For Beginners To Grow Passive Incomes, Knowledge Commerce Is A Great Online Business Idea. But How Passive You Can Really Be While Earning Big? Read On …
Do you forever want to be tied down managing your Knowledge Commerce products … or do you want to “productize” your unique knowledge cleverly? Don’t you want your products to sell themselves passively to more and people, even as you sleep?
Most solopreneurs would jump at the idea of building products once. They’d prefer products that sell over and over, without their own perpetual participation. But though “passive income-earning” is a good idea, in theory, it’s not as easy to achieve. You have to specifically and shrewdly build products to earn passive incomes.
Many passive income products are poorly designed. They become semi-passive earning routes. They still demand the time and effort of the solopreneur to keep them going.
At Solohacks Academy, we have developed a set of smarts for passive income products. We’ve understood where we can afford to stay distant from our products and where some effort is inevitable, but can still be pared to the minimum. We’d love to share our learnings with you.
1. What do you need to understand by the term “passive income earning”?
Many entrepreneurs have heard of “passive income products” but often there isn’t 100% clarity on what “passive income earning” means. To set the situation right, let’s see what is passive income and what isn’t.
“Passive income” can be earned from products that you create once, and they then sell themselves without needing your further intervention in any way. For example, if you create a digital info-product like an ebook or course online, people should be able to pay for and download or access and learn from these products, without your further help. They should be able to do all this like self-service, while you earn money without any effort beyond creating and publishing the product.
There are three things that nail “passive earning” in the way experts talk about it …
Passive income products take work to create, but they are expected to sell endlessly on their own
The creation of passive income products is not easy, to begin with. You have to create your ebooks or courses, for instance, as you would normally, but you also have to think of all the service people would normally expect from you, and see how these too can be delivered – maybe via FAQs or via community forums where students help each other – so that your intervention is least needed. This takes a lot of thinking and planning.
Passive incomes cannot be earned by services, but can be earned from “productized services”
By definition, if you offer services, these are by no means passive earning ideas. Services need your direct hands-on intervention. However, many services can be “productized” so that they too can become passive earners. For example, if you convert your knowledge (which you had offered as consulting services) into an ebook or course, you would have converted your knowledge into a passive earning asset.
Any marketing and selling needed for passive products is also automated to work fluidly on its own
It’s possible to automate marketing and selling so that subscriber lists compile themselves via a form online. Emails can go out via automation to nudge potential buyers. The ecommerce part of the activity also can function without human control. In short, if you intend activities to be truly passive-earning-supportive, there are plenty of tools and aids online to make automation possible.
2. Which online trends support passive income earning for entrepreneurs?
While entrepreneurs online are excited by the thought of earning big amounts of easy passive income, it would help us to understand why the online world is particularly conducive to passive earning. What has made people like Tim Ferriss evangelize this idea of working less and yet earning more? Why do people talk of earning passively online as “earn even while you sleep”?
Certain behaviors and motives exist that separate the online buyer from the offline buyer. Understanding the psyche of the online buyer helps enormously in understanding why customers of your online business will support your need for passive income. People online actually may like it a lot if you intervene less, and they can help themselves to your products more.
Here are three reasons why customer behavior supports the entrepreneur’s attraction for passive income earning …
The online world of ecommerce grew out of disgust for pushy, loud advertising by marketers
Back in the days before the Internet, people were being recklessly bombarded by intrusive advertising and marketing on TV and in the press. They could never adequately sift real and valuable information from hype. They came online because they wanted a world where they could have control over what information they wanted to see, what decisions they wanted to make – without the nuisance of the marketer trying to shape their minds. Up to 80% or more of the buying process online is preferred by consumers to be done without any contact with any seller.
Consumers online prefer peer-conversations rather than chats with marketers to make up their minds
This specifically affects the use of social media for the purpose of knowing how other people feel about a product or its marketer. Since we have reached a stage where people prefer to speak to their friends more about product doubts, rather than to the marketers of these products, the marketer has really no choice but to encourage this form of peer-advised-shopping. That’s a good reason why marketers too need to get into passive earning modes.
People from different time-zones look for products being available and accessible at their convenient times
It’s a globally accessible Internet, where consumers want information and products when it’s most convenient to them. The marketer cannot be up and about for 24 hours a day to answer consumer queries. This has made most entrepreneurs devise methods by which their products can sell “even when they are asleep”. They have learned to offer customer-service via pre-canned-FAQs for all sorts of common customer queries.
