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Who wouldn’t want passive income streams that flow in with little or no effort on your part?
Of course, we would all like to make money while sleeping, traveling, or just relaxing.
Passive income may seem like an unrealistic dream, but there are many practical and realistic ways to do it. The key is finding the right opportunity for you. This article presents a list of the best passive income ideas you can start using right away.
At first, you may only make a small amount of money passively, and you may even want to reinvest that money, so it compounds and grows faster. But with some time, it’s possible to create enough passive income that you could quit your job or even retire early and live off the dividends.
What Is Passive Income?
Passive income can be a bit of a divisive topic, and not everyone agrees on the definition. In general, passive income is any money that you make with little-to-no effort. The money will flow in without much required of you, in contrast to the active income you earn from working.
Exactly what qualifies as a passive income strategy is up for debate. However, there are a few different types of passive income, and we’ll break them down into the following categories:
- Passive income from investments. Of course, you’ll need some money to invest in putting these ideas into practice, but we’ll cover several options that allow you to start with very little money.
- Passive income with effort up-front. You’ll need to put in the work up-front, and it may be a lot of work, but eventually, it can lead to an income-generating asset that makes money without much effort.
- Passive income with no money and little effort. Believe it or not, there are some ways to earn extra income without investing time or money.
Passive Income Ideas from Investments
Probably the best passive income idea is to let your money do the work. But, of course, you’ll need some cash to invest in taking advantage of these opportunities. Thankfully, you can start some of them with very little money.
1. Invest In Dividend Stocks
Some companies consistently pay dividends to their shareholders. As a shareholder, you can reinvest the dividends to buy more shares of the stock, or take the dividends in cash. Reinvesting will allow you to own more shares, which will lead to more dividends in the future (ideally).
The companies that consistently pay dividends tend to be large companies with a long track record of success. Since the companies are so stable, these investments tend to be considered less risky than the stock market in general.
Public.com offers fractional shares and commission-free trades of stocks, ETFs, and crypto. You'll love the social aspect that makes it possible to connect with other investors. Get a free bonus when you open an account through our link. Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. This is not a recommendation. You can lose money with any investment. Open To The Public Investing is a member of FINRA & SIPC. Regulatory and firm fees apply. See Public.com/disclosures/.
Dividend-paying stocks can be an excellent investment regardless of whether you want to reinvest the dividends and hold on to the stock for a long time or use the income produced through the dividends.
You can use an online brokerage like Public.com to invest in dividend stocks with commission-free trades to get started. In addition, Public.com offers a dividend reinvestment program (DRIP), which automatically reinvests the dividends you earn, allowing your investment to grow faster. Public.com also provides a list of reliable companies that consistently pay dividends in the “Cash Cows” theme. Themes are a feature of Public.com that makes it easy to find companies to invest in.
With Public.com, you can purchase fractional shares of stock for as little as $1, so if you don’t have enough money to buy an entire share, you can still get started.
Overall, investing in dividend stocks is easily one of the best passive income investments. You’ll be able to use the dividends in any way you want, including reinvesting to grow your wealth faster. As you continue to save and invest more, your wealth will grow faster and the amount you earn in passive dividends will also continue to increase.
Getting started with dividend stocks:
To get started, sign up for a free Public.com account and purchase stock in some of the companies on their Cash Cows list. Right now, Public.com is offering a free slice of stock with up to $70 for Vital Dollar readers if you sign up through our referral link. Read our Public.com review to learn more.
2. Real Estate Crowdfunding
Real estate crowdfunding websites allow you to invest in real estate without all of the headaches that usually go along with owning real estate. You don’t have any of the work (no maintenance, no dealing with tenants). Instead, you simply invest and take on some of the risk.
There are countless real estate crowdfunding platforms and several different types. Some allow you to invest in commercial properties. Others may specialize in large rental properties and communities. Others may focus on smaller properties for flips. Some allow you to invest in individual properties, while others will allow you to invest in a portfolio of properties.
Many of these require you to be an accredited investor, but there are some good real estate crowdfunding sites for non-accredited investors.
Real estate crowdfunding is a very popular investment because many people want to invest in real estate but simply don’t have the time or desire to be a landlord. Also, in many cases, you can get started with a relatively small investment.
