I’ve always had a little trouble with the phrase, “passive income.” It brings up a mental image of someone lying on a fainting couch, the back of her hand draped across her forehead like a white dove, while $50 bills slowly float down to cover her.
This, of course, is my childish imagination at work. But it was that sort of mental image that kept me from embracing any sort of passive income for many years. My work was my pride, and exchanging my time and expertise for income felt like “an honest day’s work.” The personal, one-on-one nature of consulting/helping gave me an inner feeling of making a big difference in the world, one small business or nonprofit at a time.
That cast-iron self-assessment has been unraveling slowly. It started fraying when a mentor asked me, “How many people do you typically get to help over the course of a year?” Sitting down and counting was a rather sobering exercise. The answer? Not enough.
She pointed out that there were two ways I could make more of an impact: One would be to find a secret science lair willing to clone me as a full-fledged adult, and send versions of myself all over the world, like some sort of benevolent Orphan Black. The other would be to create helpful programs and products that could reach the hands of many, many people, without the need to be there one-on-one (also available, of course).
What does passive income look like for small businesses like yours? It means you create something that benefits many, without you physically having to be there with them. Let’s bring the people you most want to help into the room to help flesh this out. (Learn about my ideal-audience avatar shown, “Jean,” in this blog post.)
If you’re a life coach, you might offer Jean an email series—an e-course—that gives her a structured program to help get through a challenge (financial, emotional, career, transition). These can be set up through email providers like Mailchimp fairly simply with their $10/month package.
If you’re a business consultant, you might bundle your knowledge from a specific area of expertise into a collection of materials you can sell as an e-book or an entire digital toolkit. This could be something you already know that Jean needs/want to learn, in order to advance her career, or build her small business quickly, or acquire needed skills that make her work & life easier and more efficient.
If you offer classes or workshops, Jean might not be able to attend in person or at a set time, but she might be able to benefit from a video, audio, webinar capture, or podcast series that’s not time-dependent. Many people love to learn this way – the popularity of services like Udemy and Lynda.com will attest to this.
These are just examples, the low-hanging fruit—there are many, many variants on these. But perhaps it’s enough to entice you to give this all some thought.
Look at what you want to offer the world, and brainstorm a bit about how to offer some of it without needing to be omnipresent.
And yes, all of this serves to create another income stream for you as well. Which gives you additional resources to create more good in the world. And so forth. It’s a beautiful wheel that can keep going ’round and ’round.
If you’re having trouble visualizing how this might work for your unique situation (I know I did) you might like the free guide to passive income sources offered by my friend and client Laura Brandenburg on her website. I refer back to it frequently and love her clarity and passion for this topic. Her site and especially her blog posts are spot-on. She’s pretty amazing.
If you’d like to explore how this might come together for you, please drop me a line and let me know what you’re thinking. Although I’m far from an expert like Laura, I can discuss the logistics and costs that might be involved in bringing your idea to life via your website and social media.
Have a great February, all.