I set out to write the best damn passive income ideas post on the Internet.
Because here’s the thing. Most “passive income” list posts just repeat the same boilerplate ideas–open a high interest savings account, for example.
And yes, that will earn you a small amount of passive income (and I’ll certainly mention it as an option below), but my guess is you’re looking for something a little more substantial.
In this post, I’ll:
- Break down the 4 types of passive income.
- Share my own actual passive income streams.
- Present dozens of other ideas you can take action on starting today — and back those up with real-life examples.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
The 4 Types of Passive Income
The allure of passive income is exciting. I mean, if the idea of making money in your sleep doesn’t get you excited, I’d check your pulse.
On top of that, passive income is important.
I’ll let Warren Buffett explain:
“If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”
I think we can all get on board with that.
So how can you get some that sweet, sweet passive income–or “mailbox money”–for yourself?
Here’s what you need to know.
In general, passive income is the money you earn from assets you control. (Assets are simply things that other people value; cash, real estate, physical goods, attention, etc.)
The drawback is assets usually take either time to build or money to acquire.
Here are the 4 types of passive income you can start working toward today:
1. Buy cash-flowing assets
This is the “make money with money” option. Under this category you’ll find options like dividend investing, business lending, real estate, and stuff like that.
It’s great–if you already have money to invest!
2. Build assets
Building something of value–say, a digital product or website that earns advertising revenue–is a viable path to passive income. These things take some time to create and market, but can run relatively passively often for years if set up correctly.
We’ll explore some examples of how I’ve done this and how other side hustlers have as well.
3. Share or sell assets
There are ways to make relatively-passive income renting or selling assets you control.
This could include extra space around your house, stuff you have collecting dust, or even the lock screen on your phone (see below!).
4. “Reverse” passive income
“Reverse” passive income comes from cutting your ongoing monthly expenses. A penny saved is a penny earned, right?
Well, because of taxes on earned income, it’s actually better than that!
I’ll show you some of my favorite ways to earn some reverse passive income. No extreme couponing, I promise.
My 23 Passive Income Streams
I’m certainly no investment guru or financial wizard, but the vast majority of my income is “passive”– or at least time-leveraged.
By time-leveraged, I mean I don’t punch a clock or trade my time for money in any direct way. And it’s been that way for several years:
The tiny sliver of “active income” on the chart comes from one-on-one consulting calls.
Unfortunately, here’s how the chart looks for most people:
They have a big chunk of active income–from their job–and (if they’re lucky) a little slice of investment income.
Let’s work toward shifting the balance to the green!
Here are my current sources of passive income, roughly from largest to smallest.
It’s important to note I’ve built these up slowly over time, starting while I was still working a 9-5 job. I don’t want to paint the picture that I’m raking in millions sitting in a hammock on the beach, either–because I’m not.
I still work a few days a week on growing my business and have a ton of fun doing it.
1. Affiliate Commissions
I got my start in affiliate marketing back in 2004, and it’s been a significant piece of my revenue pie ever since.
How affiliate marketing works is I earn a commission for referring leads and customers to other products and services.
My first affiliate business was a comparison shopping site for footwear. It helped people find the best price on their next pair of shoes, and earned commissions from Zappos and other footwear retailers when those people made a purchase.
Once the site was built, I earned these commissions whether or not I was actively sitting at the computer.
Here’s a look at my daily affiliate commission trend back in the day:
Even today, affiliate marketing is a really important revenue stream for me. This site (and yes, this post too) includes lots of affiliate links to products, apps, services, and software I think will be helpful to my audience.
Here’s a (probably over-the-top) example of a post monetized with affiliate links. Over its lifespan, it’s generated over $30,000 in commissions. From one post!
Related: A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up an Affiliate Website
Related: Could You Add Affiliate Commissions to Your Service Business?
2. Podcast Advertising
Last year, sponsorship revenue on The Side Hustle Show eclipsed my old day job salary, which was a cool milestone.
This one isn’t totally passive because I still have to produce the show each week, but it’s certainly time-leveraged. The more listeners I can reach, the better rates I can command.
And that’s just one way podcasts can make money. Today, I estimate each show is worth between $1500-2500 in overall value to my business.
Of course, it took time to build this asset. Lots of time.
But now there are more than 300 episodes–each one a little mini asset–that can build relationships and earn income on autopilot.
3. Kindle Book Sales
The next few income streams are all self-publishing related. It’s never been easier to create a book of your own and put it up for sale on Amazon.
I received my first author royalties in 2012 and have added several more titles since then. It’s one of my favorite side hustles and one of my most passive income streams–write the book once and collect royalties for months or even years whenever it sells.
