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!
In real estate, your passive opportunities are in private lending and rental properties. Private lending commonly involves lending funds to a real estate investor or business in exchange for a set return and length of time. (Full disclosure: I am co-partner of a turnkey investment company.) Turnkey rental properties allow the investor to be as hands-off as they like. This means a turnkey company purchases, rehabs, tenants and manages the property. To truly make this a passive investment, turnkey companies do all the work for you.
- This is more for the experienced online entrepreneur who already has some authority in his or her niche. If that’s your case and you’re interested in becoming an instructor in CreativeLive, the world’s leading live online classroom platform, you’ll want to email them your proposal. This includes what you would want to teach, links to any websites with your work, social media sites or video of you leading instruction. If you’re just beginning, this is great goal to aim for.
Self-publishing has the potential to be a very lucrative source of income. However, it does involve both an investment of your time and finances. It’s very important that you get the right help from the beginning. There are many considerations that may be outside of your expertise. Rory Carruthers, a sought-after book development, book launch, and book marketing consultant, says that six-figure launches require careful orchestration and planning. “Bestsellers aren’t just born out of great talent. They are also a product of thought-out marketing and well-orchestrated book launch campaign. It’s no longer enough to just write a good text. You need to think one step ahead and warm up your audience to the book even before you finish the first draft,” he said.
I have not. While I am intrigued with the possibility of making online income, it seems to be less passive then how I want to spend my time. Regarding your blog / site, you have done quite well for yourself. However, you have to keep pumping out content or your site would eventually go out of business. That sounds like more of a commitment then I would want. Regarding your book sales, it is probably relatively passive now, but certainly was not when you were writing the book. Now if you love it, great. Just not for me.
As an struggling young Engineer (back in the Carter era) I bought anything I could renovate then rent to justify paying the 18% interest. I never took vacations but worked on my properties all in the pursuit of passive income. I drove junk for many years & many months I just got by on credit cards. My friends & colleagues were amused by my ‘stupidity’ but most are still working to make enough for retirement.
I own several rental properties in the mid west and I live in CA. I have never even seen them in person. With good property management in place (not easy to find but possible) it is definitely possible to own cash flowing properties across the country. Not for everyone and not without it’s drawbacks, but it seems to be working for me so far. I’m happy to answer any questions about my experience with this type of investing.
5) Determine What Income Level Will Make You Happy. Think back to when you made little to no income as a student. Now think back to the days when you just got started in your career. Were you happy then? Now go over every single year you got a raise or made more money doing something else. How did your happiness change at all, if any? Everybody has a different level of income that will bring maximum happiness due to different desires, needs, and living arrangements. It’s up to you to find out your optimum income level.
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. 
It’s a (mostly) short term, higher risk, higher reward place to invest cash that has a low correlation with the stock market, but is far more passive than buying and managing properties, has more opportunity for diversification than private placements (minimums of 5-10K, rather than 100K), and most of the equity offerings (and all of the debt offerings) provide monthly or quarterly incomes. Unlike a REIT, you can choose exactly which projects you wish to invest in.
Self-publishing has the potential to be a very lucrative source of income. However, it does involve both an investment of your time and finances. It’s very important that you get the right help from the beginning. There are many considerations that may be outside of your expertise. Rory Carruthers, a sought-after book development, book launch, and book marketing consultant, says that six-figure launches require careful orchestration and planning. “Bestsellers aren’t just born out of great talent. They are also a product of thought-out marketing and well-orchestrated book launch campaign. It’s no longer enough to just write a good text. You need to think one step ahead and warm up your audience to the book even before you finish the first draft,” he said.
Dividend investing is right up there for sure. You don’t have to charge $48. You can charge <$10 to boost sales. The internet has enabled so many creatives to publish their works at a low cost. People will surprise themselves if they try to create like when they were in school. The other reason why I have Creating Products edging out dividends is because of the much higher POTENTIAL to make a lot more money. For example, $20,000 a year in book sales requires $570,000 in dividend investments to replicate the same amount. Plus, there is capital risk. With book sales, there is a correlation with EFFORT, and you are not beholden to the whims of the markets.
Yep. That’s why we come out with a new version of our software every year or two. That’s why I improve my courses every year or two. That’s why I have to re-sign a lease on my house every 2 years. And it’s why I’m always creating new strategies and new income channels. The fact is, even with this research and trial/error process, I still have more free time than most people I know, and that’s free time I’m using to patiently seek out an awesome opportunity doing something I love.
This is a venture that is growing rapidly. You can create videos in just about any area that you like — music, tutorials, opinions, comedy, movie reviews — anything you want . . . then put them on YouTube. You can then attach Google AdSense to the videos, which will overlay your videos with automatic ads. When viewers click on those ads, you will earn money from AdSense.
Good suggestions. I have many of these. One word about the “app” idea. I had a great idea related to personal taxes that I tried to get off the ground with my accountant as a partner. I would say it’s difficult to do this unless you have a coder on your team. Hiring someone is not really viable financially unless the app is simple. When we finally got the quote for a coder to write what we wanted (and after doing lots of mock ups ourselves and getting a demo for investors) the estimate was about 750k just to really get started.
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.

