Lots of good insights here. I’ve just recently gotten my own website for making online income. Also gotten a website for my fledgling voice over business. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to making passive income online, especially if you’re not financially savy, this is a very helpful blog in that regard, with all the useful tools and reference materials, it certainly removes a lot of guesswork.
You are valuable. Your time, your work, knowledge, experience, and output are all valuable. In fact, your employer (or your customers, if you’re an entrepreneur), probably pay a lot of money to rent these things from you. The problem is, whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, an engineer, or even a baker, the value you create is consumed once — then it’s gone. You can only sell a loaf of bread once. You can only sell each open heart surgery to one client. The value trades hands, and now it belongs to the customer — you get paid once. 

However, investing in passive income streams isn't as easy as it looks. Most online passive income strategies, such as e-commerce, are effective and profitable only after you have built up a substantial following. And they take a lot of time, and sometimes, money, to make them work, unlike passive investing in low-cost index and other funds in the stock market.
The biggest surprise is real estate being second to last on my Passive Income Ranking List because I’ve written that real estate is my favorite investment class to build wealth. Physical real estate doesn’t stack up well against the other passive income sources due to the lack of liquidity and constant maintenance of tenants and property. The returns can be huge due to rising rental income AND principal over time, much like dividend investing. If you are a “proactive passive income earner” like myself, then real estate is great.
Start-up costs can be prohibitive if you do not have the credit score for a loan or other financing options. Loan standards have loosened since the financial crisis and most can get some type of financing. The use of financing eats into cash flow during the early years but the strategy turns into a viable income stream after you start paying off properties.
Venture Debt – I invested $120,000 in my business school friend’s venture debt fund. He started his own after spending 8 years at one of the largest venture debt funds as a Managing Partner. I’m very focused on income generating assets in this low interest rate environment. The true returns are yet to be seen, as the fund has a 5-7 year life before it returns all its capital.
Finally, I imagine the biggest debate with my ranking is Creating Your Own Product as the #1 passive income source. If most people have never created their own product, then it’s easy to give it a thumbs down. There won’t be much complaint about Private Equity Investing being in last place because most people are not accredited investors. But given I believe that plenty of people can create their own product if they try, pushback is inevitable because a lot of people simply don’t try!
What's crazy is that my book income is more than my SF condo-rental income. Yet I didn't have to come up with $1.2 million of capital (the minimum cost to buy my condo today) to create my book. All I needed to create my book was energy, effort, and creativity. I truly believe that developing your own online product is one of the best ways to make money.
Repackage your products. If you've already created successful content on a blog or website, you can convert that information into another form and sell it. For example, you can compile what you've written into an ebook and sell it on one of the ebook markets like Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Alternately, you can use it to create an online course to sell on a website like Udemy. Reworking your content can earn you additional income streams without requiring you to actually produce new content.[13]
Writing an e-book is very popular among bloggers, as many have noted that “it's just a bunch of blog posts put together!” You will not only have to make an investment of time and energy to create the e-book, but market it correctly. However, if marketed correctly (through blogging affiliates in your niche, for example), you could have residual sales that last a very long time.
Earn royalties from writing books, songs or developing products. You can even buy someone else's share of a song via a writer's auction. For example, if a songwriter dies, his/her heirs have the right to auction off a percentage of their songs during an estate sale. You bid on a song, and if it's accepted, you own a piece of it and receive a royalty check each month, which can be deposited into your savings or checking account or a special savings account like a financial freedom account.
There are a few advantages to taking this approach. First, you get close to 100% of your listed price (minus the transaction fee of your preferred payment gateway). Second, you are not competing with other authors and have the reader’s attention solely on your product. Third, selling your eBook on your own platform is a great opportunity to build a long term relationship with your readers via email. Fourth, you can bundle your eBook with other goodies in order to bump up the value and make it more unique. With so many advantages, it's worth putting up the time and start building your own platform.
Here’s the truth: a successful business is something that successfully solves a problem. And that business can make more money in two ways: solving more people’s problems, or solving bigger problems. The cool thing about the EP Model is that sometimes these products don’t even have to be yours. You can generate income by recommending other people’s or companies’ services or products. This is called affiliate marketing. It’s actually how I’ve made most of my money since I started in 2008.
The books are pleasantly organized, customers served, teams managed, etc. The problem (in my mind) is that this is hugely time intensive and easily capped. Income = Time x Value, where Time is a finite resource limited to 24 hours a day (or, more realistically, 12).The way most people address this is to change the second variable. They get a law degree, MBA, or PhD, making their time worth more money. This works swell… but it’s still limited. At some point, you’re that lawyer making $550/hr, but your income potential is capped, as willingness to pay more is at it’s highest, and no new time can be created. What to do?
That strategy seems waaaayyyy less risky than actively picking stocks of supposedly “reliable” stocks that issue dividends, which could be cut at any time due to shifting industry trends and company performance. Dividend investing feels like an overly complex old-school way of investing that doesn’t have a very strong intellectual basis compared to index investing.
That is a nice list of passive income sources. Actually, the most up-to-date list of dividend growth stocks is the list of dividend champions, maintained by Dave Fish. The list of dividend aristocrats is incomplete at best. For example, the dividend champions list has over 100 companies that have managed to increase dividends each year for at least 25 years in a row. The list of dividend aristocrats has no more than 50 – 60.
I wish I had more time to put into real estate. Given the run up since 2012, I may even be interested in selling my condo that I currently rent out. I need to get it appraised to really see what it’s worth, but I think conservatively it’s gone up ~50%, although rent is probably only up ~10% or so. I am bullish on rents going up in the future… mostly in line with inflation, or perhaps even slightly faster due to constricted credit and personal income growth which should provide a solid supply of renters. At this point, I just don’t want to manage the property. I’ll probably look into a property manager as my time is likely worth turning it into a nearly passive investment.
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.
Leveraging the internet to create, connect, and sell is something every creative person should attempt to do. The only risk is lost time and a wounded ego. You can start a site like mine for as little as $2.95 a month with Bluehost and go from there. They give you a free domain name for a year. Forget all the add-ons. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for my site.
​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.
I see you include rental income, e-book sales and P2P loans as part of your passive income. Do you not consider your other internet income as passive? Is that why it’s not in the chart? Or did you not include it because you would rather not reveal it at this point? (I apologize if this question was already answered – I didn’t read through all the comments, and it’s been about a week since I actually read this post via Feedly on my phone)