Some of these titles are still racking up passive income years later:
When you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you’ll earn a 70% royalty. Outside of that range, it’s 35%.
Related: My Self-Publishing Income Report: 12 Months Post-Launch
4. Paperback Book Sales
For every Kindle book you write, it probably makes sense to add a paperback edition. Thankfully, Amazon makes this incredibly easy with its KDP Print service.
The service is print-on-demand, meaning you don’t need to stock a garage full of books. After you upload your files and set your prices, Amazon prints and ships out each copy as customers place their orders.
I typically earn around $3 for every paperback copy sold.
Related: Creating and Launching a KDP Print Journal: The Making of The Progress Journal
Since some readers will always prefer audio, I’m all for giving them that option. One of my books earned over $2000 in audiobook sales in its first year.
You don’t even have to record your work yourself. In fact, unless you have a podcast or YouTube channel where people are used to hearing your voice, I probably wouldn’t!
Through ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, Amazon helps connect you with professional narrators. Some of these voice over artists will even read and produce your book for free, in exchange for a share of future royalties.
6. Dividend Investing
Investing for dividend cash flow has helped me get off the sidelines and into the market. (I’m the person who always thinks we’re due for a correction!)
My basic strategy–and again don’t take this as investment advice–has been to buy shares in companies with a long history of paying, and increasing, dividends. These include mostly name-brand businesses like Target, Chevron, AT&T, and Proctor and Gamble.
Because they’ve been around forever, they’re not likely to have explosive share price growth, but they do spin off consistent passive cash flow.
Over the last few years, I’ve slowly built this up to several hundred dollars a month.
Check out a service like the modern brokerage M1 Finance to get started yourself.
You can trade stocks for free, or select one of their pre-built portfolios. (That’s an example of an affiliate link; I’ll receive compensation from M1 if you create an account.)
7. Udemy Course Sales
In 2014 I created an online video course about how to launch non-fiction Kindle books on Amazon. It earned $3500 in the first couple months, and has gone on to earn passive sales ever since.
The total is now over $20,000!
All I have to do is respond to the (pretty infrequent) student questions or comments. Again this falls under the model of “create something once, and sell it over and over again.”
I also syndicated my course to Skillshare, another online education platform. There I earn a much smaller amount than Udemy, but it’s totally passive from an asset I already created.
Skillshare instructor payouts are based on how popular your course is. Even 4+ years later, this brings in $20-40 a month.
9. Digital Product Sales on Fiverr
Several years ago, I decided to test selling a couple of my books on Fiverr. I figured it would be another interesting “buy button” platform to experiment with.
Sure enough, people bought them. And in fact they continue to buy them.
Fiverr definitely has not been a focus lately, but in total I’ve earned over $13,000 on the site since late 2013.
(A good chunk of that revenue was NOT passive; I sold book editing and video website reviews in addition to my digital products.)
10. Merch by Amazon
This is a low-overhead, low-investment way to build a little passive income. In our house, Merch is a fun little side business and generates around $60-200 a month for us.
How it works is you upload t-shirt (and now other product) designs to Amazon, and the e-commerce giant does the rest. When someone orders it, they’ll print it in the size and color selected, and ship it to the customer. You earn the spread between whatever price you set and the cost to print it.
Our best month was over $500 in profit, which I think we could hit consistently if we dedicated more time to creating new designs. (That hasn’t happened since the arrival of Little Hustler #2.)
Here’s an example of one of our designs:
For more on getting started with Merch by Amazon, check out Episode 216, in which my guest earned over $50,000 in profit doing this.
Related: In Episode 300, Flav Medeiros noted he doubled his Merch income by syndicating his bestsellers to Etsy with a service called Printful.
11. Display Ads
If you run a website, display ads like Google Adsense might be your first way to earn a few passive dollars from your traffic.
I don’t have display ads on Side Hustle Nation, but do on another site I manage. I’ve actually sold these sidebar banner ad placements myself instead of using a 3rd-party advertising host (like Adsense).
This gives me more control over what ads are shown to my visitors, and I can earn more as well. My advertisers are set up on automatic monthly payments and have been with me for years.
This income stream generates around $450 a month for me.
Your ability to do the same will of course depend on the amount of traffic your website receives and the demographics of that traffic.
12. Selling a Featured Listing in a Directory
The site I mentioned above has a company directory component to it. It’s similar to Yelp in that the highest-rated companies rise to the top of the rankings.
