J.D. wrote earlier this week about what he calls the “biggest truth in personal finance”: you can’t get rich by being frugal alone. “You can’t frugal income you don’t earn,” Liz at Frugalwoods says. Income is one-half of the basic personal-finance equation, and it is most likely the most important half.
- J.D. recommends a three-pronged approach to increasing income: becoming more educated, becoming a more valuable employee, and learning to negotiate salary. But I believe he is overlooking a fourth important source of income: the proverbial “passive income.”
I understand. Passive income has a bad name. In reality, passive income has a bad reputation. And rightly so. Scammers, hucksters, and charlatans abound in the Land of Passive Income. “Hey, little boy, do you want to buy my course?” (Sorry, no hyperlinks.) They’re easy to find without our assistance.) That’s unfortunate because legitimate sources of passive income can be a great way to supplement your income.
What exactly is passive income?
First and foremost, let’s be clear: actual passive “passive income” (as sold by scammers) is a lie. It is not real. When we talk about passive income, we’re talking about ways to make the most money with the least amount of effort. Does that make sense? And it’s a supplement to your main source of income, not your sole source.
To me, passive income is money earned without a significant time investment, usually regularly.
For example, if you own a rental property that earns $1500 per month but only takes two or three hours per week to manage, that’s (mostly) passive income. Most 9-to-5 jobs are the polar opposite of this. The amount of time you work determines how much money you make.
That is not to say that passive income does not necessitate effort.
Often, a significant amount of work is required before income can become passive. Using the same rental property example, you must first purchase and renovate the property, as well as spend time advertising and interviewing potential tenants, before you can make any money. That all takes time and money.
Take, for example, J.D.’s book. When I asked, he said he spent four months working full-time on Your Money: The Missing Manual in 2009 and 2010. That is not being passive! But he hasn’t touched it since, and he still receives $50 checks every month. That is a passive sentence.
- Ideas for Passive Income You Can Try Right Now
Passive income is possible — and without the need for shyster shenanigans. I’ve compiled 40 passive income ideas for you to consider in this article. Not all of these passive income suggestions will be suitable for you. None of them may be suitable for you. That’s fine. But I’m confident that many GRS readers will find at least one source of inspiration here to help them increase their income… even if the cost is only a few dollars per month
- Pay Off Your Debts
When most people consider ways to increase their income, debt reduction isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, it should be.
Monthly payments on everything from high-interest credit cards to expensive car loans can put a serious dent in your finances. Sometimes the simplest way to improve cash flow is to reduce your expenses rather than increase your income.
I recommend that you begin by totalling your debt and then look for ways to pay it off faster. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider consolidating all of your debts into a single manageable payment by taking out a consolidation loan. If you have a large car loan payment and are feeling trapped, you could
- Put money into a high-interest savings account
There’s no reason to keep your money in a checking or savings account that isn’t earning interest. Many online savings accounts offer a good yield these days. This income is completely passive. Most of the time, you can open an account from the comfort of your living room in minutes, have your funds transferred in, and begin earning interest on your cash savings almost immediately. A savings account will not make you rich, but it is an excellent way to get your emergency fund to work for you. Here is a list of some of the best savings accounts on the market today. Keep in mind that rates are subject to change:
- Purchase Certificates of Deposit
If you want to earn a higher yield on your money than a savings account will provide, but without the volatility that comes with stock market investing, a Certificate of Deposit (CD) can be a good option. Banks and credit unions frequently offer CDs, which allow you to invest your money for a set period, ranging from a few days to several years. Generally, the longer you keep your money locked in, the higher the return. CD yields should keep pace with inflation, with the disadvantage that you don’t have daily access to your funds. What they do provide is a source of passive income that is risk-free.
- Earn Money in a Savings Account
Checking accounts are not known for earning income; that is what savings accounts and other investments are for. However, there is an increasing number of checking accounts that will pay you a small percentage yield on your balance. While it may only be a few dollars here and there, it can help to offset some of the other fees on your account.
- Investing with a Robo-Advisor
AI technology has significantly reduced the amount of effort required to do many things, including investing. To build a suitable investment portfolio, you no longer need to meet face to face with an investment advisor.
