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The idea of sitting back and not doing much of anything while you earn money is kind of the definition of living the dream, right?
That’s passive income, something that earns you money without necessitating active (or at least sustained and constant) involvement. Maybe you aren’t feeling totally up to starting your own business, starting a passive income stream might be a better step for you. And as impossible as it might sound to build a side hustle while working full time, people actually do it every day while bringing in hundreds or thousands in extra income each month.
There are indeed ways that people can make passive income for a nice monthly cushion. (And who knows, maybe even more than a cushion!) Don’t forget, though, that you have to pay taxes on the money you make from your passive income.
We got the chance to talk with entrepreneurs about passive income ideas that they rely on and recommend to either supplement—or totally change—the way you make money.
As Simon Dlugowski founder and CEO of MySocialNerd.com, says, no matter your chosen industry as an entrepreneur, “Passive income is always a possibility, and believing is the first step!”
We’ll go over 10 passive income ideas and advice from people who’ve actually done it below.
Starting a blog is one of the most effective ways to bring in passive income. Specialized business blogs offer a place for you to share valuable information about your expertise (and that really could be anything from movie reviews to basic computer programming).
Cristian Rennella CEO and cofounder of elMejorTrato.com, says, “My area, for example, was finance. I always liked it and I started to write about it nine years ago on my own website. Even today, articles from so many years ago still continue to generate visits and, consequently, income.”
He adds that if you study a little search engine optimization strategy (SEO) to learn the basics, and publish on your own social networks, you will start getting hits through Google.
Alok Rana, founder of LoudTechie, gives a few more tips for blogging to increase income, selling ads, and getting into affiliate advertising. “Let’s assume you joined an affiliate program with GoDaddy, the hosting company,” Rana says. “GoDaddy will provide you an affiliate link with which you will get a commission as a reward on every referral you bring in as a member or sales. Reviews work best.”
Trent Silver, millennial career and personal finance expert, and co-founder of StickerDoo.com, recommends looking into the Amazon affiliate program.
“This is the most lucrative way to earn passive income nowadays. Several of my friends have set up these simple sites that typically offer reviews or side-by-side comparisons for products found on Amazon. When consumers search for a product using a search engine, the affiliate site will come up. When these shoppers end up purchasing their Amazon product through the affiliate site, Amazon will cut the affiliate in with commission.” Companies often engage in ecommerce marketing to increase their brand awareness, so there’s always a market for these kinds of affiliate sites.
He adds that friends have earned $200 per week to $10,000 per month using Amazon’s program.
The second one of our passive income ideas is a common one. Overall, this was the most frequent and popular answer from entrepreneurs. If you want to get even more in-depth with your expertise—write an ebook. It simply involves having a story or being passionate about a subject or process.
Sure, your book could be an amateur sci-fi novel, but it could also be your tips on starting a small business or a book on the best accounting tips.
Personal finance blogger Ming from Earn More Live Freely talks about the endless possibilities of self-publishing, using something like the Amazon Kindle eBook.
“Just years ago, becoming a published author was unimaginable for most people,” she says. “Now, everyone can write a book and publish online—and even selling a few units every month with minimal marketing and promotion efforts on your part makes for passive income.”
Jeff from Jason Coupon King bought a website for $6,000 off Flippa.com. That seems like a nice chunk of change for a passive income idea… but it really paid off.
“The website, at the time, was making about $450 per month,” he shares. “I know a little about SEO and web design, so I redesigned the IU and improved the SEO. And in about five months, the site was making about $700 per month. And in about 10 months, I recouped my initial $6,000 investment. So, now the site earns about $800 per month as passive income.”
If you already offer a service, have a website, or have clients in whatever field you’re in, find a sustainable and passive way to give your clients even more of your goods.
Zondra Wilson of Blu Skin Care LLC makes passive income doing online subscription consulting, teaching people to care for their skin. But she notes that it wouldn’t have to stop there. Assess your industry, she suggests, and you could expand your possibilities. “A personal trainer, for instance,” she says, “may create a passive income stream by selling a line of vitamin supplements that clients would purchase monthly.”
Rob Ristagno of Sterling Woods Group says a quick tip for monetizing your online content is creating “a product pyramid” for your website or blog. “If you create the right funnel of content, moving casual readers of your website or services toward paying subscribers, you can sit back and let your content do the majority of the work for you.”
He adds that with the right offerings from your webspace, the returns on digital memberships require very little investment after you’ve put the pieces in place.
If your skill or expertise you’ve created content around is in high demand, create an online course—even better if it’s on a topic that will always be relevant to students. Evergreen content will require less upkeep, making it a great passive income idea.
Nick Malekos, a growth marketer of LearnWorlds, says the e-learning market is estimated to grow at $240 billion by 2023, and he suggests it’s an industry every entrepreneur and digital nomad should consider. It can be an easy online business idea to try out if you want to grow and add value to your brand.
“Creating and selling online courses or a training and networking membership site is a great way to monetize your skills,” he says.
Another one of our passive income ideas is an old standby for many. This is the old brick-and-mortar classic when it comes to passive income—and if you have the extra capital, purchasing property to then rent and manage can be very, very lucrative.
As realtor investor Tony Figurelli of SORS Homes says, “The monthly rental payments that come in for the initial investment and upkeep can’t be beat if you structure a good deal.”
It might seem counterintuitive to put your investments in the hands of a machine, but online “robo” investing, like Betterment, works as a passive income idea.
Put money into an account, choose the level of “risk” you are willing to take and an algorithm does the rest of the work to keep your portfolio together and growing. Plus, the fees are much lower than what you’d have to pay an actual person to do the same work for you.
Videos, music, apps, plugins, or themes are all products that take some upfront work but bring in income over time.
Jeff from Good Financial Cents speaks to the benefits of stock photography: “Photography websites such as Shutterstock and iStockphoto can provide you with platforms to sell your photos. They may offer either a percentage or a flat fee of each photo that is sold to a site client.”
After creating an online portfolio, one photo can be sold multiple times, meaning you can still make money without investing the time and money into starting a photography business. This is one of the passive income ideas that can easily come from a hobby of yours.
Many of us have started projects we couldn’t quite finish, but all that hard work doesn’t have to go to waste.
Jason Lavis, managing director of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd., says, “Often, it seems like something isn’t working and it’s tempting to abandon the project. For example, we might let domains expire, or delete drafts for ebooks or manuals.”
However, even unfinished, these projects might still have some value attached to them.
“I’ve found that sometimes websites mature with age and build traction on their own,” Lavis adds. “The search engines use age as an authority signal, and over time, good content will attract natural backlinks. For the cost of a domain renewal of $10 to $20, you might find out later that you’ve got thousands of monthly organic visitors—traffic that can be monetized.”
Instead of throwing a project away completely, see if there’s some aspect you can pull out to monetize. It doesn’t have to be a domain name—you could market a chapter of an unfinished manuscript as an exclusive web pamphlet, or sell an unused logo to another entrepreneur (if you have the rights to it).
While sometimes passive income takes a little work or investment of time or funds upfront, usually the work pays off and pays off again. Even if you start small, you’ll get the hang of it in no time if you stick to a solid plan. If you’re looking for more small business advice there are plenty of places you can look.
The passive income ideas listed above are just some of your options when it comes to making passive income on the side. Many of the passive income ideas we shared can be done from home and can be done long term so the amount they make you over time really adds up.