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.
​Network marketing, or multi-level marketing, seems to be on the rise. Companies such as Young Living Oils, Avon, Pampered Chef, and AdvoCare are all multi-level marketing companies. You can earn passive income through network marketing by building a team underneath you (often referred to as a down line.) Once you have a large team you can earn commissions off of their sales without having to do much.

But first, let’s about talk passive income! What is passive income? There are many different definitions out there, but mine goes something like this: Passive income is all about building online businesses that can work for you, that allow you to generate income, and grow and scale, without a real-time presence. In other words, you don’t trade time for money. You build something up front that can continue to work for you over time.


A business factoring company that seamlessly integrates with a particular sales-tracking software and provides real-time distribution of commissions. You would need to find a factoring company or an investor who specializes in funding direct-response companies, a risk analyst to audit risk associated with each sale within a company, and a third-party payment verification service.


Flynn has created many different products. While his LEED exam is what got him started, he has both earned a commission from selling other people’s products and offered a commission to others who would sell his wares, and also recently created his first software, SmartPodcastPlayer.com, after realizing that most online podcast players offered only the basic stop/start/volume features. He hired a development team to create a superior one, which was a success from day 1. “We sold out 250 beta licenses in less than 24 hours, because I was addressing a need but also, I had built up an audience and trust with them … When you build that amount of trust with your audience, whatever you come out with, they will love.”
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.
​Network marketing, or multi-level marketing, seems to be on the rise. Companies such as Young Living Oils, Avon, Pampered Chef, and AdvoCare are all multi-level marketing companies. You can earn passive income through network marketing by building a team underneath you (often referred to as a down line.) Once you have a large team you can earn commissions off of their sales without having to do much.
If you have specialized knowledge in a certain topic, you can put together an online course to teach others. For example, if you have experience in real estate investing, you can create an online course “Real Estate Investing 101”. The benefit of an online course is that once you create the course material, you can sell it to as many people as you want.
Almost all of these ideas require starting a personal blog or website. But the great thing about that is that it's incredibly cheap to do. We recommend using Bluehost to get started. You get a free domain name and hosting starts at just $2.95 per month - a deal that you won't find many other places online! You can afford that to start building a passive income stream.
My returns are based on full cash purchase of the properties, as it is hard to compare the attractiveness of properties at different price ranges when only calculating down payment or properties that need very little rehab/updates. I did think about the scores assigned to each factor, but I believe tax deductions are a SIGNIFICANT factor when comparing passive income steams.

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.)
Like many, I was first really turned on to the idea of passive income by Tim Ferriss. In The Four Hour Work Week, he describes the system he developed with BrainQuicken, where the marketing, shipping, reordering, banking, and even customer service of the company was on complete auto-pilot. I found this idea intoxicating. The idea that Tim could travel the world learning to tango and staying on private islands while money just accumulated in his bank account seemed like some strange fiction — surely, this isn’t how people actually live, is it?
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.
The term affiliate marketing has taken a bad rap over the years, primarily because people are abusing just how easy this is to do. Internet marketers are finding products they don’t even use because they come with a sweet commission, and are spamming everyone until they either buy, or unsubscribe. This is also known as the dark side of affiliate marketing.
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.
When you read these stories you get inspired!  Not just in a “Oh, if he can do it, so can I” way, but in a “What he did to GMAT prep, I could do for management consulting case interviews” kind of way.  Hello derivational ideas!!  It shouldn’t surprise you then, that 88 Successful Passive Income Case Studies may just be the most popular article on this site.
Quick story: Remember that $1.18 I found in the couch? Even when that increased to $30 to $50 a day, it still wasn’t enough to live on. So I looked for other options. In August 2008, after people started to know who I was and how I could help them pass the LEED certification exam through my blog, I wrote an ebook. It included all the information I knew about passing this exam, and I sold it on my blog for $19.95.
Tenants usually move out before the court date but you may have to pay for a removal by the sheriff. All these fees and time delays add up and you can see why it is important to check tenant applicants in the first place. Having a formal eviction procedure will help avoid procrastinating the process and missing out on several months’ worth of rent trying to get tenants evicted.
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. 

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.

Nonpassive: Businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates. Also, salaries, guaranteed payments, 1099 commission income and portfolio or investment income are deemed to be nonpassive. Portfolio income includes interest income, dividends, royalties, gains and losses on stocks, pensions, lottery winnings, and any other property held for investment
Software is one of the most lucrative passive income streams but most online entrepreneurs shy away from it, mainly because of the technical aspect that is involved. The truth is that you don't need programming skills to build a software; the whole process can be outsourced fairly easily. You do need to know how to pick a good developer and, of course, have a winning idea that customers are willing to pay for.

The reason I consider dividends artificial and believe they don’t matter is because you can just as easily reinvest your dividends. If a stock is worth $100/share, I don’t care if it issues a $1/share dividend or if the share price instead increases to $101/share – either way, I have the same amount of money, because there’s no difference to my net worth whether I take the dividend or sell part of a stock.