And similar to Yelp, companies have reached out about buying a “featured” placement at the top:
I said I could do that for $500 a month, labeled the listing as “sponsored”, and put the company on an automatic monthly payment plan.
Boom, a new passive income stream.
13. “Non-Display” Ads
Many website owners don’t want to clutter their sites with ads, and I totally understand that. (That’s one reason there aren’t any ads on this site!)
I’ve been playing around with this for the last few years on the directory site I mentioned above. A few advertisers have taken me up on it, to the tune of around $150 a month.
I don’t charge a ton for these, but each is on automatic payment through PayPal.
Here’s a cool service that can help you sell these on your site.
14. YouTube Ads
If you have over 1000 subscribers on your YouTube channel, you can enable Google’s built-in monetization.
I began experimenting with this after my chat with Thomas Frank from College Info Geek. He pointed out that viewers on YouTube expect ads. They think it’s just YouTube running an ad before their video, not realizing that the individual video creator can decide whether to turn the ads on or off.
Lately this passive income steam has been around $100 a month:
And if you’ve seen my YouTube channel at the time of this writing, you know why I call this “passive” … it’s in pretty sad shape. I’m planning to do more with video this year and beyond though!
Fundrise is a cool “alternative” way to invest in real estate.
Disclosure: I’m a Fundrise affiliate. This is not investment advice or solicitation for investment.
They have several funds that operate like mini REITs or real estate investment trusts, where you’re buying a combination of debt and equity in a range of commercial properties they’ve bundled together.
The platform is open to non-accredited investors with just a $500 minimum investment.
Historically the company has paid 6-10% dividend yields. I’m about 4 years into my investments there and they’ve paid out every quarter so far.
Of course there haven’t been any major real estate downturns that time either!
With PeerStreet, you’re essentially helping real estate flippers with their acquisition and rehab costs, and earning 6-9% on your investment.
The big advantage over Prosper (see below) is the loans are backed by the real property so if the borrower stops paying, you have some recourse — namely foreclosure.
The loans are shorter term, generally 1 year or less, instead of 3-5 years.
The big drawback is it’s $1000 minimum investment per deal, compared to $25 on Prosper (see below) — so if one of those defaults, it could potentially be a big blow. PeerStreet is also currently only open to accredited investors.
17. Worthy Bonds
To add diversification and cash flow to my portfolio, I’ve taken up a small position in Worthy Bonds.
These small business bonds pay 5% interest, and you can buy them for only $10 apiece. The bonds are used to fund inventory or asset-backed loans to small U.S. businesses.
Since the loans use inventory as collateral, they’re considered safer than other personal or business loans. You can also automatically re-invest your interest and make penalty-free withdrawals at any time.
Continuing the theme of supporting small businesses, on Kickfurther.com, you invest in inventory for growing e-commerce companies. This appealed to me much more than backing random companies on Kickstarter.
Instead of early access to a product that might not ever reach production, you can interest on short-term inventory loans. A typical Kickfurther “consignment” might pay 5-9% “profit”, with a 4-10 month payback period.
Some of my early deals on the site didn’t pan out, which kind of soured my opinion of the platform, but I’ve been seeing better results lately. The company has added more lender protections and transparency into their whole process.
If you want to diversify your investments and help some small businesses at the same time, Kickfurther might be worth a look.
Get a $10 sign-up bonus toward your first deal when you join through my referral link.
19. Credit Card Rewards
Yes, I consider credit card rewards passive income because I earn them just from spending money like I normally do.
In our house, this stream is worth hundreds of dollars a year in the form of cash back, free gift cards, and travel.
The magic really happens when you take advantage of certain sign-up bonuses for new cards — earning the equivalent of 20%, 30%, 40% cash back or more in travel value or statement credit.
Here’s just a really simple example:
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is currently offering $150 as a sign up bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months. That’s 30% cash back, or probably 30x better than what you’re earning on your spending right now.
And if your household is anything like ours, it won’t be much trouble to spend $500 on your card in 3 months. Plus there’s no annual fee!
Click here to compare this card with others.
This card also gives you 1.5% cash back every day.
Related: Credit Card Rewards 101: How to Earn Free Cash and Travel by Spending Smarter
Pei is my favorite new automatic cash back app.
After you sign up and sync your card, you’ll automatically earn an extra 1-10% cash back at many stores and restaurants.
Your card is secure with Pei uses bank-level 256-bit encryption for end-to-end encrypted communication, and uses 2-factor authentication when linking your cards.
Once you earn $15, you can cash out via PayPal, a gift card, or–if you’re a crypto enthusiast–Bitcoin.
