5 Ways to Make Passive Income as a Writer
Use these strategies to grow your writing career into a full-time gig.
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Writing a book is an amazing experience for several reasons. One of the main rewards is being able to share your ideas or knowledge with the world. Art, after all, is made to be shared.
But one of the other major appeals of writing a book is that it can provide passive income. In other words, you invest time into writing the book, and then bring in a stream of income once it releases.
Unfortunately, that income is oftentimes not enough for writing to be a full-time job. That's where passive income comes into play.
As a reminder, passive income is not easy income. Instead, it's putting in the work up front to create easy income down the road.
If you're looking for extra ways to harness your writing skills to make passive income, here are five different approaches to consider.
Related: 17 Passive Income Ideas for Increasing Your Cash Flow
1. Monetizing your blog
If you're a fiction writer, you need to treat creating the rest of your content just as seriously as you treat writing your books. If you hope to become a full-time author, consider this a part of the job.
With that frame of mind, let's talk about making a blog. Blogging can be one of the most effective tools in a writer's belt. Not only does a blog help expand your online presence, but it also can be a money-maker if done well.
But what does that look like?
For one thing, posts need to be consistent. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Instead, establish a schedule for posting on your blog. Anything works — just find something you can stick to without facing burnout.
The other thing to consider with your blog is what kinds of posts you want to write.
I'd recommend writing thought leadership pieces sprinkled with occasional updates. "Thought leadership" is a fancy name for writing content that will help people, based on your expertise. Want an example of thought leadership? You're looking at one. Updates, of course, will be about your works-in-progress, release news and anything else related to your work as an author.
Remember, the more you write and give to others for free, the more they'll be likely to give back — and the more traffic Google SEO will bring to your site.
A combination of those two things will grow your readership over time, eventually enabling you to turn your blog into a money-making venture.
2. Join affiliate programs
If you join affiliate programs, you can use your content to make passive income. As you know, affiliate programs mean you partner with a company to push customers their way for a cut of the profits.
If you have a blog with a great readership, this won't be too difficult to do.
To explain the process, picture this:
You have a blog with 5,000 readers. Your blog is hosted by Company X, and you sign up for Company X's affiliate program, which pays $100 for every referral. For your next post, you write about the advantages of having an awesome blog and you include an affiliate link that encourages readers to sign up with Company X. If only 1% of your readers (or 50) take action, you'll make $5,000 from that single post! On top of that, anybody else who finds the post over time could also generate more passive income.
Of course, that situation assumes you have a blog with an impressive following, but that's very possible with enough work.
Now that you see the model, go explore other affiliate programs to discover what might work best for you.
Related: 3 Tips to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
3. Starting a podcast
Podcasts are another dynamic way to create content for your author platform while making extra money.
The concept is similar to a blog: Create a show that shares useful content with other aspiring writers. As a novelist, you have built-in expertise that a lot of people will look up to, so if you're comfortable behind the mic, starting your own show could be a valuable move for your brand.
For episodes, you could create anything from how-tos to interviews with other people who are succeeding in the industry. And don't forget, always include a blog with every episode to encourage your readers to download it.
In terms of income, the difference between a blog and a podcast is that it's easier to monetize a podcast using ads. Once you have enough listeners, you can seek out sponsors or affiliate deals.
From there, every new episode you post becomes a chance to create passive income for many years (especially if you stick to evergreen content).
4. Using your newsletter
If you're a writer that's serious about growing your brand, you need a subscription list. Put simply, this is an ever-growing list of people who have given you their contact info, presumably through a website plugin. Once you have it, you can use various software programs to send out newsletters — at least try to do so monthly.
Newsletters are a bit of work to set up, but once you've created them, they grow on their own.
To get started, a lead-gen piece is often the best way to grow them. An example would be writing a short ebook called 5 Ways to Write an Awesome Thriller and then having your software email it to everybody who signs up with their contact info. Or, if you don't have time for that, perhaps a "subscribe for all the important updates" form will suffice, too.
Once you've got the list created, it will only grow more over time, and every new subscriber is a chance to generate extra income.
You can use a newsletter to make money in three ways:
- Sell ad placements internally based on views (as in, offering your readers a chance to advertise their own product in your newsletter)
- Seek out sponsors based on views
- Use an affiliate opportunity to encourage action
There's not a best way, just a best-for-you way. Once you find yours, you'll be making money with every newsletter you send.
Related: Don't Underestimate the Power of a Good Newsletter to Drive Business
5. Creating an online course
This is the most "passive" of any of the passive income ideas appearing on this list.
An online course generates passive income by sharing the things you're passionate about with people who want to learn them.
More skill-sharing platforms pop up every single year, and while there are different bells and whistles with each, they all work very similarly: You create a class, sell it and get the majority cut of the selling price for every person who takes it.
Creating the course can be a lot of work, especially if you take the time to focus on doing a great job, but also very much worth it.
Not sure what to teach? Think about the things you know. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Creating the best protagonist for your novel
- How to write a mystery novel
- Best ways to market your book post-release
Find a topic that is specific enough to gain traction, but also broad enough that you can fit several "lessons" under the topical umbrella.
Then, once you've put the class together, advertise it in your blog, newsletter, podcast, social media and anywhere else you have followers.
A successful online course could be a passive income stream indefinitely.