I recently completed a fabulous online course by Hilary Rushford called Elegant Excellence. To be honest, I had no intention of taking this course whatsoever. I was curious about B School, so I decided to try it out this year after not being able to get it out of my head in 2016 (spoiler alert - it’s wonderful!! Highly recommended.) I heard the way to go was through an affiliate. After pouring through several affiliate offers, I stumbled on Hilary who is adorable. I decided if all else failed, I would have my in for Marie Forleo’s program and could always skip out on the “self-discovery” course if my summer became too busy.
But then I had an anxiety attack in early June, just as Elegant Excellence was starting. Kind of felt like fate was telling me to take a chill pill and focus on myself for a few weeks. And so I did.
Part of the “ElEx” experience is receiving two wonderful books in the mailbox a few weeks before the course started. I have referenced these books over and over again over the past few months because they have truly changed my life (Essentialism by Greg McKeown and The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.) I totally resonated with the concept of less hustle, more rest. I absolutely agreed that we have prioritized too many things as digital entrepreneurs. I cheered as Gerber eloquently described feelings I had in my own business and let me know that I was not alone.
I felt empowered, motivated, and ready to take on the future of my studio.
And then Hilary told us to crunch the numbers to see how we might create more space in our lives. She asked us where we wanted to be financially in 3 years and how we planned to do that without killing ourselves in the process. And I realized I was on a fast track to burnout, if I hadn’t hit it already. The numbers were not adding up with branding services along. I was trying to push through a glass ceiling that would not budge. Or pretending that it wasn’t holding me down.
So, I started thinking about the concept of passive revenue. Since we can’t add more hours to the day YET, the only way to grow the impact and profitability of a business is to diversify where the revenue is coming in, and to make some of it PASSIVE. Otherwise, you will only be adding more and more to your plate. Even if you hire people to increase your capacity, you’ll still be responsible for managing them and that can take up much more time than you think.
I did a deep dive into the world of passive income and was surprised to learn of options I had not considered before. I’m excited to share them with you, because I think it’s time we all found ways to build in a cushion that allows us to throw away the idea of the “overworked entrepreneur.”
I would argue this outlet is the go-to of the moment. Almost everyone I know is launching a signature course, and I don’t hate it. I absolutely love being a student and I love meeting new people in my industry - BOTH of which are part of taking an online course.
But creating a signature course takes MASSIVE amounts of content creation, planning, and technical strategy. It requires doing your homework and creating an experience, not just a product. It is not for the faint of heart. At least, not if you want to do it well.
If you’ve been playing around with the idea of launching a signature course, I strongly encourage you to seek out an expert who has successfully launched their own. If you want to take a course to learn about creating a course, I would start here or here. If you want a nitty gritty behind-the-scenes look at what a course could be, I would read this post and this post.
And if a signature course just sounds too overwhelming, consider a mini-course to get your feet wet!
The difference between a mini course and a signature course is usually the community. Where a signature course typically involves interaction and check-ins from the course creator as well as a community outlet, bonus material, and a high-level of customer support, a mini course can be a “what you see is what you get” curriculum-focused alternative if the idea of building a community alongside your content feels overwhelming.
When considering an online course of any kind, think about a topic that your ideal client or customer wants to learn more about. Can a community be built around this topic? Will it allow your target audience to build lasting relationships with each other and become loyal to your brand? Also, will the information they learn in your course transform their lives or business? The best result of a brand course is to EMPOWER your audience.
PDF printables are a total God-send if you are in the middle of trying to figure something out. Printables are quick, semi-easy to customize, and instantaneous, making them a great resource for your online audience.
You could create a project planner or or even a weekly, quarterly, or annual goal tracker. You could have a workbook for coming up with a product or client process. You could create something similar to our Brand Scratch Pad that walks someone through their messaging or business goals. You could even create simple worksheets for everyday life. There are no limits to the PDF printable, but there are some helpful guidelines:
First, make sure that you consider the most realistic way that your customer will use the PDF. Is it intended for printing and pen to paper note taking? Or is it best if it’s kept online and filled out digitally?
