Many business experts (although not Pushkin) will tell you that there are two kinds of income: active and passive. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to cultivate some of both.
Active income, of course, is where you have to expend effort for every sale you make. As crafters, boy are we familiar with this idea! Every handmade product has hours of effort behind it.
Passive income, on the other hand, is where you create a product or service that you can sell over and over again without effort. So the idea is, maybe you put a bunch of ads on your blog, or maybe you release some PDF patterns. Then, as the myth goes, you can make money while you sleep.
I guess you see where I’m going with this. In my travels around the web, I encounter crafters again and again who are hoping for easy ways to harness the power of the internet for passive income. There’s still a lot of pervasive mythology out there about how, if you just find the right formula, the internet will hand you big bucks all day, every day.
Here’s the thing, though: the longer I make my living on the web, the more I’m becoming convinced that passive income is itself a myth.
If some ebook orders or class registrations come through my online store while I’m sleeping, then yes, technically I made money while I slept. But then, I have to get up and do the work of being an online entrepreneur. And it’s a lot of work…
• For example, I have to keep up the stream of free content that draws people to this blog in the first place. If I stop posting, people go away. So I need to write posts and record podcasts and make videos and tutorials. Nothing passive about that!
• In addition, I need to stay present as a citizen of the online community. I need to respond to blog comments, converse on Twitter, read and comment on other people’s blogs, keep up with emails – and while these activities may keep my rather inactive butt glued to this chair many hours a day, they’re still not passive.
• And then there’s the work of constant re-invention. Making a living online requires watching and reading your online community: what are they interested in? What do they need? What can you authentically offer them? Again: butt may be glued, but it ain’t passive at all.
• Oh, yeah – and then there are all the learning hours! The web abounds with new ideas, new technologies, new websites. If you want to stay relevant online, you need to invest time regularly in exploration, reading, and understanding.
Can a blog earn you income? Oh, yes. Can you turn social media into cash? You sure can. But the only way it’ll happen is if you actively put in the hours, every day, to make a name for yourself online. And then actively put in the hours to create good products and services. And then actively put in even more hours to maintain and build your online community, promote your work, and keep seeking new ideas.
So at the end of the day, the hours it takes to maintain (let alone grow) those seemingly-passive income streams may pretty closely resemble the hours it takes to knit a sweater or sew a quilt to sell.
It’s not even that this work, online or handmade, is necessarily hard work – in fact, if you’re of a compatible mindset, it’s the best darn work in the world. But passive income? Easy money? Nope.
Sorry to be a myth-buster there. (Wait – who am I kidding? I would freaking love to be a Mythbuster!)