Now, how do you do it? Building a passive income will require some work up front, but choosing a method that plays to your strengths will yield the most success, and it can even become a fun hobby! Have an aptitude for photography? License your photos to stock photography websites. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to invest? Learn how with a robo-advisor. No matter what your strengths are, we’ve gathered 35 ideas for different ways you can generate passive income and build your wealth. 

I’m not a software developer, and my early software projects (Blackberry Apps) failed because after paying a developer to build the product, I didn’t anticipate needing to update it regularly or provide support for it. For years after that, however, I had a partner who helped me upgrade our software once a year, and provided support if there are any issues (pretty rare). In 2013, we released our third module for Magento (they range from $49–149), and then ended up building a pretty successful SaaS product for Shopify. I left the business to my partner, and it still pays him over $3K a month in completely passive income. He updates the software every few months and answers the occasional customer email. Not bad!
Focus on your primary passive income stream first. It's difficult to grow your passive income into multiple streams if you don't already have one, solid stream. Focus all of your efforts on that one project first and help it grow as productive as possible. Then, you can take the money you've made and lessons you've learned from this passive income stream and put them into others.
If you love design and you are an artistic person, selling digital products on Etsy could be a great way to earn passive income. Digital products require little maintenance, your customers will simply receive a link to download them (which means you don’t have to worry about shipping and returns handling). All you need to do is spend time upfront to create beautiful artwork! (Easy right?)
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.

For those of you who don’t want to come up with a $220,000 downpayment and a $900,000 mortgage to buy the median home in SF or NYC, who don’t want to deal with tenants or remodeling, and who wants to not do any work after the investment is made, check out Fundrise. They are my favorite real estate crowdsourcing company founded in 2012 and based in Washington DC. They are pioneers in the eREIT product offering and they’re raising an Opportunity Fund to take advantage of new tax favorable laws.
Like I mentioned earlier, coming in late in the game can be an advantage if you listen, learn and provide solutions for what seems to be missing. Even coming into a market with a minimal viable product, you’ll have the advantage of being able to get deep into the customer experience to shape your product or service to what it should be, again, all based on what you’re able to measure and learn.
Stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, annuities, etc. are great ways to earn passive income. If you're not financially savvy, you'll want to hire a financial advisor who'll help you choose the right investments for you. You may want to take a couple of finance classes to understand what your advisor is speaking about when he/she recommends an investment strategy. Done right, investments can pay off for years.

Knowing the approximate value of a property is only the first step to getting a good deal. Never be afraid to ask for a lower price and be an aggressive negotiator. The worst thing you can do is rush into a purchase or get bullied into one and pay too much. Successful real estate investing is a very long-term investment. You are going to be holding rental income property for decades so you better be happy with the price you paid.

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Track Your Wealth For Free: If you do nothing else, at the very least, sign up for Personal Capital’s free financial tools so you can track your net worth, analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fees, and run your financials through their fantastic Retirement Planning Calculator. Those who are on top of their finances build much greater wealth longer term than those who don’t. I’ve used Personal Capital since 2012. It’s the best free financial app out there to manage your money.
Track Your Wealth For Free: If you do nothing else, at the very least, sign up for Personal Capital’s free financial tools so you can track your net worth, analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fees, and run your financials through their fantastic Retirement Planning Calculator. Those who are on top of their finances build much greater wealth longer term than those who don’t. I’ve used Personal Capital since 2012. It’s the best free financial app out there to manage your money.
One of the great parts about the online world is that a website and its domain name is like real estate - It can go up in value over time. In fact, sometimes just the domain name without the developed business can be worth quite a lot to some people. Of course, like almost anything mentioned here, the necessary know-how is required. If you’re willing to put some time into it, then you can earn a nice online income. So far I sold 4 domain names with an average price tag of a couple of thousand dollars. Nice income, considering I bought each domain for around $10….If this income stream interests you, check out flippa.com - It’s one of the best marketplaces I know for selling websites or domain names.
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The organizing principle behind this grouping, appropriate economic units, is relatively simple: if the activities are located in the same geographic area; if the activities have similarities in the types of business; or if the activities are somehow interdependent, for instance, if they have the same customers, employees or use a single set of books for accounting.
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.
Lending Club is a platform where you can lend your money to other people. You’re the bank. Each note is only $25, so you can invest $1,000 and lend money to 40 people. There are many grades of loan (from safest to riskiest) and investors earn, on average, between 5% and 7% annualized returns. For more information, check out Investing and Making Money with Lending Club Peer-to-Peer Lending and my real money Lending Club Portfolio.
Although YouTube has been around for years, it is gaining in popularity as more people “cut the cord” on their cable TV service. There are plenty of people who are polished and have production quality that rivals many of the movies or TV shows that I watch. However, the vast majority are people just like you and me. Don’t be shy. Trust me, no matter what kind of content you publish, there are people way worse. And you will get better, just give it time.
You can try and start another travel blog, but every twenty-something who’s visited South East Asia has one; the market is so saturated that it will be very difficult for you to stand out and start making money. Instead, if you find something you’re interested in that is underserved, you’re far more likely to be able to carve out a space. You’ve a far greater chance of making money with a blog for vintage BMW owners than another generic Thailand travel guide.
Network marketing or multi-level marketing is one of the most popular passive income streams. When you join a network marketing company, you become part of a team. The goal, for some, is to become a leader, such as a district manager of your area, because you can earn more money. The drawback to network marketing is poor leadership and the emphasis on building teams quickly. If you join a team with a weak leader, you won't like network marketing. But if your leader knows how to build and develop people and teams, you could be successful, earning $5,000 or more per month. A word of caution: read the fine print when you sign up. Make sure you have ample time to quit if you decide the opportunity is not for you.
I need to create a passive income stream that has a definable risk profile.I have $250k cash as a safety net in my savings account getting a measily 40 bps but I am somewhat ok with this as it is Not at risk or fluctuation (walk street is tougher nowadays). i have 270k in equity in my house, thinking of paying off the mortgage but probably does make sense since my rate is 3.125 on a 30 yr. I have 275k in my 401(k) and another 45k in a brokerage account that is invested in stocks that pay dividends.
I had to get out. I actually had this random Facebook ad come up in my news feed (go figure) and it eventually led me to a webinar that taught on how to start an email marketing business (which is, by the way, the most profitable form of affiliate marketing – or ANY marketing for that matter). I listened through the whole 2 hours, completely mesmerized. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to be focusing on to help my family out of the pit of debt we were in and into a world free of financial stress. I didn’t know if it would actually work, but eventually it lead to EXCESS income!
We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.
One of the best ways to build wealth is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going.
Passive income is defined as income-generating activity that is independent or loosely dependent on time commitment. Just so we’re on the same page, here, there’s no such thing as making money without creating value (I wish), and creating value takes time and effort. So, you are technically transacting time for money, in a way. But passive income is where we separate or at least alienate the proportional relationship between time spent and money made. It’s where there is no longer a fixed ratio, and if there is, it’s not a 1:1 ratio, but more like a 10 or 20:1 ratio of man-hours-worth-of-time to actual time. As another side note, knowing how much your time is worth both to you and on the open market is a valuable piece of information for guaging how effective your passive income activities need to be.
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.

