Digital Nomad Cafe Podcast | Online Business | Blogging & Remote Work

Passive Income Streams with Sharon Tseung

Ep31: Building Passive Income Streams with Sharon Tseung from DigitalNomadQuest.com

Tune in to hear how Sharon Tseung from DigitalNomadQuest.com has built a successful website and Youtube Channel for Digital Nomads and Entrepreneurs.

She had been focusing on building multiple passive income streams via Etsy, Youtube, affiliate marketing, real estate and more!

Learn more at DigitalNomadQuest or join her Facebook Group here

Follow Sharon on Facebook

Podcast Topics:

  • Why Sharon got into blogging and Youtube?
  • How long did it take Sharon to start making money?
  • What were some of the key strategies that helped her to grow her website?
  • Blogging vs Vlogging on Youtube
  • Digital Nomad Hybrid – Building multiple revenue streams and working a job in California!
  • Tips for someone who wants to start a website/blog that can generate significant revenue


Adam: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Digital Nomad Cafe podcast. I’m your host, Adam Finan, and I’m very excited to bring in today’s guest, Sharon Tseung from Digital Nomad Quest. Sharon quit her job and travelled to work for two years while building over 10 passive income streams on her digital nomad journey. She also runs a successful podcast, YouTube channel, where you can subscribe and learn more. She has a course where I’m teaching people how to build passive income through Etsy over at digitalnomadquest.com. You’ll see a Courses tab in the menu and the first five listeners get a 20% discount code using Nomad Cafe. This course helps people to get their first $1,000 month through Etsy. Welcome to the show, Sharon. I’m excited to bring you on.

Sharon: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Adam: So you do many things, many different online revenues. I mean, listening to your podcast is different. You hit on a lot of different topics. There’s YouTube, there’s podcasts and there’s Etsy. There’s money management. So can we just take it back a little bit and talk about when you first got started working online, why did you look online? And what were the first things that you did?

Sharon: Yeah, definitely. Back in, actually, 2014, I did this month-long solo Europe trip and I feel like that really inspired me a lot to be like, “Oh, there’s so much out there that I haven’t experienced.” Because I’ve been in the Bay Area for basically all my life. I was like, “Okay, I kind of need to make this more of a reality to have the freedom to kind of travel when I want to.” So I feel like that made me start setting up a bunch of blogs, resources, and books and stuff like that. I think I read over 20 books just trying to gather information. And then I came across the term of being a digital nomad, and learning more about building websites and stuff like that. And then that led me to blogging and then it led me to Kindle books and Etsy. I was also trying out real estate investment before I did all this online stuff. Yeah, so I just kept leading, like getting led to more passive income streams, trying to make that lifestyle a reality. And then, in 2016, I ended up quitting my job as a marketing manager and then travelling the world for two years.

Adam: So you were building these while you’re working as a marketing manager somewhere, is it?

Sharon: Yeah. I would say, six months before I left, I started preparing a lot. So I was working on building those passive income streams, but also taking some remote positions. So I took two part time remote positions while I was building those passive income streams, because I was thinking, this would be a good way to transition into the passive income life type of thing if I had that remote work in place. So that was kind of my process.

Adam: I mean, websites are always a work in progress and require consistent action and effort and maintenance. There’s a lot that goes into it. I think people don’t realise that at the start, but the ones who succeed are often the ones who are consistent. Even myself, I’ve had breaks, just sometimes a whole month where I’m like, I’m not doing anything. And then there’s other times I was super inspired, typically after an event or after talking with certain people. “I can do this-”

Sharon: Yeah, definitely.

Adam: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, most people start out as freelancers while they build up their blog or their course or whatever the other income streams are. Did you transition using the same skills, like online marketing skills? And did you use a platform for it? Or was it referrals? How did you get those clients, those first formal clients?

Sharon: I actually looked a lot on Craigslist. I think mainly Craigslist, to be honest. I was just applying to a bunch of marketing positions. The ones I took are basically, one was a referral and then that was like, to do graphic design for Facebook ads and stuff. And then another one on Craigslist was like to actually manage Facebook ads and make the ads. So I was doing a lot of just marketing the skills I already have. 

