Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.
Everything passive first takes active energy. The time to put in the effort is when we are young and not ravaged by disease or burdened by family obligations. I remember being able to snowboard from 9am until 4pm every day for a year. Now, I’m lucky to last from 11am until 2pm without wanting to go to the hot tub and drink a bucket full of beer! If we can appreciate how lucky we are when we are young, we’ll be able to maximize our vitality and live financially freer when we are older.
Another great way to get started is to identify an area of interest you have. For instance, Robert Duff has been successful in building passive income by selling books on Amazon. Then, go out and start talking to people. Ask them, “What are you struggling with right now? What are your biggest pains? What’s something you wish existed that doesn’t?” That’ll give you some ideas about where to get started.
I am 30 years old and am retired. Previously, I made a modest salary as an Army officer. I own three duplexes and a quadplex in central Texas (10 rental units in all), and each of the properties provide me with net rental yields in excess of 15%. The last deal is actually an infinite return as my partner paid the down payment in return for a 50/50 split on a property that would otherwise provide a net rental yield of 18%. The above net rental yields also factor in an excellent property management team who manages my properties while I pursue other investment opportunities. To date, I have never interacted with any of my tenants nor have I ever had to personally deal with any maintenance issues.

P2P lending started in San Francisco with Lending Club in mid-2000. The idea of peer-to-peer lending is to disintermediate banks and help denied borrowers get loans at potentially lower rates compared to the rates of larger financial institutions. What was once a very nascent industry has now grown into a multi-billion dollar business with full regulation.


I personally haven’t tried any of the below methods so I can't speak from experience to how they work. In my mind, the most lucrative way is through building a REAL business online and providing your visitors with great value. However, after some thought, I decided to include these here because, quite often, the biggest roadblock for many is a mental one: believing that making money online is possible. From my experience, once you have made your first dollar, or even your first cent online, the world is suddenly a different color.

Bryan added: "If you make your choices based on, not 'how can I get money for free?' but on, 'What challenge can I put in front of my face that's going to have me step up to be the kind of person I'd rather be?' you're going to start to forget about wanting passive income, and you're going to start to focus on what purpose you truly want to create the world."
So how do you get started with the EP Model? First, you need to be an expert in the eyes of those you’re looking to serve. And again, you don’t need all those qualifications and credentials. A lot of people gain expertise and credibility just by sharing their experience learning something, which is something I’ve done on SPI.com. If you think about it, many people in the personal finance or fitness space establish their authority by sharing their journey and their process. They do it by sharing their experiences—and you can do the same thing, too.