Our favorite real estate platform is Fundrise. Fundrise is open to any investor (not just accredited investors), and you can get started with as little as $10. Investing with Fundrise is completely passive. All you need to do is add money to your account, and you’ll own a share in an extensive and diversified portfolio of income-generating properties. Fundrise investors earn quarterly dividends, and the value of your investment will also increase if the properties appreciate. It’s an ideal way to get started with real estate investing.
Groundfloor is another platform that we like. With Groundfloor, you’ll invest in individual properties that are built or flipped. You can invest as little as $10, and you’ll choose the specific properties you want to invest in. Historically, investments in Groundfloor have earned more than 10% annually from loans to developers and flippers
Getting started with real estate crowdfunding:
All you need is $10 to start investing. Both Fundrise and Groundfloor allow you to start with as little as $10. Currently, Groundfloor is offering a $20 bonus for new investors if you sign up through this referral link.
3. Invest in REITs
REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) offer another way to invest in real estate without the hassle of being a landlord. The REIT owns income-producing real estate like office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping malls, or hotels. REITs make it possible to invest in real estate on a small scale and earn a share of the income produced.
There are several different types of REITs. Some are publicly traded on a stock exchange, and some are not. The REIT may also be in the form of a mutual fund or ETF. Many will have a minimum investment requirement, but those minimums can vary.
If you’re looking for an easy way to start with real estate investing, REITs can be an excellent choice. Similar to real estate crowdfunding, it’s a hands-free way to invest in real estate.
If you have an existing brokerage with Fidelity, Vanguard, or another company, you can purchase REITs or REIT funds from your existing account. The investment opportunities offered by Fundrise are also very similar to REITs (they refer to them as eREITs).
Getting started with REITs:
You can get started by investing through an existing account at Fidelity, Vanguard, or another brokerage. Another option is to invest with Fundise, which offers a very low minimum of just $10.
4. Invest In a Rental Property
Of course, another option for investing in real estate is the good old-fashioned rental property. Owning rental properties is a proven way to grow wealth and produce passive rental income. You could buy a condo, single-family home, or multi-unit property.
Owning an investment property can be a great stream of income, but whether or not it’s genuinely passive will depend on a few factors. The more properties you own and the more tenants you manage, the more time you need to put into it. If you want it to be a passive investment, there are two options:
- Hire a property manager who will take care of the details for you (for a fee).
- Invest through Arrived.
Arrived is a platform that connects investors and property owners. Instead of buying a rental property, you can invest in a specific rental property for as little as $100. You’ll earn passive residual income from the rental revenue, but you won’t be responsible for managing the property or dealing with tenants. It’s an excellent option for anyone who wants a passive way to invest in rental properties.
Getting started with rental properties:
The easiest and most passive way to get started is to invest through Arrived. With as little as $100, you can own a share of a rental property that generates passive income.
5. Robo Advisors
If you want to put your money to work but are not comfortable picking and managing the investments yourself, a robo advisor could be the right opportunity for earning passive income. There are a growing number of companies offering these services. You’ll enter information about your age, goals, and risk tolerance, and they will handle the rest. Robo advisors are ideal for hands-off investors.
Betterment is one of the most popular robo advisors. Betterment will lead you through personalized planning based on your personal situation, and then it will create a diversified portfolio and automatically rebalance it. The fee is 0.25% off your balance annually.
Our favorite option is Titan. This company is still relatively young (launched in 2018), but they have an impressive track record of outperforming the S&P 500 and every other robo advisor, including Betterment. They offer a few different funds (including cryptocurrency) and the option to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
Titan will ask you some questions about your financial situation, goals, and risk tolerance. Based on your responses, Titan will recommend an allocation of your money into their different funds, but you can also override the suggestions and choose the allocation yourself if you prefer. Titan charges a 1% management fee, which is reasonable for the industry, although higher than Betterment. Based on the returns Titan has generated for clients, that 1% fee may be very easy to justify.
Getting started with a robo advisor:
Titan is our top choice because of the outstanding returns they’ve been able to produce for investors, plus the option of investing in a managed cryptocurrency fund (the only one of its kind). You can get started with as little as $100 and it only takes a few minutes to set up your account.
6. BlockFi Interest Account
Cryptocurrency investors can earn passive income with a BlockFi Interest Account (BIA). While banks currently offer incredibly low interest rates on savings and money market accounts, BlockFi offers up to 7.5% APY on your cryptocurrency.
BlockFi provides you with a secure digital wallet to store your cryptocurrency, and you’ll earn a respectable interest rate. Naturally, the interest is also paid out in cryptocurrency, and you get to choose the specific cryptocurrency that’s used for those interest payments.
