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Why You Should Fire Your Worst Client and Open a Digital Shop

Creative Market March 28, 2024 · 7 min read

The typical working model goes like this: do some work, get paid once for the work that you did, do some more work. It’s a good system, one that built civilization as we know it! That being said, there are alternatives. What if you could do some work once, then continue to get paid for it again and again? Let’s talk about the promise of passive income, whether or not the reality lives up to that promise, and how to get started.

A Digital Gold Rush

Traditionally, even sales businesses conformed to the old working model. You invest work to build something, sell that thing and get paid for it, then make some more so you can sell more. There are some exceptions, such as earning royalties from a book you wrote, but in general, the average joe hasn’t historically had many passive income opportunities. Pyramid schemes would have you believe otherwise, but they’re usually big fat scams designed to bleed you dry, not make you wealthy.
A digital marketplace changes this completely. We’re no longer bound by traditional input constraints. You can create something once, upload it to Creative Market, and sell it a potentially infinite number of times. Whether you’re at your desk, on vacation, or sleeping, those “You’ve sold another item” emails keep pouring in! (For a time at least, more on that later.)

Filling Your Bucket

Think about this the next time you slave away to meet a single client’s unreasonable demands and then receive a single paycheck for it before moving on to the next project. In terms of income potential, you’re filling a bucket that has a hole in it. Each time you add something new, it simply replaces what was already there. Your monthly income eventually reaches a plateau when you bump up against time constraints (you can only juggle so many clients).
With passive income though, the metaphor changes. Each time you add a valuable item to sell, it’s like adding another faucet that continually fills up the bucket. Even if each new faucet is only a tiny drip, if you get enough of them, you’ll have all the water you need.

Making The Transition

This all sounds nice in practice. Leaving behind your design clients, earning money through projects that aren’t micromanaged by anyone but you, living the dream! But is it really attainable? Creative Market success stories like Dustin Lee prove that it is (read the secrets to his success).
I know what you’re thinking though, kudos to the designers who are crazy enough to leave it all behind and pursue a Creative Market shop full time, but you’ve got a family, bills, a mortgage! You simply can’t take the risk. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Drop Your Worst Client

If you’re really interested in transitioning how your earn a living, try taking it one step at a time. Don’t fall into the “I’ll see if I can whip something up in my free time” trap though. Trust me, more often than not, that leads to good intentions and an empty shop! Try this instead:

  1. Create a ranking of your regular clients (score in terms of dollar value and PIA level)
  2. Axe the client at the bottom of the list and cease all work with them as soon as possible
  3. Make a rough estimate of how many hours you spent on that client each month
  4. Replace that client with a Creative Market shop, hour for hour

If you have a diversified client base, this is a fairly low-risk strategy. You’ve really got to stick to it though. Treat Creative Market exactly like you would any other client: a regular work schedule, real deadlines, no excuses.
If you really make that time investment (and you have what it takes in terms of creative skill), you can likely replace the income you were earning from that client fairly quickly.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After you’ve successfully replaced your worst client with a steady stream of income from Creative Market, it’s time to start the process over. Move up to the next client on the list, drop them, and invest even more time into making great products for your shop. If you want to go all the way, keep it up until you run out of clients!

Truth Bomb: Passive Income Isn’t Passive

Now that I’ve got you visualizing how great it would be to fire all your clients and make a living creating awesome products that you’re truly proud of, let’s hit the brakes for a reality check. “Passive income” is a complete misnomer. Typically, it’s nothing of the sort.
Ask any of the top sellers on Creative Market and other marketplaces how “passively” their income is made and they’ll laugh at you. For instance, let’s say you upload a WordPress theme and sell it 2,500 times. Now you’ve got 2,500 customers who could potentially ask you for support. And then maybe WordPress goes through a major update and breaks something in your theme, time for an update!

Keep The Machine Going

Ok then, maybe you won’t sell themes. Maybe you’ll sell something like photos. Little to no support, no updates necessary, how about that Mr. “No Such Thing as Passive Income”!?
I’ve learned from my own experience over the years on Creative Market and elsewhere that my sales per month on existing products have a tight correlation with the volume of new uploads I make. So say I upload a photo of a bicycle, then continue to fill my shop with several new uploads per week. Maybe I start selling that bicycle photo once a day. Then I go on vacation and stop uploading new items for two weeks. Intuitively, you might think that the sales on my bicycle photos continue at the same rate as before, but they usually don’t! Instead, I’ll probably start selling it once every two days, or once a week.
Each time you upload a great product, it can bring people to your shop, just to check it out. Some of them might find something they like and purchase it, which keeps sales regular. If you stop uploading new products though, you lose these opportunities.
My point is, being a top seller isn’t easy. You’ll have to invest a lot of time into making quality products, marketing yourself, and keeping your customers happy. That being said, it can still be an immensely fulfilling and enjoyable way to earn a living. One that scales in ways that tradition income can’t.

Partner Income: Affiliate Awesomeness

Everything we just went over applies to not only shop owners, but Creative Market partners as well. If you join our partner program today, you’ll earn 10% of every purchase for an entire year from all new customers you refer to Creative Market using your Partner URL.
partner program
Some of our most successful partners earn a nice chunk of income this way, without ever opening a shop! If you know how to send out a tweet or write a blog post, you can jump on the passive income train too.

Will You Take The Plunge?

We covered a lot of ground. First, you can indeed turn traditional income models on their head by creating something amazing, then selling it again and again on Creative Market. You can even make a full time living doing this.
To ease into it, try parting ways with your least valuable client and using the extra time to build your Creative Market shop. Make it a goal to replace income from that client with Creative Market as soon as possible. Finally, keep in mind that it won’t be an easy road. Passive income is a phrase that really means, “working really hard to create a steady stream of reoccurring income,” not “do nothing and get rich!”
Leave a comment below and let us know if you’re ready to take our challenge. Will you drop your worst client and open a shop?

Products used in this post: Vector flat illustrations and Graphs & Elements

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