How passive income side projects changed my life and business forever

About a year ago I came to a realization that completely changed my life:

I realized that if I just kept jumping from freelance project to freelance project I would never get where I wanted to in life. I would probably make a decent income, and I would get pretty good, but ultimately I would feel dissatisfied and stagnant after a few years.

Realizing that my freelance work wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to go, I made a simple change.

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I started building side projects…that led to passive income.

These side projects completely changed my life in more ways than I could ever describe.

My goal with this post is to share specific examples of my side projects and how they impacted my life in unexpected ways.

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Side Project #1: Blogging

The first side project I took on (for no pay) was blogging. At first I had no idea what I was going to blog about or why people would care, but I just started doing it.

I set a goal of publishing one post per week and I stuck to it.

How this side project changed my life:

1) It taught me discipline.
I had to have discipline and focus to publish a post every week on my own without external motivation or compensation.

2) It generated countless opportunities for work and projects.
The blog is not “content marketing” and the goal is not to draw in clients. But by writing interesting content it has drawn people to my website and lead to opportunities I could have never imagined.

3) It taught me how to write.
Writing has now become a skill which generates 30-40% of my income. A couple years ago people laughed at how bad of a writer I was.

4) It prepared me for new opportunities.
Running this blog prepared me for the current clients I handle now, shifting from web developer to marketing director for companies like That shift was an unexpected by-product of starting this blog.

5) It brought purpose to my life.
This sounds cheesy but it is true. Publishing content that I care deeply about and that influences the thoughts of others has brought purpose to my life.

When I receive emails from people about how my content affected them, it brings a sense of satisfaction and purpose to my life that no paid client ever has.

Side Project #2: Short ebook

The second side project I handled was a short ebook called The Focused Creator: Learn the Art of Follow Through and Achieve Your Goals.

This side project has had a subtle but important impact on my life.

Prior to writing this book, I was an “ideas guy.” I had a lot of ideas, but I never actually got anything done.

So at the start of 2014 I decided to fix this.

I committed to researching everything I could on productivity and goal setting and then compiled that information into a short ebook that I could share with others.

In many ways, starting and finishing this project was a testament to everything that I was reading and writing about.

How this side project changed my life:

1) It strengthened my own follow-through.
When you read books and then turn around and try to teach those primary concepts, it strengthens the concepts in your mind. It forces you to really understand them in order to teach them to others.

Working on this side project taught me more about productivity and goal setting than just reading the books alone would have.

2) It taught me how to ship things.
I set a goal for shipping the project and I successfully shipped it. I got the project out the door and completed it. (This was the first product I had ever shipped in my life.)

3) It made an impact.
This book changed peoples lives and I still get praise from people who come across my blog and read it. That brought so much happiness and satisfaction.

Side Project #3: Online course

For a long time, I flew solo. After some bad business partner experiences in the past I was hesitant to collaborate with others.

But then I met Grant Spanier and we hit it off. Our interests were similar, what we read was similar, and our outlook on life was similar.

So Grant and I decided to collaborate on a side project.

We worked together over the course of several months to create a Skillshare course about how to start a creative project that matters.

How this side project changed my life:

1) It reinforced concepts I had learned.
In many ways, this course was like The Focused Creator where it forced me to teach the concepts that I knew. Teaching these concepts reinforced them in my mind and made me more effective in all areas.

2) It taught me how to learn from others.
Collaboration is an interesting thing. When you work with someone new, you rub off on each other. You see their habits, how they work, and how they operate.

All of those things become a direct influence on you and how you work in the world.

3) It became a portfolio piece for future work.
Grant and I poured our hearts into making the course look and sound amazing.

The hard work and dedication that we put into this course has already begun to generate client opportunities in other areas of my life.

Side Project #4: Full-length book + video course

This final side project took almost a year of my life to complete. It is a full-length book and video course all about freelancing for creative professionals.

How this side project changed my life:

1) This project taught me focus and discipline.
Creating a full-length book is no easy task. At so many points I wanted to give up or jump to other projects. Staying focused and shipping the project I started was a long a painful process, but it was worth it in the end.

2) This project helped me monetize my blog.
For over a year I blogged with no direct compensation from it. This book helped me monetize it and bring more purpose to it.

3) This project changed peoples’ lives.
Creatives have quit their jobs, launched their freelance careers, and grown their incomes as a result of the book. That is a pretty incredible feeling.

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As you see through my examples, these side projects have had profound effects on my career, my life, and my personal happiness. The crazy thing is that these side projects often affected me in ways that I did not expect.

But one thing is for sure: they all moved my life in a better direction.

If I had not taken on any side projects, I would probably still be a struggling web designer hopping from client to client.

But these side projects have elevated me. They have moved me up to a marketing role and created new revenue streams in my life. Side projects – and passive income – have the ability to change your life in ways you would never expect.

What side projects have changed yours? Are you planning on side projects for 2015? Share your questions, success stories, and thoughts in the comments!

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  1. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to seek out somebody with some unique thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for beginning this up. this web site is something that’s wanted on the net, someone with a little originality. helpful job for bringing one thing new to the web!

  2. Thank you so much for that awakening insight Jake! All along I have been jumping form one shiny object to another, your article is really of great help.

  3. Jake, you speak from the heart and write with passion. The advise you’ve given is priceless to all the gig-hoppers who need to find a path away from hourly billing and solving problem after problem for clients. At some point, age will catchup with anyone and the earlier one starts on your advise, the better it is even through a cherished retirement age! Awesome and Thanks.

  4. Jake, thanks for sharing this. How did you decide what to right about for my blog?

  5. Jake, great article! Thank you for taking the time to write and share this. I have tons of ideas swimming around in my head and I have yet to take action on them. I’m not thinking of blogging or writing a book, but this article has inspired me to take the first step and start. What I really liked about your article is that you shared specifically what you did and what your actions did for you. That was very interesting to me. Thanks again!

    1. Jermoe,

      Thanks for commenting. I was in the same spot about a year and a half ago with too many ideas in my head and not enough action. I wrote The Focused Creator as a step to changing that for myself and for others. Check it out and hopefully it will help you choose and idea and buckle down and get started on creating it.


  6. Thanks for the insight Jake, in fact I am already following your path in several of the same directions. It is encouraging and timely to read this, because I was starting to get discouraged that I was doing it for nothing. I have a lot to teach someone that needs to learn what I know and that was my initial drive to start writing.

    Thanks for the encouragement!
    Kevin M.

    1. Kevin,

      Often the side projects never pan out like you want them to, or generate the income you want them to. But the side effects that come from them often lead to unexpected benefits, new clients or new income that you didn’t even plan for.


  7. Great read and really inspiring. I’m currently at the stage where projects are coming in but the frequency are unpredictable.

    I’ll definitely try your strategies. Thanks once again for sharing.

    1. That is great to hear Femi. Starting up side projects will create a gravity that leads to more client work as well!

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