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Alternative Income for Freelancers. Or how to make money without clients.

My worst fear as a freelancer is to run out of work.

No clients = No money

This fear kept me awake for years, until I understood what I needed to do to escape from the so called ‘freelancer cycle’: not having my time be tied to my earnings.


How to make money besides working with clients.

The solution: extra income streams.

To be completely transparent, not everything I tried as an income stream worked out. While some of these gave me great results, others just weren’t worth it.

But what didn’t work for me might work for you!

However, you should know that none, absolutely none, gives overnight results. It takes time and effort to do research, learn, build audiences, create products, and more.

Affiliate Marketing for Freelancers

My first alternative income is affiliate marketing, where you talk about or promote a product or service and get paid for every person that purchases through your affiliate link.

As a freelancer, you can do affiliate marketing in several ways:

  • With clients. Depending on your niche and your services, you can recommend things to your clients and get paid for it. For example, each time my clients need a website I recommend my favorite hosting to them, and if they sign up, I get paid $50.
  • For colleagues. You can recommend tools and products you know they’ll find useful. This works better if you are also creating content for them.
  • Outside your industry. Have a hobby? Maybe you can recommend products to other people who share it. Are you a parent? The baby & kids industry is huge. You just need to find opportunities 😉

Some companies have affiliate programs of their own, like Amazon, Binance, or Epidemic Sound. Others are part of affiliate networks, where you have access to a wide range of products and services.

Either way, you have to apply to their programs. Some of them have different requirements for their affiliates, like having an established brand online or a certain amount of followers.

But let’s say that you get approved… what next?

Now you get to promote their products or services.

The best way to do this is by being honest. I only promote things I use and like, and even then I’m not afraid of being critical of the parts I don’t like.

Making people trust you is key if you want them to click on your link.

You can recommend things by word of mouth, Youtube, blogging, Instagram, etc. Basically everywhere where you have people listening to you.

The good thing about affiliate marketing is that if you choose the ‘build an audience’ path, your content will keep bringing new leads overtime becoming the closest thing to passive income I’ve found (other than regular investments).

The bad thing though, is that it’s a numbers game. More people paying attention to you means more chances of them buying what you are recommending. It takes time to earn other’s trust.

I tend to prefer working directly with companies when it comes to affiliates. Among my favorites are:

Payoneer, Wise, Binance, Siteground, Elegant Themes, Active Campaign, Envato.

But there are very good Affiliate Networks as well:

Awin, ShareASale, AvanGate, CJ, FlexOffers, ClickBank.

Client commissions

If you recommend clients to other freelancers -specially if they are good, high paying clients- you can work out a commission per recommendation. Meaning that the other freelancer pays you if they get the client.

Trust is huge in this case (see how this is a recurring thing?).

The potential clients need to trust that you are sending them a good freelancer, and the freelancer trusts that you are not sending them low paying, difficult clients.

You can work out the commission as a percentage of the project’s budget, or as a fixed price. Whatever it is that you negotiate with the other professional.

Personally, I haven’t done much of this because I don’t recommend people unless I’m 100% sure they are a good fit. When recommending someone, you are vouching for them and putting your brand and reputation on the line.

But I do know people who have made a full business out of this, and work more as recruiters than simply freelancers.

It can be very lucrative if done right.

Royalties & Licensing

I have so many discs full of stuff.

Stuff I did for clients, personal projects, travel photos and video, illustrations… all just gathering digital dust.

Or used to.

Now I sell them as stock in different websites and get paid when someone downloads them.

This option is specially good if you are a creative professional because we just tend to create a lot of things both for clients and ourselves.

Photographers are specially suited for this type of alternative income, but is not limited to them by any means. Illustrators and musicians are also on demand.

You can do this the lazy way, find a stock website and just sell whatever you have; or be a little more mindful and do some research about what type of things are on demand and create them specifically to meet it.

Obviously, your chances are better this way even if it requieres more work.

The good thing about this option is that you can repurpose your work (or most of it). I usually feel like it’s a waste just to leave it forgotten in a disk.

It’s also similar to affiliates in the sense that you create the asset once, and many people can buy it over and over. So, semi-passive stuff.

The bad thing though is that there’s a lot of competition and it doesn’t pay a LOT of money. You need to read the terms and condition of each website and see which one works best for you.

Your own products

If you want a little more control, you can sell your stuff by yourself.

I’m talking about creating digital and (or) physical products. Is not exactly like stock where you would sell what you already have (although you can repurpose assets), but creating something specifically for your niche or audience.

The options are endless in this case: you can sell courses, practical assets like LUTs, t-shirts, Notion templates, financial spreadsheets, etc. Whatever your audience finds useful.

Because yes, for this to work you will need an audience and do research before jumping straight into the creating process.

Your success will depend on your niche, and how good you are responding to their needs.

If you want to focus on your clients, think about a problem that they face over and over and what product you could create to solve it.

Let’s say you are a social media manager and your clients (or potential clients) have problems when thinking about what to post. You could sell them a calendar with important dates (so they can create appropriate content beforehand), a course on how to create Reels for Instagram, your own optimized version of a content calendar, etc.

If you rather do things for colleagues, the same applies. What problems are they facing and how you can help them solve them?

Selling merchandising like t-shirts, mugs, and more is a great option if your are already positioned as a brand and have fans following you.

The good thing is that this option is the one with the greatest potential to turn into a business in of itself. If you, for whatever reason, decide you just don’t want to deal with one-on-one clients anymore, then this is the way you should be looking.

However, the time commitment to create content, grow your brand, and have people following you is huge. I’m talking about years, so don’t expect this to be immediate.

It’s also the less passive option. Although I’m going to tell you a secret: it’s my favourite.


But I also like Investments as well. This is, for me, as passive as it gets.

You don’t need an audience, create anything to sell, or apply to anywhere to be able to invest.

You only need money (not even that much). And well, learn a little bit about how investments work.

In a nutshell, an investment is an asset or item acquired with the goal of generating income or appreciation. You generate wealth over time.

There’s risk involved in each investment. If you are juuuuust starting on this path, the first thing you need to do is a risk test to see what type of investments are the best for you depending on your risk tolerance.

The investment world is huge, and it falls under the ‘personal finances’ umbrella. Something that is often overlooked by freelancers but oh so important to have under control.

But that’s for another blog post 😉

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