These days, when you say the words “passive income,” most people’s minds tend to jump to online courses.
It may seem like the super obvious choice, especially when you see people out there killing it with a similar offering, but it’s not the only option out there, and it’s definitely not for everyone.
There could be something muchhhh better suited to your topic or audience and therefore more likely to be a success! So, creating a passive income product is less about what you want to make or what seems to be working for other people, and more about what your audience is asking for, or is ready for.
Oh, and if you caught my post How passive is passive income really? you’ll know that nothing is 100% passive, but some offerings are a bit more passive than others (and the price-point often reflects that).
So which one is right for you? In today’s post, we’ll be chatting about the most common types of passive income products, who they are for, and what you can expect to charge for each.
Membership sites use a protected area of their website to deliver exclusive content on a subscription basis. #VIPstatus
This can look like literally anything from a handful of password protected pages to a full blown member access area where each member gets their own individual log-in.
You can use a member site to host webinars, tutorials, courses, workbooks, cheatsheets, planners, personalized coaching offerings, community forums…you name it! Basically anything of value that you can think to offer that people would be willing to pay to get exclusive access to on a monthly basis.
A big perk to membership sites, and often why you can charge a higher price is the accountability that members get each month through things like community forums, progress check-ins, live-calls, and feedback on any “homework” they may have.
They are perfect for the audience that don’t mind paying for for a little hand-holding. They have a very specific long-term goal in mind and they are willing to make reoccurring investments to get there. They want ongoing support with refreshed content based on the trends of that industry.
Member sites are a fabulous source of recurring revenue, but can also be slightly less on the passive side due to the fact that you are still having to come up with that new exclusive content each month to keep up your end of the bargain.
A membership site is for you if:
Your topic requires on-going training/support in order for people to achieve results.
Your audience is very engaged, and are interested in not just advice, but also community and accountability.
You don’t mind things being slightly less passive if it means being able to charge a higher price point.
Average price-point: $30-$350/month
You can definitely host online courses as a part of your membership site, where each month new content is “dripped” to your audience, but if you are looking for a slightly more passive way to get an online course into people’s hands, you might consider giving them the whole kit & caboodle all at once.
This way you record the thing once, set up an automation to deliver it passively when people purchase it, and only have to make updates as needed (aka. the software you are teaching comes out with a completely new version).
In true passive fashion, you are putting in the same amount of work whether you sell your course to one person, or thousands (but hopefully the latter ).
Price wise, online courses are all over the map, because it really depends on the value of the content you are offering. Even though they can be offered on a monthly payment plan, there is a set price that customers can expect to pay, and once that’s all paid up, they continue to get access, unlike a membership site where the customer only has access as long as they are paying a subscription fee (think: Netflix).
An online course is for you if:
Your audience are go-getter DIY’ers who want to fast-track their results but don’t necessarily want to pay extra for community or accountability.
Your topic does not require on-going support or training in order for your students to get the results you are promising.
You want to help many many people, 24/7, without creating new work for yourself each month.
Average price-point: $300-$5,000
Say you are a brand designer or copywriter. Not everyone who wants your help will be able to afford your rate in order to have you custom create their brand or copy from scratch.
Customizable templates or kits would help those people to achieve similar results on their own. You’re giving them a mostly done-for-you type product, and all they have to do is fill in the blanks, or swap out a few colors or bit of text in order to make it their own.
It may take a quick little tutorial on your part to show them how it’s done (again, you record this once to share for all) but it requires wayyyy less work than say building a whole copyrighting or brand design course to help them DIY the thing.
Think of your audience’s goals as well as their commitment level both financially and time-wise to getting their results. Some people just want a pro thing handed to them ASAP instead of waiting weeks learning in an online course or months in a membership site to become a pro at something.
Templates or kits are for you if:
Your audience wants quick, professional-looking results without too much effort or investment on their part.
You don’t necessarily want to teach your topic, but you still want to be able to help people achieve results even if they can’t hire you 1:1 to do the thing.
You want a passive income product to complement the 1:1 work you already do (or by all means hang up that 1:1 work hat if your templates are paying the bills!)
Average price-point: $50-$1,000
Some people have literally no interest in learning a new skill or attempt to DIY certain parts of their product, and that’s totally ok.
They have more money than time, and they know outsourcing is where it’s at.
If you are a creator or artist of some type looking for a way to add passive income to your business, stock products are perfect for you!
You can sell them directly from your website, from online marketplaces like Esty, or on sites dedicated to stock photography, video, music, etc.
The price point is often lower, but you literally have zero to do after creating the thing. There is no updating it, no babysitting of members (unless you create your own stock photo membership site). You just upload the thing giving customers license to use it, and your license to sell it to as many people as will buy it.
Stock products are for you if:
Your audience are purely customers and not students of your topic
You love to create and you want to add passive income to what you are already doing
You don’t want to have to wait to launch a bit thing in order to start receiving sale notifications.
Average price-point: $5-$200
Step by step video tutorials are definitely helpful when teaching a skill, but when it comes to inspiring your audience through storytelling, or anecdotal evidence of the value in what you do, a talking head type video might get a wee bit old.
Different information is best absorbed in different ways, and if you are on a mission to inspire people towards their goals, e-books or audio books might be something your audience is more likely to reach for.
These may take updating from time to time depending on your topic, but overall, a book offering is going to be much more passive than creating an online course.