You can now sign up for a Robo-advisor, such as M1 Finance or Acorns, and have a customized portfolio ready in minutes. You’re now on your way to generating passive investment income.
Of course, you must provide your Robo-advisor with the necessary information, such as your investment objective, risk tolerance, and investment time frame, but your money will then be invested in a hands-off, low-fee ETF portfolio that is automatically rebalanced regularly.
- Invest in Dividend Paying Stocks
Dividends are one way for publicly traded companies to return value to their shareholders. Purchasing dividend-paying stocks is one of the best ways to generate passive income. As the value of your investment rises, so will your dividend, providing a steady stream of passive income.
If you stick with it long enough, you might be able to live off the dividend income while your capital grows in value as share prices rise. The combination of dividends and capital gains provides an excellent one-two punch of passive income. Investing in the stock market has never been more affordable, with most discount brokerages such as E-Trade and Charles Schwab now offering free stock trades.
- Purchase a REIT
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are a simple and cost-effective way to build a well-diversified real estate investment portfolio. A REIT’s income is even more passive than owning a rental property because you don’t have to do the upfront work of finding tenants, let alone the ongoing maintenance. A REIT is similar to a mutual fund in that you buy REIT units. Profit earned by the REIT is the source of income. With their crowdsourcing approach, companies like Fundrise have made REIT investing even easier, allowing you to get started for as little as $500.
- Invest in art
This has to be one of the more unusual passive income opportunities on this list, and it is truly passive. For centuries, the world’s most exclusive artwork has been available only to the most affluent members of society. That is changing, thanks to companies like Masterworks. They acquire paintings from top performing artists and then file a circular with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make them available to the public.
When this occurs, you will be able to purchase fractional shares of the painting, effectively owning a tiny piece of valuable artwork. When the artwork’s value has increased over time, it is sold at a profit, with each investor receiving a percentage of the proceeds. It is important to remember that this type of investment is purely speculative and relatively illiquid. In other words, you must be prepared to lose your entire investment.
- Peer-to-Peer Finance
Peer-to-peer lending, also known as P2P lending, is an online marketplace that connects lenders and borrowers. This is how it works. Individuals, or small businesses in the case of a lender like Worthy, borrow money from hundreds, if not thousands, of individual lenders who have pooled their funds. When the borrower repays their loan in full, the lender receives their principal investment as well as interest. Peer-to-peer lending companies can issue loans at lower interest rates while providing better-than-average returns for investors because they lack the high overhead of traditional brick-and-mortar lenders. Here are some of the more well-known peer-to-peer lending companies:
- Lending Club
- Street Shares
- Use a Credit Card with Reward Points
Using a rewards credit card is one of my favourite ways to generate passive income. Every month, I spend the majority of my money on my travel credit card, which earns me points that I can use to pay for flights, hotels, car rentals, and so on. The card also includes private airport lounge access and a comprehensive suite of complimentary travel insurance.
Of course, credit card points will only be useful if you can pay off your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the interest you’ll pay will far outweigh any points you earn for free travel or cashback. If you don’t already have a travel rewards credit card or are dissatisfied with your current card,
- Purchase Vending Machines
Vending machines have been around for a long time and continue to be a tried and true way to earn passive income. You’ll need to keep an eye on your machines and keep them stocked with products regularly, but there’s little to no work involved in the day-to-day operation. It’s like having your ATM if you can find the right locations for your machines. Vending machines range in complexity from simple gumball machines to snack or soda machines.
- Rent Out Your Space
If you have a spare room or an entire house that you can rent out to guests, you can earn passive income by renting out your space on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. This is a great way to get your property to work for you, and the income is mostly passive. You won’t even need to worry about marketing because the websites where you list will bring your customers to you. It is your responsibility to decide when and how frequently you want to list, as well as to ensure that the space is clean and ready to receive guests.
- Purchase a Rental Property
There are several ways to generate passive income with real estate, one of which is to own a rental property. Keeping your current home as a rental when you move is frequently the lowest barrier to entry. To be sure, not everything about owning a rental property is passive. You’ll have to handle any necessary maintenance, and screening potential tenants takes time. However, if you can find a reliable tenant for your rental, you should be able to relax and watch the money come in.