If you hold crypto or if you’re looking for a way to get better returns than the bank, BlockFi could be an excellent residual income idea.
Please note: BIA accounts are not FDIC-insured.
Getting started with BlockFi:
Creating your BlockFi Interest Account is easy and takes only a few minutes of your time. You can transfer U.S. dollars from a bank, or transfer cryptocurrency or stablecoin. And of course, BlockFi provides you with a trading account so you can buy or sell crypto 24/7.
7. Invest in Farmland
Farmland is an excellent investment for both long-term growth and one of the most underrated passive income ideas. Over several decades, farmland has proven to be a stable and productive investment with a very low correlation to the stock market. Additionally, farmland provides some protection from inflation.
The need for farmland will never go away, but the supply continues to shrink. As a result, the value of farmland is likely to continue to appreciate. As an investor, you can earn passive income from rental proceeds for as long as you own the property.
The problem with investing in farmland is that buying a few hundred acres is not practical for most people. However, there are a few ways to invest in farmland on a smaller scale.
FarmTogether and AcreTrader are crowdfunding platforms that allow accredited investors to purchase a share of a specific property. These are long-term investments with a target timeline of 5-10 years. While you own the property, you’ll earn quarterly or annual dividend payouts from the rental proceeds, providing a source of residual income. Eventually, the property will be sold when the timing is right, with investors ideally earning a significant return through appreciation of the property’s value.
Many of these properties have a target annual return of 8-10%, so it’s a solid investment option.
How to get started with farmland investing:
If you’re an accredited investor, check out the current offerings at AcreTrader and FarmTogether. The investments tend to fill up very quickly when they’re available. You might want to subscribe to their email lists to get notifications as soon as new opportunities are available.
8. Invest in a Business
Another investment option is to invest in a business. Earning income from a business is not usually passive, but investing as a silent partner is possible. If you’re a silent partner, you have an ownership interest in the business, but you’re strictly an investor. You’re not responsible for running the business and you won’t need to dedicate your time to the business.
You may know a business owner who could be looking for an investor. Or maybe you know someone who has an idea for a new business but doesn’t have the startup capital.
Another option for investing in a business is to use an equity crowdfunding platform like AngelList or Fundable. These sites help investors like you to find startups and business owners looking for funding.
It’s important to understand that investing in a business or startup is high risk and there’s a chance you could lose all of your money. However, there’s also a chance for an outstanding ROI. It’s not for everyone, but investing in a business could be an excellent option in the right situation.
Getting started with investing in a business:
If you’re an accredited investor, creating an account at AngelList is an easy way to get started. MicroVentures is a similar option that’s open to non-accredited investors as well, and you can start for as little as $100.
CDs (certificates of deposit) are very low-risk financial products. Typically, you can earn a higher interest rate with a CD than a high yield savings account. Still, it’s generally not a liquid investment, as there may be penalties for withdrawing the money before the maturity date.
You can avoid having all of your money tied up in CDs by creating a CD ladder. A CD ladder simply uses multiple CDs of different lengths or different maturity dates so you can get access to some of the money sooner. For example, if you were starting today and you had $15,000 to invest in a CD, you could invest:
- $5,000 in a one-year CD
- $5,000 in a two-year CD
- $5,000 in a three-year CD
Longer terms will earn higher interest rates, so as each of these CDs reaches its maturity date, you could reinvest the money into a new three-year certificate of deposit, and they would still be staggered if you are doing that each year.
Getting started with CDs:
CIT Bank, one of the leading online banks, offers convenient online accounts that can be opened in just a few minutes, and the interest rate is generally higher than what you would earn with most other banks.
10. Business Bonds
You can invest in business bonds that will be a passive income source for you, and provide opportunities for small business owners to get loans they need to grow. This type of alternative investment can be a great way to diversify your portfolio and earn more interest than you would from a savings account.
Getting started with business bonds:
Worthy Bonds offers a fixed 5% interest rate for investors. The bonds are fully secured by liquid assets (like inventory) to reduce risk. You can get started with as little as $10 and you can choose automatic reinvestment if you want your money to grow faster. The bonds are for a 36-month term, but you can withdraw money at any time.
11. Invest in Royalties
If you’re looking for an alternative investment completely uncorrelated to the stock market, investing in royalties could be an option. Artists and musicians often sell their rights to royalties from their work. As an investor, you can set up passive income streams by investing in royalties.
