A while ago my friend Bethany in the Passive Income for Designers Facebook group asked a great question:
"To be successful at building a passive income, do I have to stick to the trends?"
My entire life I've felt the pressure to follow trends. The world rewards us with likes, follows, clients, and money when we follow the herd.
Why blindly following trends is a bad idea.
In the short run following trends is a safe way to make a passive income. Look at what's selling in your chosen marketplace and copy it.
Do a decent job, and you're guaranteed to make sales.
But there's a dark side to following the trends.
Follow the trends and eventually you become a commodity.
You might make some sales but the market will be crowded.
You'll get a rush from your first sales. Then like a poorly built ship you'll start taking on water.
Others will do it for less money.
You'll get buried among thousands of other identical products.
The trend will fade.
You'll chase another trend in frustration (not to mention more work).
Your sales will evaporate over time, and your product will become background noise.
How to leverage trends for your benefit.
We've seen how blindly following trends can be toxic in the long run. Often in the short run as well. So what do we do?
There's two approaches we can take:
- Ignore the trends. Make what you love. If you're building a passive income and want to make money, this is risky. But sometimes it pays off big.
- Leverage the trends for your benefit. Like a maven collect the things you like. Ignore what you don't. Combine ideas you love with a healthy dose of your own voice. Then build stuff that you wish existed but doesn't. After each release adjust accordingly.
Here's an example of someone who leverages trends but doesn't follow them.
In this example, notice how Alex sticks to his own style but also leverages useful parts of trends (time saving brushes and plugins for Photoshop).
My friend Alex Dukal is a brilliant artist. He's worked hard on his craft. His style is heaped with character. No one else does work quite like him. The market rewards him with clients that want his magic.
He also makes a killing selling digital brushes and plugins.
The secret? Alex creates brushes and plugins that he loves to use in his own work.
Other artists see parts of his style they're inspired by. They buy his brushes and plugins and make them part of their own illustration lab.
Not because Alex is trendy. Illustrators buy his brushes because they aspire to create some of that same magic. They want to try the same tools and see what happens.
You don't have to follow the trends to build a passive income.
It makes building a side income more difficult in the long run.
Observe the trends. Pay attention to their components. Take all the little fragments of products and content you find useful and make something all your own.