will spend generating new content, figuring out ways to get people to read your amazing work, then dealing with comments telling you exactly how far from amazing your content really is. On the plus side, you may have already created your own portfolio site and simply adding a blog section to it can serve a dual purpose in drumming up additional traffic to your main site. But if you take that path, I would not recommend any advertisements on your site.

There’s a reason people do this for a living. There’s a ton of work involved, but the myth that you need to know how to code (although some HTML and CSS knowledge won’t hurt) has faded with the refined features of WordPress. I hope to eventually have an article on this one day, but I’m no pro myself. I started this site as a chronicle of the challenges I face freelancing, but I work in the film and TV world, so I’m probably not the best person to lead the way.

Here are few links below to get you started. I recommend hosting and domain name purchases with BlueHost (use that referral link to set up, and help pay for this blog!), CMS (content management system) through WordPress, and finding a theme through themeforest (make sure to sort by WordPress themes!).

Sell Stock PSD’s, AI’s, Photography or Video Clips

passive income for graphic designers
I’ve looked into this myself, and I actually have a friend who is able to pay most of his monthly bills just with footage he has shot and posted to That means all his primary income goes right into savings and he’s able to live off work that he created more than a year ago that requires no upkeep besides occasionally fielding a question from a buyer.

If you’re more comfortable creating templates, or just banging out some brushes for photoshop, other sites like graphicriver (another envato company portal) tend to be a go-to place for designers. I would recommend avoiding sites like BrandCrowd unless you’re fond of wasting your time.

Sell old gear

ebay Logo Revision by Louis Rudner

That old wacom tablet? Might be worth some money. I almost left this off of here, because I so rarely do it, and it’s only good for the occasional cash infusion, but it’s also a good way for you to take inventory, and possibly do a bit of spring cleaning while you’re at it.

Sell prints


Do you already have a following? Why not try to monetize it? You may face possible fallout from the people who follow your work, but more likely will be the purchase of a few items you have for sale. Did you hear about the man who sold prints using his Instagram following? If you don’t also dabble in photography, there’s always selling prints of some of your personal work, or even turning them into a webcomic.

Sell an ebook


If you don’t already have a following or an audience of some sorts, this one is tough. Most of the time I see an e-book on a shameless self-promoter’s site (hey there), it seems to be free and they take your subscription to an email list as payment. To actually make any amount of money with this, I think you would need to get listed on iTunes or Amazon, or another large retailer.  You should absolutely optimize it for the iPad and the Kindle, as these will be the two largest markets for your book. I would think that a well-printed coffee table book could serve you better financially,  but this may be an option.

(Please don’t do this, there’s so much of this crap out there already.)

Guerilla Marketing Campaign

Credit: Solent News & Photo

If you’re a freelance designer, you should be looking for ways to drum up work wherever you can, and an oft forgotten way is by utilizing the skills you have at hand to create something interesting. Remix whatever on the front page of Reddit and post a new link under your name. Come up with an interesting business card idea, and pass it around coworkers and friends. Don’t think of it as working for free, because you’re doing this in an effort to increase your revenue stream, and if you get a few more paying customers as a result then it’s paid off.

As I decided to leave behind the sure thing and step out on my own into the wide world of freelancing, I thought "Why not up the workload a bit and post about every hurdle you encounter?" And here we are.

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  1. Scott

    Hey, great site; loved the “rent, don’t buy” article.
    How does building a blog create passive income without ads?
    Thanks and keep it up 🙂

    • It doesn’t, but this blog was really just a series of Evernote rants to myself for a little while. It’s serving more as a soapbox then an income source, which I’m ok with atm. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  2. IleneCreel

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

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