3. What are the main attractions that makes entrepreneurs want to earn passively?
Entrepreneurs may salivate at the idea of earning passively from their knowledge products. But they seldom ask themselves WHY they want to sell passive income products. Most would automatically think: “Don’t we all want to make more money with less effort? Don’t we want to create a product once, and then let it earn by itself, selling itself to millions of people, as we sleep? Isn’t that what passive income is about?”
All that is true. But before we think only of the money, it would help to know what we would really do with the extra time we get to hand. Can you really be happy with a life of idle bliss while your bank account brims over? How many of us fancy life without something worthwhile to be doing all the time?
Here are three reasons, other than earnings, why you may like a life of passive income earning …
Passive income can help entrepreneurs build other parts of the business
Being a solopreneur in Knowledge Commerce calls for a lot of multi-tasking. You have to both create your products and market them, often simultaneously. Passive earning products can help free your time for more aggressive marketing. Or you may want to spend your time saved to expand your business space into new related niches.
Passive income can help entrepreneurs spend less time on business
Do you believe strongly in work-life balance, or in the much-touted “laptop lifestyle” where entrepreneurs do a small spot of laptop work in between extended hours of sunbathing on exotic beaches? You may want your Knowledge Commerce business to stay limited to scheduled timings. You may want to time-freedom for non-work variety in lifestyle. If you want business to stay within a limited corner of your life, passive earnings could be right for you.
Passive income can help entrepreneurs enter into sidepreneurship
There is a separate class of solopreneurs we like to call “sidepreneurs”. They are the ones that hold 9-to-5 jobs, but still have a small online business on the side to earn a little extra. Time is at a premium for such people, with many burning the midnight oil to keep the side business going. Passive income earnings help such a workstyle.
4. Why are Knowledge Commerce entrepreneurs particularly suited to earn passive incomes?
Knowledge Commerce is a line of business where you convert your knowledge, your area of expertise, into products you can sell to others. It allows you to teach others what you know and earn from it.
There are many formats that allow you to spread your knowledge to others, and the beauty of it is that your products can all be digital and instantly accessible. There are two types of Knowledge Commerce products that cannot be “passive earners” and they are membership sites (where people like to have access to you all the time) and consulting services (if you wish to offer these person-to-person).
Other than these two types of teaching formats above, the three most popular passive earning products you can sell via Knowledge Commerce are these …
Ebooks, edocs, and resources created around your niche specialization area
Ebooks are longer than edocs. A typical ebook may have about 10-12 chapters of meaty information on your niche topic. An edoc may be shorter with about 3-4 chapters of succinct information. Both of these formats are highly popular as passive income products. They can also be great ice-breakers with audiences who like to buy low-cost items before they will buy your bigger-priced items. There are also resources you can create and sell like templates, worksheets, toolkits, cheatsheets, planners, and so on.
Online video courses, short tutorials and email courses in your your niche specialization area
Courses are a hugely popular format for elearning. And they range in prices between $10 all the way up to $1997, depending on the audacity of the author to price his brand really high and justify it. Courses can be full-fledged ones that cover a topic amply, or they can be short tutorials on “How-To” subjects (like short demo videos) – or they can also be drip-fed automated email courses, mainly text-based, that can give people a taste of your style before they buy your pricier courses. Not all courses need the course-creator to hand to solve queries, if they are cleverly created to give students all the answers they need.
Tools, apps, and software created around your niche specialization area
Apart from ebooks and courses, there is a huge market for tools, apps, and software that people can use. You can get these custom-built and sell them if they fit your niche. It’s actually pretty easy to get a tool made for selling passively. Go to the site CodeCanyon and you’ll find a host of readymade tools. You can buy these. give them your brand name, and sell them if they fit your business. If your tool, app, or software has a great online user manual, it can be a great passive earner.
5. Are customers truly as happy with passive income products as marketers are?
As we said earlier, some years ago there was a lot of research. It reiterated that customers online preferred self-service through most of their buying journeys. They didn’t want marketer-badgering. Some research said: “Almost 80% of a purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier”. Other research said customers prefer social friends to answer their queries. They distrusted brands.
It all sounds as if both customers and marketers are happy being at some distance from each other. So could there be ways to offer “personal service” but without “you”?
Here are 3 ways marketers solve the issue of customer care with passive income products …
You can offer personal intervention as a paid-for add-on
Some marketers offer personal intervention as add-on options. This creates a second higher-priced version of the product, as an option for the buyer. This works very well, if we are to believe the marketers. People seldom opt for the higher-priced option, but the reassurance that it is available, if needed, makes them trust the non-add-on option of the product better.