So far I’ve earned Pei points from Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, 7-Eleven, In-N-Out, Papa Murphy’s, and more.
Use my referral code “hustle” for a $2.50 bonus when you sign up.
(Read my full Pei review here.)
21. Drop Rewards
Piggybacking on the credit card rewards above, I love the free Drop app to earn an extra 1% cash back at some of the stores I shop at most frequently.
This is one very simple and very passive. After you create your account and link your credit card, it’ll ask for the 2 stores you spend the most with. I picked Target and Trader Joe’s.
Then as you go about your regular shopping and use your Drop-linked card in the store, you’ll get Drop points.
For every 30,000 Drop points I earn, I cash them in for a $30 Amazon gift card. I’m not entirely sure why they’re giving me this free money, but I’ll take it.
(You can cash out earlier if you shop through one of their in-app offers.)
Use referral code Sidehustle when you join for 5000 free Drop points (worth $5)!
Click here to get the app and link your card.
22. Peer-to-Peer Lending with Prosper.com
Peer-to-peer lending with Prosper was my original alternative investing experiment, which started way back in 2011. Over that time I’ve earned over $10,000 in interest, but the performance has suffered lately.
It’s probably my fault; I picked the highest risk loans in search of the highest return.
With Prosper, you’re buying a fractional portion of a personal loan (as little as $25), and earning interest as the borrower makes monthly payments over the next 3-5 years.
The site advertises expected returns in the 3.5-7.6% range based on historical performance. I’m currently drawing my account because I think I can meet or beat those returns elsewhere (like the real estate options above).
23. Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Certificates of Deposit are interest-paying savings vehicles. How it works is you buy the CD for a set term, usually 1-5 years, and earn a fixed interest rate on your money.
This one isn’t super exciting.
Our 12-month CD is earning 2.25% through Capital One — totally passive, but probably just enough to keep pace with inflation.
24. Savings Account Interest
Our savings accounts, through Capital One and Betterment, earn 1-2% interest on our balance. It’s not a lot, but adds up.
The important thing to note here is you can do much better with online banks. For example, CIT Bank pays up to 1.80% (rates subject to change, of course), and offers up to a $300 bonus when you open an account.
Even if you don’t have substantial savings (yet!), it might be time to make the switch.
25. Checking Account Interest
This passive income stream is laughably small, but hey, every penny counts right?
I earned a whopping $1.78 in checking account interest last year!
47 Other Ways to Earn Passive Income
Now that you’ve seen how I earn passive income, I’ll share some other ways you can get in the game.
These will follow the 4 Types of Passive Income we learned about above:
- Buy cash-flowing assets
- Build assets
- Share or sell assets
- “Reverse” passive income
Buy Cash-Flowing Assets for Passive Income
With this option, you’re putting your money to work for you–not your time or necessarily your skills. How can you turn money into more money? Thankfully there are lots of ways to get this done.
We’ve already covered a few of my favorite cash-flow investments, including:
However, there are several other options that might appeal to you depending on your risk tolerance and knowledge.
Play around with this cool tool to see what else is out there:
DiversyFund is a newer “eREIT” that targets “value-add” apartment complexes. These are cash-flowing complexes in need of upgrades – but once the improvements are made, the value of the complex and rental incomes increase.
The strategy seems to be working. Diversyfund has seen 15%+ returns in its first couple years! It’s important to note that you should only invest money you don’t expect to need for a while; the company suggests a target 5-year holding period during normal market conditions.
DiversyFund is open to non-accredited investors with a minimum investment of just $500.
Continuing the real estate theme is Roofstock. The platform specializes in matching investors with “turnkey” rental properties across the country.
A couple friends of mine have purchased several houses through this easy-to-use site. I like the diversity of REITs, but if building a real estate empire is your long-term plan, these guys will help you do it–one house at a time.
StreetShares is a unique platform that allows you to invest in / support veteran-run businesses and earn a fixed 5% return.
The product is called the Veteran Business Bond and is open to all investors with just a $25 minimum contribution. You can access your money anytime for a 1% fee; or withdraw fee-free after a year.
RealtyMogul was one of the first real estate crowdfunding sites I came across, and they have two “MogulREIT” options that are open to non-accredited investors with relatively low minimum investments (starting at $5000).
The platform also offers private lending deals for accredited folks that target returns of 12-14%.
When I looked at their REIT they only had 3 properties in it, so I decided that wasn’t very diversified. (It’s since grown to house 18 different properties and paid out an 8% annualized dividend last quarter.)