Adam: Did you start the Digital Nomad Quest around that time or was that a little bit farther down the line?

Sharon: Yeah, I started in 2015 and I actually have two blogs. One is called Me On Travel and the other one is Digital Nomad Quest. Me On Travel was more like documenting my travel journeys. Digital Nomad Quest was more on the online business side. I started that one initially just to vent. So when I was at my job, I’d be like, the same old office, same commute. I’m tired of this. I want to see the world. And this is my progress so far. I think it’s getting better or sometimes I’m like, oh my god is that even working? So a lot of it was just kind of documenting my feelings and stuff like that. Now it’s definitely evolved.

Adam: “-I can crack on.” So how have you found, with regards to building up the website and the traffic, I can see a lot of the content you have is very list focused and you’re mentioning other people. Have you found out a good way to help grow the website traffic and your subscribers and things like that?

Sharon: Yeah, I think now that it’s not just me writing everything, I’ve also hired other digital nomads and money experts to help write on the blog. It’s definitely helped. I think Pinterest helps a lot with traffic as well. But I think this year is going to be a lot focused on building it up more. I find that also, they’re getting on these types of interviews here. It helps with growing traffic as well. Recently, I guess in September, I went to FinCon and I felt like that was actually very helpful in learning a lot of stuff around building up my website traffic more. Definitely recommend checking out FinCon. I’m going again next year.

Adam: And where’s that?

Sharon: I think next year it’s going to be in Long Beach, maybe. Long Beach in California.

Adam: [Inaudible 08:22] Maryland. 

Sharon: Yeah, that’s true. But it’s a great place to meet other online business people. I think it’s pretty worth it. But also I teamed up with my friend who blogs full time. He’s a digital nomad pretty much and he makes a full time income from his blog. We’re making a course right now, it’s called Blog Launch Profit. We’re still in the works of it, but it’s been like a year. We’ve been working on it for a long time. He’s like a huge SEO expert for sure. If you want to check him out. Sorry?

Adam: No, that’s cool. I mean, often collaborations are really powerful ways to leverage. You have an audience through YouTube and through your podcasts and through your website, and he has his own audience, like you’re saying, and he’s making a living online. So it’s a joint venture on a project and you do it together. It takes some of the pressure off. But it also helps to, it just helps. It’s a good idea to get out there and push it out to both audiences and see how you get on. So can we talk a little bit about Etsy? I always imagined Etsy was physical guests. I believe you can do digital downloads on it and that’s where you kind of carve a little niche for yourself and also you help people to get their digital downloads, encourage them on how they can do it and then they can get their first thousand dollars a month online passive through Etsy. How did you get started with Etsy?

Sharon:  Yeah, definitely. I think in 2015 or 2016, I don’t know. I don’t even remember how I came across it. It might have just been an idea I came up with. I was like, “Oh, you can sell digital downloads on it. I enjoy graphic design. I should design some Photoshop templates and stuff like that.” I sell Photoshop templates and Microsoft Word templates on my Etsy shop. I’ve been able to grow my passive income streams. And then now I teach people how to do that, through my course. It’s pretty like, set-it-and-forget-it because they host all the digital files. Whenever people purchase it, it just automatically transfers to them. So it’s very easy. There is some customer support maintenance type of thing, when people have questions and stuff. But other than that, it’s really easy. 

Adam: Because I’m not a graphic designer, I often use Canva, but I buy templates from a place called creativemarket.com. People make revenue from that in a similar fashion. There’s certain people and they have templates and like you’re saying, the graphic designer, so that’s you, or somebody, who’s got a similar skill set and they make all these graphics. And then you can download them either in Photoshop file or you make a copy of a master Canva file and they charge like $40 for the templates. It could be Instagram stories templates, YouTube’s template, whatever. They have everything, Pinterest, all that stuff and you download it. It makes people like me who weren’t super hot at graphics not look so bad.

