5 Things I’ve Learned about Building Passive Income


First things first- I’m back!!! And it feels so good! I’ve been traveling the past four weeks out of five and life has been CRAZY. Sadly, that meant my blog fell to the wayside, but no more. My first post back comes with a boom:


I am so honored to have been featured on the Rising Tide’s blog and monthly guide! Are you a part of the Rising Tide Society? It’s an amazing little community of creative entrepreneurs and our monthly meetings and friendships that they’ve introduced me to, has brought me so much joy. So when I was asked to write about my thoughts on “passive income” I jumped.

Here is the link to the blog post (and if you want to join The Rising Tide Society on FB, I highly recommend it and then search for your local chapter and attend the meetings regularly). Being introduced into this chapter has totally changed my life and business. It’s so cool to be surrounded by people who know the struggle [and joy] of entrepreneurship and I feel really lucky to work from home, but not feel alone in that journey at all.

Without further ado, my article:

I began as a wedding stationer/hand-letterer and now focus on licensing to other designers. I license patterns and prints to larger companies through an agent, working on an ad hoc basis for ad agencies and small businesses alike, while also drop-shipping merchandise.

Here are some things I have learned so far about successfully creating passive income:

Passive income is not really passive at all.

“Passive income” is kind of a misnomer—it’s incredibly active and it takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to make passive income work. I sell on Creative Market and the algorithm (like most) favors those accounts and shops that have a more routine posting schedule and more items for sale. If you’re a photographer or graphic designer who wants to begin licensing digital goods on Creative Market, I recommended that you post one pack a week for 10 weeks rather than post a bunch of packs immediately. The algorithm favors dependable and disciplined shop owners, so you can’t sit back and ignore your “passive” income stream.

Never assume people know what you’re selling.

If you are an established photographer who is selling curves or presets, never assume your audience knows that you’re selling these. You have to constantly remind your audience about your shops and what they can buy there. However, you shouldn’t bombard your audience with pages of links they have to search through—I use a Linktr.ee account to change my profile links so I only have three to four going at a time. Keeping your audience informed about your products and services and allowing quick access to them can be extremely helpful in generating consistent passive income.

Take the time to create strong sample images.

Did you know that Vegas hotels use ugly carpet to get people to keep their eyes off the ground and on the machines that can give them a lot of money? Well, you want to do the opposite of that. Creating strong images that showcase how customers can use your work can spur them into a purchase. Although bigger businesses often have designers who can visualize how patterns and designs will look in the final product, many people find it easier to see examples. Creating great mock-ups of your work can help you find agents and licensees if you choose to license your patterns or designs.

Create work that can be used in multiple ways

This goes for client work, too—as long as you retain the rights and get the necessary contracts in place (especially for photographers), don’t be afraid to use what you create in different markets. For example, if you’re taking photos for a styled wedding shoot, ask the models to be really expressive, toss a bouquet, kiss passionately, or laugh—this can lead to great footage for stock photos. You can then potentially license these to designers and other wedding professionals or use them to create beautiful “before” and “after” examples for presets or curves.

A personal example: I recently worked with a bride on a beautiful custom wedding suite, which involved creating a botanical drawing of a few different flowers. I specifically made sure to create the leaves and flowers on various layers, which has allowed me to and create and sell wallpapers, a pack of digital clipart, wrapping papers, art prints, and stationery. The designs are a different style than what I normally create, but they’ve been really popular and help display my breadth of work.

Consistency is king.

No matter what markets you choose to diversify in, you have to be consistent. Invest your time wisely and be selective of where you put your energy. Only create that Etsy store or Creative Market shop if you can see yourself investing the same amount of time two years from now. It takes a massive amount of dedication to begin to see results, but those who are consistent will win out.

How to stay inspired when working with commissions (or any other client work)


This comes up all the time. I used to feel so burdened when painting commissions. It was a part of the professional art world that seriously depressed me. I thought in order to be an artist, you had to sell your soul. To make money, you had to ‘give up art’ and be uninspired and miserable (probably because for a LONG time- that was me). 


Between a lot of business readings, a lot of time spent creating, finding wonderfully talented role models who I consider great artists… I have slowly changed my tune. It brings me great joy to do what I love. Sure there are lulls, or times when a project is tedious and challenging (just like art assignments when you are learning something new and the struggle is real and raw). But for the most part, I feel SO FORTUNATE to be able to create, to get lost in my work, to create a world that’s a little more beautiful and infuse the magic that I feel, into my work, or your work, as the case may be. 

I think a big transition of this mentality was that I don’t think making money and making art are mutually exclusive things. This seems simple, but it was a HUGE leap for me, I thought in order for art to remain pure, the artist must remain poor. (This notion was actually given life in the early 20th century when an artist wasn’t making it and wrote off all great artists as “starving” just like him). But it’s actually very untrue. I started considering great painters with patrons, people who paid the artist to paint what they wanted, I began looking at great works of art as commissions (since many were). Picasso was also a very rich man and branded himself and his work beautifully (read “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins). You have to flip that switch in your brain that art and money are mutually exclusive.

The second point is that if you are DREADING working on a piece, then either you need to pivot and find a style/niche that suits you better, or charge more. Part of the reason why I hardly do wedding stationery is that I prefer to create the pieces custom for each couple, so the illustrations can take me DAYS at a time… I also haven’t branded myself to be able to charge the larger amounts that would make it worth while to me. Not getting paid enough is a total energy killer and has made me regret projects with a VENGEANCE. Want to meet the unhappiest, uninspired Sierra? It involved taking on custom portraits for $20, or extensive logo projects for $300. 

