Cecilia Meis was working remotely in Dallas as a freelance editor when she decided to pick up and move to Thailand in 2017. Prior to the move, she "didn't have a solid financial plan," she says.
"I had a sort of arbitrary amount of $5,000 minimum in my head for the emergency fund," she says. "That ensured I could fly home and have a cushion should something happen. Beyond that, the plan was simply to continue earning while traveling."
Now, three years later, at age 30, she earns almost $8,000 a month, $600 of which is passive income. That's money that, after an initial investment of time, takes little or no effort to earn.
In the last three years, Meis has lived in eight different places, including Hawaii and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she resides now. "If you want to leave your laptop for a day of exploring, passive income gives you that freedom," she says.
Whatever your lifestyle, passive income can be an easy way to earn some extra money. Here are three of her top tips.
Meis earns her passive income by selling templates that can help other digital nomads track their budget, travel, freelance projects, and other goals. She makes the templates using Google Sheets and Trello.
"I'm fairly active on various online writer, editor, and digital nomad groups," she says. "What began as a very human conversation about organizing, budgeting, and optimizing turned into a little venture."
Initially, she says she was putting in about 10 hours per week to create all the templates and make the tweaks she needed based on her own preferences. Now, she says, the only time she spends on it is implementing user suggestions or helping her customers implement the templates in their own life.
"The organization system is geared toward digital nomads, and it seems there was a need I hadn't seen before," she says. "I'm a big fan of spreadsheets and tracking, so this has felt more like fun than work."
"Diversify your income streams so you're not stranded in a foreign country without any reliable income," Meis says.
Meis has a couple of editing and strategy freelance jobs that are not passive income. However, even her passive income streams are diversified. Along with her organizational templates, she also makes about $100 per month investing.
"I use a mixture of robo-advisors and learned investment strategies that are slowly but surely compounding," she says. "I spend about two hours a week on research for this because I'm still very much a beginner."
Perhaps most importantly, be flexible with how you're going to make money so you don't end up in trouble. "Have a backup plan, and then have three more backup plans," she suggests.
For example, she also does one-on-one consultations with writers, which she says brings in between $300 and $500 per month. This isn't enough to live on, but if her templates aren't selling especially well that month, it's a great supplement.
If you do want to travel full time, relying solely on passive income is risky, she says. You could go in with a plan to make $1,000 per month just on passive income, but there's not guarantee it will happen. Instead, make sure you have a slew of active income options, she says: "Passive income is the cushion."
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