Easy money is the dream, right? And in the online space that means passive income, baby!
Prepare for a rude awakening as we call BS on the myth of passive income. Spoiler alert: it's not passive at all, or all that lucrative for the majority.
It’s a seductive idea, making money while you sleep, but passive income is in a lot of ways touted as a get-rich-quick type of tactic.
This week, we unpack the challenges and realities associated with passive income including some stats (I did the research, y'all) that demonstrate how lucrative it actually is.
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Welcome to the Business Blasphemy podcast, where we question the sacred truths of the online business space and the reverence with which they're held. I'm your host, Sarah Khan, speaker, strategic consultant and BS busting badass. Join me each week as we challenge the norms, trends and overall bullshit status quo of entrepreneurship to uncover what it really takes to build the business that you want to build in a way that honors you, your life and your vision for what's possible, and maybe piss off a few gurus along the way. So if you're ready to commit Business Blasphemy, let's do it. Hello, hello, blasph emers. Okay, this week I want to tackle a question that I got a little while ago, but I had to really collect my thoughts around it Passive income. I love this topic because it's definitely one of those things that is steeped in BS, so you know I'm going to have fun with it. Let's start right at the beginning. What is passive income? So passive income is defined. I mean, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's defined as a type of income that is acquired with minimal labor to earn or maintain. It's usually combined with another source of income, but basically it's money that you earn either automatically or without putting in much effort. A common example in the wider world is something like rental income, and in most business spaces it would be like affiliate marketing income. In the online business space, particularly in the service provider coaching space, etc. It's used to describe literally anything that you can set and forget. Set it and forget it like Ron Popiel's rotisserie oven. Don't know who Ron Popiel is? Go, do yourself a favor and Google him. I mean, I always wanted his food dehydrator. We had the rotisserie oven and I'll gotta be honest with you, it was pretty cool. It worked really, really well. I wanted the food dehydrator because every time I watched the infomercial, they would make apple chips and they made apple chips look so good and then I had an apple chip and I was very disappointed. Anyway, if you Google passive income, a ton of articles and ideas will come up obviously because that's what Google does and a lot of them have titles that are clickbaity, like earn an extra thousand to 2,000 or more a month in passive income, and a lot of the suggestions are things like renting out your spare room or your parking space, because apparently parking is also at a premium. I will never forget. We went on a bus tour a few visits ago. I would say, we went back to England to visit my husband's family and we went on a London bus tour, because, even though we lived there previously, I'd never gone on a bus tour and the number of neighborhoods that they showed us where people were actually renting out parking spaces for 200,000 pounds a year Bananas, okay. Obviously, this is going to be one of those episodes where I'm all over the place, so let's try to keep a straight thread here. So, yes, renting out spare rooms, renting out parking spaces. In the online business space, though, it's stuff like launching a blog or a YouTube channel, which always makes me laugh, because those are not things that you can really set and forget. Passive income in this space is generally used to refer to things like drop shipping or print on demand stores, so things like, you know, t-shirts and mugs and stuff like that. You design it once, minimal effort, you get money rolling in. So digital products like eBooks, evergreen, online courses, things like that. The bottom line is, it doesn't really matter what you choose. Passive income isn't really passive at all, and that's where we get stuck the idea that once you create a product, you can literally set it and forget it. Thank you, ron Popil, because now it's out there and people will buy it and you'll have all this money rolling in. I'm sure you've all seen at some point, you know, those posts with screenshots of revenue of the passive income gurus who made thousands of dollars overnight while they were asleep or while they were sipping margaritas by the poolside, and that type of shit feeds into the misconception that passive income requires little to no work at all. I mean, in all honesty, it can be a legitimate income stream that continues to generate income long after you've done the initial work. But the truth is there is still a lot of work that has to be done, especially upfront and in the continual maintenance of the product, whatever it is. So an example if you're creating an online course, there's going to have to be time spent upfront to create the content, design the course, record the material, create the assets and set up the funnel to sell it. Then you've got marketing. You've got to continually keep up to date with fluctuations in the market and what your market wants. You've got to also market the darn thing right. So that might mean ads as one example, which means you'll need someone's eyes on that data regularly, tweaking it, fixing it, pivoting as needed. Oh, and any good course will be updated with new information regularly. I will never forget taking a course several years ago. It wasn't a course so much, it was a coaching program, but there was a lot of self-study involved in the program and it was funny because it was hundreds of hundreds of hours. It felt like I'm sure it was probably like 20s of hours, but it felt like hundreds of hours of content to consume. And what was really funny was you could tell after you'd gone through it that this coach had not gone back and updated