Using Etsy to generate passive income

Published January 29, 2015   Posted in Having some fun

Audio introduction

While an aggressive savings rate is, in my humble opinion, the best way to set yourself up for early retirement, passive income is a great way to enjoy at least some financial buffer even after retiring from required work.  Some people rent out homes or other real estate.  Others perform contract work.  There are any number of ways to get involved in generating some passive income for yourself.

My Photography Bag

My photography backpack

One of those ways is to monetize your true passion in life, something that will keep you focused and dedicated through your retirement years.  For me, that’s photography.

A couple weeks ago, I opened up a store on Etsy – one of the Internet’s most-visited creative selling services – to start getting my hands wet selling some of my favorite photographs online – before retirement.

Store link:

So far, this experience has been both fun and rewarding.  The truth is I am still very much in the learning process of selling things online.  For so many years of my life, my time online has been used primarily to put forth my own ideas and to simply display my creative work, but I was never real interested in supplementing my income from it.  Until now.

I have four sales already, which is wonderful to see.  I am heartened and delighted that the craft that I love so much, and the work that I put into capturing the stunning beauty that this world has to offer, appeals to someone else enough to spend their hard-earned money to enjoy in their own home.

I am not necessarily looking to make big money off of this endeavor, at least yet.  I have thoughts of making photography my main source of income in the coming years, especially after my wife and I pick up shop and move to beautiful Sedona, Arizona travel the country in an RV.  For now, I am using this as a learning experience that will prepare me to step forward into the business of photography as a profession more confidently and intelligently in the future.

My long-lasting photography passion

I have had a passion for photography as long as I can remember.  In high school I had my own dark room setup in an unused area of our basement and developed my own 6×6 medium format black and white photographs.  I mean, start-to-finish development.  In the dark, I would carefully [and often times frustratingly] wrap the film (negatives) around the metal film spindle that is used to hold the film during the development process, hoping that there were no creases or bends to the film as I wrapped – because that can screw up some of the frames.  I’d pour in the chemicals and let the film develop.

Once complete, the film can be exposed to light.  I eagerly unwrapped the film from the spindle and carefully inspected every frame under a light box – both as a quick assessment of how well I managed to develop the negatives and to determine what frames that I would like to try printing.  I would generally print 5 or 6 frames out of each roll after deciding on what frames represented my better shots.

I used an Omega C700 enlarger as my printing rig that I bought with my own birthday money one year, and generally exposed these images onto Ilford photo paper.  Though the smell of the chemicals were quite pungent in our poorly-ventilated basement, the experience was a lot of fun.

It taught me how to be both meticulous and patient.  There were times where I had to spend 20 minutes trying to wrap the film around the spindle correctly.  Even the slightest error can throw off the entire job.

Often, a mistake requires unwrapping the entire roll of film and starting completely over.  This was a test of how mentally connected you were with your hands, carefully following every pull of the film, gently feeling the flow of the roll as you turned the spindle.  Though it was dark in the room, I would often close my eyes because that seemed to help me focus on the task at hand.

I wasn’t perfect.  Every once in a while, I discovered a couple frames from one layer of the wrap would be stuck to the layer below it after development (which indicates there was a bend to the film that I did not catch).  These frames were ruined.  It sucked, but it made me realize again and again that perfection is that illustrious glimmer of light that can never be reached.  Mentally, I made note of the mistake, cursed myself under my breath, and moved on.  My ability to handle disappointment only strengthened through this process.

Through the years, my love for photography has only grown stronger.  I no longer shoot film, though I am still hanging on to my once-top-of-the-line Nikon F5 35mm camera that I bought back in college (yes, this is called “anti-minimalism”, but I prefer to use a softer term for this, perhaps “collector”).

Now, it’s digital only.  I arm myself with a Nikon D7000 Sony A6000 mirrorless camera and one of a variety of lenses that fit nicely into my photo backpack.  My lenses range from 8mm all the way out to 105mm, so I am generally prepared to capture almost any scene.  I keep costs down buying my equipment used, and I almost never purchase the newest generation of equipment because, well, I do not need the latest and greatest equipment to make some truly spectacular photos.

Note: In the photography business, we “make” photos, not “take” them.  🙂

I will see how this process goes and will adjust accordingly.  Until then, I will continue enjoying the learning experience of selling the results of my passion online in the hopes of turning this into my main source of income.

What hobbies do you have that could generate passive income?

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4 responses to “Using Etsy to generate passive income”

  1. dojo says:

    I have a Nikon 5100 and some good photos taken with it (we did travel quite a bit in the past years) and would love to do something similar. I’ll probably stick to creating templates though (logos, photoshop templates) and maybe sell some drawings (made one so far :)).

  2. Nate Brunner says:

    First off…love your site. I’m 34 and like you have come around to looking for financial independence as early as possible. I’ve always saved but never really looked too deeply into investing or passive income until semi-recently. My wife is a pretty talented designer and I’ve always told her to start putting templates up on Etsy or some similar site. Do you have any more information on that? Or any other recommendations on sites that would sell templates for cheap? I might just end up doing it myself as an extension of our current blog. Just looking for ideas.

    • Hi Nate,

      First, thanks for the kind words and for stopping by. Etsy is a pretty good source for a lot of things creative. When you say that your wife designs templates, what kind of templates are you talking about? Web design templates, or something else?

      I will say that the benefit to using Etsy is the exposure that’s possible. That site gets 10s of thousands of hits every day, and having some quality content available is probably a good thing to consider doing. But, designing something into your blog is probably equally viable, especially if you have decent readership numbers.

      What I’d really like to start doing to supplement my income is offer my photography services…but hey, one step at a time I suppose. 🙂

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