As we’ll discuss, passive income opportunities are usually limited-time only, and honestly, over half of what you try won’t work. Diversification is your friend. Having many sources of income — at least 7 including your “day job” — is an important hedging strategy. Personally, I have been working at it for a long time, and I’ve had many failures in trying to build my portfolio. I’ve done a few apps for BlackBerry (come on, it was 2009), contemplated writing a book, started a bunch of blogs and forums, and joined countless affiliate programs. Here are the ones that are currently working right now.
Now, how do you do it? Building a passive income will require some work up front, but choosing a method that plays to your strengths will yield the most success, and it can even become a fun hobby! Have an aptitude for photography? License your photos to stock photography websites. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to invest? Learn how with a robo-advisor. No matter what your strengths are, we’ve gathered 35 ideas for different ways you can generate passive income and build your wealth.
Wow! What an awesome list! My favorite is the stock photography because I love photography. I have had some success there, particularly with one photo I make some decent income from. I think the key with stock photography is finding a shot that is high demand. Then, find a new unique way to frame that shot. This is the reason my St. Louis Arch photo is a top 10 on both ShutterStock and iStockPhoto. Thanks for the awesome ideas above!
“There is no such thing as 100% passive income,” says Flynn. “Even with real estate you still have to manage your properties, or even with the stock market, which is potentially passive income, you still have to manage your portfolio. With online business, there is no such thing as 100% passive income — and this is coming from a guy with a blog called SmartPassiveIncome.com. The definition of passive income is ‘building these businesses of automation,’ but in order to keep them automated and keep that trust going with your audience on top of that, you do have to keep it up every once in a while — so a lot of time upfront and a little time after. But there is alway time involved.”
That means you visit properties, review their tax histories, ensure the local market is robust and has sound long-term potential and the local rental market is one that is favorable to landlords and property owners. If you have to compete to fill your units and pay high taxes in areas where potential rental income in limited, you made a bad business decision and will have trouble generating passive income from your real estate investment. But so long as the property and market are good, you can make money.
I actually spent a year and a half working as an affiliate marketer (mostly selling drumming related products – lessons, kits ect). 5 years on and one of my one page sites (which I’ve not touched) still nets me about $150 a month. I won’t be retiring off that but only really now appreciate the reverse pyramid approach to entrepreneurship (working for nothing initially but later being paid without effort!)
I actually spent a year and a half working as an affiliate marketer (mostly selling drumming related products – lessons, kits ect). 5 years on and one of my one page sites (which I’ve not touched) still nets me about $150 a month. I won’t be retiring off that but only really now appreciate the reverse pyramid approach to entrepreneurship (working for nothing initially but later being paid without effort!)
We usually think of Craigslist as a place to buy and trade random stuff, but Craigslist can actually be a great opportunity to sell your services online to an active and engaged audience. Simply check the “jobs” section and “gigs” section for specific cities and see if anything matches your skills. The great thing about Craigslist is that it is one of the highest converting traffic sources on the internet (think active buyers) which can mean more opportunities at higher pay.
One of the most important assets you have is your credit score. By taking care of it and pursuing the steps to improve your credit score, a world of opportunity can open up for you. If you need a loan to buy that rental property or some quick funding through a business credit card, a good credit score will help you get approved so you can build passive income.
However, this situation tends to create additional problems for the freelance and gig economy as a whole. Fifty-seven percent of freelancers already report having cash flow issues. Additionally, 58% of freelancers have also had troubles with getting paid on time. This is troublesome, because while income may not always be constant, expenses certainly are.
That’s why I sometimes hesitate to even say I participate in affiliate marketing. But that’s not how I, or you, should approach it. I’m here to lead the change and show people there is so much opportunity out there in affiliate marketing the right way (and the smart way). It’s insane to me that more people aren’t really realizing their full potential with this.
But then figure out your unique selling proposition, what advantage you can offer that the market currently lacks. “My advantage in the passive income marketing space is that I’m not afraid to share my failures or where my income comes from,” says Flynn, who details his impressive income every month. “Transparency is huge,” he says. Referring to the personal bio on his LEED exam site, he says, “You might think I’m not benefitting from putting my story on there, but it helps me establish a relationship with people there. I’m someone who went through the same experience people went through on the site.”
Network marketing or multi-level marketing is one of the most popular passive income streams. When you join a network marketing company, you become part of a team. The goal, for some, is to become a leader, such as a district manager of your area, because you can earn more money. The drawback to network marketing is poor leadership and the emphasis on building teams quickly. If you join a team with a weak leader, you won't like network marketing. But if your leader knows how to build and develop people and teams, you could be successful, earning $5,000 or more per month. A word of caution: read the fine print when you sign up. Make sure you have ample time to quit if you decide the opportunity is not for you.
2. Focus on income-producing assets. Internet growth stocks may be sexy, but they provide no income. To build a large enough passive-income stream to survive, you must invest in dividend-generating stocks, certificates of deposit, municipal bonds, government Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate. You're free to invest in non-income-producing assets for capital appreciation too. You just want to earn reliable income when the day comes to leave your job.
Let’s continue the vintage BMW idea. Old cars obviously require quite a lot of maintenance. Many people will buy a “fixer upper” with the intention of spending their spare time repairing and restoring it. There’s a very obvious market here: a guide to restoring different BMW models. Depending on your knowledge, you could produce detailed guides for the three or four most popular models and sell them. Not everyone restoring a car will buy them, but some probably will.
Betterment – Betterment was the first robo-advisor to launch, almost ten years ago. They’ve automated the entire investing process, so all you have to do is watch your portfolio of assets grow (over the long run, of course). They do charge a .25% annual fee of your account total, so if you’ve got $100,000 that’s being managed by Betterment, you’ll pay just over $20 per month.
However, I think for those who are willing to do what it takes, the sky is the absolute limit. As an example, I’m trying to take a page out of FinancialSamauri’s book and create an online personal finance and investing blog. It is an enormous undertaking, and as a new blogger, there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done. That said, I hope that one day I can not only generate some passive income from the hours of work I have put and will put into the project, but I hope to be able to help OTHERS reach their financial goals.