- Invest in a Self-Storage Facility
Self-storage facilities have grown into a massive business in the United States, with the industry now approaching $40 billion. While there is a significant upfront investment required, building or purchasing a self-storage facility can be a great way to earn passive income if you have the resources. The revenue is also recurring, with the majority of customers renting units on a monthly or annual basis.
- Display Advertisements on Your Vehicle
Did you know that? Companies will pay you to wrap your car in advertisements. Wrapify will pay you up to $100 per week to display advertising on your car if you don’t mind driving a billboard on wheels. The amount of passive income you earn will be determined by the distance you drive and where you live. Wrapify can track your mileage as you drive by connecting to an app on your mobile device.
- Rent Your Vehicle
The sharing economy has given rise to a plethora of side hustles that allow you to earn money by allowing others to use your property. Consider your automobile. If you have a late-model vehicle that sits in your driveway for hours at a time, you can earn money by renting it out on an app like Turo.
Turo connects car owners with people who need a car to drive and want to avoid the high prices charged by car rental agencies. The more money you can charge for a nicer car. The best part is that Turo handles the majority of the legwork by bringing customers to you and handling the payment and insurance aspects of the transaction.
- You Can Rent Out Your RV
Owning a motorhome is expensive for most people, but thanks to companies like Outdoorsy and RVShare, you can now rent out your RV when it’s not in use. They connect you with renters via a mobile app, and you get to set the price and availability of your RV. With an average daily rate of around $200, you could even pay for your RV adventures.
- You Can Rent Out Your Boat
If you own a nice boat, you can rent it out on sites like Boatsetter to someone who will use it for fishing, sailing, or watersports with friends. You can choose to captain the boat or leave it to your guests to manage on their own, depending on how passive you want this to be. Boats, like RVs, are luxury item that is rarely used, making this an ideal passive income source. I looked on Boatsetter and GetMyBoat and found rates over $1000 for a full day.
- Rent Out Your Items
We’ve already discussed renting cars, RVs, and boats, but the possibilities are endless. You can list cameras, tools, and even sports equipment on sites like Peer Renters and make money by renting them out to people who can’t afford to buy the items outright or who only need them occasionally.
- On Etsy, you can sell handcrafted items
If you enjoy making things, you can sell them on Etsy, a massive online marketplace for handcrafted goods. This may be a less passive form of income depending on the amount of labour involved in making your product, but Etsy allows you to expand your reach beyond local craft shows. Etsy puts your handcrafted jewellery, clothing, soap, or children’s toys in front of a global audience.
- Online T-shirt Design and Sales
You can create your t-shirt designs and sell them online using marketplaces such as Merch by Amazon. There is little to no initial investment makes this a great side hustle. You simply upload your designs, and Amazon fulfils your orders, including shipping, on-demand. You receive a royalty for each shirt sold. All you have to do is create a fantastic design that will sell.
- Become a Ride-Hailing Driver
You can make good money driving for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft if you have a good car, enjoy driving, and don’t mind interacting with people. One advantage of this side hustle is its adaptability. You decide when and how frequently you want to work. Of course, this isn’t a completely passive source of income. To make money, you’ll need to trade your time. However, there are plenty of jobs that require far more effort than chatting with customers while driving them around town.
- Earn Money for Shopping Online
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and other websites pay you to shop online. When you shop directly from the Rakuten website, you can earn up to 20% cashback, which is paid to you monthly via check or PayPal. You can also use your points to get gift cards to your favourite stores. Sign up for Rakuten and start earning money while you shop.
- Fill out online surveys
To be clear, no one will ever become wealthy by taking online surveys. Numerous scams are nothing more than a waste of time. However, if you have some spare time and just want to make a few extra dollars, online surveys can be useful. You can complete surveys while doing other things, such as watching television or taking the bus. Two of the more reputable sites are Survey Junkie and Swagbucks.
J.D.’s girlfriend has experimented with online survey sites. Her decision? They’re entertaining, and you can make some extra money while watching TV, but they won’t make you rich.
