Real People, Real Money – 7 Web Designers Who Earn Passive Income Online

You already know that as a web designer or a web developer you need passive income. However, making money online might seem like some unrealistic fantasy: sure, maybe those “4-hour work week” folks can chill in Thailand while the money is rolling in, but what about everybody else?

This is why I decided to show you what web designers CAN and DO to make passive income online.

How can web designers make passive income online?

Web designers who want to create streams of passive income are in a very good situation right now. Most businesses nowadays either have strong online presences or are completely virtual. What does this have to do with passive income?

It means that web designers and web developers who want to earn passive income have plenty of opportunities to do so:

  • E-books:  the supply of e-books has not yet matched the demand. Every day there are thousands of new people reading e-books on their portable devices, and many of these people want to learn web design and web development, something that you can teach them.
  • Online courses: many people are looking for instructional e-books, but the other half of these people prefer a more interactive setting. Online course providers like TeamTreeHouse and Udemy are the leading examples of this, but you can start your own course as well, just setup a simple blog and host your videos for premium memberships.
  • Apps: the amount of people using smartphones and tablets is steadily increasing, and there’s always a huge demand for new and unique applications that will either help or entertain the user.
  • Software As A Service (SaaS): more and more companies and individuals are using services to help manage their payroll, team management, storage, and the like. These services require monthly fees and are mostly automatic. Imagine developing an online system and offer it for $5 a month. Imagine how much can you earn passively using this method?
  • WordPress themes: thousands of people start their own blog daily, and many of these people use WordPress as their CMS. Just check ThemeForest.net and see for yourself how much WordPress theme authors make.
  • WP plugins: under WordPress’ terms of use, plugins should be open source, and therefore free. There’s a workaround here. Offer a free edition and an extended edition that you can charge for.
  • PSD templates: There’s never too many PSD templates available out there. Developers in a hurry will grab any template that closely resembles their perfect template, tweak it a little, and use it for their clients. No need to hire a web designer!

Making money while you sleep is not something that only exists in the alternative universe of unicorns and rainbows. You, as a web designer or a web developer, can create streams of passive income for yourself, assuming that you are willing to put in  all the time and energy required to pull it off. It’s not easy, but it’s also definitely possible.

7 web designers who successfully make money online 

There are plenty of web designers and web developers who are already taking advantage of opportunities in front of them:

1. Jacob Cass Explains How He Built A Successful Web Design Blog

Jacob-Cass-Interview

Jacob Cass is a multidisciplinary designer and art director who has worked the all kinds of clients, including the likes of Disney, Jerry Seinfeld, Red Bull, Nike and VitaminWater. He currently works as an interactive art director/designer at a NYC agency, Ammirati, while also freelancing under his business and blog Just Creative. He also runs Logo of the Day, a logo gallery website dedicated to showcasing the best logo designs around the world, and Logo Designer Blog, a blog dedicated to branding and identity design.

In this interview, Jacob Cass answers the following questions:

  • What role did Jacob’s blogging success play in his web design career?
  • How Jacob managed to build such a popular blog and a massive social media following?
  • How does Jacob earn money with Just Creative?

You can read the interview here.

2. How Sacha Greif  earned $15,000+ with an e-book he wrote in 3 weeks.

sacha-greif-interview

Sacha Greif is a web designer who specializes in user interfaces for web and mobile apps. He has worked with clients such as Hipmunk, Le Monde, MileWise and UNESCO. Sacha runs his own start-up, Folyo and has released his own e-book, which was very well received. He also runs his own web design blog.

In this interview, Sacha explains the following:

  • How Sacha come up with the idea for his e-book “Step by step UI design”?
  • How he decided the appropriate price for this particular product?
  • How Sacha managed to get the link to his landing page on the front page of Hacker News?

You can read the interview here.

3. Chris Spooner on his blogging success

chris-spooner-design-blogs

Chris Spooner is a graphic and web designer from the UK who runs two popular design blogs Blog.SpoonGraphics and Line25.

In this interview:

  • Why did Chris decide to start his own web design blog in the first place?
  • How does he come up with ideas for blog posts and what does his writing process look like?
  • How does Chris earn money with his blogs?

You can read the interview here.

4. How Ruben Gamez turned BidSketch into a successful online business

Ruben Gamez is the solo founder of Bidsketch , an online proposal software website for web designers.

