A few months ago, I was nearing a panic attack because I was working from 4am-4pm, 6pm-10pm, Monday-Sundays, to keep up with my client work. I reached the state of being 'Booked Out' (which you can read more about here) and my hours were absolutely maxed out.
I couldn't take on another client, even if I wanted to (I didn't.)
My vision for working from home was to work 3 hours a day, spend more time with my small kids, and have stress-free weekends where I could relax on the beach with my husband - and my life looked NOTHING like this.
I don't have a get rich goal, but I have a specific lifestyle I want to live- work less, family more.
***Note: This is NOT a blog post on how you can make a load of money really quickly by making a course or becoming a coach. I know this is the popular route for a lot of virtual assistants now, but course creation and coaching will add additional hours of work, marketing, and customer support, which I'm not looking for.
Choices to bring in more income:
- I could either hire subcontractors and delegate out some of the work, and begin growing a virtual assistance agency
- or I could focus on 'diversifying' my income (meaning creating other sources of income).
I attempted subcontracting, but I ended up spending more time working because now I had to manage several clients AND manage subcontractors on top of it. I wasn't working any less.
I decided to focus on passive income - specifically, small products and affiliate income.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through me, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This is also exactly the type of income this blog post is about :)
What is passive income?
Passive income is when you create something one time and you're able to make money from it over and over again, without having to start over from scratch every time.
Examples of passive income:
- Writing a book/course/guide and selling it
- Selling someone else's product and making a % off of it
- Creating digital products (such as my Virtual Assistant Swipe File).
Writing a book/course/guide and selling it
This seems to be a really popular route these days. If you Google, 'Virtual Assistance Course,' you're going to see hundreds of different virtual assistants that have created courses on how you, too, can be a virtual assistant.
There are books and guides on starting your work-from-home virtual assistance business too.
If you feel called to become a business coach to other virtual assistants, you can definitely go this route, but personally, I feel like it's pretty saturated. Make sure that you start building a following of virtual assistants who would be interested in buying this type of product from you, before you invest all your time and energy into it.
Selling someone else's products (Affiliate marketing)
This is my favorite form of passive income. When I made my first sale with affiliate marketing, I was automatically hooked.
A lot of people say, "Oh my gosh, affiliate marketing can't be profitable unless you already have a huge following."
I'm going to be completely transparent right now- I have less than 150 people on my e-mail list and I am still able to make affiliate marketing fill up 75% of my current income.
Here are some tips for making affiliate marketing profitable for you:
- Start blogging. The best way to get more traffic to your affiliate products is for you to blog about them and them put those blog posts on your social media and have it picked up by search engines. (Not sure where to begin with blogging? This course may help.)
- Only recommend products and courses from people you genuinely love and whose products you truly support. Don't just sign up to everyone's affiliate programs and try to sell sell sell. It doesn't work.
Blog about what your life looked like before you used the product. Show what your life looks like after and be transparent about your transformation journey. People can tell the difference between you just trying to make a sale and you genuinely loving what you are pitching.
I also sell some of my clients' courses and products, because I am so closely familiar with them. Also, I definitely believe in their courses and products because I don't work with anyone whose business I don't 110% trust and believe in.
Some examples of courses and products that I sell, from other people:
--Be Booked Out by Halley Gray of Evolve and Succeed: I completely booked out my virtual assistance business in less than six weeks, after taking this course. Why would I need to go through all the trouble of making my own virtual assistance course when I can just promo the course that launched my business to success?
--Content Prep Academy by Maya Elious: I get asked a lot of questions about how do I help my clients do webinars? or how can I create my first website? I don't have the time or expertise to create a gigantic product that can answer all of those questions, but one of my virtual assistance clients does! I do all customer support for Content Prep Academy anyway so it would make sense for me to promo a course that already has the answers they're looking for. (And for the price of $27/month? That's a steal.)
--Blogademics by Maya Elious: Blogging is huge, especially if you want to reach more people online and market your business through search engines. I've been blogging for over a decade, but teaching someone else how to blog is a whole different monster. Since Maya has so many success stories with her blogging course, I always recommend Blogademics to people that ask me to teach them how to blog.
- Sign up for pay-per-click affiliate programs, instead of pay-per-sale. This means you get paid every time someone CLICKS on your link, not just every time someone buys using your link (though you get paid for someone buying, too!). Most people that click your link (like, 80%) won't go through with the sale, so it's more profitable for you to get paid every time someone clicks on your link.
Some pay-per-click affiliate programs:
--Awin: This is currently my favorite pay-per-click program because I recommend a lot of business books. Awin is partnered with Wordery, which is an online bookshop. Literally, every time I recommend a book and someone clicks on the link for the book (even through my Twitter or Pinterest), I get paid. You don't even need a blog for this. You can do it solely through your social media (though I still recommend having a blog for search engine purposes).
--ShopStyle: I like ShopStyle for Pinterest. I pin a lot of furniture, clothes, crafts, etc. and every time someone clicks on these pins - you guessed it - I get paid! The upside to ShopStyle is that you don't have to apply for any of their affiliate programs (which includes Etsy!). You get automatically accepted to ALL of them.
- Now, I'm not knocking pay-per-sale programs at all. These can be really profitable too, or they can help you get free products.
Some examples of pay-per-sale programs I am a part of:
--SmarterQueue is a big one because this is the only social media scheduler I use. I get free months for every person that signs up through me. Plus, I love this program and recommend it to ALL of my clients. I don't have to pay for SmarterQueue because my referrals give me free months.
--Trello is another one that gives me free months for referrals.
--AcuityScheduling is great because I've been using it for 3+ years and they pay CASH through Paypal.