- Receive Songwriting Royalties
If you enjoy writing music, you can generate passive income by recording and publishing your songs through a variety of channels. You earn royalties whenever your music is played on streaming services such as Apple Music or Spotify, or when it is broadcast on the radio. Without the backing of a major record label, you can even license your music for TV, movies, and videos. Companies such as Tunecore and CDBaby assist independent artists by publishing their music worldwide and then collecting and distributing any royalties owed. This is an excellent passive income source that will last for many years.
- Obtain Music Royalties
Perhaps your talent isn’t in music composition. That’s okay; you can still get into the music royalty game by purchasing the rights to other artists’ song catalogues. Royalty Exchange is a website where you can bid on existing music catalogues. These are songs that are already generating a steady stream of passive income for their current owners. When you buy music royalties, you are essentially purchasing future cash flow, which is purely passive income.
- Photographic Licensing
Photographers can generate passive income by selling stock photos on the internet. To earn a decent living, you’ll need to create a lot of content, but it can be a nice supplement to other, more labour-intensive jobs like wedding or family photography. One advantage of stock photo licensing is that you can sell the same images to multiple buyers. There are numerous stock photo websites where you can sell your work. Dreamstime and Snapwire are two of the most popular stock photo websites.
- Make an Audiobook
One of the most effective ways for content creators to increase their income is to distribute their work in as many formats as possible. If you’ve written a paperback book or even an ebook, you should think about recording an audiobook version. Many people prefer to listen to books rather than read them. You can either record the audio yourself or hire someone to do it for you. Once your audiobook is complete, it can be sold online for years, making it an excellent passive income source.
- Register for Sleep Studies
To some, this may appear to be the ideal way to generate passive income. Sleep researchers require test subjects for their studies, and it’s a lucrative gig. However, it is not as simple as it may appear. Participants are frequently required to suspend many of their daily routines, such as social media and extracurricular activities. If this is something you think you’d like to do in the name of science, you can start by looking for available opportunities on this government website.
- Sell Your Information
Because I value my privacy, I’m not a fan of this passive income concept, but some companies will pay you to share your smartphone data with them. You must install an app on your phone that records your activity throughout the week for it to work. The money isn’t much, only $5 or $10 per month, but if you’re open to it, it certainly qualifies as passive income.
- Purchase an Existing Website
If you want to start earning passive income right away, you should consider purchasing an existing website or blog that is already generating revenue. This is an excellent way to get started with an online business without having to start from scratch. Thousands of websites are available for sale on online marketplaces such as Flippa, and in many cases, these businesses are already producing a positive cash flow month after month.
Of course, the higher the purchase price, the more income they generate. On average, you can expect to pay a 2-3X multiple of the website’s annual income. It’s also critical to do your homework before making a purchase. Ascertain that the monthly income is stable and that there is room for future growth. Also, I recommend sticking to a niche in which you have some expertise or prior knowledge.
- Domain Names for Sale and Purchase
Buying and selling domain names is similar to stock market trading. Although the goal is to buy low and sell high, there is some risk involved. Some people make a lot of money by purchasing domain names that they believe will increase in value over time and then selling them for a profit. If this sounds like a passive income strategy you’d like to try, here are some pointers on how to sell domain names for profit.
You could always be like J.D., who owns dozens of domain names he’ll never use. Man, you’re a moron.
- Create a Blog
When I talk about blogging as a way to make money, I usually get a few raised eyebrows. Everyone seems to be starting a blog in the hopes of making money. Is it possible? Yes, but you must be willing to play the long game.
A blog can be used to generate multiple passive income streams over time, such as affiliate marketing or display advertising. However, starting a blog from scratch is far from easy. You must be consistent in creating new content and devote time to promoting your blog. One of the best aspects of blogging is the low entry barrier. You can get started for as little as $50 if you have a computer and a wifi connection.
However, keep your expectations in check. Even this website does not currently generate a full-time income!