It’s important to note that investing in royalties, like other types of investments, involves risk. Don’t invest any money you can’t afford to lose.
Getting started with royalties:
Royalty Exchange is a popular marketplace where you can invest in royalties. Artists and musicians can raise money by selling royalties to their work. According to Royalty Exchange, the average investment produces more than a 10% annual return.
Passive Income Ideas with No Money and Little Effort
Everyone would love to make passive income without financial investment or putting in a lot of effort upfront. These are the type of passive income ideas many people are looking for.
While the options are a bit more limited, there are some great ways to generate cash flow with minimal effort.
Some of the methods in this section will generate smaller amounts of money, but the good news is, they’re extremely easy! There’s nothing better than free money! If you use a few of these easy methods together, it can add up to a significant amount of money.
12. Rent Credit Card Tradelines
Here’s a potentially lucrative passive income opportunity that may be completely new to you. You can add authorized users to your credit cards (without actually giving them a card or access to your account) and be paid to do it. People looking to improve their credit score can get a boost by piggybacking off your payment history, and they’ll pay you for it. How much you make will depend on the age of the credit card account and the credit limit on the account.
If you’ve never heard of selling/renting tradelines before, it probably sounds ridiculous and dangerous. The first concern usually involves putting yourself at risk by adding an authorized user you don’t know and trust. But the process only involves adding the user to your account, the card will be sent to your address and you can destroy it. The other user never has access to your account.
However, there’s still some risk involved. The risk involves the possibility of your credit card account being closed by the issuer. In most cases, renting tradelines will violate the terms of service. It’s not illegal, but it does violate the credit card companies’ terms, so they may close your account if they know you’re doing it.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but some people are making good money with minimal effort. If you want to learn more I recommend reading this thread at Mr. Money Mustache for lots of details from a guy making a few thousand dollars per month with this, and it’s very passive.
How to get started with tradelines:
To get started, sign up with a company like Tradeline Supply who will find buyers for you. You’ll be able to see how much you can make from your credit cards before signing up.
13. Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
One of my favorite, easy ways to make money is through credit card bonuses. Many credit cards will give you a bonus just for signing up and for making a minimum amount of purchases on the card during an introductory period.
Now, this isn’t something you can do all the time, but you can sign up for a new credit card or two per year, depending on your situation. I’ve made hundreds of dollars each of the past 3 or 4 years with this approach.
A few important things to point out:
- It’s critical that you avoid high-interest credit card debt. Pay your bill in full each month.
- If you don’t think you have the discipline to have a credit card, or another credit card, skip this.
- Don’t go overboard. Opening too many new credit accounts in a short period can hurt your ability to get credit when you need it.
That being said, if you’re looking for an easy way to make $100 – $1,000 or more, this is a great option.
Getting started with credit card signup bonuses:
All you need to do is find the right credit card for you. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has the best current offer ($1,250 for travel or $1,000 cash) but there are other options as well. The table below lists some of the other offers you might want to consider, or you can see a bigger list of credit card signup bonuses here. Find the one that interests you and apply.
Best Current Credit Card Signup Bonus Offers
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
American Express Gold
Vital Dollar rating
Vital Dollar rating
Vital Dollar rating
Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards
60,000 bonus points
To qualify, spend
$4,000 in 3 months
To qualify, spend
$4,000 in 3 months
To qualify, spend
$4,000 in 6 months
14. Credit Card Rewards
Going along with the previous point, credit card rewards are a great way to make some money passively. You can earn cashback, points that can be used for travel or redeem your points for gift cards. My go-to credit card is the Citi Double Cash, which allows me to earn 2% cashback for every purchase. Over a year, that adds up to a significant amount for someone who puts every possible expense on a credit card.
I also have other credit cards that earn higher percentages of cashback for specific purposes. The Chase Freedom Flex card and Discover it card will earn 5% cashback on purchases in specific categories that rotate each month. I love being able to rack up 5% cashback for things I need to buy anyway, like groceries and gas.
Another option is to use a travel rewards card, which is ideal if you want to use passive income for travel. Visit this page to see an updated list of the best travel rewards credit cards.
Getting started with credit card rewards:
While there are many different types of rewards credit cards, the first one you need is a good everyday card to use for most of your purchases. The best option is the Citi Double Cash because you can earn 2% cashback from every purchase. Later on, you can add specialty cards that pay higher cashback amounts for certain purchases, but it’s good to start with a solid everyday cashback card.