Creating groups where customers can exchange queries
Some marketers avoid personal time on customer service by creating buyer groups. These groups can be set up on Facebook or their own sites. This enables customers to validate their purchases or exchange queries with each other. Most forum members are on different timezones are therefore able to more quickly help others in the same timezones, better than a marketer could.
Offering automated chatbots on your site
We are increasingly seeing the rise of chatbots at the bottom of websites. These automated chatbots typically answer anticipated FAQs. You can set up chatbot playbooks. They can simulate personal intervention without actually needing it so much. Customers too have learned to work with chatbots after some initial skepticism of not having a “real human” at the other end of a chat.
6. What key features help create passive income products that resonate with customers?
Nine times out of ten, a customer may have more queries than your product answers. We’re not talking here of customer service queries, we’re talking of content-related queries. People engaging with your product may get related questions on their minds.
Most of these queries will pertain to passages of your content they did not understand. Sometimes it may be about wanting more information on a particular point you made.
Here are three strategies you can adopt to foresee and answer what else the customer may want as information …
End your content with a lot of FAQs or a knowledge database
People may have many questions after going through your knowledge product. Put yourself in the shoes of a newbie when you try to anticipate the queries. Imagine the kinds of basic but searching questions people may have. Compile these into a smart FAQ or a knowledge database with quick but succinct answers to these queries.
Link out to highly trusted data resources
People love extra data-driven info that validates the points in your ebook or course. Do make sure to link out a lot to trusted data and information sources. You’ll give your knowledge content more strength and authority by doing this.
Offer content upgrades as CTAs
What are content upgrades? They are downloadable information products, usually free. They extend the scope of the topic covered in your original product. Let’s say, you had a product titled “Ways to increase your time management skills”. You may consider giving an extra free bonus upgrade such as “How to use the Pomodoro Timer to manage your time”.
7. Which time-consuming projects for a solopreneur have great passive income alternatives?
You can aim to cut down your workload to truly be free of any need for personal intervention in several areas. As technology evolves, we are getting more and more tools and aids. Many of these help us disintermediate ourselves from such time-consuming activities of our business.
In product creation, systems-building can increase the potential for passive income. In some areas of marketing workload too, we have excellent tools that help cut back on the need for personal involvement.
Here are three areas that are the most intensive on workloads for solopreneurs, where tools and systems can help …
Consulting services can be “productized” as courses by following a problem-solution method
When you build courses to “productize your knowledge”, plan them using a problem-solution method. If you follow some 3 or 4 steps to solving problems, your product will require less hand-holding. It will sell well too, because people want solutions to problems – not products.
Turn your webinars into “evergreen webinars”
A Content Marketing Institute study found this … webinars are in the top five effective content marketing tactics. But you don’t have the time to conduct live webinar events every now and again. Right? Well, there’s a smart solution you can use to propel your customer-prospects over the edge. Evergreen webinars are webinars that you can record once, and replay again and again. They look and feel like live webinars. You have a speaker teaching something – or a marketer selling something. But you also have a simulated side-panel to the main teaching screen. It acts as if live discussions were taking place among attendees.
Use simple but clever automated sales funnels
Every product purchase must be followed with a “Thank You” page that attracts the buyer to consider buying the next higher-priced product you have. He may not do so immediately, but your next product will remain in his mind as a route to take. He’ll start feeling that buying the higher product from on your site (when he’s ready), will be like a value-extension to his current purchase. This is a smart way to passively sell products that go up on your price-ladder.
8. Where do you still need to give personal time despite your products being passive earners?
You may automate your marketing, and create products geared to answer all customer queries without your help, but there are still some areas where you will need to stay in the background and observe and correct things. You can be hands-off but you can’t afford to be “mind-off”.
Typically the areas where you need to be on-the-ball all the time are areas where your competitive edge needs to be kept sharpened. In fact, having a lot of passive income products helps you keep the focus where you, personally, are more needed – at the cutting edge of your business.
Here are three areas where you can never afford to tune-off and take a mental holiday as your products earn for you …
Keeping your products updated and with-the-moment
The last thing a passive income knowledge product should be is outdated. You cannot afford to let the content of your product go irrelevant or stale. That defeats the very idea of having it earn for you endlessly. People want up-to-date knowledge, that is based on the latest data sources, bleeding-edge technology and in sync with their changing tastes.
