I just finished reading a great article on "Passive Income Strategies For Web Designers" posted at Smashing Magazine.
The article focuses on how web designers can find ways to earn passive income. The options examined in the piece were to sell themes and templates, write and sell an eBook and create a job board for designers. The writer does make it clear that this is just his experience so I don't think it was meant to be a thorough investigation of all the options. In saying that, I have seen this "type" article many times and have personally had enough conversations with designers to suggest that there seems to be some myopic thinking in this space. Note to designers: You aren't in the design business. You are in a service business, helping clients achieve their business objectives on the internet. Anything that helps your clients do that should be something you think about offering if you want to be successful in business. Designers are creative and love to create things, which is why most of the "passive income" strategies that I hear mentioned are based building something new - an ebook, a job board. It is very "me as a designer" centric view, which is completely fine if it wasn't for the "ways you can make more money" part of the equation. If you want to do more design things and make a little more money, then yes absolutely do the things mentioned in the article. If you want to make more money as a designer, then think about your clients and what they need.
The upsetting thing is that I have yet to see an article or have a conversation with a designer where they said: " I took a survey and spoke to my clients and they want ...". Ask yourself "What do my clients want? What are they struggling with? How can I help them be more successful?
Let's take a typical SMB as an example. A designer is normally the very first person a small business hires when building their online presence. Instead of just building them a site and maybe setting up their hosting, why not charge a monthly fee to manage everything for them? Site design updates, small content changes, keeping the site fresh, hosting and ongoing management all included in one price. SMBs don't particularly get excited about managing their own hosting or logging in to change content and this is of great value. It isn't design related and probably doesn't stir a designers creative side, but clients want it and it pays the bills. If you did this with 100, 200 or 500 clients, you are talking about a lucrative recurring revenue stream. I can hear designers arguing that it isn't "passive" but nothing ever really is so stop focusing on the passive piece and start focusing on how you can help clients succeed with services that scale. This is about seeing yourself in the ongoing service business.
I am not suggesting that a lot of designers don't already do this today. Reseller hosting has been around for a long time and many designers already manage hosting for their clients. At Weebly we have had tremendous success with our own white label designer platform that is designer to allow a designer to build, host and manage client websites in just the fashion I describe above. Obviously some designers are stepping up the plate.
What do you think?