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35-year-old's income streams made her more than $500,000 last year—some are completely passive

Courtesy Julie Berninger

Julie Berninger, 35, has had multiple online income streams for years.

Berninger started her blog, Millennial Boss, in 2015, while working as an engineer manager at Amazon. That's brought in tens of thousands of dollars in passive income for years. She started her Etsy store, where she sells printables like bachelorette party activity lists, in 2017. That, too, has brought in thousands in passive income every year.

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In 2019, she co-founded an online course company, Gold City Ventures, with fellow side hustler Cody Berman. Their flagship course teaches users how to start an Etsy store selling printables like Berninger's. The course has grossed millions.

In 2023, Berninger and Berman teamed up for another new business: Auros Agency. This one replicates the success of Gold City Ventures for creators with a sizable following. "We're doing the same business model that we do for the Etsy seller community that we have," she says, "but it's in all different niches."

Here's how much she made in 2023, and what she has planned for the coming year.

With Etsy, 'you can run it on autopilot'

Millennial Boss covers personal finance topics such as how to monetize a blog and a list of the best budget planners on Etsy. It makes money through affiliate links and display advertising. Berninger updates it once a year, changing references from the previous year to the current one. Otherwise, "I just kind of leave that running on the side," she says.

The blog made about $35,000 in 2023.

Similarly, she does not spend very much time on her Etsy store, about an hour a quarter. That's not necessarily the best approach. "You can run it on autopilot," she says, "but you have to top it off every year," or add new products and update old ones if you want to keep getting attention.

For her, the Etsy shop is less an income stream and more a tool to help her Gold City Ventures community. The store gets referenced in her course as an example. "It's part of the teaching method," she says. If she has a good idea for a product, she tries to share it with her community instead of creating the product for her store.

Her Etsy store brought in about $3,000 in 2023.

Gold City Ventures grossed more than $2 million

Gold City Ventures continues to grow.

The company sells its course on how to start an Etsy store for printables, as well as a membership that includes coaching from successful Etsy sellers, feedback on listings and a Facebook group where members can ask questions. The course costs $197 and the membership costs $29 per month, says Berninger. The course currently has about 4,000 members.

Most recently, Berninger and Berman hired new coaches to help members succeed and implemented new community activities like 30-day challenges. Members get a template to create a new printable and have 30 days to start creating new products with it. This helps with accountability and motivates members to keep creating.

"The April templates were tear-off flyers," she says, "almost like what you would see in a coffee shop" if someone was offering guitar lessons or babysitting services. They've also added a new bundle of courses called Beyond which teaches people how to sell digital products on sites like Shopify.

The company's gross revenue exceeded $2 million in 2023 and Berninger's take-home pay for the year was more than $500,000. She works on the business about 10 to 15 hours per week.

'We'd be an eight-figure business'

The idea for Auros Agency came after a conversation with a reality TV star (who she prefers to keep off the record as they haven't yet signed a contract) made Berninger realize there could be a market for replicating their course success with influencers, who have already built dedicated audiences.

"We can offer them this digital product with monthly recurring revenue that's in their niche to their followers," she says.

Auros creates their clients' courses, helps to build their communities and creates a marketing funnel for their product. Thus far they've signed three clients: realtor Brooke Coughlin, social media marketing expert Seth Cottengim and fitness coach Ashton Pienaar from reality TV show "Below Deck." Cottengim's course about growing your Instagram following went live in late May and has already brought in thousands of dollars. The course and membership sell for $179 per month or $2,497 per month with one-on-one coaching.

Auros creates their clients' courses and communities for free and when creators start selling these products, they split the profits 50/50 with the agency. Berninger and Berman each invested about $10,000 to get the business going and she spends 20 to 25 hours per week on it.

Berninger, Berman and their chief operating officer, Taylor Smith, have high hopes for Auros. If the success of Gold City Ventures could be replicated across five different niches, for example, "we'd be an eight-figure business," she says.

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