If you earn a living as a video creator or producer, you know that it is hard work. You have to market your services, meet with potential clients, go through multiple rounds of emails with them as they make a decision to hire you or not, create a proposal or estimate, draw up a contract, then pack and prep your gear, shoot the video over one or many days, transfer the footage, edit the video (or videos), go back and forth with the client for feedback, then deliver the final video.
Just writing all of that was exhausting. But as a video creator, that’s what you have to do to earn a living. (Naturally, I’m talking about freelance creators or those who own their own small business. If you are an employee for a larger agency or production company, it’s a different situation.) If you don’t have clients to serve, you don’t earn an income.
But there are other ways to earn money that, while it may require a little work up front, once that work is done, you will continue to earn money.
What is passive income?
Think of passive income as money you earn, even when you’re asleep. Other than the initial work to create the product you will sell to generate that income, you don’t have to do anything to generate revenue. You can earn passive income in many ways: real estate or stock investments, royalties from software, licensing fees, etc. Other than perhaps some minor maintenance work or accounting, there’s no additional work needed.
Passive income ideas for the video creator
I would like to highlight some specific ways in which you can earn passive income, specifically from work you do as a video creator.
Stock footage is an obvious choice for video creators. Sites like Artgrid.io allow you to upload footage and earn income from your share of people who download your clips. What’s great about this is that you may already have a lot of footage you could use. For instance: b-roll footage from various shoots, footage of people you’ve shot from various projects, vacation footage from your travels, etc. You might already have hundreds, even thousands of clips that could be earning you money right now.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Footage of people must include a talent release form.
- Do not include footage of any famous or recognizable landmarks (That great video footage of the Eiffel Tower will have to say on your hard drive.)
- The higher the resolution, the better.
- Make sure the quality is high (e.g., not shaky, good exposure, nice composition, etc.)
- Be creative and shoot some footage specifically for stock sites. A site like Artgris displays “stories” where all the clips relate to one another.
I am amazed at the number of filmmakers and video creators I’ve met over the years who compose their own music. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. Sometimes it’s a hobby. And other times, they are professional musicians in addition to video creators. Whatever the case, if you have original music tracks you’ve created, consider submitting them to a royalty-free music site like Artlist. You just may be surprised at how much money you might make.
Photographer and YouTuber Daniel Inskeep of Mango Street Photography was surprised to learn that only eight songs he created on Ableton Live with the alias Generation Lost had earned him almost $13,000 in the first year he sold them on Artlist. He earned another $300/month from streaming revenue on various sites like Spotify and Apple Music. This encouraged him to create even more music, and as of today, has 7 albums on the site available for licensing.
I think this is one of the newer ways you can earn money from licensing sites like Artlist. What’s nice about this way to earn money is all the fun you can have making and recording the sounds. Go out one afternoon and just record all kinds of sounds. Street sounds; shopping at the mall; dogs barking; airplanes; etc. You can also pretend you work for a studio like Skywalker Sound, and you’ve been hired to create the next series of weird sounds for the new Star Wars movies. Use your favorite audio program, mix and match various sounds and create new, weird, and science fiction sounds using various audio filters.
Many video creators are also photographers. If that’s you, then you have another way to earn passive income. Many of the things to keep in mind for stock video are the same for stock photos (e.g., model releases, high quality, no famous buildings, etc.) The biggest challenge with this form of income is that there are so many sites like Unsplash and Pexels that provide free Creative Commons Zero photos. Many photographers who used to make a living just licensing photos went out of business if they did not learn to adapt and develop new ways to earn money from their photography.
If you want to earn money from your photography, you need to offer photos that are not easy to get from the free sites. A photo of a beautiful mountain range will probably not earn you a lot of money. But if you used Photoshop and made the mountains look like it is on another planet, you might have something people would be willing to pay for. Therefore, consider doing photoshoots designed to produce unique imagery. Daniel Inskeep has another video he made with his wife showing a unique photoshoot they did.
Visual Assets (presets, templates, graphics, etc.)
If you’ve created color grading templates, graphical elements, or other kinds of visual presets, you may have another candidate for passive revenue. Put them in an Archived .zip file, then use any number of digital e-commerce platforms to sell them (e.g., Paypal, Gumroad, etc.)
Last but certainly not least, create your own training videos. Can you teach other people who to shoot, edit, light, do audio, etc.? Don’t have the time, patience, or interest to build a huge channel on YouTube? Then this may be the perfect path for you to earn passive income. No matter how popular YouTube is, many people value their time enough where instead of spending lots of time trying to find all the perfect videos on YouTube, they prefer to subscribe to a service like Udemy, Skillshare, CreativeLive, or MasterClass to educate themselves and get exactly what they need.
Share Your Ideas
These are only a handful of ideas. What other ways have you earned passive income as a video creator? What experiences do you have with any of the methods I mentioned above? Share in the comments, or hit us up on social media.
For nearly 20 years, Ron has been a professional video producer, content marketer, and influencer in the visual arts industry. Most recently was managing editor of the Frame.io blog and currently managing editor of Film Riot. He helps brands and creative artists tell their stories using video, content, and words. You can learn more about him at https://bladeronner.media.