Earning a Passive Income While at Work – Part 2

This is the second post in my two-part series on earning a passive income while at work with your regular 9-to-5 day job.

In my last post, I said that I had took something that I did for my 9-to-5 job and turned it into an online money making machine, earning passive income while at work. The best part about this was that in the process, I actually earned myself a promotion and a raise! I pretty much increased my income by 35% between the two sources within the first few months. This is the story of how it all started.

Looking Up the Corporate Ladder

It was December of 2007 and I was drafting for an architectural firm here in Southern California. I had been doing it for a while and was pretty darn good at it. I was working hard, trying to impress my bosses as much as possible, but my hard work as a drafter could only go so far. I needed to do something to add to my resume and show them I was really serious about architecture and wanting to grow within the company.

I asked myself, “What could I do to advance my career?” I could earn my architectural license, but I found out that would take years, and although I would love to go that route someday, I had yet to earn enough work experience credits to even start.

My friend told me about the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) exam. In a nutshell, the LEED exam involves understanding the design strategies of “green” buildings and sustainable design. People who pass the exam understand how to take a project through the LEED Certification Process to earn a LEED rating: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum—platinum being the most “green” rating a project or building can earn. I won’t go into the details, but we can all see that “going green” was the latest thing to do, so I decided to pursue the exam.

Studying for the Exam Becomes Passive Income While at Work

I was worried because I honestly suck at taking multiple-choice tests. Plus, I had been out of school for a number of years, so you can imagine how hard it was for me to get back into study mode. To make it even worse, the manual I was studying from was almost 3 inches thick,  full of dense information and equations. It didn’t look good for me.

To help myself, I created a blog that could organize my notes. This way, I could simply study from any computer (i.e. during my lunch break at work), and not worry about carrying loads of notebook paper. Each day I added more and more information while studying at the same time, even inserting some charts that I created to further organize my notes. The final product became the perfect study tool for me.

And So They Came

With about a month left before my exam, I received a message from someone I didn’t even know. I’ll copy it here:

“Pat, I know your exam is next month, but mine is next week. I just wanted to thank you so much for all of the work you put into your blog…it helped me so much! Good luck and wish me luck too!”

My first thoughts were: who is this person and how did they find me. But then I wondered who else was looking at my website. I found out about Google Analytics, a webmaster tool that keeps track of statistics and so I implemented that on my blog.

After a week, I came to realize that about 300 people a day were visiting my website. More than half were coming from Google Search, and the others were either direct or through referrals on forums. I guess people were spreading the word about my website! I also found out that I was visited by 23 states and 14 countries! Also, half of the visitors stayed on my website for more than a hour, meaning they were actually reading my notes just like I did!

This is when I knew I had stumbled upon a money making opportunity. I knew that if a website has any kind of traffic, it can earn money. Now understand that the money making strategies I implemented were “non-evasive” or “non-aggressive,” meaning I wasn’t saying, “Hey you, visitor! Give me money for using my website!” Rather, I used methods like Google Adsense and a donation button that actually earned money for me right away. In my next post, I’ll talk more about these strategies and how I earned my first $100.00 of passive income.

Passing and the Promotion

On March 3rd, 2008, I passed the LEED exam and earned my LEED Accredited Professional credential. Since I passed, I was allowed to add a “LEED AP” after my name, kind of like how you see a Ph.D or MBA after names sometimes. I quickly changed my email signature and emailed my bosses explaining I had passed the LEED exam and if they were interested in taking the exam, I was able to help them. I attached a link to my website.

A few minutes later, this was the message I received:

“Pat, congratulations. Come see me in my office.”

So I walk in to my boss’ office and sat down. This is the conversation:

Boss: “So Pat, when did you start studying for your LEED exam?”

Me: “About 4 or 5 months ago.”

Boss: “That’s good, that’s good. Why did you take the exam?”

Me: “Well, I’m dedicated to my job here and I want to learn as much as I can. I know that LEED is something that is still fairly new, but will soon become a standard in the building industry. I just thought I’d get a head start.”

Boss: “Nice, that’s nice.”

<awkward pause>

Boss: “And your website? Why did you start that?”

Me: “Because I needed a way to organize my notes and have easy access to them. I used my lunch hour here to study for the exam. And actually, a few hundred people around the world every day use the site to help them study too.”

Boss: “That’s great, that’s great. You seem like you’re really motivated and are willing to go the extra mile and do things even when we don’t ask you to. I’m going to talk to the director and see if we can compensate you for your hard work and knowledge with LEED. I’m hoping I can use you as a resource when I start planning to take the exam myself.”

Me: “Of course! I would love to help out as much as I can. Thank you so much! Thank you!”

<I gleefully start skipping down the hallway>

This is all true (except for the skipping part). I found out later that week that my boss had spoken to the director and negotiated a promotion to Job Captain, as well as a nice raise for me. It was a great day in my life. To top it all off, I went home and checked my website—an extra $10.00 was waiting for me from that day.

Is there something that you could do to advance your career and earn extra money online at the same time? It can be anything. If you’re having trouble finding ideas, make sure you come back later. I’ll be writing a whole series on idea generation that you definitely can’t miss.

—Pat Flynn, LEED AP



  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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