Your best deals, but the most work, will come from properties not formerly listed as for sale. Contacting the owners of abandoned or run-down properties might uncover a deal without the hassle of competition from other investors. Once you have the address of a property, find your county assessor’s page on the internet for ownership information. The assessor’s page will have other useful information like previous sales and house characteristics.


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.

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.

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!


You can find dividend stocks using Google Finance Stock Screener which is free to use. Set the search criteria for the P/E Ratio, and Dividend yield (shown as a percentage) criteria. You can set minimum and maximum values; in the dividend yield box, set it between 2 and 100. This will search for stocks that pay dividends worth between 2-100% of the current stock price.

Creating passive income is the key to retiring, especially retiring early. If you want to retire early with the stock market you will have to save a huge amount of money, because that money has to last so long and retirement calculators depend on you using your investment to fund your life. With passive income you will have income coming in as long as you own the investment, without every eating away at the principle invested. Creating passive income may take more work than investing in the stock market, but I think it is well worth the extra effort!


A freelancing service is something that can, with the right strategy and action, turn into something more productized and passive. Brian Casel, featured guest on SPI Podcast Session #158, talks about how he was able to turn his stress-inducing one-on-one design service business into something that was actually more productized, passive, and profitable. I highly recommend you listen to that episode if you have a service-based business and you feel stuck.

I’m feeling inspired! I’ve been a PT for 19 years and I feel I have so much experience to offer but have been so intimated by starting a blog. I also subscribed to Michelle’s website but wasn’t sure it was for real. Is it for real? After reading this I feel like it’s time to take the plunge, I need to start a blog, I have so many ideas and even course ideas. I want to get away from the paperwork that plagues our healthcare system but not leave the field so the blog just might be the answer. I’ve been a landlord for 15 years now, great investment for sure, renters paid for the down payment of our house and should hopefully help pay for our kids college. I’d love to have one more! Thank you for the inspiration, wish me luck with my blogging!


Hey Mike! Love this article. Recently, I paid off my student loans and am crazy focused on creating multiple passive income streams. Currently, all my passive income comes from real estate and because of your great articles on the subject I called to check out refinance options! I had no clue about CD laddering, dividend investing or P2P lending until two weeks ago when I started doing my research on where to put my hard earned money. I had been just saving it but when I looked at the terrible 0.01% return I said forget it! 2 % for me is a great way to start. It is better than what I have been getting outside of my real estate. Also, creating products is a must! I’m working on this type of royalty too. I find it so exciting to learn how to use your money to make money. Thanks and I will be sure to link to you when I start my blog!
As I’ve thought more deeply about how to answer this question over the years, I’ve come to a realization that the problem is not the answer, but the question itself. For those who’ve asked it, I don’t think it’s always coming from a place of “quick money.” If we reframe the question, I think there’s room to empower and actually help those who’ve asked it—to give them a foundational understanding of what it really means to generate an income online.
Obviously, these are much higher than you’re going to get with most other investments. What’s more is that you can choose a plan that matches your investment strategy, whether your goal is Supplemental Income, Balanced Investing, or Long-term Growth. You can also look at different real estate projects and choose for yourself which ones to invest in.
Or you could do joint ventures/strategic alliances for your business or for other businesses and make residual cash flow for $0 investment.. that’s what I do lol. No money, no risk, little time, 20+ years working from home. Just connect companies and take a %, use the Internet to do it locally or globally, be the intermediary & connect companies…. ;-)
It is so much better to let your property sit vacant for an extra month or two than to rush into an agreement with a bad tenant. You will be tempted to just go with your gut and not check out applicant tenants – fight the temptation if you want to keep your sanity! A bad tenant will trash your property and cost you thousands in missed rent and eviction costs.
Love your articles. I think everyone is very different as far as how much passive income they need to meet their goals. I’ve read a lot of your articles and really enjoy your thoughts. I have a masters in finance and understand the math of keeping the debt but my emotions are such that I need to try to finish off paying off my last debt (mortgage) in the next two years. At 34 and only worth 525k I’m doing better than a lot of folks my age but it will be difficult for me to catch up in the passive income game without leverage. That is the main reason I recently created a website to try to bring passive income opportunities in my area to me.
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.
×