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.
I've got a $185,000 CD generating 3% interest coming due. Although the return is low, it's guaranteed. The CD gave me the confidence to invest more aggressively in risk over the years. My online interest income has come down since I aggressively deployed some capital at the beginning of the year and again during the February market correction. You'll see these figures in my quarterly investment-income update.
It is probably the biggest digital products marketplace online. Clickbank uses a very helpful measure called ‘gravity’ to represent how well a product sells, based on how many sales have been made and how recent these sales were. There’s one thing you want to be aware of though! ClickBank will withhold payment of any balance until an account shows a minimum of 5 sales using at least two types of payment methods. Not only that, if you made a sale but had no earnings for an extended period of time, your account will be subject to an ongoing penalty. This means that your affiliate earnings can potentially drop to zero. Nowadays, I rarely promote Clickbank products.
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.
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.

My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.
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.
Those who choose to focus on passive income will need either family money, funds from investors, or the nerve to borrow large sums by taking on debt to fund the purchase of assets. Consider someone who takes out substantial bank loans to build an apartment building or buy rental houses. Although this can turn a very small amount of equity into a large cash flow stream, it is not without risk. When using borrowed money, the margin of safety is much smaller because you can’t absorb the same degree of setback before defaulting and finding you balance sheet obliterated.
One day I thought to myself ‘This is BS! SURELY there must be other people out there in CyberLand who also need this info. I’ve spent money on subscribing to email product, purchased e-books and also downloaded lots of information which is provided by suppliers for free. However, it takes a ludicrous amount of my precious time reading the content, deciding whether it is worth saving or not, creating folders on specific subject matters, storing the data in those subject folders and it’s all eating away at my productive time. I’m NOT productive because I spend around 70% of each supposed-to-be business day just going through all this freaking content! If I packaged it up to on-sell to other people in a super-user-friendly way, surely I could make money to support myself so I can actually get on with my REAL job of building the website-with-blog I WANT to create on a subject dear to my heart?” (This subject happens to be astrology, about which I know a great deal as I have practised it professionally since 1998.)
Mike, I don’t consider the income from FS to be passive, as I’m spending time commenting to you right now. But since 75% of my traffic comes from search, the most traffic I would probably lose is 25% for probably a year. And then my search word rankings would probably slowly fade given frequency of posting new content is one of the search algo variables.
If you are a photographer looking to diversify your income stream, putting together styled stock photo packages can be lucrative. For example, a package of 15 wedding-themed stock photos for $10. You can then market this to any bloggers or businesses who are in the wedding business for their use (photos of different engagement rings styles are super popular). Through this method, it’s possible to make a continuous stream of income off of photos you’ve taken once (similar to a licensing deal).
Vanguard: Vanguard has a minimum of $50,000 and a fee of 0.3%. Rebalancing is done automatically once every quarter and tax loss harvesting is done on a client-by-client basis. We included Vanguard because clients who invest between $50,000-$500,000 have access to a team of financial advisors. Those with accounts over $500,000 will have a dedicated advisor.