became $1,000,000 during an 18 year period (about 3x better than Berkshire Hathaway). Five – ten shares, or more, invested in a ROTH Ira and held *consistently* come h..l or highwater, with dividends and splits reinvested, may provide you a very pleasant surprise in 20 years or so. Asset Managers often do better than the assets they manage. Eaton Vance (EV) and T. Rowe Price (TROW) also did exceedingly well over a 25 year period.
They also launched an incredible Retirement Planning Calculator that pulls in real data from your linked accounts to run a Monte Carlo simulation model to output the most likely results of your financial future. I strongly suggest you run your own numbers, play around with the income and expense variables, and see how you stack up. It’s all free and easy to use.
In which socio-economic neighborhoods do you want to buy? I know real estate investors that have done very well buying and renting in lower-income neighborhoods. For me, it was a huge mistake. I fell into the trap of thinking, “I can buy a house for about half the cost as what I would pay in a better neighborhood.Even if I get slightly lower rent, say 70% as much, I’m still making a higher return.”Wrong!The money you lose on tenant turnover, unpaid rent and repairs far outweighs any benefit to buying property at a discount. Now, I always recommend to investors to never buy a house somewhere they wouldn’t want to live. If the business does poorly, you may end up living in one of your homes.
What’s also really important to realize here is that when I took the exam I was teaching people to study for, I didn’t get a perfect score. In fact, I didn’t even get close to a perfect score. I passed. But I also knew a lot about this exam—way more than somebody who was just getting started diving into studying for it. And it was because of that, because I was just a few steps ahead of them, that they trusted me to help them with that information. To support this, I provided a lot of great free value to help them along the way. I engaged in conversations and interacted in comments sections and on forums. Most of all, I just really cared about those people, because I struggled big-time with that exam myself.
Have you always wanted to own your own business? You could start a side business while you work a full-time or part-time job. For example, if you're a graphic or web designer, you could start your own graphic or web design business on the side. If you like to make jewelry, you could sell at craft fairs and online. Starting a business may be daunting, but if you believe in you and your work, you could earn a decent living, maybe even quit your day job. Search out those who are doing what you want to do and interview them. Find out the mistakes they made and ask for guidance.
Pardon for being a bit of a newbie to true investing outside of a 401k. What about those of us who have 1) Just been laid off, and unable to find work due to lack of a degree (apparently 17 years in the industry with 5 certifications is just simply not enough – which is okay. It gave me the kick in the arse to get back to school finally) 2)Have three children to support (age 11 and under), and 3) Oh yeah – cannot find work. What do you recommend when the only source of positive revenue has ceased to come in and you now have less time than ever – due to responsibilities (i.e. doing well in university = academic scholarships means investment in time, plus spending 20 min breaks with kiddos) – to create positive sources of income ? I truly am wondering from an investor’s point of view how you would handle the pivot point of life if ever you had been faced with it. I realize this may be only imaginary, but at this point, I welcome your “what ifs” scenario on this one. You’ve truly done amazing work and I thank you for being so transparent.
What I’m doing: I use this site to write out goals like 1) Generating $200,000 a year working 4 hours a day or less, 2) Trying to make winning investments, and 3) Keeping track of my passive income streams with free financial tools. My site and the community helps keep me accountable for progress. It’s important I do what I say, otherwise, what the hell is the point? You should consider starting a site or at least a private journal. Write out your specific goals, tell several close friends and stick to the plan.
What I’m doing: I view passive income as funny money to keep myself sane during this long journey. I estimate 2-10 years to get to my goal depending on how active I am. The dollars created are just points one can accumulate. I’ve made passive income goals for each passive income type and check in at least once a year like I am now to make sure I’m on track. Passive income is also carefully managed to minimize tax liability. When you can build a buffer for a buffer, you are then free to take more risks.
eBay is, of course, the biggest and most popular auction and shopping site out there. You pay a small insertion fee to list your product (starting from 10 cents) and a small portion of the selling price (10%) if your item sells. Currently, insertion fees for your first 50 listings per calendar month are free. Also, if you are planning to sell on regular basis, you may want to consider setting up an Ebay store. Among other things, this will allow you to list your products at reduced rates.
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.

“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. 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.”


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.
We’ll look more closely at how to find a property’s NOI later in the article. There are two ways to look at the cap rate formula above. If you know what kind of return you want to achieve or the average return on similar properties, published frequently for commercial real estate investment, then you can find an approximate value by dividing the NOI by required return (NOI/return rate).

Create a website or blog. With the foundation of a good website, you can build traffic (a flow of visitors to your site) that you can then convert into revenue sources later on. First, you have to get the traffic, so start by writing about what you know on your website or blog. If it is interesting, informative, and well written, you may gain consistent traffic to your site over time.[6]
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.
Creating a membership site is a powerful way to generate online income and scale a service-based business. By having members pay a monthly (or other periodic) fee to get access to a password-protected area where exclusive content is made available, you can transform a site into a RECURRING income-generating business and bring a regular flow of income from the same customer base.
1. The batting cage idea is very risky. I’ve seen many of them close over the years and it is not anything close to passive income if you want to keep the business going. You have to continually promote it and target youth leagues, coaches, schools etc to catch all of the new players who grow up and want to play. I’ve played at probably 8 batting cages over the years and 7 of them closed.
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.
The only thing better than making money is making money while you sleep. That’s the whole concept behind passive income. You can spend more time with your family and friends, perfect your golf swing or learn another language. The possibilities are endless because you’ve set up passive income streams that provide you a paycheck without needing to clock in. Here are the 10 best passive income ideas that will rock your world.

Investing is arguably the easiest way to make passive income.  The problem is most investments sound good in theory but don’t work out so well in practice.  And if you don’t have much experience or access to capital, let alone the time to work it all out, it can seem more or less impossible.  However, there is one smart way to invest that just might work.  Continue reading >
It was easier recouping the lost $60,000 in rental-property income than I expected. For so long, my primary mindset for passive income was rental income. Having $815,000 less mortgage debt but still generating roughly the same amount of passive income with a much larger cash balance feels great. Further, my passive-income portfolio got even more passive, which is good as a stay-at-home dad to a newborn.
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