Sharon: Yeah, it’s nice. Actually, I do sell on the creative market too because, yeah, if you have those digital files you can do both, right? Etsy and creative market. And that’s a good source of income for me too. It’s something definitely worth looking into even if you’re not a graphic designer. Because, for example, if you had knowledge around real estate investment, or something, and you knew how to analyse deals well, maybe you can sell a spreadsheet of like, a template, right? People can put in their numbers and then benefit from that template. It’s kind of whatever knowledge you have, you could put that into guides and stuff like that. So that’s the beautiful thing, it’s not limited to graphic design.

Adam: For sure. Anything that sells people’s time and they’re willing to pay. Like I said, some of the stuff was 20-40 quid but that person only made it at once and they might sell hundreds of them, and it’s quite evergreen. 

Sharon: Yeah.

Adam: All my templates, I always go there because I go into Canva. The Canva ones are okay sometimes, but they’re not great. We want a creative market, like, “Uh, this is it.” So just copy this, slide my photo then change the font on. It looks good. You can do, like you’re saying, similar with Etsy. I’ve seen a recent one where there was a freelancer who was putting up their, what you call it, the revenue from there, and it ended up actually being created in PowerPoint. So they were freelance writers and it was creating PowerPoint slides, who was actually the top revenue earner for the year. Design, and then make nice PowerPoint slides for people and write a copy on them, which was quite surprising for them, because it’s written like a couple of hundred blog posts for one day. Analyze all of the revenue that they made, it was actually the PowerPoint presentations that was a top earner for them. So I was like, huh. That was a bit of an eye opener there wasn’t it?

Sharon: That’s pretty cool. That’s very creative. I think there’s so many passive income opportunities now to take advantage of, for sure.

Adam: Absolutely. Do you find going out to these events and stuff to be hugely beneficial? I believe you interviewed Pat Flynn on your podcast. Everybody knows Pat Flynn, smartpassiveincome.com. Did you meet him or go to one of his events? Is that how you came across him?

Sharon: So in 2014, or something, maybe 14. I went to the Traffic and Conversion Summit, and that was actually for work. I was still working full time as a marketing manager again, and I was helping with the booth, basically, and then I knew that he was speaking. He had a podcast, seminar or something. So I went and then I ended up talking to him, letting him know I went to UC Berkeley as well. Typically, I was trying to connect with him. Later he had a little podcast session at the Buzzsprout booth or something. No one was watching but I was like, maybe I can get more time to speak with him if I listen in on his stuff and then talk to him afterwards, whenever. I’ve been talking to him for a good amount of time. I think we followed each other on Instagram. He said, reach out to me on email. I did and he even gave me his number and everything. It was really cool. I ended up attending his conference called Flynn Con. He had this course workshop that he upsell at the conference. I ended up going to that, which is, I had never spent that much money on this type of stuff, but I spent four grand, or three grand for the course workshop, which normally it’s four grand, but because I went with my boyfriend, we both paid three grand. I think the more you do these in-person meetups, the more you can network with established professionals. You can meet other like-minded people. It’s so helpful. That’s what I’m doing more this year and next year, that’s what I’m planning to do, because I feel like it really helps those connections.

Adam: Of course, yeah. It helps you to level up, doesn’t it? Because all the other people who were there did the same thing. You know, they paid to be there, they’re all there for the same reasons to want to grow their business, want to grow their followers, they want to learn. They’ve got that growth mindset and because of that, you’re in a good room. 

Sharon: Yeah, yeah.

Adam: Room full of people who are kind of on the same wavelength. As in, you can all connect like you said, and maybe you can go on their podcast and come to your podcast.You could share ideas, maybe you can join a venture. You can be an affiliate for the promotions. There’s lots of different things that can come out of it.

Sharon: Actually, I was trying to host my own meetups just to meet other like-minded people. But because it’s casual and free and stuff, most of them were just starting out, so I didn’t really meet the people on the same kind of energy and wavelength of, like, we’ve already gotten this far with our online businesses. Like, let’s talk more about how we can each help each other type of thing. You don’t find that as much, but going to these events where you actually have to pay, usually bets out the people who haven’t done anything yet or haven’t explored it yet. So it really helps to meet these people who are on a similar wavelength.