any of it, because later recordings about topics contradicted what this coach was talking about in earlier topics. So if you want a really good passive income product, you have to also make sure you're updating it regularly, because here's the truth. I mean, stuff changes, information changes, trends change. You can't just create it once and leave it. Passive income is often touted as like a get rich quick type of tactic, which is absolute BS. In fact, all get rich quick tactics are BS and in my experience it only applies to how the rich continue to build wealth rather than making you rich in your sleep. Most real instances of true passive income, according to Forbes, are really only possible if you have enough money and assets to build off of in the first place. So leveraging wealth that's already in place, and this is especially true for some passive income schemes like interest on savings or even real estate You've got to have the money to buy it first. You may be seen house prices, but online business passive income. So there was a story in the New York Times earlier this year about one guy and it's one example of many who decided to create an online store selling golf products right, something he dreamt up after he'd watched a video on YouTube. So he spent about $5,000 on sourcing and testing the products for his digital store. He developed a private label. He created a website and paid for ongoing website management. Obviously, right. He put in about 10 hours setting up the online store, writing descriptions for each item, communicating with suppliers and marketing his site. After the first year, he'd only made $300 in sales. That's it $300 in the first year. In the first year, he lost $4,700. Not to mention the countless hours of work he put in, which we haven't even put a dollar amount against right. And he's not alone. There are thousands of stories like this. Why? Because we are obsessed with making money effortlessly. And the truth is, while a lot of people on social media social media especially claim to be making passive income, the stats prove them wrong. Only about 20% of American households earn passive income and the majority of that is through things like dividends, interest or rental properties, and according to the Census Bureau data, it's really a median amount of around $4,200 per year from those sources. Now, it's not a bad amount, but it's not exactly putting anyone into early retirement. But most of us aren't dealing in those things. Most of us are looking at things like digital products and courses. So what about course creators? Well, the average Udemy income. Udemy is a course platform. It's one of the older ones, one of the OGs, where people from any walk of life can set up an account, create a course, market it, etc. And Udemy is like the platform that that happens on. The average Udemy income is around $3,300. Per year. Their own stats will tell you that only 1% of their thousands of instructors make a full-time income selling their courses and that full-time income is around $50,000 a year. But when you look at how many courses they have or what niche they're serving, it makes sense right, because it's literally their whole business. It's their main bitch, not their side piece, and a lot of them have been in the course creation sort of space a lot longer than most of us. They were in it before it became a really big thing to do. Successful course creators in general can make anywhere from $1,000 a month to $10,000 a month, or more again, but again it's a very small percentage and often they are leveraging things like massive ad spend and other marketing support that the average business owner doesn't usually have access to, including a large email list and I have large, like large email list thousands of people, sometimes tens of thousands of people or they have a really large audience to target. But even if that sounds good to you, right, you're like I could do with an extra $1,000 a month. I could do with an extra $50k a year or $10,000, whatever your number is. Even if that sounds good to you, please understand something it is not passive. I've actually seen some people say they have a passive income product like a course, and all they do is write an article or a blog post every day or every week to support that passive income. I'm sorry, but writing a blog post a day or even a week is not passive. Even if you use AI, it's not passive, and the world around you will continue to change, as will marketing conditions, so you're going to need to continually update content in order to stay relevant. You're going to need to be continually aware of what your competition is doing and stay on top of that. Sorry, but you can't sit around and do nothing and, to be fair, you can't forget to keep top of mind the ever changing needs and demands of your target market, because your audience will grow, it'll evolve, things will change and so will their needs and the trends. Right now, people don't want do it yourself. They want support. They want people who are going to hold them accountable. I mean that's a topic for another day the trends that are currently showing in the industry. But passive income is not passive and most courses, once somebody buys it, they're very unlikely to buy it again. So most passive income products really require a solid lead generation strategy to keep new eyes on it. Okay, so we've covered courses, cool. What about other stuff, like digital stores and whatnot? There are millions, millions of sellers and resellers online. Where it used to be easy, for example, to get onto Amazon even with a, with an ebook or self publishing a book, now everyone in their left uncle is trying to sell shit on Amazon and while they do make money some of them not many make much money. It's a saturated market and it's getting harder and harder to stand out and it's getting harder and harder to get approved. 20% of sellers on Amazon make between a thousand and $5,000 a month. 20%, so only two out of every 10 people. Now, one to $5,000 a month is nothing to sneeze at. But again, it's not passive. They are working behind the scenes on it continually. 