Post covid era, discussions on how to generate passive income on the internet have been on the rise. The pandemic seems to have opened our eyes to see the power of the internet as an automation tool for businesses.
In the built environment, most of our income comes from serving clients directly and actively working on projects. This means we need to have ongoing projects every time for us to continue earning something to keep our businesses and lives going. But there is a huge risk in this service-based business model.
Eric Reinholdt, in his book series “Architect + Entrepreneur”, lays the risk bare very clearly. He observes that clients can postpone their projects or delay their payments. Additionally, if they are slow in making decisions, this affects the progress of the project and interferes with the flow of your revenues.
This service business model ties the amount of revenue earned to the number of hours worked on the project. However, the passive income model divorces your time from your revenue earnings. It involves adopting a pricing model that rewards you for the value you create and share with others.
In this article, we will look at what passive income is, and compare it to active income to better understand the difference. Also, we will explore five easy and proven ways to generate passive income. All along, I will be sharing tips on what I have tried and how it worked from my personal experience.
What is Passive Income?
According to Pat Flynn, a passive income-generating business is “a business that takes advantage of the systems automation that allows transactions, cash flow and growth without requiring a real-time presence” of the business owner. Passive income, then, is the revenue you earn from such a business.
This is how it works:
You identify an area of specialisation that you are very competent in and build digital products/scalable services that answer people’s questions and help solve their problems.
This requires an upfront investment of your time, money and effort. You might work longer hours than usual. When the product is ready you can sell it to as many people as possible for the rest of your life. You will only invest a minimal effort in maintaining it.
The earnings from this are infinitely scalable. You don’t have to keep working on the same thing every time a new customer wants to make a purchase. You get paid for the value you create and not the active number of hours you invest while working on the business.
Passive Income vs. Active Income in the Built Environment
To begin with, passive income is generated by first investing a lot of work in creating valuable products and experiences and then collecting payments over time without investing further effort in them. You work hard today and get to reap the benefits of that work later over time.
Active income requires that you continually work to get paid. If you don’t show up for work you don’t get paid. This forms the bulk of most people’s earnings, especially those working in an 8-5 job. Here, time is directly traded for money.
Therefore, the key difference is that a passive income stream is not directly linked to the number of hours you put into working on it while active income trades time for dollars.
Instead of being paid once for a project and when your contractual obligations are executed your earnings cease, the passive income streams generate money in the background almost on autopilot. You build once, create value once then sell multiple times.
Let’s see how a student, a young graduate and an experienced professional in the built environment sector can generate passive income. Whether you are an architect, construction manager, quantity surveyor, planner, engineer or designer, there is something for you to experiment with and diversify your earnings.
Ways to Generate Passive Income
Here are practical ways of generating passive income:
1. Blogging and Writing
One of the easiest ways is writing articles and publishing them online in a blog. You could start your website or sign up on popular blogging platforms such as blogger.com and WordPress.com.
Creating useful content and posting on your blog consistently will attract a loyal audience of readers. This audience can be monetised by serving them ads on the blog or selling digital products to them.
Linking up your website with Google AdSense is a simple way of accepting display ads on your site. You will get paid when ads are shown to your site visitors. The higher the web traffic, the more your conversions and earnings will be.
Alternatively, you can offer writing services to companies and websites that want to grow their online traffic. This can be done by changing a recurring fee monthly to continuously contribute content to their blogs.
2. Vlogging and YouTube Channel
Vlogging is the blog version of creating and sharing video content online. I recommend starting a YouTube channel as their monetisation strategies and rewards to their creators are better than most other social media platforms.
To get started, identify an area of interest that is in demand. You can choose to educate potential homeowners on real estate matters, for example. Then create video content consistently to the point of getting noticed and attracting a sizeable loyal audience.
When YouTube serves video ads before your videos play, they will pay you 55% of the revenue generated from the advertisers on the platform. That will continue for as long as you meet their requirements. You create one video today and receive ad revenue for as long as your video stays published.
3. Digital Products
Digital products can be made once, hosted online and the same copy distributed to as many consumers as possible. This means revenue from these products is highly scalable.
This can be in the form of e-books, spreadsheets, manuals, guides, software templates and BIM object libraries.
Unlike in the past when you had to submit manuscripts to a publishing house, nowadays it’s easier to self-publish electronic books with services such as Amazon Kindle Publishing. There are no startup costs except the investment of time in research to create the book content. You build once and continue to receive royalties for as long as your product sells.
As a talented BIM modeller, you can create custom ArchiCAD object libraries, Revit families and project templates and sell them on the bimgoodies.com website. It is free. All you need is to list your products and start promoting them to potential customers.
4. Online Courses and Coaching
Consider the areas of your practice that you are well versed in and have unique skills and knowledge that you can share with others. It could be business development skills or knowledge of a certain BIM software.
This can be turned into videos which will form the bulk of the course materials and sold online to other people who want to learn the skills you have. I have tested this method by sharing software tutorials on Skillshare, Tutorialspoint and Udemy learning management websites.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing involves recommending other people’s products and receiving a commission when they make a sale. This is more successful for people who have built a loyal audience by consistently sharing useful and valuable content.
You could be owning a blog or a YouTube channel. You share affiliate links to related products as you write content and make videos. When someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase, the product owner sends you a percentage of that as your commission.
We have seen that it is important to get rewarded for the value you create instead of having your earnings tied to the time you dedicate to work. I am not proposing that you should stop trading your time because it makes a huge chunk of most peoples’ earnings in traditional economies.
However, it is important to supplement these active revenue sources in preparation for the unfortunate times when actively trading your time for dollars is not the most feasible option. Passive income-generating strategies will continue to reward you for a long time after creating valuable products and content.
You can build passive income streams from writing and blogging, running a YouTube channel, selling digital products and courses and promoting other people’s products as an affiliate marketer.
What other passive income-generating strategies have you employed to supplement your finances? Let me know in the comments section below.