Adam:  Yeah, of course. Because, nothing against it, but they’re just at a different level in terms of, like, they’re still at the beginner phase. When you’re looking for more intermediate coaches and connections, that’s what you’re looking for at that time. You’re not looking for like, “What’s,a team? What’s a plugin?” 

Sharon: Yeah, exactly.

Adam: It’s like the conversation is a little bit different. Look, let’s talk about the podcast a little bit.  I believe you’re the first, second podcaster I brought on, and we both interviewed Johnny FD. 

Sharon: Cool.

Adam: I brought him on episode 8, I think, talking about drop shipping. Just curious, for the podcast, how have you found growing the podcast? How long did it take for it to get a little bit of attraction for you? How does that all look for you so far?

Sharon: I would say, actually, my main focuses are currently my blog and YouTube, I would say, when it comes to building my brand. I actually repurpose the audio from my YouTube videos into my podcast. So that’s how. But I’m excited for the podcast because it’ll slowly and steadily grow but I promote the videos more so than the podcast actually. I do find other people prefer podcasts, right? Like if they’re on their commute, they prefer just listening to the audio, versus the videos and stuff.

Adam: Yeah, we just hope they’re not watching videos while they drive.

Sharon:  Yeah, exactly. I think I realised both are really important. I find, for me, growing traffic, the guest clubs and stuff, really help. Interviewing each other on each other’s podcasts or getting on other people’s podcasts, that has really helped with my listen count. Because, like mentioned before, on my social and stuff, I promote more the videos, but to get listens on the podcast, it’s better to like, Pat Flynn says it too, in seminars and stuff. That if you’re trying to get listens on your podcast, it’s better to get on other people’s podcasts because those people have an audience of podcast listeners, right? It’s harder to convert people on social media who might not even listen to podcasts or they’ve already heard of you, usually, if they follow your stuff and see your social media posts. So it’s like, if you try to get new listeners you want to get on other people’s podcasts and promote your own podcast basically.

Adam: Yeah, of course. It’s funny I guess, when you start now too tired to get gas but then further down the line now everybody who’s launching a book is emailing me.

Sharon: Nice. Congrats.

Adam: No, no. I’m selective. I don’t just bring everybody on. If they’re not aligned with the listenership, the audience and the vision. Some people are just trying to sell a course and let’s just say, I don’t necessarily approve of, so I wouldn’t bring them on.

Sharon: Yeah. That makes sense.

Adam: But it is curious because you’re saying the video being the focus and YouTube being the focus. It is the second biggest search engine in the world, if you’re not including badoo. So how have you found that? With regards to YouTube, does it take long? Because I know people find a way of doing video, even I don’t do video podcasts. I don’t mind being on video but it’s just not something I’ve focused on. You know, I don’t know how to edit videos and stuff like that. So when you’re making these videos for your YouTube channel, does it take a lot of time then in terms of editing a video, uploading it, adding all the information? Is it very time consuming? How does that look?

Sharon: It’s not too bad, actually, because I hire editors and stuff. So you could do the same if you want to do YouTube. And I personally chose YouTube because I used YouTube actually for music. I don’t know like I’ve told you before anything, but I’ve seen it somewhere. I think it might be in your Facebook group. Yeah, you used to do YouTube and play music or teach people music, but I’ve seen something about it, yeah.

Sharon: Okay. Yes, I used to, I mean, I still am super passionate about music and stuff. But I used to make music videos. I would sing and play instruments and stuff. Even since high school, I used to sing to my little webcam and things. And then I think that one grew to 7000 subscribers, and then I made another YouTube channel to rebrand my artist name or whatever. And then that one grew to like, almost 10,000 subscribers. It’s just like, I’m used to it. So I was thinking, I might as well choose YouTube because I’ve already had a ton of experience with it before. Even when I was nomading, like when I was in Korea, I met up with a producer, we filmed a music video there too, stuff like that.

Adam: Awesome. You’re putting it out there. A real creative for music, podcast, videos, doing your art, making your design templates, you’re definitely of the creative type.