You are also free to choose a fund that is based on any index that you want. For example, there are index funds set up for just about every market sector there is — energy, precious metals, banking, emerging markets — you name it. All you have to do is decide that you want to participate, then contribute money and sit back and relax. Your stock portfolio will then be on automatic pilot.
In mid-2017, I sold my San Francisco rental property for 30X annual gross rent and reinvested $500,000 of the proceeds in real estate crowdfunding. I’m leveraging technology to invest in lower valuation properties with higher net rental yields in the heartland of America. With the new tax policy starting in 2018 capping state income and property tax deductions to $10,000 and limiting interest deduction on mortgages of only $750,000 from $1,000,000, expensive coastal city real estate markets should soften at the expense of non-coastal city real estate.
Blogging is still going to take work starting out. That path to $5,000 a month didn’t happen overnight but just like real estate development, it build up an asset that now creates constant cash flow whether I work or not. I get over 30,000 visitors a month from Google search rankings, rankings that will continue to send traffic even if I take a little time off.
There was a time when CDs would produce a respectable 4%+ yield. Nowadays, you’ll be lucky to find a 5-7 year CD that provides anything above 2.5% The great thing about CDs is that there are no income or net worth minimums to invest, unlike many alternative investments, which require investors to be accredited. Anybody can go to their local bank and open up a CD of their desired duration. Furthermore, a CD is FDIC insured for up to $250,000 per individual, and $500,000 per joint account.
​Affiliate marketing is the practice of partnering with a company (becoming their affiliate) to receive a commission on a product. This method of generating income works the best for those with blogs and websites. Even then, it takes a long time to build up before it becomes passive. If you want to get started with affiliate marketing check out this great list of affiliate marketing programs.
One thing I’ve realized is this: It’s FAR easier to work for an employer than it is to develop durable passive income streams for the average person. Why? Because working for an employer in a place that “needs” you means that it’s possible to show up and give a 50% effort. You can show up, put in your time, go home, have a beer, watch TV, and rinse and repeat all without REALLY having to put in the effort.
To start your affiliate marketing journey, make sure you sign up for my Affiliate Marketing Masterclass, which will walk you through five steps to finally begin generating an additional passive income stream using authentic affiliate marketing strategies I’ve used myself. Click the link below to sign up for the next Affiliate Marketing Masterclass:
Speaking from our own experience, you can’t be a passive McDonald’s franchisee. Every McDonald’s potential franchisee will need to complete at least thousands of hours of training before he/she would be approved to acquire a franchise and only if he/she has the financial resources to acquire a franchise. It could take years before one would get a single store franchise. Until the franchisee eventually has acquired multiple stores and established his/her own management team, the franchisee would have to put his/her nose to the grindstone and work his/her ass off every day. I won’t call it a passive investment by any stretch of imagination.
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.
Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.
With Google AdSense, you can earn passive online income from your website by showing ads that are relevant to your visitors. The great thing about Adsense is that Google does most of the hard work i.e., they find the advertisers, pick the ads, track the clicks, and even deposit the earnings straight to your bank account each and every month. No wonder that 65% of the top 200 websites that show ads use AdSense.
Thanks for the great article…although I have to point out many of the items listed are not passive but active, such as selling bodily fluids, writing blogs or resumes, and collecting bottles and cans. To be truly passive, the income source must require no effort on your part (after initial setup). Real estate, dividends, P2P lending…these are truly passive income sources.
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.

Once you start to see some success, don’t be led astray by the money. While Flynn does use affiliate marketing to make money, he only ever recommends products that he has personally used and likes. He is inundated by offers to earn $50 per sale through commission on products he has never even tried. “I’m like, ‘I don’t even know you, I don’t know what this product can do, and I don’t know if this product will help my audience.’ I only use products I’ve used before, because that trust you have with your audience is the most important thing in the world.” He says if you do recommend a product for the incredible commission but your audience has a bad experience with it, your credibility will be shot.
They've delegated, automated, streamlined, systematized, etc. Not with the intention of sitting on some beach somewhere for the rest of their lives and watching the checks roll in, but with the intention of freeing up their time to create even more value that they're inspired to create, either by leading that business to the next level of greatness and service to greater audiences, or by starting a new business.
Also, if you pursue an income stream like affiliate marketing, your blog can be a source of content that allows you to link to affiliate sites in a way that is seamless and natural. For example, if you are an affiliate marketer for a company that sells productivity tools, you can blog about your own struggles to stay on top of your to do list. Then, you can mention how much those tools have helped you.

