Passive Income, an Old Thing with a New Name

When I was in college I had a group of friends who sang for television and radio commercials. They made pretty good cash for college kids, especially if their commercial was broadcast nationally or even internationally. When they landed these kinds of gigs they would not only be paid for the original session, they'd also collect residual royalties for as long as the commercial was played. These checks could ad up, especially if they were singing for a big company like McDonald's or Coca-Cola. These were the kids with the nice things.

The entertainment business features a lot of what I call back end money; money that is paid well after the creative work is done. Publishing, recording, and performance royalties all come trickling in years after the song is written, the album recorded, the film is in the can, and the book is published. Some people get paid an advance to create, an advance that will have to be recouped before you make any back end money. Most creatives don't make any money until there's a product to sell, or something else to show for their labor.

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of buzz about passive income, which I think is a misnomer. Passive, in most people's minds means that you don't do anything, which carries an underlying implication that the product isn't worth much. The truth is that there is a hell of a lot of work on the front end to make money on the back end. Residual income isn't a new thing. It's been around in some form for at least a hundred years, and before you make any money from something you're going to be either putting in some time, or paying somebody else to.

The work that generates residual income is anything but passive. You take years to master the creative process, and years to build a business around it, and most of those years you're supporting yourself in whatever way you can. You take the three part time jobs, while the work you love happens in the odd hours that are left over, but you carry on with the deep understanding that something about what you are doing really matters, and with the hope that it will someday make a difference in the world and generate some kind of return.

We're told that you can write a book in 90 minutes, and make it a bestseller later that week, but the truth is that before you can write that book, you've got to spend some years learning about your subject before you can rattle off anything worthwhile about it. Sure, products are easier to make in a lot of ways, but we've got to start looking at the real knowledge and experience that infuses something with value. Residual income is earned through work. There is nothing passive about it.

From 2008-2011 I was unwell and not able to play music. I was left with a need to make money in anyway that I could, and thankfully by that time we had great computers and the internet. I tried blogging, and I used Google AdWords, but didn't generate much from that. At one point I entered some logo contests on some of the crowdsourcing websites, and I won a few contests, but you can't count on winning to keep food on the table. When I found CafePress, I had finally found something that I could do, and manage that would generate a little bit of income every month.

CafePress is a print on demand service that can print on almost anything - apparel, accessories, posters, canvases...whatever you have, they'll print on it. They allow you to upload your own graphic designs and they'll then print them. They also have a marketplace with international reach, and if your design is original, you can offer it in the marketplace. Everything that is sold with your design generates a commission. Once you pass a minimum amount, they deposit your money directly in your PayPal account.

I spent the better part of a year building my shop, and money started to trickle in. As the shop started to expand, the sales started to be more consistent, and I was making money. Not a lot, but some. At that point anything helped. There are some people who make their shops a full time job, and they make enough money to advertise, and really market their designs. I didn't have the resources to do a lot of that, but I still had a deposit coming in almost every month. I maintained my shop until my health started to improve, and then I just left it set up after I was well enough to restart my music career.

I still get checks from that shop. That year of creating and building the shop continues to pay. Not scads of money, but enough that I'll keep the shop up and running. My designs have been sold all over the world, and there have been some people who have contacted me for wholesale buying. And I haven't done much of anything with it for almost seven years.

Don't be deceived by the promises of passive income. There is front end work to be done, and lots of it. But once it's finished, you have an income stream that could potentially go on for years. There are people who make a lot of money from creating residual income streams. I would like to become one of them. Would you?

If you'd like to visit my shop, look HERE.