15. Bank Account Promotions
Credit card companies aren’t the only ones who are willing to pay you to open an account. Some banks will give you a bonus simply for opening a checking or savings account.
Taking advantage of these offers requires only a small amount of your time, and you can easily make hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars every year by taking advantage of a few offers.
It’s essential to always check the terms of the offer before signing up. Offers for checking accounts will often require direct deposit to qualify for the bonus. Savings account bonuses often require you to deposit a specific amount of money. Be sure that all of the terms fit within your normal financial habits so you can easily qualify. You should be able to find at least a few offers each year that you can take advantage of.
Getting started with bank account bonuses:
First you need to find the bonus offers that are available. See our list of bank account bonus offers. Next, you should evaluate the offers to see which ones have the best rewards and fit within your financial habits so you can easily qualify.
16. Invest Your Spare Change
One way to invest and make money passively is to automate the process. Acorns is an app that automatically invests your spare change. When you make a purchase, Acorns will round it up to the next dollar and invest the difference. For example, if you buy a coffee for $3.60 with your credit card, Acorns will invest $0.40 for you to round up the cost to an even $4.00. Since the difference is so small, you probably won’t even notice the difference, but you’ll be building an investment passively.
With Acorns, you can also set up automatic recurring investments if you’d like to grow your account faster. Everything is hands-free. Acorns will invest in a diversified portfolio built by experts.
Getting started with investing your spare change:
Acorns makes it easy to implement this strategy. Simply create your Acorns account, link your credit and debit cards, and choose the portfolio you want to invest in. With the round-ups feature turned on, you’ll be investing passively.
17. Turn Your Car Into an Advertisement
If you’re looking for a passive side hustle, how about allowing your car to be used as an advertisement?
A few different companies out there match up advertisers with car owners who want to make some extra money. It could be a rear window advertisement, panel, or full wrap. The ad will be removable, will not damage your car, and they’ll install it for you. You can make anywhere from $50 – $400+ per month. Some of the biggest companies in this industry are:
Although the companies mentioned above are legit, some scams are going around claiming to pay you for advertising on your car. Be sure that you’re working with a reputable company (and you should never have to pay to get the ad placed on your car).
Getting started with advertising on your car:
The first step is to fill out an application at any of the sites listed above. Not everyone will be accepted, and factors like how much you drive and where you drive will influence your application. If your application is accepted, you’ll be contacted and you can follow their instructions to begin making money.
18. Rent Out Your Stuff
One way to earn extra cash with minimal effort is to rent out your stuff to other people. There are a lot of possibilities here, and it really depends on what you have, and what you don’t mind other people using. Fortunately, several websites allow you to list your items for rent and make it easy for renters to find you.
RVshare – List an RV for rent, which can be a potentially lucrative side hustle. If you have an RV, chances are, you’re only using it a few weeks out of the year. You can rent it out when you’re not using it and make a significant amount of money.
Neighbor – Rent out your storage space like a basement, garage, shed, or closet. This is one of the easiest ways to make extra money without working for it. It’s also a realistic option, since many people have extra space.
Getaround and Turo – These two sites allow you to list your car for rent. People can rent from you rather than going to one of the major chains, and you can make a few thousand dollars per year doing it.
Fluid Market – At Fluid Market you can list your truck for rent.
Fat Llama – At Fat Llama, you can rent just about anything from electronics, to sporting goods, to baby items.
Style Lend – At Style Lend you can rent women’s fashion items, like clothes and accessories. If you have a closet full of nice clothes this can be a nice, easy side hustle for you.
BabyQuip – At BabyQuip you can rent all kinds of baby items from cribs to toys to safety gates. This can be an ideal side business, especially if you live in an area that attracts a lot of tourists and vacationers who might not be able to bring everything from home.
Getting started with renting out your stuff:
The first step is to decide what you’re going to rent. See our article 30 Things You Can Rent Out for Extra Money to get plenty of ideas and learn about more platforms that make it easy to generate cash flow from rentals.
19. Rent Your Spare Bedroom
If you have a separate unit or a spare bedroom in your home, you could make some extra income without too much effort by allowing someone to rent your space. It could be a local college student, a single person looking for a cheap place to live, or you could rent it out nightly. A popular side hustle is to use sites like:
Short-term rentals may generate more income, but they’ll also require more work since you’ll need to clean the room or unit between renters. Therefore, a longer-term rental would be a more passive option.