Keeping track of shifting trends in customer behavior
Not only should your product be updated on content, it should also not fall behind the changing trends in customer behavior online. You may want to re-adapt your products to new target segments as well. Recently, a client of mine had to refresh old passive earning products to cater to millennials who were fast becoming his largest-spending audiences. If he had not been tracking his customer types, and had not identified the high-spenders, he may never have renovated his passive income products.
Staying on the horizon to keep track of technology
One area where you absolutely must stay on top of things is technology and its evolution. This is a fast-changing area of an online marketer’s life. But it’s also relatively easy to keep track of. Set up a Feedly account to get feeds from all the top research houses and tech magazines that affect your niche, and see that you glance at the news in your industry at least once a week. In a bid to “earn passively in bliss” you can’t be eternally dreaming of swinging in a hammock on an island seaside, letting the world of technology pass you by. Do that and in no time at all, your products will be “old hat”.
9. How can you create passive income products that ease workload and please customers?
One of the smartest pieces of advice I once got from a “passive income expert” is to let in your customers add to your product for you. There are many smart ways to do this. The idea is that you don’t have to be the sole author of the product. Your customers can be co-authors with you.
If you let your customers handle some of the workloads of keeping your product refreshed, the product’s attractions will increase manifold. Customers also get vested in improving and marketing your product constantly. They will, therefore, keep adding currency and relevance to your product.
Let’s see how exactly customers can be co-opted to keep your passive income products evergreen and ever-earning …
Create features that invite user-generated content
Launching a knowledge product supported by user-generated content can be one of the most effective ways to build your brand. A lot of solo brands are succeeding by creating campaigns that invite user-generated content. For example, a very small crochet and knitting solopreneur site invites user-generated pattern ideas to add to its “guide of knitted baby clothes”. Their guide has all the basics of knitting, written by the business owner – but the design patterns that support and keep adding to the guide are all user-generated.
Let customers build their own products with parts you provide
What better example for this than a site like VistaPrint that allows customers to build their own visiting cards by an online assembly of parts supplied by the company? The same idea has been used in various ways by passive-earning products by inviting customers to build their own products from the “elements” offered by the marketer. You can offer a bunch of course modules, for instance, that customers can opt from to create their own course.
Add polls with self-publishing results
One other idea that works well to add eternal attractiveness to a passive income product is to include a related poll. People like to see what others think, and a poll allows them to see what the for-and-against opinions around a topic are. Your passive income product could be a non-changing one over time, but the ever-changing poll could add that bit of buzz that keeps the product alive.
10. What are an entrepreneur’s most challenging parts of running a passive earning business?
There can be many challenging areas to a passive earner’s life. As some passive earning experts say, you can never really create a ‘totally passive earning product”. There is, invariably, some element of personal intervention needed for the upkeep of the product – at least to elongate its shelf-life, value, and relevance to its target audiences.
Also, passive earning products also tend to make a solopreneur’s life rather single-dimensional. You may have to do more admin work or marketing work, day after day, without creative pursuits to balance out the workload. Further, hammock-living in a holiday resort, while money cascades into your bank on its own, may not be the bliss you thought it would be, and you may not have been ready for that reality.
The top three challenges, that usually impact solopreneur’s selling only passive income products, are these …
Many passive income streams still require constant upkeep
You can never really “create-it-and-forget-it” with any products online, where the technology landscape changes all the time, and Google changes its algorithms faster. What worked for your blog two months ago may all need a rewrite after Google changes its SEO ranking rules. Or the new devices coming into the market may call for adaptation of all your products. I know many solopreneurs now trying to catch up with voice-search and AI, and the latest mobiles and their screen-size possibilities.
Getting bored a passive income life can also lead to dispiritedness and depression
As the wise ones say, “A body in a state of motion, stays in motion. A body in a state of rest, stays in rest.” When you are having long periods of non-creativity, you can easily fall into a pall of apathy, dejection, low motivation, or even serious depression. This happens especially after you have worked hard and furiously on an ebook or course to sell passively, and suddenly thereafter you are supposed to switch off the activity and sit back to earn the dollars. You lose your mojo.
Every product, no matter how much it earns, can never have endless shelf-life
Many solopreneurs take the trouble to create evergreen products whose titles never get stale and they can earn for a long time as passive earning assets. But think about it. How many eternal classics are there that still resonate with today’s millennial audiences. New generations of Internet users will have different tastes, and language and tone preferences, and there will come a time when your passive earning products will need to be refreshed, revitalized, updated, or upgraded. How often that cycle turns is anyone’s guess. You’re never free of the need to chop and change your products every now and again.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.