In this interview:

  • Why did Ruben decide to build Bidsketch in the first place?
  • How did he manage to turn his side project into a successful  business while  having a full time job?
  • How did Ruben know when it was the right time to quit his job and start working on his business full-time?

You can read the interview here.

5. Jarrod Drysdale explains how he  made more than $38 000 with his e-book

jarrod-drysdale-interview

Jarrod Drysdale is a web designer who runs his own blog at Studio Fellow. During his career as a designer, Jarrod has worked with tech startups, movie studios, financial companies and consumer brands. He also wrote an e-book for startup founders “Bootstrapping Design”.

In this interview:

  • What was the biggest lesson that Jarrod learned from his failed startup?
  • How did he test his idea before starting to write an e-book to make sure people actually wanted it?
  • What is the main reason why Jarrod’s launch was so successful?

You can read the  interview here.

6. Jacob Gube on the explosive growth of Six Revisions

Jacob-Gube-Interview-Founder-Tips

Jacob Gube is the founder of Six Revisions, one of the most popular and fastest growing web design blogs on the Internet. He’s also a web designer and web developer who specializes in front-end development and PHP development.

In this interview:

  • How did Jacob turn Six Revisions into one of the fastest growing web design blogs on the internet without any prior experience in online marketing?
  • How does he manage the logistics of running a high traffic blog with an international team of writers?
  • What is the main reason for the explosive growth of Six Revisions?

You can read the interview here.

7. How a teenager built a profitable web design blog in one year.

Stelian_Subotin

Stelian Subotin is a web designer and a writer.

In this article:

  • Why did he decide to start his own web design blog when he was only 16?
  • How did he manage to go from zero to 650 000 unique monthly visitors in one year?
  • How did he monetize his blog and how much did he earn from it?

You can read the article here.

FAQ about Passive Income

I’m a single 20-something freelance web designer/web developer. I’ve read the “4-hour work week”. It all sounds very appealing: I’d love to be able to travel the world without having to worry about money too much. Is it really possible for someone like me to create streams of passive income that would make this dream come true?

Yes.

You don’t need that much money to pull that off. With $2000-3000/month you can easily travel through most places in Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. That’s of course assuming that you’re fine with traveling on a lower-end budget (no  5-star hotels).

I’d say that your best bet is probably SaaS because it’s recurring income (as opposed to one-time purchases such as e-books or video courses).

It might take longer than you think to get to that $2000-3000/month level, though.

I have a full-time job, family, and a mortgage. I don’t want to quit my job and backpack through Southeast Asia.  I want extra income to create a better life for my family. Is making money online a good option for me?

Yes, if you are willing to put in the time and energy required to create and maintain streams of passive income, which might be demanding when combined with your other obligations.

I’d even say that passive income is necessary to people who have serious financial obligations (kids, car payments, health insurance, mortgage, etc.).

You don’t want the livelihood of your family to depend on a single source of income: your job. We all saw how well that worked out for thousands of people back in 2008, didn’t we?

In my opinion, passive income is more about financial security, than it is about the  location independent lifestyle.

How much time does it take to create a reliable source of passive income?

It depends.

You can start making a little amount of money straight away by creating WP plugins and selling PSD templates.

You will need a lot more time and knowledge if you want to make money with e-books, apps, video courses, SaaS, etc.

I’d say that it will probably take longer than you think. Don’t quit  your job just yet.

How much time does it take to maintain a source of passive income?

It depends on what kind of system of passive income you have set up.

In general, once the system is up and running, you should be able to maintain it by spending a few hours a week or so on it, especially if you outsource many tasks related to it.

Keep in mind that often if you don’t spend time on marketing your product/service the stream of passive income dries up over time, though.

Do you need to have a blog in order to make money online?

No.

You need to find a real pain that people are experiencing right now and offer a solution that they are willing to pay for.

I’d even say that I think that blogging is often overrated for the wrong reasons. It is indeed a good way to build your personal brand and accelerate your web design career. It isn’t the easiest way to make money online though, it requires a lot of resources and time.

I’d say that if making as much money as possible is your primary goal you might be better off by creating a video course or SaaS.

Attention: making passive income online is not as easy as it might look!

