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4 Ways to Build Passive Income While COVID Has Your Clients “On Hold”

  • By Preston Lee
  • November 25, 2020

Thanks to COVID-19, many freelancers are facing a tough reality—their clients’ lives and businesses tend to be a bit more “on hold” than usual.

In a recent survey, I sent to thousands of freelancers, only about 4% of them said their business most likely won’t be negatively impacted by all the changes coming from the coronavirus.

That means even though a few positive things may come out of this pandemic around 96% of freelancers anticipate a disruption in business over the coming months.

That’s a bit scary.

Particularly if you rely solely on client work in order to pay the bills and keep your business moving forward.

While some of your clients are putting their spending on hold, you should consider branching out and exploring other revenue channels you can build into your freelance business plan.

For a nice short-term buffer and long-term added benefit, I recommend you explore passive income ideas you can implement into your current workflow.

Today, I’ll share a few ideas I’ve seen freelancers implement successfully over the years so you can try a few of them out for yourselves.

1. Target DIY clients through teaching

As company and personal budgets begin to tighten over the coming months (maybe years?), there will begin to be more and more DIY professionals.

You’ve met the kind I’m referring to: instead of hiring a qualified freelancer like you to do the job for them, they prefer to save money by doing it themselves.

Whether they want to develop their own landing page, develop their own SEO plan, or design their own logo, to them it’s all about saving money.

So why not find a way to insert yourself into that revenue stream as well?

One easy to accomplish that is to develop courses, tutorials, and how-to guides on the services you usually offer.

For example, if you’re a freelance digital marketer, why not document the setup of an entire social media campaign from start to finish? Use a screen-recording software and a decent microphone and divide the setup into 8-12 short videos explaining exactly how to do it yourself.

Then, start reaching out to small businesses who need to increase sales during this lull in the economy. Pitch your services and, if they can’t afford your rates, use your course as a nice back-up option.

Additionally, you might be able to rack up a little extra passive income by putting your course on Udemy, Skillshare, or another course marketplace.

It’s a short-term opportunity with a potential long-term win. You make the course/ebook once and sell it over and over again.

2. Upcycle unused work for a lift in sales

If you’re a creative freelancer (I’m talking about writers, designers, illustrators, etc.) you more than likely have entire hard-drives sitting around with leftover or unused work elements.

If you’re a writer, you may have unpublished articles, book chapters, or email scripts.

If you’re a designer, you might have unused layouts, logo elements, or custom icons.

If you’re an illustrator, you may have leftover doodles, illustrations, or passion projects.

Each piece of unused work presents a potential revenue opportunity if you’re willing to get creative and put in a little extra work.

For example, instead of just deleting those email scripts your client decided to go a different direction on, why not polish them up, bundle them into a nice PDF compilation and sell them as quality scripts/templates to companies who can’t afford a full-fledged copywriter right now?

Designers, you can add to, clean up, and modify your leftover (or passed-over) design elements and put them up for sale on marketplaces like Creative Market.

Building passive income into your creative business doesn’t have to mean creating something completely from scratch. Just like the hidden treasures in your attic, your previous work files may contain some hidden opportunities you can take advantage of right now.

3. Offer financing (and collect a percentage) for clients with past-due invoices

As many companies and customers around the world are beginning to tighten their purse-strings, you may start to face the inevitable but sad fact that your freelance clients aren’t paying you like they should.

While there may be lots of reasons your clients aren’t paying their invoices, one very likely reason right now is that cash flow in many industries has slowed way down.

If you have enough savings or working capital in your freelance business, this could actually be a nice way to bring in some extra passive income while also doing your clients a favor.

If there’s a client who can’t pay their invoices right now, consider offering them a payment plan with an added percentage fee. You’ll be essentially giving your client a loan and asking them to repay it with interest. 

Except it doesn’t have to get that complicated—legally or financially.

Here’s a very simple way you could work out the math of a new payment structure.

If your client owes you $1,000 for a completed project, offer to take $100 payments every month for the next year.

At the end of the year, your client will be happy you offered a payment plan and you’ll have an extra 20% (or $200) in your bank account just for being patient.

Again, this only works if you have enough cash flow to stay afloat in your own business. But by taking on the role of banker, you avoid a stack of past-due invoices, collect free money while providing a much needed service to your clients.

4. Promote affiliate products to your current clients

While your clients may not be able to spend much of their budget on new freelance work at the moment, money is still being spent in most industries despite a sluggish global economy.

One way to generate additional passive income from your clients includes recommending helpful tools and resources your clients might need as they adjust to life in a COVID-19 world.

For example, did you know you can get paid to recommend Zoom to people (one of the most commonly used video conferencing tools)?

If your clients are finding they have to adjust by working remotely on a long-term basis, perhaps a quick email featuring a few helpful articles and resources (one of which might be a link to try Zoom or some other software).

When you clients click those articles or affiliate links and make a purchase, you stand to make a bit of extra money just for making the connection.

There are tons of small business tools you could recommend to your clients—all with referral programs eager and ready to pay you a share of their customer revenue.

Get creative & we’ll make it through this

For the self-employed—and everyone, really—we’re navigating waters we’ve never passed through before.

There are no official rules on how to handle this whole thing.

And while for some that may seem terrifying, I’m excited to see the new, creative, and resilient solutions freelancers come up with over the next few months and years.

We’ve got this. Stay well.

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