Passive Income for Freelancers: Build Today for a Strong Tomorrow

As freelancers, we can only handle so many clients, therefore our income is limited. For a more positive outcome of our future finances, let’s take a closer look at how to build passive income, and make money while we sleep.

What is Passive Income?

Passive income is the type of income where you can essentially be making money in your sleep. Active income is the opposite, where we go to work each day (either as a freelancer or as part of a company) and get payed per hour or per project for the work we do.

As an example, business owners are one type of person that often make passive income. They do administrative tasks, handle employees, etc, but their overall income is based on their number of sales — not how many hours they put in per week. A smart business owner could work only 4 hours a week, and make thousands of dollars within the same time frame by accelerated business sales, which others are selling for them.

Freelancers, just like many other professionals, have great opportunities at hand for building a passive income. Let’s take a look at the benefits of doing so, and how to start building a passive income for freelance web designers and developers.

Passive Income is Not a “Get Rich Quick” Scheme

TaxesPassive income is very real and something that many professionals earn a primary living off of. The thought of “making money while you sleep” seems very much like a scam and too good to be true, but the fact of the matter is, the people who do make a large passive income didn’t do it overnight.

When I say “build” a passive income, I mean that very literally. It can take months to even start seeing a few dollars (one downside to passive income), and years to start seeing a significant amount of income. The point is to examine ways that will generate passive income, act upon them, and build enough of a portfolio in those areas that income will grow as time goes on.

How Passive Income Can Help a Freelancing Business

So you’re a freelancer, and you enjoy working a comfortable 30 hour work week. That’s fine. Having passive income doesn’t mean we’re aimed at making 6-figures while watching TV all day, and taking yearly trips to the Bahamas. (Not a bad lifestyle choice, though.)

Making a passive income can benefit a freelancer and their business in many ways, even when choosing to maintain working full-time. Below are just a few benefits:

  • Selling themes and other graphics are a great way to get more visitors to your portfolio.
  • As we learn to sell themes and other graphics, we can reflect on how well a design is selling. By reflecting, we can improve our design skills and improve the likelihood of making even more money off of our designs.
  • Passive income requires one to get out into the community to start earning, which will get a portfolio noticed as well.
  • Passive income can earn just enough to cover basic maintenance costs of a freelancing business (website hosting and domain names, software, etc.). This means we can keep the profits we work so hard on.
  • Passive income can help maintain general living costs, so a freelancer can take on less projects at a time — allowing more effort into individual projects
  • With more time, freelancers can also work on developing their skills as a designer or developer. As we all know, being in a profession like this requires constant learning.

So as anyone can see, it’s not all about making money and getting rich. There are many benefits, even if the passive income only amounts to an extra $100 a month.

How to Start Building a Passive Income

There are several ways to build a passive income as a freelancer, and it really depends on what kind of freelancer you are. We’ll get more into each profession as we explore different ways to make passive income.

Selling Stock — Themes, Images, Scripts, and More

If you’re a photographer, you can sell photographs to stock photography sites and earn some money each time someone buys one of your photos. If you’re a programmer, you can write a script and sell it on one of the many script websites. As a web designer, you can sell templates, or even more complex works such as WordPress themes.

The Envato Network

To start selling stock, check out all the opportunities over at the Envato network. At theme forest designers and developers can sell WordPress themes, PSD templates, scripts, Joomla templates, and more.

One can try AudioJungle to sell audio clips, or FlashDen to sell Flash related items. The possibilities on the Envato websites meet almost any freelancer’s needs.



ShutterStock is a website where photographers send in photos to be sold on the ShutterStock website. Each time someone purchases a photo, that’s more passive income for the photographer.



Another stock photography website where photographers can sell their photos for some passive income.



Any vector artists out there can sell their works in the same way stock photography websites sell theirs. Vector graphics are very popular for building website designs, so web designers and webmasters of all sorts will be looking to buy well-made and creative vector pieces.


Write a Helpful Book (or E-book)

SitePoint BookThis is a much bigger project, but it is something that a freelancer can work on in their spare time. Once completed, the book can be published either printed or as an e-book, and start selling. The trick is to make a complete, useful, and helpful book with your own choice of subject.

As professionals, we gain a ton of freelancing business experience, and those just starting out are itching to learn more. Share your own experiences, lessons, and how-to’s in the most complete way possible. A book can take longer to complete, but it can also earn an income far longer than many other methods of passive income.

Subscriptions and Memberships

Many freelancers who offer helpful services, tutorials, or other types of content benefit from a membership area or subscription service. The tuts+ websites of the Envato network do this perfectly. For example, take PSDtuts+. Much of the content is offered for free, but for additional and better content, one can subscribe for $9 a month.

This $9 a month is nothing to the subscriber compared to the amount of additional quality content they receive, and the owners of PSDtuts+ make an extra $9 a month per each subscriber for allowing this service. Win-win situations can create the best profit.

Sell Advertising Space

This is Webitect’s primary source for passive income, and is a great solution for those with a large amount of visitors to their website. While portfolios may not get a lot of traffic, freelancers can start side blogs or tutorial websites that can receive some very viral traffic.

If a freelancer owns a website that receives a significant amount of traffic, the earning potential from advertising space is limitless as the website grows in popularity.

Become a Business Owner

This one takes the most time to get started the right way, but one more option is to turn your freelancing business into more than a one-man (or woman) operation. Get a team of other web professionals, perhaps even with professions that differ from your own. For example, a web developer could team up with a designer, and SEO expert, and a content writer for the ultimate team.

By becoming the sole owner of a business, one could earn money off of overall projects, while giving some of the profit towards the partners/employees. In return, as a business owner you would offer the other team members benefits like guaranteed clients and pay, by focusing more on directing clients to the business.

What to Expect

Like any new venture, it’s important to know what to expect out of it. Hopefully this short introduction to passive income can help many freelancers struggling to find some extra cash. Here are some things to expect, though, when starting a passive income portfolio.

  • You will not start earning thousands a week by doing this. It takes time, and can be a great option for building income as time goes on.
  • It takes a lot of work initially, and ideally less and less work in the future.
  • There can often times be a learning curve in whichever passive income method you choose. For example, making website templates to sell isn’t going to cut it. One needs to examine which types of website templates sell best, and how to create the best type of template for the consumer.

Wrapping Up

Webitect primarily gets passive income through advertising space, but many professionals find ways to make it in other ways. We’d love to hear those other experiences. No matter how you earn it, it can be a great way to turn some freetime into additional cash, and build your own skills while doing so.

Share any experience and tips you have with passive income as a freelancer, or how you would like to earn passive income in the future.

Written By Kayla

Kayla Knight is a 20 year old college student, part-time web developer, freelancer, and blogger. Webitect is where she spends too much of her freetime, sharing interesting finds and valuable resources. Be sure to check out her portfolio.


  1. Bree

    July 16th, 2009 at 09:12 am

    Excellent article – this has been a recurring topic among my “professional friends” lately as we are all “first generation” web geeks … some of us are ready to move on or have simply had enough of cube life.

  2. Artjom

    July 16th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Nice article. Enjoyed it. Motivates, more and more on to becoming a real freelance designer.

  3. Sundavion

    July 20th, 2009 at 03:01 pm

    Great Article, need to use these resources to get designs out there and start making some passive income.

  4. Liza Dale

    July 25th, 2009 at 03:15 am

    What a great post..reading this article will help a lot especially those people who want to be a freelancer, I think all the best ideas are here on how to have great opportunities especially making passive income.