Monday, 21 November 2016

Passive Income - Taking Action!

The Art of Creative Streams

Creating a passive income and eventually allowing us to survive free from the shackles of finances and depend less on the work we do is the holy grail for many artists. The idea that you can pay for the basic costs of living such as rent and other monthly costs without the need to worry about having to find or do work is a desirable life style for many people. Between work and sleep it seems the little time we do have is all too short and having that extra cash flow would make all the difference in living a healthy life.

For the last few years as time continues to pass by I've become more conscious of time and health, the depressing nature of the working conditions I endure and the effects it can have on a persons life and those around them. It's a very conflicted feeling, because in the end, I do enjoy the work I produce, I love to see my work on the screen, on book covers, movie posters and so on, but the reality is, sitting in front of computer for eight to sixteen hours a day, every day, is f*cking crazy! (forgive my French!) And yes I understand this is a choice in the end, I did choose this career, and yes the compensation is reasonably good at times, but I feel the balance still isn't there, and that needs to change.

So what Can I Do To Change This? 

I could talk and whine about it until I'm blue in the face, but for change to happen, you have to take action. In the last few years I decided to do just that. I gave myself a firm goal that I had to achieve. I set myself the goal of creating a passive income that would cover the basic monthly cost of living, which for me that includes rent, internet and food. Everything else beyond that is a luxury, cell phones, video games, cinema, going out for dinner etc. Even the internet I could live without given I can see two Starbucks from my window. So the total basic cost of living will amount to; get ready for this, down town Vancouver, BC isn't cheap! $2600 a month. That's $2300 rent and $300 for basic food costs. The rent is excessively high and I will aim to relocate soon, so we might be able to drop that by as much as $1000 to $1600 a month, but for now it's $2600.

Climbing the Mountain

So how do I aim to create a passive income that pours out $2600 a month?! Let's be honest, that's quite a lot of money to tap into. I began by doing research, and I quickly began to realize that this was very achievable with the right skills and plan of action. It would come down to establishing multiple streams of passive income from different sources. I already had one stream that was little more than a trickle. For over ten years I had a few photos on Istockphoto that made a modest $100 a year if I was lucky. This definitely wasn't enough. However, it was proof of concept for me, that even a few photos that I added several years ago were actively generating an income, even if it was very little at the time. That was encouraging enough for me to want to add more fuel to the fire and get a real fire going! It seemed logical, if I have 10 photos making $100 a year, then surely 120 photos would make $100 a month right? Well not quite. The reality is, Istockphoto has millions of images of every kind of subject matter you can possibly shoot. However what I began to realize was that Istockphoto, as with many microstock providers, lack original conceptual images. These are images that communicate a strong message, and not just an image for the sake of the subject itself, for example a building or pet dog. However if you have a giant pet dog climbing a building, then it becomes a conceptual image! So with that in mind I decided to focus my efforts in creating original concepts. Over a period of three years, I added maybe 20 or so original conceptual images. This translated into a noticeable shift in my passive income. That $100 a year was now pushing more towards $500 a month! At that point you begin to sit back and take notice! Each month, I get paid approximately $500 for doing nothing. Granted there was a small investment of time in creating the images in the first place, but for the same of a day or two for each image, I think it was worth it!

Exploring Different Platforms

Around the same time I also began to explore other platforms for selling digital content. As a 3d artist I quickly realized Turbosquid was another possible stream to tap into. I submitted a few 3d models from my personal work, and within a few months they were also building up steam. Next I began to explore other options. Gumroad was making news as an artist friendly platform for selling content such as tutorials, Photoshop brushes and so forth, so I tapped into this. between these three platforms I currently make an average of $800 - $1000 a month. Which to be honest, really blows my mind! I have to confess, i'm a modest person who comes from a working class family. The idea that you can make $1000 a month, every month! for doing nothing at all still leaves me with a giddy feeling.


Now this is still a work in progress, because I did say $2600 a month! and I'm not even half way there. But what I have taken away from this experience is this very simple point. If you put in the work, creating a passive income is very achievable. The more you add, the greater the income will rise. And this only comes from three streams! There's countless other potential streams that I can, and will be tapping into! All it takes is the little investment up front to create the work, quality work and quantity.

