Beyond Billable Hours

In any professional services business, you typically begin by serving clients one-to-one. As you improve your skills at marketing yourself and begin filling your practice, eventually you discover there are only so many hours in the day. You want to keep growing your business, but you have no more time available for additional clients. What can you do?

You can raise your rates, although there is an upper limit to what you can realistically charge. You can offer your services to multiple people at once through workshops and group programs. But these ideas are still based on the billable hours model. You must keep providing service in order for the money to keep coming. An entirely different direction to look is toward generating passive revenue.

Including elements of passive revenue in your business does more for you than just increase your income. It also allows you to make more of an impact on your profession and community. When you are locked into a cycle of constantly acquiring and serving clients, it’s difficult to find the time to think creatively, experiment, and build a bigger vision. But when you are earning money you don’t have to work for directly, you have more capacity to expand — on all levels.

Passive revenue models give you the ability to impact more people with your ideas, world view, and way of doing things, because they expand your influence beyond what you could ever do by yourself. A product or service you create that doesn’t require your constant presence to deliver it extends your reach in the world.

This extended reach has a substantial effect on your visibility and credibility as a professional. When your product or service becomes widely available, people begin to hear of you before they ever interact with you personally. Your products not only earn you income, they also market you. By the time a prospective client speaks with you, they may have already decided to hire you based on their experience with your product, or simply your reputation.

Sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it? Here are thirteen ideas for how to start generating passive revenue today.

1. Affiliate programs and referral fees. This is one of the easiest revenue streams to create, because you don’t need to create anything of your own. If there are products and services offered by others that you would recommend anyway, why not earn a commission on your referrals by signing up for the company’s affiliate program? If they don’t have one, ask. Many companies with no formal affiliate programs will make a referral fee arrangement if you ask them.

2. Sell other people’s products. If you speak, give workshops, or have a web site, you have opportunities to sell products in the course of what you are already doing. Offer your clients and web visitors books, audios, or software that enhance your work. Selling products will compensate you for free speaking engagements and can double your income at paid workshops. If you sell products on the web and don’t want the bother of shipping, offer only e-products or arrange for drop-shipping directly from the publisher.

3. Sell other people’s services. If the service you offer is in high demand, consider hiring other professionals to work for you as subcontractors. You bring in the business; they do the work; you earn a percentage of their fee. Or, if there is a service complimentary to your own that your clients often buy from someone else, consider offering that service as part of your own service package, then subcontract the work.

4. E-books. Offering an e-book for sale on your web site is an excellent way to earn income from visitors who may never become clients. You may find it easier than you think to write down some of what you know in a way that will be helpful to your target market. Even if you’re not a writer, you can still put together a valuable product this way. Consider compiling a resource guide, collection of quotes, or digest of material contributed by other experts in your field.

5. Audio downloads. Creating recordings to make available on the web is quick and easy. You can hold a teleclass or workshop on a topic you know well and make a recording at the same time. Convert your recording to Real Audio or MP3, upload it to your website, and charge a fee for people to listen to it.

6. E-mail and web-based courses. Any material you might include in a workshop, e-book, or audio can become an e-course or web course by breaking it into multiple lessons. For an e-course, write a series of lessons as e-mails, and use an autoresponder to send them out automatically. For a web course, combine written material and audio into a syllabus posted on the web or sent as an e-book. You may not have to create any new material to do this, just package what you already have in a different way.

7. Audiotapes and CD’s. You don’t have to use a script, sound studio, and professional editing to produce an audio for sale. You could do all that and create a highly polished product, but it’s also possible to record a live teleclass, in-person presentation, or even an interview with someone else, and sell your unedited recording as a tape or CD.

8. Booklets and workbooks. If you speak in public or work with clients in person, the same information you might put in an e-book can be used for a printed booklet or workbook. Checklists, templates, or worksheets you are already using with clients are excellent candidates for workbook material. You can produce a simple spiral-bound workbook at any quick printer for around $5 and sell it for $10-15 or more, depending on the content.

9. Membership network or web site. If you find yourself naturally connecting people and helping them find resources, you can turn this into a paying proposition. You can start a membership organization that meets in person, or a virtual group that communicates by telemeetings and on the web. A project like this can take quite a bit of time and effort to launch, but can also result in a substantial ongoing income stream.

10. Full-length book. Writing a book may seem like a daunting project, but a book can evolve by writing articles or creating any of the products above, and over time putting all that material together in one volume.

11. Software. Is there a process you use with clients that they could perform themselves if it were automated? Your process could become a unique piece of software. Like a membership site or book, creating it will take time and money, but could lead to significant profits.

12. Licensing programs. If you have a book, workshop, or unique system, you may be able to create a program to license others in the use of your material. Depending on the complexity of your process, licensing can be as simple as writing a manual and conducting a brief training class, or could become an entire enterprise in its own right, involving training, supervision, and ongoing support. Your licensees can also become your subcontractors as described above.

13. Mentoring programs. Potential mentees may be the same people that would be your clients, or they may be colleagues who would like to learn from your experience. Mentoring can take place in live groups meeting by phone or in person, by email, and also by incorporating any of the products mentioned above into a full-service package that includes personal contact with you. By having products to offer, you can increase the price you charge for your program beyond what your mentees would pay for just your time.

Pick just one of these ideas and get started today, even if you don’t yet have a full practice. The sooner you begin generating passive revenue, the sooner you will have more time available to spend however you want — on your business or not.

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