How to make passive income every month

Ashley Gainer's Layout avatar

How would you like to look at next month and already know you had income lined up, even if you didn’t have any new projects booked?

It’s a pretty good feeling.

Knowing that you start each month at $1,000, or $2,000, or $4,000 already coming in the door before you even look at the new projects in the pipeline is an incredible feeling.

That’s why people are so into the idea of “passive income.”

Passive income whaaa?

Passive income, recurring revenue, whatever you call it, is money that’s coming in the door, no matter what. It’s a payment you get every month (typically) no matter what, for as long as the contract is in place. Think Netflix, but in reverse – instead of money going out of your account, it’s coming in.

This business model is a fantastic one for freelancers to get into, because not only does it solidify your own business, but—when done right—it’s meeting a huge need of your clients and making you even more valuable to them and to your prospects.

Sound interesting? Ready to think about setting up your own recurring revenue streams? Awesome! Let’s look at some of your options.

agency members crunch their monthly numbers

Get the approach right

First things first: as you think about the different recurring revenue models you can try, you need to ask yourself this one thing:

What’s the most valuable thing I can give my people?

It might be peace of mind. It might be valuable skills. It might be insights. It might just be time.

Really, it could be anything. The key is to listen to your clients and hear what they need and want from you in the weeks and months following a web design project.

So what is it that your ideal (recurring) client is most interested in? That’s what you need to figure out, and that’s how you need to approach your recurring offer.

“Every designer should ask themselves: What’s the most valuable thing I can give to my clients? ”

1. Setting up retainers

Moving to a retainer model after you deliver a website is one of the most common types of recurring revenue for web designers. You can take any number of approaches, but here are some of the typical ones:

  • Website security and backend maintenance: You can make this as robust as you want. It could be as simple as installing a few plugins and checking in once a week to make sure everything is how it’s supposed to be. Make sure you truly are doing your part to keep the website secure, though.
  • Content updates and/or creation: Offer a monthly package of hours to make any content updates the client needs. You may even fold in some content creation if you’ve got a client who’s fairly active on social media and wants lots of visuals (like making a certain number of pins for Pinterest each month).
  • Traffic generation: If your skills go beyond web design, you’ve got some interesting options for retainers. Traffic generation is one of them. Now that your client has a great new website, you can be the one to help them get it in front of more eyeballs. Whether it’s monthly advertising campaigns, content marketing, or more, you can offer this service in retainer format.
  • Conversion rate optimization: CRO isn’t necessarily a once-and-done kind of thing. There are always more split tests to run, and that’s something that many clients will find valuable in the long haul.
  • Digital product consulting: For businesses that use a lot of digital media, this could be an interesting way to extend your work into a recurring revenue model while filling a big need of the client’s. Whether you’re helping with strategy and design or actually putting together the creative, some clients will absolutely love to add on this recurring service.
  • Monthly reporting: Once you’ve got the hang of Google Analytics, you can provide monthly reports on website activity to the client. You already have a good sense of what their goals are for the site, so the insights you provide into those goals will be very valuable to some clients.

These are just some ideas to get you started. Depending on your skills and interests, you could branch into all kinds of retainer packages. Maybe you want to get into social media management, or product listings, or SEO. The recurring revenue world is your oyster!

Reselling hosting

Many hosting providers offer web designers the opportunity to make recurring revenue by reselling hosting services. If you’ve got a hosting provider you love and use, it makes perfect sense to sell hosting packages.

What you need to be careful of is that you aren’t presenting yourself as the hosting provider. When something goes wrong, you want to be able to direct the client to the host company’s customer service. Unless, that is, you want to be the hosting provider and be on the hook for that responsibility!

Setting up a reseller account doesn’t have to be an expensive or exhausting process. In fact, it can be super straightforward! Simply add a charge to your regular invoices that covers the cost of hosting.

Selling digital products

This one’s for the web designers who want to branch out into training other web designers, in addition to their client work.

Digital products are a great way to build in recurring revenue. They might not necessarily be a completely steady, predictable stream of income the way a retainer contract would be, but when done right, they’ll still be building the bottom line without requiring too much time and energy from you.

When you think about putting together a digital product to sell, there are a few routes you can go:

  • Design templates
  • Online courses
  • Workbooks and other training materials
  • Ebooks
a woman works on a laptop

You could also target people who are DIYing their own websites, with products for the non-designer designer. This could be anything from color theory and typography guides to worksheets for website planning to checklists of must-have plugins and website elements… anything that DIY website designers might find valuable. You could also develop online courses for these folks, in topics like WordPress, basic design principles, branding, and more.

To have steady revenue coming from digital products, you’ll need to have a solid funnel in place. Whether it’s SEO, ad campaigns on platforms like Pinterest and Facebook, or your own content marketing strategy, something’s gotta get your offer in front of eyeballs.

And hey…once you learn how to do that for yourself, you can turn around and offer those skills to your web design clients on a recurring basis!

Design a continuity program

One of the buzzwords in the internet marketing space is “continuity.” A continuity program is when someone pays a recurring membership fee (typically monthly, quarterly, or yearly) to join a program with ongoing programming and support.

Your web design continuity program might be for beginner designers who want to learn new skills, and you teach them a new skill each month. If you get tons of client inquiries and can’t (or don’t want to) take them all on, you could pass those leads to your (paid) network of web designers to bid on. It could even be a simple, low-priced monthly subscription for digital downloads, like a “Pin package of the month” club or a “child theme of the month” or anything like that.

Which of these ideas is most interesting to you? Would you rather build recurring revenue with clients or with other freelancers?

Comments ( 6 )

  1. Rajib

    October 29, 2019

    Well, Never thought of any passive income until I had a tough time in my job. Landed into Blogging and now I feel amazing in terms of mental satisfaction and financial backup. This post has some awesome tips which will help a newbie like me to get into a correct path. Thanks for sharing!

  2. CL King

    July 22, 2018

    The knowledge on how to create wealth through passive income is now understandable, particularly if you are worried about how to save sufficient money in order to meet your desired goals. Thanks for such a wonderful piece of information

  3. Santanu

    July 19, 2018

    I like such posts where one can explore the opportunities of generating passive income. I generate passive income through my blog besides my regular job and it feels really good. Thanks for sharing this article.

  4. Paris Forlidas

    December 9, 2017

    Hi Ashley,

    Very nicely written. You provide some good ideas. Reselling hosting sound like a simple and good idea without spending too much time on that. Of course selling digital products as a complementary work, I think it will really increase income in the long term. I beleive selling tutorial/courses online may also be a good idea.

    I have just started my blog mainaly with the consept of making passive income, but I have a very long way to go.

    Thanks for your post.

  5. Derek

    September 25, 2017

    Enjoy these types of posts. Keep 'em coming! Would love to dive into more specifics about what each plan is offering.

  6. Justin Estrada

    September 21, 2017

    Tons of golden information in this article. I found this page from your Instagram and I gotta say you guys are branding kings

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