Sharon: I feel like my passion is creating. That can be businesses or can be music and art and all that stuff. So it spans a variety of things. I haven’t touched music in a while which kind of sucks but that’s what the whole financial freedom thing is for to open my life to be able to design my life the way I want to. So in the future, I’ll definitely come back to music and create stuff like that. But anyway, back to YouTube and stuff, that’s kind of why I chose it. And that’s why even with my interview with Pat, he was like, “I suggest you do YouTube actually, because,” he’s like, “Whatever you choose, those three mediums, pick one first, master it then see if you want to expand to other ones.” Because he would follow my music stuff and be like, cool or whatever. And he said, “Since you have experience in that, you should try to do that.” So then I started doing that. And I used to be uncomfortable with my talking voice and stuff, so I’ve never spoken in any of my music videos. But then I started opening myself up more and just speaking on these videos. It’s not too difficult. It’s kind of the same as speaking on a podcast, right? It’s just that you show your face. And then if you hire out editors, it doesn’t take too long.

Adam: Yeah, of course, I guess you’ve mentioned now that you’ve got writers helping with the blog and you would work with editors for the video. So when it comes to hiring help, at what point did you realise that you needed it? And how have you found hiring or managing virtual teams?

Sharon: So when I was just starting out with passive income and digital nomad stuff, I definitely didn’t really spend money and I was trying not to spend money. I was like, I can do it all myself. I have tons of time, right? But now that I also have a full time job, currently, because I came back to the Bay Area for several reasons, took a job for several reasons, decided that it was the right move for me right now. I have a lot I can spend, right? So maybe less time, but more capital. So to me, it’s like, evaluating which one you have more. Do you have more time? Or do you have more capital? And also, how much time are you focusing on stuff that you think you could automate because it doesn’t require your expertise? So that’s when I realised if I’m going to do all these things to grow my brand, I definitely can’t just do it all myself even though I technically could, but I don’t have the time for it. And if I have all this capital, why shouldn’t I use it on my business? Especially when I took a full time job and all that stuff, I decided to use that money to put back into the business, which is I would say, that’s the benefit of taking a job versus just going full time on to entrepreneurship starting from zero. So it kind of depends on what your situation is. But that’s when I decided to hire out and I hire out on Upwork and stuff. So I prefer that platform. My boyfriend prefers Onlinejobs.ph. I think both of them are good platforms.

Adam: It’s funny. I’ve become a big fan of Fiverr lately. I used to hate it. But now, a new graphic suit for a podcast was Fiverr, the guy who I found who edits my podcast, he was on Upwork. But the intros and stuff was done on Fiverr. And I use Fiverr for a lot of different things. It’s a lot different than it used to be. I feel like it’s a lot better and like everything else. I’m also using it recently as well for what’s called web scraping, like getting a list of websites that we’re looking to pitch for link building for SEO. I just got a guy who’s a developer who can scrape thousands of websites for you, based on your metrics, find their emails, and verify them. It’s like, that would have taken me forever. Even a virtual assistant, it would have taken them hundred odd hours. He does it in a day. 

Sharon: Yeah. Fiverr is good too. That’s awesome.

Adam Finan: What’s different about it is it’s a gig only. Whereas when you’re on Upwork, you have to outline what you want, you have to interview for it, you  have to screen for it. Yes, I hired some good people on Upwork. My virtual assistant is from Upwork as well. We have a guy who manages a paranoid e-commerce business with a friend in Australia and our team for that is all from onlinejobs.ph.

Sharon: Yes.

Adam: Fingering of the different places. But I definitely like the gig economy on Fiverr. It’s very simple. It’s like, this is a gig, it’s got x number of reviews, this is exactly what you get. And it’s actually something I’ve thought about, maybe even as an income stream for myself to sell a little bit or something on there, just to add another notch today, revenue streams.