- Begin a Podcast
Everyone seems to have a podcast these days, and while many people do it for fun, there is a lot of money to be made. As your audience grows, you can start selling advertising through sponsorships to brands that want to reach out to you. Make no mistake: finding guests and conducting interviews is a lot of work, but the opportunity to build a passive income stream exists. Outsourcing tasks to writers, podcast editors, and graphic designers is one way to reduce your workload.
- Create a YouTube Channel
You can build an audience on YouTube if you consistently create videos that people want to watch. This is significant because, once you have an audience, you can start making money by joining the YouTube Partner Program. The majority of your earnings will come from ads that are shown within your video content, but there are other ways to make money. YouTube can also drive traffic to your website and social media channels, expanding your options for passive income.
- Sell Digital Downloadables/Products
Thousands of people create digital products that people can download and use to earn passive income. The possibilities are endless, from spreadsheets to productivity tools, calendars, and checklists. When you’ve finished your winning product, you can make it available for download on your website or through a third-party platform such as Gumroad.
- Create an Online Course
If you know a particular field, you can be confident that someone will pay you for it. You can write an ebook or create an online course on the subject and sell it on your website or an online learning marketplace like Udemy. There is no skill too small to share with others. You could sell a course on how to write a killer resume, launch a podcast, or travel hack a trip to Europe. The majority of the hard work in creating content for online courses occurs early on. With an effective marketing strategy, you’ll soon have a nice, passive income stream.
J.D. spent several months working full-time to create his Get Rich Slowly course in 2014. When he was done, however, he had a nice source of passive income.
- Display Ads on Websites
If you have your website, you can sign up to have advertisements displayed within your content. Google Adsense is the most well-known ad service. Adsense displays ads that are relevant to your site’s content and match the preferences of your visitors. You earn money when visitors interact with an advertisement. Furthermore, the greater your site traffic, the greater your income. What I like about display ads is that they are completely passive income. There is no work involved once your ads are set up, allowing you to focus on other things.
- Affiliate Promotion
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to generate passive income if you have your blog or website. Affiliate marketing entails promoting someone else’s product or service in exchange for a commission on any sales that result directly from your recommendation. Although Amazon’s affiliate program is the most well-known, there are thousands of other companies that have their programs. It takes time to build an affiliate income, but if you are successful, it can be one of the best ways to make passive income.
Dropshipping is a type of e-commerce in which the seller does not hold the product; instead, it is shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. The seller’s job is to find products to buy at wholesale prices and then sell them at retail prices by advertising them on an e-commerce platform such as Shopify. Orders are sent directly to the supplier, who then ships the product to the customer. The seller makes money from the difference between the retail and wholesale prices. Dropshipping has become extremely competitive, but if you can find a product that people want and sell it for a profit, you can make a lot of passive income.
- Learn to Subcontract
If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably want to be in charge of every aspect of your company. After all, no one else gets it as you do, and no one else is as invested as you are. But the problem with doing everything yourself is that your earnings become anything but passive.
Many business owners burn out because they are unwilling to delegate tasks to others. Nowadays, it’s simple to hire a virtual assistant or other freelancers who can handle a wide range of tasks. This gives you more time to focus on the things that only you can do. Upwork and Fiverr are excellent places to begin your search for freelance talent.
- Last Words on Passive Income
J.D. reviewed Don Lancaster’s 1978 book, The Incredible Secret Money Machine when this blog was still in its infancy in 2007. (The author’s website now offers the book as a free PDF.)
The premise of the book is straightforward: build a series of “money machines” that produce a steady supply of “nickels.” Although the book promotes the creation of small, hobby businesses, it also promotes the “passive income” mindset. Lancaster encourages readers to start lifestyle businesses that require little maintenance.
There are numerous ways to generate passive income. What’s interesting is that the majority of the suggestions I’ve made are things you can do from the comfort of your own home. Of course, it’s critical to remember that passive does not imply simple. Building an income stream can take weeks, months, or even years of hard work. And sometimes your efforts will not be rewarded. (A few years ago, J.D.’s girlfriend attempted to start an online business. She would have had a steady stream of nickels if it had worked. She only received pennies instead, so she decided to close it down.)
It takes time and effort to generate passive income. However, if you are patient, the payoff can be well worth the effort.