30. YieldStreet (accredited investors only)
YieldStreet is an interesting platform that unlocks investments previously only available to hedge funds or institutional investors. The company builds “mini mutual funds” (my term, not theirs) of different asset classes, including real estate, legal case settlements, and commercial equipment and accounts receivable.
The platform targets 8-15% annualized returns and has historically earned investors over 11% unrealized internal rate of return.
31. Website Investing
As I can attest, blogs and websites can earn great passive income without your direct involvement. But you also usually can’t stand still for long before that income starts to fade.
Things break, content needs updating, and Google rankings are always changing.
There are a few services that can help you invest in this asset class hands-off though. Onfolio is one that came across my desk recently.
If you have web skills, you might like this interview with Stacy Caprio, who bought enough cash flow in the form of existing websites to quit her job.
32. Raw Land Flipping
OK, so this business model is a ton of work upfront, but done right, you’ll be collecting payments for years.
The basic idea, as explained by Roberto Chavez on The Side Hustle Show, is to buy parcels of vacant land at a discount, and then to re-sell that property on a monthly payment plan.
33. Royalty Exchange
Royalty Exchange is a unique investing platform that lets you purchase future royalties from popular (and not-so-popular) music.
Peer-to-Peer Lending for Passive Income
I haven’t been thrilled with my Prosper.com returns lately (see above), but there are certainly other platforms to consider if you’re interested in peer-to-peer lending.
34. Lending Club – Lending Club is the largest peer-to-peer investing site in the US. Expected annual returns for a diversified portfolio of notes range between 4-8%. The minimum investment is $25 per loan.
35. Bondora – This European peer-to-peer lending platform provides loans to residents of Spain, Estonia, and Finland. They’ve been in business since 2009 and according to their site, over 80% of investors have earned at least 9% on their money. The site is open to European Union residents and residents of Norway and Sweden, with a minimum investment per loan of just €5. If you’re outside the EU, you must be accredited to invest.
36. SoFi – Accredited investors can invest in SoFi’s portfolio of “prime consumer credit.”
37. Zopa – UK-based lending platform where you can invest as little as £1000, with expected returns between 4.5-5.2%.
38. RateSetter – The UK site proclaims a 100% repayment record, which might explain the less-than-exciting 2.7% returns advertised.
39. QuidCycle – Another UK platform, with loans from 3.9-6.1%.
Business Lending for Passive Income
Aside from Kickfurther, StreetShares, and Worthy mentioned above, here are some more options if you like the idea of lending money to small businesses.
Please note these options are currently only open to accredited investors.
40. Funding Circle – On Funding Circle you can lend money to established and growing American small businesses. The interest rates vary from 5% to over 20%, but historical returns are in the 5-7% range. There’s a $500 minimum per loan, but $25,000 minimum required deposit to open an account.
41. P2BInvestor – Help small businesses grow with short-term, asset-backed investment opportunities.
42. Wunder Capital – Earn up to 6% investing in solar energy projects.
Build Assets for Passive Income
If you don’t happen to be sitting on mountains of idle cash, the good news is there are still lots of ways you can begin building passive income.
In fact, I believe allocating some of your time to just this pursuit is incredibly valuable. When the assets you build start paying off, you can slowly taper off trading time for money.
I touched on some of my methods above, which primarily revolved around building income-producing websites and books.
But those aren’t the only types of assets you can build in your spare time. Here are some other ideas to consider.
43. Create an Email Course
Do you have a skill you can teach over email? You might even already have some material in your “sent mail” folder!
Highbrow is a unique learning newsletter platform–that pays creators every time someone signs up for your class. My friend Paul Minors has one on creating a productivity system, and said it pays him passive income every month.
(On top of that, the platform helps him reach a new audience of potential blog readers, clients, and customers.)
44. Create an Online Course
With services like Teachable, it’s never been easier to create and sell an online course of your own. These can command premium prices ($100-$2000 or more) and allow you to help more people than you could with one-on-one consulting.
What could you teach?
Consider what people already ask you for help with. What do you know more about than the average person?
Over the years on The Side Hustle Show, we’ve seen people making money with online courses on just about every topic imaginable. Some of the more creative case studies include:
How will customers find you? If you don’t have an audience or traffic source, one method that seems to be working well lately is the YouTube-to-evergreen-webinar model, as described by Nate Dodson in this episode:
45. App Development / Software
Could you solve a problem with software? It’s the ultimate scalable business in that the same code can be sold to an unlimited number of customers.
While smartphone apps tend to have a short shelf-life, a premium software tool can be sold either as a one-off purchase or a recurring monthly subscription.