Do you think it’s possible to build a blog from scratch, outsourcing the work from day one (assuming I have some cash that can cover the initial expenses until the blog generates enough income to at least break even)? In other words, do you think you could you have spent your $500 max per month for the writer, social media expert, etc to build your blog to the point it’s earning the same amount of money it does now?


Another way to generate passive income is to invest and be a silent partner in a business. This is very risky, but with risk comes the potential for high returns. For example, several years ago both Lyft and Uber were looking for private investors to invest in their companies. Today, they are worth billions - but you as an investor would only reap that benefit if they go public via an IPO, or get acquired. So, it's risky.
If you're curious about starting a blog, read this guide. I used Bluehost to get started with a website because it's super cheap - a free domain name and $2.95 per month to host it. I love Internet businesses because of this extremely low overhead and huge income potential. Our Bluehost deal is specific to our site, so if you want to start a website, make sure you get our $2.95 hosting deal from Bluehost.
Mike, I don’t consider the income from FS to be passive, as I’m spending time commenting to you right now. But since 75% of my traffic comes from search, the most traffic I would probably lose is 25% for probably a year. And then my search word rankings would probably slowly fade given frequency of posting new content is one of the search algo variables.
You can upload a T-shirt design with Amazon Merch and earn a percentage of each sale. If you choose to outsource the design, there are sites like Fiverr and Upwork with freelancers that can provide designs as low as $5 and up. Or you can buy pre-packaged designs from companies such as Design4Dollars and Merch Ready Designs, Lindsey says. Amazon.com also allows you to stream your own video game, talk shows, and other creations for income.