17% on Amazon make less than $500 a month. So when you really think about it, the ROI so the return on investment and the return on effort, just aren't there, not in the way we're continually told. Passive income brings an ROI and an ROE. Here's the realities of passive income. Gone are the days when people were okay to just buy info products for thousands of dollars. The market has shifted dramatically, as have buying behaviors and, like I said, buyers now want support, real support, particularly to implement A passive income product isn't going to provide that Now. Earlier this year, it was reported that the refund rate alone on many high-end programs was as high as 10% to 12%, because people were sold one thing and then realized they didn't just want the info, they wanted support too. So it's not as simple as slapping a Canva document together, downloading it as a PDF and sticking it up on the internet. You can't create something in a weekend. Creating something quality takes a ton of time, sometimes months. Not just the hundreds of hours it can take to create and continually improve, but the market research ahead of time as well. Just because you build it doesn't mean they're going to come. You have to be sure of what your audience wants and needs. And one source of said it and forget it income is not going to do it. So let's stop calling it passive income, because it's not. Let's call it a secondary income stream. And a good secondary income stream is actually part of a bigger whole. It's one piece of a cohesive and complementary value ladder or offer suite or strategy. So maybe you start with a solid strategy session that upsells to a group program or a course where you have in-person coaching a few times a month, and then you can upsell to one-to-one and once you've established your credibility in the market, you can launch a resource library or a membership of some kind. That doesn't really require as much work, but still requires work. Now I'm going to pause here and say please don't listen to what I just said. That example that I just gave and furiously take notes, thinking that is the offer suite that I should have. Designing any offer suite is way more complex than that and really depends on a variety of factors. So that was a very flippant and high level example. Please don't take it and like be oh, that's a great strategy. It's not. It really depends and this is actually more of a system of scalable income rather than quote unquote passive income Maximizing the return on your effort that you're putting in. I talk about scaling in episode 32. Feel free to go back and have a listen if you're curious about the difference between scaling and growing a business and what it takes. So what's the better advice? Diversify your income streams. That's the best way to do what you're trying to achieve with quote unquote passive income and leave the passive income where it belongs Long, long ago and in the galaxy far, far away. Sorry. I've been watching Ahsoka on Disney plus this weekend and have Star Wars on the brain and, to be honest with you, I made it 40 episodes without a Star Wars reference. I'm quite proud of myself. So if you've been thinking about passive income and whether you should invest the time and money to develop it. Here are just a few things to consider. Number one how big is my audience? Do you have a big audience to leverage? Do you have a mailing list? Do you have thousands of followers? Do you have credibility in the space? How long have you been in the space with social proof? How long have people been coming to you to solve specific problems and have you tested and vetted that process, not only individually, one to one, but in a group situation? Have you built that credibility? Number three have you already sold a product or service successfully multiple times? Kind of ties back to number two what is your audience asking questions about that you can package into something evergreen. How are you going to support them after they purchase it? What is the total amount of time and money, aka resource, that it's going to take to create? And then, what's the total income potential of that product? And please, do your research and be realistic about this, do not fall prey to if you have an abundance mindset. Your income potential is limitless. And then the last question is do I have the skills necessary or the team needed to create and then continually market and care for it once it's been produced. Be brutally honest with yourself, because there are a lot of passive income products that saw the light of day and then fizzled out very quickly. And the final question to think about is chasing passive income really the best use of my time, money and energy right now, or at all? That is probably the most important question, and that's all I have to say about passive income today. I'm happy to continue the conversation in the podcast community. Check the show notes for the link and if you are struggling to put together an offer suite that makes sense for you, your level of business growth, your area of genius I work one-to-one with women entrepreneurs to help them figure that shit out. My entrepreneur growth hierarchy helps us determine the current level of business maturity, which has nothing to do with how long you've been in business, and then we use my BS free success framework to build out a solid business plan that takes everything into account, including your capacity as a human. The link is in the show notes book a free 30-minute call and let's see if a partnership is right for you. That's all I've got. As always, you can have success without the BS. I will see you next week. That's it for this week. Thanks for listening to the Business Class For Me podcast. We'll be back next week with a new episode, but in the meantime, help assist her out by subscribing and, if you're feeling extra sassy rating this podcast, and don't forget to share the podcast with others. Head over to BusinessClassForMePodcastcom to connect with us and learn more. Thanks for listening and remember you can have success without the BS.