Third, I think we must begin to be seriously grateful for the ability to create. Gratitude is pretty amazing and the fact that I can whip out money from thin air with projects and art is SERIOUSLY incredible. With this attitude I was able to plug away at my portfolio, have a daily instagram post and create so much content that I now have clients that know the kind of work I do, are familiar with my style and I get to create even more work that I love doing. It’s a really cool cycle of what came first, and I am glad I am finally to see the work pay off.

So, all in all, you can create HAPPILY and also make money. Your art can be your career without any loss of interest or inspiration. Find your niche and charge enough to give your piece LIFE, to make you SO ECSTATIC to work on it (this can take a LOT of work to do, but it’s possible), and last, be grateful that we get to do what we love. We live in a special time where passion and social media converge with public interest and instant publication and mass sharing.

Obviously this is just projection for what has worked for me, and is more of a reflection after talking about how draining certain commissions can be (because they can seriously be the WORST). I hope you all find the work/art/life balance that suits you and you create with brilliant excitement (or whatever works for you) regularly.

Collaboration is the Name of the Game

Okay guys. I am doing something currently that EVERYONE is adamantly against. Free work.

I’m finally at a point where I know exactly what I want to do. Where I want my focus to be, and currently don’t have the clients that I want. So I am 1. doing my #HashtagScarletLetters passion project. But also reaching out to boss babes that are KILLING it to see if they want to work with me. FOR FREE.

I know, what you’re thinking. I feel like I can feel the death stares from every graphic designer/illustrator across the globe right now.

This practice is DEFINITELY looked down upon. So I get it. I’m being a crazy woman admitting I am doing this. However, I feel like whenever I have known my value, was confident with what I wanted to do- and worked for free, it has paid off ten fold.

Gary Vee actually has a slight conspiracy that the reason why artists are so against free work is because it works and everyone who tells you to not offer things for free aren’t wanting you to become successful/compete with them.

Now. I am not saying that I do free work for people who come to me, know my design capabilities, understand my portfolio and want to work with me… without paying. I don’t do that.

BUT I am providing free value to people/brands that I love without any expectation of anything in return. And I am also seeking out women hustlers that are grinding, doing the work and are making progress in their business without great design, and offering them some great design that they can use.

If none of this works, I’ll come and let you all know. If it’s frustrating and no one appreciates it- I’ll let you know that as well. But currently, I am excited to work with some badass babes and do work for people that will love it.

GIFs

“Why are you going down the GIF (and Giphy) rabbit hole?” you might be wondering.

If so, you may have noticed an uptick in my posts about GIFs, or me talking about stickers that are available on any Giphy powered search. It’s because I am now a Giphy featured artist and am seriously in love with providing cool stickers for people to use. It feels like I am contributing in a different way… and a way that’s gaining traction.

I’m able to be creative, to give others fun things, see the need for certain stickers- and create them.

It’s really cool, and very different and I can’t wait for my giveaway to give someone a personal GIF that they can use in their stories.

(How to enter- just go to instagram, find my post about the GIF-away and tag three friends!) Do it! You won’t regret it.

And if you want to learn how to make them, or if you have any questions- leave a comment and I’ll go live and teach you my process 🙂

From Eh to Ecstatic

You may wonder why would I create a series within my regularly scheduled instagram postings. Or think that 100 pieces seems like a lot of work for a slightly random hashtag project. And you’re right. It seems random and difficult because it kind of is.

BUT the beauty of creating strict boundaries within my work helps create discipline and creativity. There is enough room that I can explore and remain curious, while giving me something to focus on when I feel drained of ideas or uninspired.

And at the end of this, I want to compile it into a book. For numbers 10-20 I want to letter your #fromehtoecstatic moments!

So, for #5 in my “from eh to ecstatic” is “from Texas to New York”. Which doesn’t necessarily go because I love so much about Texas and my little small town. (They are actually hosting a really cool festival this weekend that I am sad I am missing). But at the same time New York is so many things that Texas isn’t.

What’s in a Portfolio

I recently (as of this week) updated my portfolio. I’ve been working on a few self-guided events/editorial illustrations/marketing pieces for the past few weeks and finally felt like it was voluptuous enough to compile and share.

This can be such an undertaking, but having a professional, eye-catching portfolio for your services, is the very reason why you have a service to begin with. Because visually engaging content matters.

1. I used product mockups from Creative Market.

2. I created hand-lettered animations, illustrations and lettering for a variety of clients and uses

3. Use Adobe Stock for stock images and backgrounds to help you tell your story.

4. Figure out your website and what works best for you. I am currently using WordPress with Elegant Themes.

I spent a decent chunk of money getting my portfolio in place. There has been countless baby steps that have slowly made my portfolio more and more professional. Colors, the theme I use, the design elements to highlight the piece I am displaying.

My advice is to create tons of “practice” work that you can display. Want to do more editorial illustrations? Do a bunch of them as ‘practice’. Want to become your town’s chalkboard calligrapher? Do a bunch as ‘practice’ (and even give them away). You get the jist. Create goals, set boundaries and put in the work. It may feel like you are crawling, but at some point you’ll look back and be proud of all the compiled work.