Second, do you know how to make an interactive PDF? Or even a printable one? Do you have the right tools? If not, I would suggest either hiring a designer to help you create your passive PDFs or watching a few tutorials on creating beautiful PDFs yourself.
Keep in mind that aesthetics are key for printables. Ideally, your online customer is buying your take on an experience, and rather than reinventing the wheel - you are enhancing the experience by taking your own stab at a common problem.
Calling all designers, photographers, and web developers!
Want to make the most money for your time? Create templates of common designs that you are hired for! It’s a great solution for that ideal client that can’t quite afford your custom services, and an amazing way to reach a larger audience.
Creative Market has done a fabulous job of making a platform for these types of projects, but I also have purchased web templates in the past like the ones here or over here or even these! Photography presets are another great way to create passive revenue if you’re a wedding or lifestyle photographer, like these.
If this sounds like something you’d like to pursue, check out Creative Market or another online design template shop to see how they package design files. It can be tricky if you’ve never done it before, but it’s totally doable!
Design templates for Squarespace sites, photography presets, business card and stationery templates, and even Photoshop or Canva templates for blog posts or social media are super popular and a great way to showcase your skill while providing value to your online audience. It might just take someone spending a few dollars with your business to convince them to invest more.
If you are a subject matter expert, content templates are a great way to provide value online and prove your talent! Email swipe files, sales language, biography templates, web organization tools, and business or financial planning guides are a few examples of how you might extend the value of what you’re bringing to the table.
Consider content templates to be a prompt for your audience to discover how to do it for themselves. You don’t have to give away all your secrets, but it does demonstrate your ability to be strategic and guide someone through the process of creating good content.
If they end up being able to do it independently, they will credit you with the knowledge that enabled them to do it themselves. And if they can’t, they will greatly appreciate your skill and knowledge as a customer and take your expertise and experience seriously!
Whew, these are wonderful!! I’ve scoured the internet on several occasions for these myself, and wish there were more options out there. Spreadsheets are amazing for organizing data in a business, and totally easy to replicate!
If you’ve created an awesome excel or google spreadsheet for tracking revenue, social media growth, facebook ads, or client projects, share away! They may be invaluable to your online audience or customers.
And finally, if you use any programs or platforms for your small business, consider recording a quick video showing how you use the program. Often your customers are just a few steps behind you in their own process, and may love a behind-the-scenes example of how you set up your programs or systems.
A tutorial on project management, email marketing, facebook ads, social media workflow, or working in google drive are great places to start. These tutorials don’t have to be complicated, but provide easy-to-follow examples of how you’ve learned to use the system!
If you’re a photographer, consider doing a quick tutorial on lightroom, setting up presets, or retouching photos in photoshop. If you’re a designer, a quick tutorial on using InDesign or Illustrator could be amazing! With robust programs like the Adobe Suite, it’s best to focus on a specific goal, like making a business card or logo, instead of a tutorial for the whole platform.
I would suggest using something like Screenflow for recording the video. It’ll match the audio of your voice to what’s happening on your screen, and then give you the opportunity to edit out any “ums” or empty silences.
These videos are quicker than participating in an online course and are skill specific instead of focusing on an experience or mindset.
To summarize, passive revenue is a wonderful opportunity to provide more value to your online audience while diversifying your revenue streams. There may come a day when you can step away from your business for a month or start taking three day weekends, all because of your diversified revenue outlets.
Just be sure that you’re creating a diverse pool of opportunities for the SAME target customer instead of reinventing a new audience. This will allow you to build a stronger brand message and bridge the gap between your custom services and passive products.
I plan to dive into some of these myself this fall and would love to hear what you would like to see from Drop Cap in the future. Give us your ideas in the comments below and you may just find a surprise in your inbox one day!