Who doesn’t like some down and dirty affiliate fees?!  Especially if you realize it can be even easier to make money this way than with an ebook.  After all, you simply need to concentrate on pumping out some content for your own site and getting the traffic in, often via Google or social media.  Unsurprisingly, most people can enjoy their first affiliate sale within 30 days of starting a blog.  Continue reading >
Use your base to build your audience, and when you’re starting out, take advantage of the fact that you don’t have a big following to give more personalized help to your first fans. “The people who are starting out — that’s their advantage,” says Flynn. “They have the opportunity to speak directly with those people few coming their way to find out what their problems are and give them the special treatment that bigger brands might not be able to do.”
So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.
5. Make sure you are properly diversified. Capital preservation is underrated. We saw a lost decade for tech stocks between 2000 and 2010 after the first dot-com bubble burst. It actually took 13 years for Nasdaq investors to get back to even. Investors in the Borsa Istanbul stock market index just gave up 10 years' worth of gains after they saw a plunge in their currency, partially due to increased tariffs by the US and a lack of confidence in the government. Your passive income needs to be properly diversified in order to take the hits.
Real Estate Crowdsourcing – After selling my SF rental house in mid-2017 for 30X annual gross rent, I  reinvested $550,000 of the proceeds ($810,000 total) in real estate crowdfunding, based in San Francisco. My goal is to take advantage of cheaper heartland real estate with much higher net rental yields (8% – 12% vs. 2% – 3.5% in SF) and diversify away from expensive coastal city real estate which is now under pressure due to new tax policy which limits SALT deduction to $10,000 and new mortgage interest deduction on mortgages of $750,000 from $1,000,000 for 2018 and beyond.
There are a couple of problems with direct investment in real estate though. It’s expensive to buy even a single property, a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars, and there’s no way most investors can build a portfolio of different property types and in different regions to protect from those risks when you have all your money in just one or two investments.
Many people choose not to take this route because they get intimidated by complex applications and technology. The truth, however, is that you don’t need a fancy platform or special software to create a powerful online course. Your lessons can be sent out as emails, followed by action plans and/or video tutorials. This approach can be even more effective as most people check their email on daily basis. In fact, that’s the exact approach I took with some of my freedom eCourses.
To save time and effort, a person can group two or more of their passive activities into one larger activity, provided they form an "appropriate economic unit." When a taxpayer does this, instead of having to provide material participation in multiple activities, they only have to provide it for the activity as a whole. In addition, if a person includes multiple activities into one group and has to dispose of one of those activities, they’ve only done away with part of a larger activity as opposed to all of a smaller one. 
Perhaps a coworker purposefully tries to make your life miserable because they resent your success. Maybe you get passed over for a promotion and a raise because you weren’t vocal enough about your abilities, and mistakenly thought you worked in a meritocracy. Or maybe you have a new boss who decides to clean house and hire her own people. Whatever the case may be, you will eventually tire.
I love real estate investing, but it requires a lot of upfront capital plus you are going to have to learn to love your tenants (see point 6 below)! Crowdfunded real estate investing gives you a way to still invest in the real estate market, without having to necessarily put in a lot of money upfront. It’s definitely a much more passive investment than owning a flat or a house!
Great breakout of some common items that are (mostly) accessible to individuals. My biggest issue with p2p is the ordinary interest it generates and the ordinary tax that we have to pay. That really takes a bite out of the returns. Fortunately, I opened an IRA with one of the providers to juice the return with zero additional risk. 6-8% nominal returns over a long period of time will make me very happy. It should end up as 5-7% of the portfolio anyway, so nothing too significant.
What’s also really important to realize here is that when I took the exam I was teaching people to study for, I didn’t get a perfect score. In fact, I didn’t even get close to a perfect score. I passed. But I also knew a lot about this exam—way more than somebody who was just getting started diving into studying for it. And it was because of that, because I was just a few steps ahead of them, that they trusted me to help them with that information. To support this, I provided a lot of great free value to help them along the way. I engaged in conversations and interacted in comments sections and on forums. Most of all, I just really cared about those people, because I struggled big-time with that exam myself.

While all the ideas in this article can and do work, you can’t go in half cocked. Just putting up a niche website and expecting people to magically come and click on your ads won’t get you very far. Instead, you’ll need to put work into building an audience. You can put a course up on Udemy in a few hours, or a theme on ThemeForest, but unless you market it, you won’t sell very many copies. 


Build a list in a particular niche and tell them stories. Create a bond. Build a relationship with them. It's important. Then, when you've created a bit of culture, start marketing affiliate products or services to them that you think they might like. Just be sure that you personally vet out whatever it is that you're selling to avoid complaints if the product or service falls short.

"People will pay to learn what you know about programming or designing, how to be a better public speaker, and or how to increase sales. How you design, develop and create your e-course will depend on what you teach, how you teach, and the best way for your readers to learn" Zelenko says. Sure, you'll spend some time and money developing your course on platforms such as Udemy.com or Teachable.com, but once you've created it, there's minimal upkeep.
One of the great things about generating passive income via rental properties is the ability to buy properties throughout the country instead of just in your generally locality. Because you will hire others to manage, maintain, and repair the property, you don’t have to be in the same location and can maintain passive ownership from virtually anywhere. That gives you the ability to better choose rental markets where you stand the best chance of profiting the most due to lower local and state property and business taxes.
Using ad networks like adsense doesn’t prevent you from targeting advertisers directly. In fact, that’s how I started; I searched the net for potential advertisers who advertised products relevant to my content and offered them yearly packages. If you choose this option, bear in mind that you’ll need to provide traffic reports and other site statistics.
The point I wish to communicate to you and the community members from the example of my thought process above is this: since deciding to become a Netpreneur, I’ve never been SO miserable in my entire life. I’m overwhelmed with all this data I have gathered and it paralyzes me to the point I’ve NOT set up a blog or website because I’m too confused to do so!!