As a customer, I’ve bought both. If you don’t have the technical chops to build something like this yourself, you could always partner or hire someone who does. The biggest consideration is to do your homework upfront and make sure there’s a hungry market demand for what you’re building.
46. Music Licensing
Evan Oxhorn described himself as “a moderately talented musician,” but explained that he’s earning thousands of dollars a year in passive income through stock music licensing.
His songs have been on NPR, the Outdoor Channel, Verizon’s On Demand channel, and more. In fact, as digital media channels proliferate (apps, Youtube, your favorite podcast), the demand for affordable, licensable music keeps growing to keep pace.
47. Photo Licensing
Like music licensing, licensing your photography is a numbers game. It appears on every passive income list but my understanding is that it’s incredibly competitive and you’ll need thousands and thousands of images to make any meaningful profits from it.
For example, Dave Bredeson is a professional commercial photographer who supplements his commissioned work by selling stock photos on Dreamstime.com. Even though each image sells for relatively little, that same image can be sold to dozens of different buyers. In fact, Dave has around 3,200 images in his portfolio, but he’s made over 100,000 sales on Dreamstime.
“I’ve been averaging around $1,600 a month in Dreamstime earnings,” he explained. “I choose topics that are easy to produce at the lowest possible cost. My portfolio is dominated by backgrounds, technology, business, and Christmas images.”
48. Alexa Skill Development
There are a couple ways side hustlers can make passive income with Amazon’s popular Echo devices.
The first is like Apple’s app store. You can build special Alexa voice apps, called “skills.”
As a skill developer, you can set your own price and earn 70% of the revenue when users buy it. For example, Nick Schwab created a free ambient noise skill, and now has 10,000 paying customers for a premium subscription version, priced between $0.99 and $1.99 a month.
Amazon also has a rewards program to encourage developers to build out the ecosystem of skills. Your rewards are based on the popularity and engagement of your skill, but some developers report earning thousands of dollars a month.
49. Voice Over Royalties
As you might have guessed from the audiobook section above, there’s another way to make money from audiobooks on Amazon without writing anything yourself.
That method is as an audiobook narrator and producer. If you love the idea of getting paid to talk, know your way around audio engineering equipment and software, and don’t mind reading other people’s work, it could be a fun side hustle.
As the producer, you’ll be able to make fixed price bids on projects that authors post on ACX. You’ll also see royalty-share projects, where you’d be narrating the book for free upfront, in exchange for a share of the audiobook royalties and bounties when it sells.
In both cases, you’ll submit your audition and get to work if chosen.
50. Subcontract a Service Business
Chris Schwab started a residential house cleaning business back when he was still in college, but he grew it to $60,000 a month in less than two years—all while never mopping a floor or dusting a shelf himself.
What Chris discovered was that, even though there were already dozens of competing cleaning services, there was opportunity in the space. He figured that out while perusing Yelp reviews of existing cleaning companies.
“No one complained about the cleaning itself,” he said. “What people complained about was the customer service. They didn’t know when the crew was going to show up; they couldn’t get a quote; no one was answering the phone. I knew I could do that, and find cleaners to do the actual work.”
Since then, he’s delegated much of the customer support as well. When we caught up, the business took just a few minutes a day for him to manage.
51. Sell a Digital File or Guide
Jodi Carlson brings more than two decades of experience in Girl Scouts to the table–first as a scout, then as a troop leader. She started a blog documenting the activities she was doing with her scouts, mostly just as a reference for herself and other local leaders.
Before long, troop leaders from the other side of the country had discovered her site through Google or Pinterest. They emailed asking what other ideas she had.
That’s when Jodi began compiling her activity guides into PDF documents. She uploaded them to Teachers Pay Teachers, a site to buy and sell lesson plans, and made several sales in the first week.
Since then, the business has grown to more than $5k a month through sales of these digital guides, advertising revenue, and affiliate partnerships — all on the side from her day job.
52. Drop Shipping
Drop shipping is a unique type of e-commerce where your supplier actually ships the products to customers on your behalf. As the seller, you don’t have to purchase any inventory upfront, and profit on the spread between the retail price you charge and the wholesale price you’ve agreed upon with your supplier.
In one of the most popular Side Hustle Show episodes of all time, Rene Delgado broke down how he sold $300,000 worth of bounce houses in his first year as a drop ship store owner.
Although there is a lot of upfront work in building the site and securing supplier relationships, drop shipping can be relatively passive after that.
53. Vending Machines
Vending machines are one of the oldest passive income ideas — a silent sales force that collects cash and automatically dispenses products when you’re not around.