I see you include rental income, e-book sales and P2P loans as part of your passive income. Do you not consider your other internet income as passive? Is that why it’s not in the chart? Or did you not include it because you would rather not reveal it at this point? (I apologize if this question was already answered – I didn’t read through all the comments, and it’s been about a week since I actually read this post via Feedly on my phone)
I own 11 rental properties and they require a lot of work to buy, repair and rent. Once they are rented the rental properties become much more passive and my 11 rentals produce over $6,000 in monthly income. Real estate investments like REITs, turn-key rental properties and private money investing are much more passive investments, but they don’t produce as high of returns as I get. There is usually a trade-off on how much money you make on your investments versus how much work you are willing to do.
For someone my age, I have an extremely low risk portfolio of mutual funds, foreign currency, and bonds. It’s made a bit more risky by my recent exposure to cryptocurrency, but that’s the only “high risk” activity going on here. Nothing exciting, but it pays some nice dividends and beats the hell out of keeping money in a savings account. This is a way for me to hedge against the risk I incur by angel investing in startups.
What I like about p2p investing on Lending Club is the website’s automated investing tool. You pick the criteria for loans in which you want to invest and the program does the rest. It will look for loans every day that meet those factors and automatically invest your money. It’s important because you’re collecting money on your loan investments every day so you want that money reinvested as soon as possible.

Peer-to-Peer Lending: Earn up to 10% in returns by lending individuals, organizations and small companies who don't qualify for traditional financing through peer-to-peer lending platforms like Lending Club. You can lend $100, $1,000, or more to borrowers who meet lending platform financial standards. Like a bank, you'll earn interest on the loan - often at higher returns than banks usually get.
Another way to reduce the work needed when buying rental properties is to buy turn-key properties. Turn-key rentals are already repaired, already rented and already managed by a property manager. Buying a turn-key rental property is as easy as talking to a turn-key rental property about what they have in inventory, picking one and setting up closing. I would still complete due diligence on any turn-key rental property provider to make sure they are a good company. I am considering buying a turn-key property myself and I discuss the process here.
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.
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.
P2P lending is the practice of loaning money to borrowers who typically don’t qualify for traditional loans. As the lender you have the ability to choose the borrowers and are able to spread your investment amount out to mitigate your risk. The most popular peer to peer lending platform is Lending Club. You can read our full lending club review here: Lending Club Review.
Make sure your tenants understand that the rent is due in your PO box by a certain day. I recommend using a post office box to avoid tenants coming to your home. Understand how much you can legally charge for a late payment, usually a trivial amount like $15 after a grace period. Explain to new tenants your policy on the eviction process, i.e. when do you start the process when rent is late.
Remember, a successful business solves people’s problems. At first, you’re going to have to do the legwork and put in the time. But it’s about building something now so you can reap the benefits later, with the help of software, tools, automation, and people you hire. In this way, you can then turn this business that solves people’s problems into something that generates passive income for you!
A perfect example of the Active Problem Solving + Automation concept is in my online courses I’ve created over the years, or my free webinars I’ve created more recently Each of my online courses and webinars are targeted to help people with specific problems, whether that’s in the area of affiliate marketing, podcasting, building a brand, and so forth. I am always improving upon the courses, but they are also evergreen for my audience.