Getting started with renting a spare room:
Not everyone will have the option to pursue this opportunity. However, if you happen to have a spare room or unit, please read How to Make Money by Renting a Room with Airbnb for a step-by-step guide.
20. Sell Your Data
An easy passive income stream is to sell your data. Of course, you won’t earn huge amounts of money, but you can get some spare cash with almost no effort by using a few of these programs.
MobileXpression certainly is not going to make you rich, but it can easily get you an extra $50 per year with basically no effort. You’ll download their app to your smartphone and they’ll get access to your browsing data, which they use for research purposes. Each week you’ll earn 5 credits. When you get 50 credits you can cash it in for a $10 gift card to many different stores, including Amazon. You’ll also get a bonus when you first sign up. I’ve been using it for a few years and I’ve earned many Amazon gift cards.
Another similar option is Neilsen Computer and Mobile Panel. It works about the same as MobileXpression and you can earn about $50 per year.
UpVoice will pay you $70+ per year for visiting sites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Amazon. I’ve earned many $10 Amazon gift cards from UpVoice.
Getting started with selling your data:
All you have to do is sign up at MobileXpression, Neilsen Computer and Mobile Panel, and UpVoice. They’ll tell you exactly how to get set up. It’s effortless and takes just a minute of your time.
21. Cash Back Apps
Earning cash back from everyday purchases is a great way to earn passive income. You need to purchase things like groceries, gas, and household goods all the time, so why not earn some cash back? Earlier, I mentioned cashback credit cards as an option. One of the great things about cashback apps is that they can be stacked on top of rewards from your credit card.
There are a lot of cashback apps, but here’s a quick look at a few of the best options:
Slide makes it easy to earn 4% or 5% cash back at many of your favorites stores. You’ll pay through the Slide app to earn 4% cashback on every purchase. If you pre-load your account with a balance, you’ll earn 5% cashback. It’s simple, and it really adds up.
Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is an extremely popular site/app that makes it easy to earn cashback on purchases at thousands of different websites, and some in-store purchases as well.
TopCashback is very similar to Rakuten. Although it’s not as popular, the amount that you can earn from TopCashback will often beat what you can get from Rakuten.
Ibotta is a great app for saving money at grocery stores and other places like Walmart, Lowe’s, and many other stores. You can browse offers available at each store and claim the ones you want. It’s pretty easy to rack up a decent amount of savings thanks to Ibotta.
Swagbucks allows you to make money in several ways, including cashback from purchases at thousands of different websites. Although it’s best known as a survey website, the cashback functionality is possibly the best way to make money with Swagbucks.
MyPoints is very similar to Swagbucks, and is actually owned by the same parent company.
Getting started with cashback apps:
It’s easy to get started. All you need to do is sign up at sites like Rakuten, TopCashback, Swagbucks, and the others listed above. Rakuten and Swagbucks make it easy going forward. Their browser extensions notify you of cash back opportunities as you’re surfing websites that participate in their programs.
Passive Income Ideas with Effort Required Upfront
The options listed in this section have the potential to become sources of passive income in the future. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to make money passively, but the ceiling is high with many of these options.
22. Start or Buy a Low-Maintenance Business
Just about any business can be a passive source of income if you’re not putting much time into it. Usually, that means hiring people to do the work for you. But some types of businesses require a lot less work than others, and you may not need to put in more than a few hours per week. Businesses like vending machines, automatic car washes, storage rental facilities, and laundromats can be good options. See our article on low-maintenance business models for more ideas and details.
These types won’t be zero maintenance, but they can be low maintenance. You could either start one yourself, or buy an existing business if you’re able and willing to make an upfront investment.
Getting started with a low-maintenance business:
The first step is to decide which type of business model you prefer. Check out the list that’s linked above and find one that would be the best fit for you.
23. Start a Blog
Blogging is often mentioned as one of the best passive income ideas. The truth is, it takes a lot of work upfront to create a successful blog that generates a combination of active income and passive income. But if you’re willing to put in some work now, passive income down the road is definitely possible through blogging.
Some blogs are more passive than others. If passive income is your goal, monetizing the blog with display ads and/or affiliate programs is among the best options. Once you have a reliable stream of traffic (search traffic is generally the most reliable), you can make money with affiliate marketing and ads not directly tied to the amount of work you are putting in. You can even outsource the work related to running the blog, which will reduce the time and effort you need to put into it.