The challenge is managing inventory and keeping the machines stocked, especially if you have several locations. Still, the thought of returning to a machine and finding it filled with money is pretty motivating.
For more on how the vending machine business can work, check out my interview with Matt Miller, whose passive income empire started with just $36 and a bag of gumballs.
Share or Sell Assets for Passive Income
The next category of passive income ideas we’ll explore involves selling are sharing some asset you control. It could be a physical product, it could be extra space, or it could even be something more abstract, like an idea or your attention.
Many of these require having something of value to share or sell, which naturally will take either time or money to acquire. Still, here are some options to consider.
54. Amazon FBA
The Fulfillment by Amazon program lets individual sellers like you and me tap into Amazon’s logistics network and massive audience of buyers. How it works is you ship products into the warehouse(s), and Amzon ships the items to customers on your behalf.
I’m counting this as passive because like other options in this section, you can make sales and profit long after you’ve built up your initial inventory.
The simplest way to get started is actually by sourcing discounted products locally, as explained by long-time Amazon seller Jessica Larrew.
When I tested this myself, I made over $650. The downside is if you stop sourcing, you’ll eventually run out of products to sell.
55. License a Product Idea
Product licensing is a unique way earn residual income from your ideas–while letting someone else do the work. Nate Dallas and his brother split $300,000 in royalties from a Pictionary-inspired card game they licensed to Mattel.
The duo (a dentist and a preacher) didn’t have to design it, produce it, or sell it–but they found someone who could–and they cashed the checks.
56. Rent Out that Spare Room
With Airbnb and similar sites, you can turn the extra space in your home into extra cash. Check the calculator on their site to see how much you could earn.
Where this can become more passive is if you have a second property and hire a 3rd party service to manage your bookings, guest communication, and cleaning.
57. Rent Out Your Car
The average vehicle sits idle about 22 hours a day. What if you could turn the time you didn’t need your car into cash flow?
That’s the promise of peer-to-peer car rental platforms like Turo and Getaround. These marketplaces provide a way for to list your vehicle for rent, set your prices, and get paid–and they handle all the insurance.
Some friends of ours in San Diego do this with their personal “fleet”, and have earned enough to offset the cost of their dream car, a Tesla Model S. Of course, they’ve figured out some process efficiencies to protect their investments and minimize their time.
58. Rent Out Your RV
The “idle time” stats for RVs are even worse than for cars. If you’ve got a RV parked in your side yard, it might make sense to let another family take it for a spin.
Sites like RVShare and Outdoorsy facilitate peer-to-peer rentals and cover insurance. The prices range from $150-300 a night!
59. Rent Out Your Boat
With sites like Boatsetter and GetMyBoat, you can rent your boat to you landlocked peers. A quick search of boats nearby yielded plenty of results with rates ranging from $230 to $950 per day!
How often do you really get out on the water?
60. Rent Out Your Backyard
If you don’t like the idea of strangers all up in your space, maybe letting travelers stay in your backyard is more appealing. Platforms like Campspace and Gamping help connect people with “unofficial” camping spots. (At press time, both sites were more popular in Europe.)
61. Grow Marijuana in Your Garage?
Citizen Grown is “cannabis by the people, for the people.”
The company promises to pay you $1000 a month to host a fully automated pot-growing “Node.” Each unit requires a 5ft x 5ft space of your home, apartment, or garage.
62. Rent Out Your Dust Collectors
A number of marketplaces have popped up to help you make money from items you rarely use, and to help borrowers from buying equipment they don’t really need.
One popular platform is Babyquip, which rents quality used baby gear to traveling families. Members average over $600 a month in rental income.
ShareGrid is the largest peer-to-peer site for high-end camera rentals. Rates start around $50 a day for DSLR bodies and go up from there depending on what you have to share.
Meanwhile, FatLlama has gone broader, using the slogan “Airbnb for your stuff.”
63. Rent Out Your Garage or Attic?
The Neighbor platform aims to disrupt the traditional self storage industry by letting you house your neighbor’s extra stuff where you have space for it.
This is likely to be very passive monthly income after the initial drop off. According to the site, hosts are earning up to $15,000 a year running their own mini self-storage operations.
Join through my referral link and get a $50 bonus when your space gets rented!
64. Rent Our Your Parking Space
Maybe you don’t have an RV to rent out, but do have space to park one. In that case, Stow It might be worth a look. The site helps connect parking space owners with people who need to store their seldom-used vehicles.
In Europe, JustPark seems to have more traction.