Not to mention much less is needed from a tech standpoint! For you, because you don’t need a bunch of fancy lighting, video equipment or editing software to get your knowledge recorded, and for your audience, because they don’t need to be in front of a computer to access it!
An audio book is especially useful to those who are on the road without time to sit down and watch something with a solid wifi connection.
An e-book or audio book is for you if:
You have advice or inspiration to offer on a topic but aren’t looking to devote the time to create a course.
Your topic does not require video format to teach, or is not well-suited to it.
Your audience is interested in learning more about your topic, but not seeking an immersive or hands-on training experience.
Average price-point: $10-$50
Maybe your audience is looking to improve the way they are already doing something, so rather than passing on a skill, you are passing on your processes or systems for doing the things you do.
These are often at a lower price point, but are also low commitment, and therefore easier for your audience to jump on if they see you having success in that particular area.
Art/decor/on-demand product printing
I’ll use the example of a branding or logo designer again. Chances are you make more than a few versions of your custom design while brainstorming, right?
Say you come up with 6 different concepts, and then narrow it down to the top three to send your client for approval. They will pick just one of those designs to use in their project, so there is no use in letting those 5 other concepts you don’t end up using go to waste!
Instead, you could sell your extra designs as printable art on places like Etsy, or list them on a print-on-demand site like Society 6 where your designs can be printed on coffee mugs, beach blankets, T-shirts etc. without you having to be the one to print and ship it.
Printables are for you if:
You are already a creator and want to sell the same design over and over without necessarily fulfilling the order yourself.
You have processes, systems, or checklists that you use in your own life or business that your customers could print at home and to help them track or achieve their own results.
You want to offer an introductory price-point offering for those who can’t afford your course or other higher price-point passive offering just yet.
Average price-point: $5-$50 (not including the cost of the product it’s printed on, if doing a print-on-demand product)
You don’t necessarily need to create a whole new product in order to add passive income to your business. The fastest way to increase cashflow in your business now would be to upsell to a current or past customer.
This is passive in the sense that you do not need to market your business to bring in a whole bunch of new leads or sign ups. This person has already worked with you, and if you did a good job (which I know you did) they already know and trust you and your business.
Say you are wedding photographer. Your audience (aka your brides – past, future, and present) probably aren’t going to buy a course on how to photograph their own wedding.
But rather than just handing over their wedding photos and peacing out of their lives for good, think about the products or services you could offer in addition to what was already purchased or delivered.
You’ve already done the work of shooting the wedding, so your passive income comes from those la carte items like purchasing the rights to their photos, purchasing physical copies, or extra digital edits than those already included in their package.
Maybe you have a couple from a few years ago who is in need of new family photos, or wants help capturing memories with any new little additions (fur babies included) to the family.
Passive upsells are for you if:
You already provide a product or service and want to increase revenue per project
You work 1:1 with customers or clients and therefore can personally recommend additional products or services to suit their specific needs
You have an email list of past satisfied customers who might be interested in future offerings you have around the same topic
Average price-point: endless opportunity!
Similar to your printable planners and checklists, people are looking to streamline something they are already doing – or get started the right way. But they don’t necessarily have time or money for a course or membership type offering.
Digital downloads are a perfect way to share your expertise on a topic at a lower-price and at a low commitment level (which again, some audiences or topics are just more suited to).
If you are already offering the same advice week in and week out, or are constantly getting the same questions over and over in your inbox, a guide, pdf, or other digital download product is super easy way for you to turn what you are already answering on the daily into a passive income product.
Digital downloads are for you if:
Your topic has a ton of FAQ that can be answered in a straight forward way (ie. the answer doesn’t depend on the scenario too much).
You are tired of answering the same question 1,000,000 times a week, and want to be able to share the answer once and for all to everyone who is willing to pay for it.
You want to create an entry-level paid offering of value to warm your audience before introducing them to your more time and investment-heavy offerings.
Average price-point: $10-$50
Ok, so physical products are obviously not super passive in nature, especially if you are hand making the thing.
But there are sites like Printful.com where you can create a concept for a product (ie. a t-shirt design, coffee mugs, and other swag) and list a mockup of the finished product in your own online shop.
When someone purchases your product, Printful handles the fulfillment from creating it to shipping it and your customer will be none the wiser! All that matters to them is they got the product they saw and loved from your online shop!
This is slightly different than a print-on-demand marketplace like Society 6 where the customer shops from a whole catalogue of designs by you and other creators before deciding which product to apply the design to.
Butttt, if you really enjoy creating, and you want to make your thing by hand, there are ways to automate the sale and delivery of your products that makes it more passive. (For more on automation and selling passively, check out Online Business Besties Podcast episode 018 Passive income & sales funnels 101).
So if you are looking to increase revenue without increasing your hours (which is basically what passive income is) just know that physical products are not off the table.
A physical passive income product is perfect for the audience who is not looking to learn, but rather to have you solve their problem, need, or want for them ASAP.
And since their problem is solved for them, you can often charge a higher price-point than say a course or book on how to DIY that same thing.
Physical passive income products are for you if:
You have an idea for a physical product that you know solves a need or want, but you don’t want to sell it in person at a market or retail space.
Your audience has more money than time, or your topic is best suited to ready-made products
Average price-point: $5-infinity.