Getting started with a blog:
I’ve written a detailed guide, How to Start a Blog, that walks you through the process. It’s straightforward, takes only a few minutes, and requires no technical experience.
24. Start a YouTube Channel
Another option for making money passively through content is to start a YouTube channel. With a popular YouTube channel, you can make money from ads, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing.
Like blogging, creating a successful YouTube channel will require a lot of work upfront and would be considered active income early on. But once you have a large following and you’re receiving a lot of views from getting your videos ranked in the search results, the money can come in without much work on your part.
Getting started with YouTube:
If you want to learn how to build a successful YouTube channel, How to Stand Out on YouTube and Build a Successful Channel is an outstanding resource created by a very successful YouTuber.
25. Create a Niche Website
Niche websites are similar to blogs, but they’re tightly focused on a specific topic. For example, you may start a website on camping where every article is related to some aspect of camping, or products that are used for camping.
Just like blogging, niche websites are a source of active income upfront, with passive income to follow.
Niche websites typically make money by promoting products through affiliate marketing or display advertising. And most niche websites get the majority of their traffic from Google search, by targeting low-competition search phrases.
Creating a successful niche website will require some work and patience, but once it’s rolling, it’s one of the most passive types of websites you can own. Your content will continue to attract traffic and generate cash flow with affiliate links and display ads, with little effort on your part. It’s also a realistic online business that can work for a high percentage of people.
Getting started with niche websites:
I’ve written a detailed guide, How to Create a Niche Website, that walks you through the process and explains everything you need to know about niche websites and generating affiliate income.
In terms of passive business models, dropshipping is one of the most hands-free options (plus, it requires a very small initial investment). Dropshipping is a type of e-commerce business, but you won’t be responsible for fulfilling orders. A customer will order a product from your website and the details will be passed on to another company that will ship the product from their warehouse. You’ll never need to touch the inventory, and you don’t need to purchase inventory before selling.
All you’ll need to do is get traffic to your website and make sales. Of course, this takes some work to get set up, but it’s relatively hands-free once it’s functioning as intended.
Getting started with dropshipping:
The combination of Shopify and Oberlo make it very easy to set up and run your own dropshipping business. Shopify is the world’s most popular e-commerce platform and they provide plenty of templates to create your website with no coding. Oberlo is a dropshipping platform that integrates with Shopify.
27. Write and Sell E-Books
If you like to write, selling ebooks is an excellent way to make recurring passive income from digital products. The most common approach is to use Amazon to reach a large audience of Kindle users, but you could also sell an e-book through your own website with a simple checkout like SendOwl.
You can write any type of book that you like, and on any topic that you want to write about. Of course, the type and topic of your book will impact the size of the audience that may want to buy it, but there’s a lot of flexibility.
You’ll put in the work upfront to write the e-book, and then you’ll be able to earn extra cash from it for months or years to come, making it an ideal income source. Optionally, you could outsource the writing to a ghostwriter using a freelance website like Upwork if you don’t want to do the writing yourself.
This course from bestselling author Jonathan LaPoma will show you the exact steps to follow to have success as a self-published author and sell your books and eBooks through Amazon's Kindle Direct Program. Get free access for two months!
Getting started with e-books:
The course From First Draft to Bestseller is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to become a self-published author.
28. Create an Online Course
Creating an online course is a popular way to make money online. Some courses sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so you don’t need to make loads of sales in order to earn very good money with a course.
Obviously, creating a course takes time and effort. But if your course is focused on an evergreen topic (something that will still be relevant a few years from now), it can be an excellent passive income business once the course is live.
You’ll need to market the course and provide some level of customer service. However, if you have a steady flow of traffic, or if you’re able to create profitable ad campaigns, the sales can flow without too much effort on your part. You can also outsource customer service to a VA if you want to make it more passive.
Getting started with online courses:
Once you’ve decided on a topic for your course, create an account with Teachable to get your course online. Teachable is simple to use and will host a user-friendly course, all the video and written content, plus a sales page.
29. Sell Printables
So far we’ve looked at two types of digital products (e-books and online courses) that are popular ways to make money online. Selling printables is one of the most overlooked passive income ideas that involves digital products. There are many different possibilities here, but some of the most common types of printables include:
- Planners and organizers
- Coloring pages
Printables are a type of digital file that is relatively quick and easy to create. Instead of dedicating months to create a course, you could get your first product up for sale in a day or less by going with printables. And if you don’t have the skills or experience to create your own printables, you can hire graphic designers at Upwork or Fiverr to create them for you (see our Upwork vs. Fiverr comparison).