What is refer-a-friend? Essentially, you make money for using a service and telling others how great it is. Most of the times, you’ll get a unique link that you can share with friends directly or throughout social media. Whenever anybody clicks your link and signs up and/or makes a purchase, you’ll get a bonus. The bonus can be in the form of cold hard cash or an account credit.
Your articles are so in-depth and helpful, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I am a 22-yr old finishing my last semester of college, studying Computer Science and Psychology. I’m in a really good place with my finances (2k savings, no student debt, only expenses essentially rent, groceries, and utilities) and I want to get ahead financially so I can pay my parents back and save up a lot.
My esteemed marketing colleagues initially balked at the idea of creating products that generate royalties, so I can understand how creating something from nothing might be daunting for those who aren’t even in creative roles. However, realize there is this enormous world out there of photographers, bloggers, artists, and podcasters who are making a passive income thanks to the Internet.
I’ve been researching a path to financial independence, and the wealth of knowledge here is amazing, but at times overwhelming. I’m honestly not quite sure where to start. Whether it be paying off debt (which I’ve always heard is priority 1), or sinking money into realtyshares or CDs for growth. I’d love to generate a passive income (in a few years time) to supplement some of my day job to have time to spend with my little one during her golden childhood years, but not sure if there’s even a right order to go about it.
eBay is, of course, the biggest and most popular auction and shopping site out there. You pay a small insertion fee to list your product (starting from 10 cents) and a small portion of the selling price (10%) if your item sells. Currently, insertion fees for your first 50 listings per calendar month are free. Also, if you are planning to sell on regular basis, you may want to consider setting up an Ebay store. Among other things, this will allow you to list your products at reduced rates.

Ever find yourself humming a tune, or laying down tracks for yourself or friends? Your next catchy phrase might fetch you a solid passive income stream. On sites like ProductionTrax and Audio Network, musicians can license their compositions for background music in apps, commercials, and websites to earn more money. Read more about this strategy at The Guardian.
Let’s say you just decided to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card. Once you had the card in hand, you could begin using it for purchases and earning cash back for every swipe. For every dollar you spend on regular purchases, you’ll get 1 percent back in the form of rewards. For dining and travel purchases, on the other hand, you’ll score a smooth 2 percent back.
If you’ve got a book you’re itching to write, you can still go with the traditional publishing route. (We published our first book using a traditional publisher.) Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, a publisher can help get your book into print and onto shelves in both online and traditional book stores. This is still a good route, although it may take more work and be more expensive than some other options.
Like I mentioned earlier, coming in late in the game can be an advantage if you listen, learn and provide solutions for what seems to be missing. Even coming into a market with a minimal viable product, you’ll have the advantage of being able to get deep into the customer experience to shape your product or service to what it should be, again, all based on what you’re able to measure and learn.

At age 55, I own high-end rental properties (near the beach) and commercial buildings servicing the medical industry. I was widely criticized during my career for not living up to my income; that is, buying big homes with many fancy cars. I married a great woman who understood that saving and investing today meant a better lifestyle and more freedom tomorrow. Our passive income is half of my active income from sales, but my net worth has increased substantially. We are both happier and healthier than we were in the high-stress pressure cooker of franchise sales. The naysayers have become converts to the concept of passive income, but they have locked themselves into a “big hat, no cattle” lifestyle. It has been a great ride!


I make a little bit of money off of referring people to services I truly believe in. I never recommend things I don’t personally use, but if I’m going to refer friends to Shopify, products on Amazon, or Udemy courses besides my own, I have no shame making a couple bucks off it. In most cases, these referral sales come from older links within my podcasts or courses, and therefore, are completely passive.
There are a couple of problems with direct investment in real estate though. It’s expensive to buy even a single property, a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars, and there’s no way most investors can build a portfolio of different property types and in different regions to protect from those risks when you have all your money in just one or two investments.
I get excited every paycheck because I know my investments are going to increase by a decent chunk. I use Mint to keep a close eye on what the current value is at and make goal marks to hit. Every time I hit a goal, I do a little happy dance and decide what I want my next marker to be and when I want to hit it by. I’m nowhere close to being financially independent or even debt free, but it’s exciting to see the ground work being laid and watching it grow.

​Network marketing, or multi-level marketing, seems to be on the rise. Companies such as Young Living Oils, Avon, Pampered Chef, and AdvoCare are all multi-level marketing companies. You can earn passive income through network marketing by building a team underneath you (often referred to as a down line.) Once you have a large team you can earn commissions off of their sales without having to do much.
Hi Sam! I loved your sentence, “There’s so much information in my head that I need to write it down or else I might explode.” That’s exactly how I feel! I never thought of myself as a writer, and especially not a blogger, but recently I’ve started dabbling in it and it feels so nice to get everything out! I’m dedicated to helping others succeed with personal finances, and there are plenty of “how-to” sites, but it’s important to get people thinking and motivated to prepare, plan, and save!
×