6 Passive Income Ideas for Creatives


Passive income is half-myth, half-truth. The myth part of it is people selling you a business where you do one hour of work a week and bring in $10k a month. If it was that good, why in the world aren’t they doing it themselves?

However, there are ways you can bring in an income that’s mostly passive. You’ll probably have to do a lot of work upfront though.

If you don’t have much money, but you’re dripping with talent and creativity as a writer, musician, or photographer, or brander, this is for you. If you’re busy honing your craft, this is a solid way to earn some income as you’re skilling up. Your goal isn’t to become a stock photo photographer, but you can sell your “practice photos” in the meantime as you build your own brand. The Beatles were a cover band at a crappy dive bar in Germany until they got good enough and wrote their own music.

(Candidly, I’m half-cringing while writing this post. I don’t love passive income. Skip to the last section to find out why.)

One-off & Short-term Passive Income Projects

These are the kinds of projects you’ll probably need to do a lot of in order to turn it into a meaningful passive income stream.

6. Stock Photos and Video

Stock photos are the place where memes are born. These don’t pay much, so stock photographers output a ton to try to make the income meaningful. Adobe and Shutterstock are the top dogs in this area.

NFTs are another way to sell your photography. It’s probably a fad, but why not take advantage of it? I 1000% do NOT recommend investing in an NFT. But as long as someone else is willing to pay for your work, it only makes sense to sell it.

5. Music

If you’re an artist, you love making beats, but you probably won’t use 90% of them, then this might be for you. I’ve seen someone post a beat on YouTube, get 40 views, and then someone reaches out to buy their song for a video they’re shooting. You can also sell through platform like Epidemic Sound. It’s a seriously sweet way to *potentially* make cash while you’re honing your craft.

4. E-Courses

Social media influencers on Twitter love these. Especially courses about growing your Twitter following. Bloggers often have these as well. They’re usually PDFs sold on Gumroad, but often video courses too, hosted through services like Teachable.

Big Projects (which become passive over time)

These projects will take many, many hours to complete. These are not weekend projects.

notepad and pen

3. Publishing a Book: the OG Passive Income

This is obviously one that takes a significant amount of work upfront. So it’s not passive-passive. But once you’ve written a book, if it gets traction among an audience, it can create income (via royalties) for years to come. George RR Martin will probably never release the last book in A Song of Ice and Fire, but he doesn’t need to in order to bring in money for years to come.

2. YouTube

Building a sizable channel following takes years of commitment. Once you have that following, you get to collect passive ad revenue. I don’t honestly recommend this as a passive source, because YouTube’s ad rules are constantly changing. Most money creators make is not through YouTube’s ads, but video sponsorships. It’s why you also see mobile games, VPNs, and education websites across so many people’s videos.

1. Blogs

Surprise. (Some) Blogs make money. That only happens once they have a decent following. They can monetize different ways, usually through a combination of ads, affiliate links, upselling the writer’s or company’s own products (which is why a lot of blogs exist to begin with).

“Passive Income” as Your Only Goal is Weak

Honestly, I think passive income as a goal sucks. If you’re already in love with writing, or music, and you’re telling yourself “passive income” is why you’re doing it, it’s an excuse and you should just write or make music anyway.

If you’re already a writer or musician with a beautiful body of work, then go ahead and try to sell some of it.

But if your actual goal is passive income, you probably won’t get it this way. You need to be passionate about something enough to actually suffer for it.

Wanting to live solely on passive income and being aggressive enough to actually create something of value are opposing mindsets. Most people selling you “passive income” are not doing it themselves. They’re selling a dream.

Don’t be passive. Be aggressive and choose something you can fall in love with in your life.

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