The Redbubble Effect: How to Start Earning Passive Income Right Now

Carlee Markle, a 17-year-old high school senior, went TikTok viral after posting a video about her sticker design business. The video has nearly 3 million views — and features tips for earning money over the summer. Markle has been selling her sticker collection via Redbubble for nine months and has closed almost 9,000 sales. 

“At first, I gained popularity through the site naturally; I didn’t advertise outside of Redbubble. The site does a good job of promoting your work, I’ve even seen my work on Snapchat ads which I didn’t pay for — the site did,” says Markle. 

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Both the “stickers” hashtag (1.1B views) and “redbubble” hashtag (132.7M views) on TikTok are full of people giving a behind-the-scenes low-down on their sticker selling side hustles. Redbubble is one of many print-on-demand sites (Cafe Press, Printful, Society6, Teespring) that allows users to upload and sell designs in an expansive online marketplace. You only need to create and upload the digital art, and the site will handle everything from production to shipping — for a portion of the sale.

“Once you have your shop fully set up, and you’re making somewhat constant sales, it’s up to you how much you want to add to it.”

Markle’s success didn’t grow overnight. For about a year, she had less than 20 sales a day. Once she took a more active interest and uploaded new work, her sales doubled. And yet, even by spending less time uploading her work on the platform, she still made 10-20 sales weekly. 

Rise of the creative side hustle    

Earning a passive income through artistic accessories is becoming popular as people seek ways to supplement unemployment or make money while going to school remotely. This type of earning, known as passive income, allows you to set up a stream that doesn’t require active tending — you make recurring money from work you did once. 

Some common forms include investing, affiliate marketing and selling online courses or ebooks. But younger generations, and artists, in particular, are finding convenient ways to use the internet to generate passive income sources and take advantage of the recent spike in online sales due to social distancing.

A report published by Etsy, the expansive online marketplace, showed sales increase 140%, after growing 100% in April. Amongst its most famous products, are face masks — an item that many, in and outside of Etsy, have turned into a creative venture, including Markle.

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“While it’s not necessary to keep up with your shop, it does up your chances of making more sales. Now that I constantly upload, I make, on average, 20-40 sales a day.” Graphic design is a hobby for Markle, who hopes to pursue astrobiology and work for NASA.

@stickers.carlee

all my stickers are waterproof and high quality 🙂 link in bio ##redbubble ##redbubbleartist ##supportsmallbiz ##stickershop ##redbubblestickers ##sticker

♬ Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo) – Wallows

Her stickers feature Gen Z-friendly phrases like “we have the right to be heard” and “choose kindness” with a design similar to the almost universally known VSCO aesthetic. Like for Markle, creative side hustle earnings may not grow overnight, but it can be easier to break into e-commerce, once you familiarize yourself with the product you want to sell. 

3 other passive income ideas for creatives

  • Create fonts. You can upload and sell fonts for use on a variety of software like Photoshop. This is ideal for calligraphy hobbyists and those with great handwriting. The more options your font kit includes, the more likely it is to sell. Include different weights, styles and ligatures. You can sell fonts on sites like Creative Market, MyFonts, Fonts.com and FontShop.

  • Sell digital downloads. There’s a surprisingly large market for selling a download for a customer to use how they’d like, whether digitally or in print. Everything from templates for custom card games to coloring books to clipart can be sold as a download. Digital artists and graphic designers can create and sell a digital product with low, upfront cost and minimal follow up. Etsy and Shopify are the most popular platforms for creatives.  
  • Sell stock photos. James Wheeler, a software developer with a passion for photography, told us he earned over $40,000 selling photos online in eight years, which is around $5,000 per year (similar to Markle’s earnings.) Wheeler even developed a website called Photerloo to help speed up the process by uploading a photo to multiple sites at once. 

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions. 

Image Credit: Malte Mueller / Getty Images

Danika Miller

Personal Finance Reporter

Danika Miller is a writer at The Simple Dollar. Her work can be found on Reviews.com, Freshome.com, Her Campus, and Jeopardy Magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative and technical writing from Western Washington University.

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  • Andrea Perez
    Andrea Perez

    Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar specializing in personal finance. Prior to that she specialized in digital marketing content for online learning websites. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.