Okay, so I don’t like giving people rose tinted glasses, then watching them fail, therefore I’ll be blunt with you:

Bad news: Making money online is HARD. It requires a massive time and energy investment over an extended period of time. Please don’t even start if you are not willing to face this harsh reality.

Good news: You can achieve similar results much faster than most people in these interviews. In order to do that, you need to commit to learning online marketing, which will help you avoid wasting time on all the silly mistakes that beginners make. It’s much easier to get the results you want when you know what you are doing.

The world of online marketing can be very confusing, though. You are bombarded with conflicting advice from different gurus. How do you know which people are legitimate experts and which are just con artists? That’s the problem: you don’t.

This is the reason why I’ve compiled the list of my favorite online marketing resources:

“7 websites that will help you learn online marketing from scratch”

Entrepreneurship is not easy. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: it might take you months or even years until you get your first business off the ground. Time will pass anyway, though. Why not put it to a good use?

Agota Bialobzeskyte

Agota is a digital nomad who makes a living writing. She has a hard time staying in one place and loves slow travel. As a result, over the last five years, she has lived in United Kingdom, Spain, and Greece, where she's currently staying for the summer. Agota believes that travel is a great way to learn more about yourself and about the world, and that pretty much anyone can afford it if they set their mind to it.

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Comments

  1. says

    I guess there are really a bunch of people out there who are generating a decent amount of passive income while they keep a low profile.

    I think there is no way around being social when you want to build a successful online business these days. I agree that you have to have a community first. Give some free or low cost value to atrackt interest and then build a business around it.

  2. Marios says

    Reading success stories is always inspiring but I believe sometimes it is necessary to showcase and some fail stories because I believe it is important for someone to understand that failing most of the times comes first and way before success.
    Moreover, from all the stories it seems having allready build an audience – most of the times by blogging – is a great boost for your attempt to catch passive income with one way or another.
    Lastly, congratulations for your well written article. It was again a pleasant read.

  3. Maynak Tamboli says

    Hello Agota,
    I am a freelancer webdesigner and developer from India. I really like your post. I write seo realted ebooks to generate my passive income. But i am really inspired from this blog post. Very positive and inspirational post. I am looking forward to increase the sources of my passive income. I am in web development industry from past 4 years.
    I am regular reader for this blog and its really nice to see some good posts are coming from this 1st website designer blog.

    Cheers!

  4. Katherine says

    Thanks a lot for that post — really interesting and useful for many of us. And really inspiring! I just now wanna start my own source)) Still waiting something new from you guys! Good luck!

  5. says

    Simply awesome, inspiring and I Love this post. As a web designer I also want to earn something from online. Jacob has a good personality.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte says

      Yup, Jacob is definitely an interesting guy, and an inspiration to other web designers.. :)

    • says

      Thanks for the feature and the positive feedback guys. G’luck with everything too. I’m yet to make the $3000/m mark in passive income but my blog does help bring in design clients to offset this.

    • says

      Oh hey Gino, well having blog for several years offers both fun and both frustration in times, when you just do something for too long time! Never too late to start new pursuit! Curious what you are doing now after you sold the site? How does it feel?

  6. R W Hughey says

    That’s honestly rather inspiring. It’s all about not giving up, learning as much as you can, maybe even having a blast doing something you enjoy and then just GO FOR IT…

    …right?

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte says

      Right!

      Keep in mind that you need to learn some business skills if you want to make money online, though ;)

  7. says

    Bravo Agota,
    Great Article, I am a freelance web designer and developer running my own agency at http://www.infotechworld.net. Great post. I am planning to make passive income by adsense . After Internet Marketing on Some Blogs I will try to post more advertisements on my blog is this a good idea or my other interest is PSD Development Or Web 2.0 Theme Development .
    Thanks mate Cheers!

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte says

      Well, to be honest with you, AdSense is not a good way to earn passive income: in order to make a decent amount of money you need a A LOT of traffic.

      Why not consider creating a product (an e-book, video course, etc.)?

  8. says

    Thanks for all of the great examples of people making money online. I also think it’s key to know that many of these writers built large communities from their blog before they launched products, making it much easier to sell to an interested crowd than have something sit there.

    • Agota Bialobzeskyte says

      It’s definitely easier to sell a product when you already have built a community.

      That being said, not all of these guys had a big online following – take a look at Jarrod’s story for example ;)