In 2015, shortly after I had launched my then-side hustle Bridesmaid for Hire, I was laid off from my full-time job. At that point, creating multiple streams of income became a really important financial goal to me.
While I devoted most of my time and energy to growing my side hustle and eventually running it full time, I wanted to be able to consistently earn money every month in a way that didn't require my full focus. Passive income meant peace of mind, because I knew I would be covered if I had an unexpected loss of earnings, in the event a client or project fell through.
That foresight paid off. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, my passive income streams allowed my business to stay afloat when I lost a lot of work because most of the wedding industry was on pause.
A big part of why I have been able to consistently earn passive income, even during this tough time, is the community and audience I have developed over the last 11 years. I currently have over 60,000 followers across all social media platforms, and my email newsletter lists with over 50,000 subscribers across three different newsletters.
Today, I earn more than $2,500 a month in passive income, thanks to the infrastructure I've built that allows me to sell courses, eBooks, merchandise, and other relevant products to my audience. These are some of the online tools that have helped me the most.
One of the top ways I bring in thousands of dollars in passive income a month is through the ongoing sales of over 10 online courses that I've created over the years. Without any additional time spent on promotion or launches, these courses typically bring in over $1,000 a month.
When I decided to make and distribute my first course, which taught people how to become a professional bridesmaid, I knew I needed a straightforward landing page that would automatically provide access to the material with one click after a student signed up.
When I started researching course platforms I noticed that many take a cut from each sale of a course that is sold, along with a monthly fee to use their platform. I went with a platform called Thinkific because, in addition to having a number of automation features, their pricing structure does not do that. Instead, I pay a flat monthly fee.
I also liked Thinkfic because it allowed me to include a welcome email that I prewrote. This way, it feels like I'm still giving each student a warm hello at the start of their course, even though I am not personally connecting with everyone in person or via a livestream.
If you decide to develop a course idea around your expertise, my best advice is to find a platform that supports your goals and has the features you need to make selling your course a passive experience for you as well as a professional and edifying experience for your customer.
The fastest and easiest way to communicate with my audience about something I want to share with them, whether it's merchandise, affiliate links, courses, or eBooks, is through email.
When I send out weekly emails to my over 50,000 subscribers, I include updates on what's happening with my life, fun articles for them to read, and tools for them to explore. I showcase products or affiliate deals that generate passive income for me.
I also use what's known in email marketing as a funnel. For example, if people download the free guide I made about public speaking, they will be sent five emails over the course of two weeks about my paid public speaking course.
Video by Courtney Stith
These emails are prewritten and automated through my email service, FloDesk. I decided on this email service because of how simple it was to set up these funnels, and because of the price. I found that many email services can charge you based on how many subscribers you have, which can get pricey ($500 to over $1,000 a month if you have 60,000 subscribers, for example).
FloDesk charges a flat rate, no matter how many subscribers you have. I pay $19 a month and save quite a bit using this service. While other email providers may have more robust automation and reporting tools, I'm willing to sacrifice those to save more money every month.
As somebody who is not very good at designing logos, templates, or even social media graphics, having to pay a professional for help with this would cost me over $1,000 a month.
Instead, I design pretty much everything, from website graphics, social media posts, course worksheets, merchandise, and newsletter logos, using a free design tool called Canva.
Video by Courtney Stith
I like Canva because they provide thousands of templates, and I go on the site search until I find something that meets the style of what I want to create. I then make some edits and within minutes, the design is done and ready to be used.
This has saved me over $5,000 every year. While some design options might be limited after a while, it gets the job done. I also use platforms like Unsplash for free stock images and Headliner.app to make free videos for social media.
A newer way I have been making passive income, in 2020, is through affiliate deals and ad programs. Now that I have a bigger audience of over 100,000 combined followers on social media and email subscribers, I have the opportunity to work with advertisers and sponsors who want to promote their products or services to my audience.
I use websites like Swapstack (for newsletter advertisers) and Aspire (for Instagram and TikTok advertisers) to apply for these opportunities. Once I was accepted, I negotiated a rate with these brands and the services I provide, like newsletter mentions and social media posts. This has helped me bring in over $1,500 a month.
Video by Courtney Stith
I've also signed up for free affiliate programs, like Amazon's affiliate program and rewardStyle, which provide me with affiliate codes for products that I want to share with my audience, like books, clothing, and household items.
If my audience clicks those links and purchases that item, I receive a commission. The amount varies based on the product, but I typically make a couple hundred dollars a month in affiliate deals.
In order to have a home base where all of my products live, I needed to have a user-friendly and well-designed website.
I've noticed that it can be easy to make the mistake of hosting products or offerings on other platforms, like social media or through email marketing, without having a central location that shares everything together. Having my own website allows people to find all my latest offerings in one place. I used a platform called Showit to design and host the website, with the help of a website designer. I picked this platform for their design features.
While this was initially costly to create — over $3,000 to design and a couple hundred dollars a year to host — to me it has been worth it. My website has helped me bring in more than six figures a year.
Setting up passive income streams can take some time up front, but once you have a game plan and the right tools, you're well on your way to creating all sorts of opportunities for you to earn more.
Jen Glantz is the founder and CEO of the business Bridesmaid for Hire, the voice of the podcast "You're Not Getting Any Younger,″ and the author of the Amazon-bestselling books "All My Friends Are Engaged″ and "Always a Bridesmaid for Hire."
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