--And Co and Focuster are other programs I also use that pay me cash, instead of free months.
Look at the current software that you are using and look for their affiliate programs. (Hint: If you want to find it quickly, just Google '[Software name] affiliate program' and you'll be taken straight to their affiliate page, if they have one.) If you can't find one, you can e-mail their support and inquire about if they have one.
Affiliate marketing makes up the bulk of my current income.
I will say this: Affiliate marketing takes time. You can't just throw a bunch of links on a blog or on your social media and expect to make a few hundred dollars overnight.
There are no tricks or shortcuts (I don't know what other bloggers will promise you, but I don't believe that get-rich-quick-tricks are sustainable long-term). The best thing for you to do is start building your affiliate streams of income TODAY so you can make extra money 6 months from now.
I started affiliate marketing about seven months ago. My first few weeks were duds and I made almost nothing. I made like $10 here and $25 there, but as I started to get more followers, traffic, repins, retweets, and blog readers, my affiliate links started gaining momentum.
Now, affiliate income brings in enough money for me to drop all of my clients, except one, and the rest of my month is covered with the passive income. I don't have to worry about chasing clients and I am able to work only 3 hours a day, if that.
Creating digital products
I admit, I initially thought about selling my own course on how to become a virtual assistant. I polled my followers and a lot of them told me they were burnt out from courses and felt that a lot of courses did not live up to the hype. They weren't interested.
I also noticed that when I put all my virtual assistance sales pages on private, a lot VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS were e-mailing me, upset that they couldn't see my sales page anymore. They were modeling their own websites after mine! Omg!
I saw this as an opportunity to sell the swipe files I had. If Virtual Assistants wanted to see my sales pages, I was positive they wanted to see my e-mails, pitches, contract, Upwork profile, intake forms, the whole behind-the-scenes of my business. I put it ALL in a nice little bundle and sold it.
So, I didn't make yet another "How to be a virtual assistant" course for $600, but I made a swipe bundle that was just as valuable to my audience, and sold it for a price within their budget.
Digital products are also much more low maintenance than courses because people usually just download them and that's it. You don't have to continuously teach or provide customer support like you do with courses.
Some digital products you could sell:
Design virtual assistant:
- Stock photos (individual, bundle, or membership)
- Pre-made social media templates
- Pre-made Squarespace/Wordpress templates
- Ebook on how to DIY branding
Administrative virtual assistant:
- Canned e-mail responses swipe bundle
- Asana/Trello (etc.) workflow templates
- Mini-course on how to manage your own inbox
- Ebook on how to hire your first virtual assistant
- Downloadable checklists
Writing virtual assistant:
- Blog/newsletter/etc. template
- Brand voice template
- Blog editorial planner (downloadable guide- though you can definitely do a physical version too like this one)
- Blog audit checklist/template
- E-mail funnel swipe copy for [niche]
Tech virtual assistant:
- Step-by-step video tutorial for... [software]
- Shortcut/"dummy guide" for... [software]
- Guide + Toolbox for [niche] (example: List of Tools for Course Creators with pro's/con's of each)
- DIY version of a service you offer (I used to sell a 17Hats video walkthrough)
- How to migrate from [software 1] to [software 2] guide (Example: ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign or Buffer to SmarterQueue)
There are endless amounts of digital products that you can sell as a virtual assistant, but those are some to get your inspiration going.
Some places where you can get inspiration of what YOUR audience would buy (note that just because MY audience is buying something doesn't mean it's the same for your audience):
- What do people e-mail you about?
- What do people look to you for in terms of expertise?
- What is something daunting that you hate doing but wish your audience could DIY?
- What is something your audience needs but can't afford? Can you make a stripped down, info-packed, yet more affordable version? (Example: Instead of me making another VA course, I made a swipe file bundle)
- Where is your passion? Can you teach that?
So you created the product/affiliate link, now what?
Here comes the fun part: marketing it.
The idea behind passive income is that you don't have to continuously put hours into it. You do all the hard work once or twice and then you let it automate itself.
Here are some ways that I've marketed my affiliate products:
- Write a blog post about it and use the affiliate link in your blog post.
- Link it to your social media (Twitter and Pinterest are great for this.)
- Make your post SEO rich so it gets picked up by search engines.
- Tag the person who the product belongs to (or e-mail them) and let them know that you made a post. A lot of times, they would retweet my link or add my review to their NEWSLETTER and then their audience would click on my link and I would get credit for the sale!
- Do a joint webinar with the owner of the product so we can build twice the audience for it.
Bonus: You can even ask if they'd give you a promo code so that when people sign up through your link, they get something extra (like a free month).
For your own products, here are some ways that to market them:
- Give an affiliate link to friends and peers so they can get credit for each sale (more eyes on the product, more potential sales, and more potential testimonials)
- Write blog posts about how to use the product and how the product can help
- Post it to social media accounts (and re-queue it so it's forever looping the link)
- Reach out to influencers to shout-out the product (and gave them the product for free!)
- Do webinars promoting the product
- E-mail your e-mail list with a promo code for the product launch
- Put the product in your 'announcement bar' on top of every page of your website
Start creating today, for a more profitable tomorrow.
This is a long-term strategy.
Passive income saved me when clients would suddenly drop me for whatever reason or if no one wanted to renew their contract. (These things happen!) There would also be months where my health was so bad I couldn't take another client or I needed to reduce my workload, and passive income was able to sustain me when it happened.
Passive income is the also only way I am able to make more money now with only 1 client, than I ever did taking on 12 clients. I work less and my quality of work for my 1 client is so much higher, simply because I am never overwhelmed anymore.
Hope this post has helped! 'Til next time.