I feel this is an important topic to discuss and share, I definitely want to discuss this more in the future with ideas and thoughts on how to maximize new opportunities.

Comments and thoughts very welcome! I'd love to be able to discuss this with others on a similar journey.


  1. Sounds awesome thanks for posting, will consider!

  2. Thank you David, I've been looking for this for a long time!

    1. You're welcome! Let me know if you have any questions.

  3. I totally understand where you're coming from. I went to school in Vancouver but once I couldn't afford a place downtown and couldn't get a work permit I moved back to the USA. I've got a few photos on shutterstock and have been kicking some 3d tutorial ideas around. You're article gave me some reassurance to keep pursuing the passive venture.

    1. I hear you! It's been a crazy journey for me with lots of problems with permits, PR etc. There were several times when I was on the edge of nearly leaving the country. one time in 2012 I dropped $800 on a flight ready to leave, luckily days before the flight, I was offered a short contract. Hopefully another chance presents itself for you to come back up here.

      With Microstock sites, definitely consider submitting 3d renders if you can, especially isolated scenes, assets etc

  4. This is more than epic !! really nice piece of advice ! .. going to try this for sure. I had done something like this with some other websites but i got new ideas now thanks to you .... i wanted to ask for something if it's not much of a bother, could you share a list with some preferable websites ?

    Much Thanks

    1. If you mean websites to sell content through; there's no real secret outside what I've already described; just stock image sites such as istockphoto, 3d stock sites such as Turbosquid, If you have written content, then Amazon has options, Gumroad for video tutorials. Avoid sites such as Cafe Press. It's mostly about how you promote yourself, ensuring you stay visible and so forth.


    2. Hi David, great article, thanks for sharing! I was curious as to why you say to avoid sites like Cafe Press? I'm assuming it's because they're not very well made goods but I wanted to get your thoughts. Thanks again!

    3. The platform heavily favors itself over those who use it. They make money through store subscriptions more so than sales. Many print on demand platforms do this. They typically say; come and use this platform, subscribe to a pro account and watch the cash flow in! What they're not telling you is that the platform isn't in the business of selling print on demand products on your behalf, they're in the business of generating subscriptions, people who buy store fronts, pro accounts and such, this is how they make their money. Also Cafepress is one of the oldest print on demand platforms so naturally is over saturated with an ocean of people all trying to compete .. There's other platform's that use a similar business model, but do so in a far more successful way.

    4. Wow thanks for the insight, that makes a lot of sense!

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  7. Hi David,
    First of all, i want to thank you for giving me hope with this article.
    I'm a beginner in character design and i wish to know more about the tools that should i should start learn, i'm a little bit confused.
    Right now i'm working with Zbrush and 3Ds Max. Do you recommand these tools or should i focus on others like Maya or blender for example?
    I apologize for my english and i look forward to hear from you in the near future.

    1. Hi Ali,

      There's many different answers to the question of which programs to use; it mostly depends on what you intend to do in the future. If you wish to work in a VFX studio, then learning Maya, Vray, Zbrush and Substance Painter my be a good start, and also good to know the basics of Nuke. If you intend to do freelance work as a 3d artist, then 3ds Max and Zbrush might be all you need to get started. If you intend to do motion graphics, then cinema 4d and after effects would be the best options. Whichever choice you make, you also need to choose a renderer. There's many options out there, personally I use Vray, and find many studios use Vray too. Hope that helps a little :)


  8. Hi David. Thanks for article. It is inspiring to do more work for stocks (3d, 2d, gumroad).
    Right now I'm selling 3d models on cgtrader, turbosquid, creativemarket, cubebrush.
    Got couple of questions.
    How many 3d objects are you selling right now? Are you exclusive seller on TS?
    Which kind of images sells best on istock? I see a different types of them on your portfolio. Personally I like your matte paintings.
    What is your experience on selling on gumroad? How do you promote yourself and gumroad store particularly?

    Thanks in advance,



    1. Hi, Send me a direct email and i'll respond in more depth. :)