Typically, printables are low-ticket items (you can bundle them together to create bigger packages and increase the average order size). Selling printables is usually about volume.
There are a few different routes you can take for selling printables. Etsy is a popular platform that is ideal for printables (see our article How to Start an Etsy Shop). Another option is to sell on your own site using a simple shopping cart like SendOwl that distributes the files to your customers. Selling on your own site will give you higher income potential, but you’ll need to put in more time to build traffic to the site.
Getting started with printables:
The easiest way to get started is by selling on Etsy. While you can create all kinds of printables, it’s a good idea to pick one niche to focus on. For example, you might choose to create planners for moms. You’ll need to create your seller account with Etsy and get your first printable ready to sell. Canva offers a free online design tool that’s perfect for designing printables, or you can hire someone on Fiverr or Upwork.
30. Sell Stock Photos and Graphics
Are you a photographer, artist, or designer? Even if you’re just a hobbyist, you can license your work at stock marketplaces to earn passive income. Stock photo sites like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock attract millions of visitors each month and you can make money when they download your creative resources.
To be completely honest, the stock photography industry is very saturated and you’re not likely to make a huge amount of money with this approach. However, if your goal is to make a few hundred dollars of extra money each month, licensing stock images could be a realistic option. Alternatively, you could also set up your own website to directly license your photos or artwork and cut out the middleman.
Photos aren’t the only option for stock marketplaces. If you have some design skills, you could sell graphic resources and templates at sites likes Creative Market and Envato Market. And of course, you could also set up your own website instead of relying exclusively on sales from third-party marketplaces.
Photos and graphics are ideal for passive income and monthly payments because they can be licensed repeatedly. The same photo or graphic template may generate income for several years.
Getting started with stock:
If you already have some photos or graphics you can use, getting started is easy. All you need to do is apply to become a contributor or seller at the marketplace you want to use. Most stock photo websites require you to upload sample photos that will be evaluated to determine if they accept your application.
31. License Music
Musicians have similar opportunities as designers and photographers for licensing stock resources. A number of creative marketplaces, like Envato Market, offer audio clips or stock music. If you have some musical ability, you can create songs and clips to be licensed on these marketplaces.
Again, you probably won’t make a killing by licensing your audio files on marketplaces, but you can make a few hundred dollars per month.
Getting started with licensing music:
The first step is to sign up or apply to become a contributor at the marketplace you want to use. Once approved, you’ll be able to upload your work and start making money.
32. Create an App
Successful mobile apps are capable of generating passive income for their owners. If you happen to have development skills, you could create and code your own app based on your business idea. If you’re not a developer, you can hire a developer on Upwork to do it for you, and you could focus on the online marketing.
Keep in mind that not every app is successful. In fact, many apps never make enough sales to reach profitability. It’s certainly not an easy passive income stream, but if you’re able to create a successful app, you could see huge rewards.
Getting started with apps:
The first step is to conceptualize your app and decide what you want to create. You could focus on solving a problem or providing entertainment (like games). Once you have the concept, you can either hire a developer or pitch your idea to an app development company that might be interested in partnering with you. You’ll find some options listed in our article about companies that pay for ideas.
33. Design T-Shirts
One creative passive income idea is to design t-shirts that will be sold through a print-on-demand service. T-shirt designers can make money without the need to invest in inventory thanks to Merch by Amazon, Printify, and other similar print-on-demand services. Whenever one of your shirts sells, they’ll print the shirt and ship it to the customer for you.
You’ll promote your designs on your own website, other websites or marketplaces, or social media.
This is an ideal option if you have some creative skills, but it’s possible to make money with print-on-demand t-shirts even if you’re not a designer. You can easily hire a designer from Fiverr or Upwork to create the designs using your ideas.
Getting started with t-shirts:
The first step is to come up with a few t-shirt designs. Regardless of what platform you’ll be using, you’ll need the designs to make money. Conceptualize a few t-shirts and either create the design yourself or hire a designer to do it for you.
Get Started with Passive Income Today
After reading through this list of passive income ideas, pick a few that look like a good fit for you. The sooner you set up your passive income streams the sooner you’ll be making money, and you’ll have more to re-invest. There’s definitely some low-hanging fruit on this list that is easy to get, even if you don’t have money to invest.
Be sure that you don’t ignore these opportunities as they’re key to reaching financial freedom.