Book sales ($36,000 a year): Sales of How to Engineer Your Layoff" continue to be steady. I expect book sales to rise once the economy starts to soften and people get more nervous about their jobs. It's always best to be ahead of the curve when it comes to a layoff by negotiating first. Further, if you are planning to quit your job, then there is no downside in trying to engineer your layoff so you can get WARN Act pay for several months, a severance check, deferred compensation, and healthcare.
I’m not a software developer, and my early software projects (Blackberry Apps) failed because after paying a developer to build the product, I didn’t anticipate needing to update it regularly or provide support for it. For years after that, however, I had a partner who helped me upgrade our software once a year, and provided support if there are any issues (pretty rare). In 2013, we released our third module for Magento (they range from $49–149), and then ended up building a pretty successful SaaS product for Shopify. I left the business to my partner, and it still pays him over $3K a month in completely passive income. He updates the software every few months and answers the occasional customer email. Not bad!
Non-fiction e-books that educate your potential audience on specific topics like finance, online marketing, and business are going to make you more money than fiction books. Of course, there are always exceptions and you could write the next Harry Potter book, but if you want to create some residual income opportunities quickly, I would suggest you go for what sells first!
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.
* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.
It’s obvious that stocks outperform real estate in terms of capital gains, but I would like to see S&P compare to Real Estate in SF, Manhattan, LA. Our house in NC was $80,000 20 years ago. It’s only $150,000 now. Same house in Santa Monica went from $200,000 to $1.8 million. People who happen to bought real estate in major metropolitan would have a natural positive association with real estate investment.
You’ve probably heard of affiliate marketing before – it’s when you earn a commission by promoting a product. The product you promote online should be something you’re knowledgeable about and that you believe is high quality. Common sense, right? You’d be surprised by how many affiliate marketers forget that principle, but that’s a whole other story.
The great part about creating truly passive income is the money comes in every month without you having to sell your investment or worry about running out of money when you retire. The returns are also better for me with rental properties, because my cash flow is producing about a 20 percent cash on cash return and that does not even include equity pay down on my loans or appreciation. The appreciation on my rental properties is a bonus for me, while stock market investors are depending on it.
​Udemy is an online platform that lets its user take video courses on a wide array of subjects. Instead of being a consumer on Udemy you can instead be a producer, create your own video course, and allow users to purchase it. This is a fantastic option if you are highly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter. This can also be a great way to turn traditional tutoring into a passive income stream!
Many new real estate investors take out a conventional mortgage on their first property, paying between 10% and 30% as a down payment. While a higher down payment will decrease your payment and increase your immediate cash flow, it will likely reduce your return on the money you put up. Most with good credit scores should be able to get a conventional mortgage though interest rates on rental properties are usually higher than owner-occupied home loans.
I also have my issues like everyone else does. For one, no one could ever accuse me or my wife of being frugal. However, when we do spend, we’ve become better at spending with intention, making sure it adds value to our lives in meaningful ways. This is why we’re happy to live where we live (in a high cost of living area), we like to take nice trips, and enjoy eating good food. We definitely live more, but we also focus on giving much more than we used to. All of this has been made possible by our multiple streams of income.
Why? Because you’re working a 42 hour week and that’s probably your earnings ceiling unless you add other income streams. 4 hours per week is best for me, since I have domestic responsibilities I’d much rather be addressing: Still, when I get the chance, I love working my socks off on something I enjoy, which is helping and teaching other people to be successful. It’s more fun and more productive to share 🙂
Whether you take a “distribution” (aka free-cash-flow) in the form of a dividend, interest payment, capital gain, maturing ladder of a CD, etc, you are still taking the same amount of cash out of your portfolio. Don’t fall for the trap of sub optimizing your overall portfolio’s performance because your chasing some unimportant trait called “income”.
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.
I've now only got an SF rental condo and a Lake Tahoe vacation rental in my real-estate-rental portfolio. Although I miss my old house, I certainly don't miss paying $23,000 a year in property taxes and another mortgage, and dealing with leaks and managing terrible tenants. I drove by the other day and couldn't believe how much noisier and busier the street was than where I currently live. I wouldn't be comfortable raising my son there.
Dividend stocks tend to be more mature companies that are past their high growth stage. Utilities, telecoms, and financial sectors tend to make up the majority of dividend paying companies. Tech, Internet, and biotech, on the other hand, tend not to pay any dividends because they are reinvesting most of their retained earnings back into their company for growth.
The challenge I’m facing and, I know it’s a good problem, is that the SF real estate has shot up about 35% in the last couple years. I’m sure you’re experiencing the same thing! So as the net worth is rising, the yield on the total portfolio is going down. Right now, it seems the only way to increase the passive income will be to raise the rent in December and to invest some of that cash in stocks, which I’m nervous to do in this market. Current allocation:

Do you think it’s possible to build a blog from scratch, outsourcing the work from day one (assuming I have some cash that can cover the initial expenses until the blog generates enough income to at least break even)? In other words, do you think you could you have spent your $500 max per month for the writer, social media expert, etc to build your blog to the point it’s earning the same amount of money it does now?
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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