Sharon: Yeah. I actually tried Fiverr because I was all about experimenting with new ones. So it’s like, all right, let me try fibre where I use my custom templates. They can choose one of them, and then I’ll just pop in their information and stuff onto the templates. It totally worked. Yeah. So it was making money. I just decided I wanted to focus on other things, but it totally works. And I love Fiverr as well. And I mean, like the way I use Upwork too is definitely on a more contract basis versus hourly.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. It’s cool. But you know, you realised that there were certain things that you are not, not that you couldn’t do them, but you just weren’t willing to do, which is better outdoors and hire it out. When somebody else who’s a professional can do it for you and that allows you to focus on your work and creating the content, which is essentially the key element for you. You need to be the one in the videos, putting the videos out, getting these blog posts up, developing relationships, getting on podcasts, growing the audience, and then hire on where you need help versus spending 20 hours a week editing videos.

Sharon: Yeah, definitely. Focus on that 20%.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I’m 100% on board with that. My podcast, I have an editor. I went on Upwork and I found a guy who lives an hour down the road. How funny was that? 

Sharon: Oh, that’s awesome.

Adam: And he’s an NFL podcast or something. And yeah, he’s a podcast editor on Upwork but he lives an hour away from me. So of all the people in the world ended up finding somebody an hour down the road and we’ve a great relationship. I’m actually gonna bring them on for an episode just to talk about that because that’s his freelance gig. He works for eBay. And then he works remotely for eBay, and then edits podcasts on Upwork as his side hustle. And he does quite well. You have to plan ahead and book ahead, because otherwise it’s like, ‘I’m only doing so many this month. Either you’re regarded or not because somebody else was getting it if you’re not. Also, he’s doing well. And so now, looking forward to 2020, what’s ahead for yourself and for Digital Nomad Quest? I know you mentioned you’re doing a joint venture and you also have your travel blog. So there’s a number of different things going on there as well as your YouTube channel. So what’s next for you?

Sharon: Yeah, so Me On Travel, I don’t post too much on that anymore. But I’m definitely all about building Digital Nomad Quest through my podcast, Digital Nomad Quest Podcast with Sharon Tseung, and my YouTube, which is just my full name, and then my blog, Digital Nomad Quest. And I’m also actually working on multiple courses, especially because I took that Pat Flynn workshop around course creation. So I have a lot of things in the works like a blogging course as well as we’re doing a real estate investing course. And then an Amazon FBA course. Me and my boyfriend started building up my Amazon FBA business again. So we’re going to like to team up on that. And that’s been doing really well. So the main focus really is building up my brand. And also, I think real estate investing is probably, I want to invest in more properties and stuff like that, and then the courses.

Adam: So I heard somewhere recently that the average rent in San Francisco is like $3,600 a month, which is ludicrous.

Sharon: Yeah. That’s insane.

Adam: That’s what I imagined.

Sharon:  That’s a huge reason —

Adam: Exactly. I imagine. But getting in on a retail real estate game over there is probably something that once you get honest, it can do quite well for you because they’re emphasised.

Sharon: It’s expensive, though. That’s why actually, our course is on out of state real estate investing. Because the bear is ridiculous, where it’s actually hard to positively cash flow through rents.

Adam: I imagine. It’s a lot of money tied up. So like you’re saying, focusing on some digital products. You got a bit of Amazon FBA, which is a physical product business. And then also looking at real estate, which is a real long ball player. I always imagined a chessboard and you just put your finger behind a couple of pawns and you’re just sliding. You’re just moving a couple of pieces forward at the same time. So, look, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on, Sharon. Where can people find you online if they were looking for you?

Sharon: Yeah, so you can find me on DigitalNomadQuest.com. You can go to my podcast, Digital Nomad Quest Podcast with Sharon Tseung. And then my YouTube is Sharon Tseung, my full name. And you can also find me on social media through my full name Sharon Tseung.

Adam: Amazing. I’ll make sure to link to everything in the show notes. Thank you to all the listeners for tuning in. Make sure to head over and subscribe on Spotify and iTunes and if you’re taking a photo where you’re listening to them from, tag us on Instagram, @digitalnomadcafepodcast, I get tagged from all over the world. It’s actually brilliant. When people tag you on Instagram, they could be anywhere and everywhere. It’s absolutely fascinating to see. So thank you to everybody who does it. And thank you to Sharon for joining us today.

Sharon: Awesome. So thanks so much.

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