When I started SmartPassiveIncome.com, I already had experience with a successful, automated online business at Green Exam Academy. A lot of people were providing online business advice at the time, but most were using other people’s businesses as examples, or just spoke theory with no real case studies to back it up. Here, I was able to use my own experience as evidence, and it helped me become more credible right from the start.
Nearly every “9 to 5” worker (nothing against them) is a service worker. The definition of a service is a commodity where the value is created and consumed at the same time — think massages, for example. They create value — inputting purchase orders, serving customers, managing employees, etc — for a company or employer. The employer then consumes these services simultaneously.
Starting a blog is one of the most popular side hustles to earn online income. This is because whether you have 10 people or 10 million reading your content, the amount of your effort to write an article is the same. Websites have low start-up costs and you can literally buy your domain, launch your site and have a few pages created in less than an hour. You won’t start making money right away, but you will be building towards that first $1 of income.
So many readers have asked me “How do you invest your money?”.  And so I’ve shared my thoughts on building a smartly diversified portfolio for long term returns.  Of course, this is great when you have a large capital base and 30-40 year time horizon.  For example if you are compounding at just 5-10% but doing it over 40 years and from a large starting base, plus you are topping it up monthly with new funds, you can enjoy ridiculous returns.
If someone stole my hard work and passed it off as their own, I’d be livid and would pursue them to the ends of the Earth for full restitution. A man I hired to work with me registered my preferred domain name of my business and has re-registered it in subsequent years. That’s bad enough; I’m mad as hell. The worst aspect of his behaviour is that I don’t know WHY he has done that; I paid him the fee we had agreed on and thanked him for his input. We also got along perfectly well during the project so far as I know, so I don’t see what his problem is.
Crowdfunded real estate companies like Fundrise are similar to today’s peer-to-peer lending companies. Like Lending Club and Prosper, they offer a platform that matches real estate investors with investment choices. They help people looking to invest money in real estate in a passive manner. Also, investors can avoid bargaining with sellers. No need to get involved in the transfer of ownership and management of those properties either.

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 your point about Municipal Bonds, my concern is tax reform. While everything is mostly being worked behind closed doors (and likely wont ever see the light of day). There is still the chance they propose to limit the amount of the tax free nature of these bonds. While I dont sen panic in the streets, I do see a scenario where bond prices get additional pressure because municipalities have to increase rates due to people putting their money to work elsewhere.
Build an investment portfolio that pays out dividends (Stocks / Bonds / Mutual Funds). Dividends are payouts that companies give to their investors as a portion of their earnings. They’re often paid out quarterly. If you’ve already got an investment portfolio, it’s time to take a good look at which stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you own. You’ll see consistent returns from the ones that pay dividends. This is a fantastic way to earn passive income. Invest once and watch the returns pile up.

Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.


Lending Club went public in 2014 and is now worth about $1.7B. They advertise P2P lending returns of over 7% for well-diversified portfolios of over 100 notes. I’ve personally been able to achieve a 7.4% annual return over the past two years in a completely passive way by investing in A and AA notes. Others have achieved a 10% annual return through relatively minimum effort.
Developing passive income is different. With the exception of one of my passive income streams (cryptocurrency mining), all of the others require real, hard work. Truly, I understand the barriers for people getting into building alternative income streams. I would say that most people WANT passive income, but truly aren’t willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.
I have had a LC account for almost 2 years. Invested 5k. A lot of very small loans. Unfortunately I had to invest though Folio FN. The fees reduce your return. Now, they are not even allowing that. My interest and return of principal are not being reinvested. I talked with LC and they are working on it for my state. Even if I can obtain access to the prime portfolio, I would only place 10 percent of my cash here and would reinvest for at least 3 years. I am still concerned about what would happen when a recession hits.
Consider refinancing your mortgage if you haven’t done so in a while before interest rates go up further. Or consider leveraging cheap money responsibly to acquire hard assets. LendingTree Mortgage has one of the largest lending networks online, and they will contact you immediately with their offers. You want lenders competing for your business, and get hard quotes so you can pit them against each other.
What I Do: I’ve set up multiple investment accounts outside my main operations bank that deals with working capital e.g checking, paying bills. By transferring my money to a couple brokerage accounts and two other banks as soon as it hits my main bank I no longer have temptation to spend on frivolous things. As a result, I can wake up 10 years later and reap the rewards of compounding. My 401(k) is the best example where constant contributions over 18 years has grown to over $500,000 without any savings pain given it just became a part of life. Real estate is also a fantastic asset class for the long term. It’s fantastic to enjoy your home, pay down your mortgage each month, and end up with a paid off asset that has likely appreciated during your time of ownership. 

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.
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