65. Rent Out Your Lock Screen
Download the Slidejoy app (Android only) to “rent out” your cell phone lock screen to advertisers.
That sounds super annoying to me, but some users report earning around $10 a month. You can swipe right to unlock your phone normally and ignore the offer.
Cash out your earning with PayPal, on gift cards or even donate them to charity.
66. Turn Your Car Into a Mobile Billboard
If you don’t care what your car looks like, sign up to have your car covered with a wrapped advertisement with a service like Wrapify.
The money you earn with Wrapify is based on how far you drive. Commuters in popular areas can earn up over $100 a week.
Download the app and as you drive, Wrapify passively tracks your mileage.
67. Share Your Data
A few different market research companies will pay you passive income if you consent to share anonymous usage data with them. For instance, Mobilexpression pays you in exchange for data from your mobile phone.
Download their app and allow it to work in the background recording your browsing habits while on your phone. By participating with Mobilexpression, you’ll earn weekly credits redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers.
Similarly, the SavvyConnect VIP program “uses safe, cutting-edge technology to collect data as you surf the web.” In exchange for sharing this data, they’ll pay you up $5 a month per device.
Reverse Passive Income Ideas
My final method for generating passive income is to actually save some money instead. Your personal profitability is the spread between what you make and what you spend, so you can end up with more cash at the end of the month by cutting expenses.
Itemize out your expenses and see what opportunities you might have, especially to trim recurring monthly fees. Look at items like gym memberships or car insurance.
However, there’s a reason I tend to focus on the income generating side of things. There’s a limit to how much you can save, but your earning potential is limitless.
I shared a few of my favorite “reverse passive income” ideas above, including Credit Card Rewards and Drop, but once you’ve already tackled those, here are a few more to consider.
Trim is a unique program that will help you save money. Sign up, download the app, and connect your accounts to Trim.
They will analyze your spending and find ways to save you money. This includes negotiating to lower your bills, like cable and internet. Trim also can help you cancel forgotten subscriptions and recurring charges costing you money every month.
I was a little skeptical but Trim negotiated more than $300 in annual savings off my Comcast bill!
The company charges 25% of the savings as their success fee, which is significantly lower than competing services like Billshark or Billcutterz.
For years, my wife and I have used Ting as our cell phone provider. The average bill is just $23 per month per line, and it runs on the Sprint network.
This switch from Verizon saved us over $800 a year!
I will note though, Ting charges based on how much you use. If you’re a heavy data user taking full advantage of an “unlimited” plan, it might not be right for you.
Dosh is a cool app that allows you to earn extra cash back for purchases you make at many retailers and restaurants. For example, here are the offers I found nearby:
How this one works is you just download the app and connect your card. Then, shop as you normally would and then earn money by shopping at stores you may already frequent. You will find that many local restaurants are connected to Dosh, not just large chain restaurants.
Transfer your earnings to a bank account, PayPal or donate it to a charity.
The average cashback rate with Dosh is 2.5%, but some are as high as 10%. If you’re going to be eating or shopping there already, this is a super passive way to save money.
I first heard about RebateKey from Side Hustle Show guest Amit Desai, and was pretty skeptical.
On this site, companies offer to refund a portion of your purchase on certain products — up to 100%. As in, you get the item totally free.
What’s in it for them, I wondered?
Well, they’re building sales proof on platforms like Amazon, gathering user feedback, and collecting emails. I tested it out and sure enough, a month later, I had a check for the full amount of my $21.95 purchase. I’ve used it several times since then as well.
Pretty crazy, but definitely worth checking out to see if they have any products you’re in the market for.
Conclusion: Start Building Passive Income Today
To recap, we’ve covered a couple dozen ways I earn passive income and shared a ton of other ideas for you to get started with today. These income streams didn’t happen overnight for me; they took years of dedicated effort to build.
But that effort is worth it. In fact, it’s required if you ever want to stop trading time for money.
My recommendation is to pick a few of the options on the list that seem most appealing and doable to you, and get started with those. Let me know how it goes!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 4 types of passive income?
Passive income comes in 4 main varieties. 1. Investment returns. 2. Residual earnings from assets you build yourself. 3. “Renting” assets you already control. 4. “Reverse” passive income; that is, saving money on recurring expenses.
How do I generate passive income?
The most common way to generate passive income is through investment returns, such as share price appreciation, dividends, or real estate rental income. But perhaps more accessible is to build income-producing assets — like websites — of your own.
What are some examples of passive income?
Stock dividends, real estate rental income, advertising revenue, affiliate commissions, savings account interest, book sales, private lending, and tons more!
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