Stephen Altrogge is a freelance writer located in Ashland, Ohio. He has been published in Entrepreneur, SUCCESS, Zapier, and numerous other large publications. He consumes too much caffeine on a daily basis.
If you want to achieve financial independence, you need to have multiple streams of income. In fact, it’s said that millionaires typically have at least seven different streams of income.
But unless you’ve mastered time travel, you obviously can’t work seven different jobs. So how can you make the necessary income to achieve financial independence?
It’s all about passive income.
My 3 Best Passive income ideas
Before we get started, I think it is good idea to highlight my 3 favorite passive income stream ideas before highlighting all 37 (even though I recommend them all!).
These are great for individuals who are looking to get started quickly in creating passive income.
Without further ado, let's get this money making train on the road.
Invest in Dividend Paying Stocks
This is one of my favorite ways to generate passive income because you continue to receive dividends monthly or quarterly on stocks that you invest that pay a dividend.
What Is Passive Income & How Do You Generate It?
Passive income, also known as “residual income”, is income that you earn while not actively working. In other words, you’re not trading your time for dollars, like most people do with standard "active income" jobs.
Rather, the money comes in steadily even while you’re not doing anything. Even though you are “passive”, you are still earning money. Generally speaking, passive income comes from assets that you control.
These assets automatically generate money for you and can be anything from savings accounts to stocks to real estate to music you’ve written to an online course that you created.
Most passive income ideas require up front effort, like writing a book or creating an online course. Then again, you might think of a passive income idea that requires little or no effort up front, such as investing money in stocks that pay dividends.
It’s important to note that generating passive income always requires an investment of some sort, whether that’s money, time, or effort.
Many people think about a passive income source as if it’s money coming out of nowhere. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you want to generate passive income, you must be willing to invest your resources in creating it.
Because multiple passive income streams can eventually lead to financial freedom. Instead of having to constantly work, you have money from a variety of passive income streams coming in.
While most people have to always trade their time for money, you do work up front and then the money continues to come in for months or even years afterward.
So how do you generate passive income?
In this post we’re going to lay out 37 effective ways for you to start earning passive income. The first half of the post will focus on ways to earn passive income that require an upfront financial investment.
The second half of the post will focus on methods that only require time and effort.
Let’s dive in.
Passive Income Assets That Require A Money Investment
First, let’s look at passive income assets that require some form of monetary upfront investment.
While they require very little time or effort on your part, they do require you to have some finances to invest and potentially some cash flow to keep putting in.
Open High Yield Savings Accounts or Checking Account
Traditional banks typically have very low interest rates for both their savings and their checking accounts. We’re talking in the range of 0.10% -- so low that they provide almost no interest at all.
In recent years, however, online banks have come on the scene and have begun offering much higher interest rates. Higher interest rates mean you make much more money off your savings account than you would traditionally.
Why are these banks able to offer higher rates? Because they have significantly lower overhead than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
In the past, you would have to invest in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) to get an interest rate anywhere close to 2.00%.
Now, with online accounts such as those offered by Betterment, you can get an APY of around 2.69%, which is 25 times the national average - with no minimum investment amount.
A Betterment account only costs one dollar to set up and comes with unlimited transfers.
Invest In Crowdfunded Real Estate
Traditionally, real estate cost thousands and thousands of dollars to get into. Really, the only way to get started was to purchase a piece of property, which cost a pretty penny.
Now, however, you can pool your resources with other real-estate investors. A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a pool of money which is managed by professional real estate investors.
All the money invested in real estate investment trusts goes toward purchasing real estate. The returns on the real estate (from rents, etc.) are then returned to the investors.
And unlike traditional real estate investing, you don’t have to handle landlord duties, such as collecting rent, making repairs, etc.
You simply invest your money and then get the return.
Many REITs require a significant up-front investment, but Fundrise allows you to start investing in real estate with as little as $500.
Another alternative is Realty Mogul, which is a marketplace that allows you to invest in high-quality private real-estate loans (note: you’re investing in loans, not actual real estate).
Purchase Investment Property
If you have more cash at your disposal, you may want to take a step up from crowdfunded real estate or a real estate investment trust to actually purchasing your own investment property.
One real estate investing option is to find and purchase a property, fix it up, and then do all the management yourself. This requires a significant amount of time and effort but can generate a high ROI on your investment.
If you want to simplify the process of finding and managing an investment property, you may want to consider using Roofstock, a platform that allows you to purchase turnkey properties for as little as 20% down.
Some of their properties already have tenants living in them, dramatically simplifying the process.
Once you’ve purchased the property, Roofstock will pair you up with a vetted property manager who will handle all the day-to-day tasks such as collecting rent, making repairs, etc.
Invest With A Robo-Advisor
Traditionally, having your investments managed by a professional money manager was an option only available to the wealthy. It was too expensive for the average person. Now, however, technology is making investing more accessible to everyone.
Instead of relying on humans to manage your funds, you can allow complex computer programs (a.k.a. “robo advisors”) to handle your passive income investments.
These robo advisors can handle almost every aspect of the investing process, from building your portfolio to rebalancing it to tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment has no minimum amount required to invest, has fees as low as 0.25-0.40%, and doesn’t require any knowledge of investing in order to get started. You simply answer a few questions about your long-term investment objectives and it will build you a personalized portfolio. You can easily set up automatic deposits from your savings or checking account to ensure that your account keeps growing.
Acorns is another outstanding robo advisor. Like Betterment, you simply answer a few questions about your investing objectives, fund your account, and then let the robo advisor do the rest. You also can set it to round up from your purchases and then deposit the excess in your account. Additionally, they partner with hundreds of other companies and if you purchase from those companies they’ll add a specified amount to your account.
Invest In Dividend Paying Stocks
Buying stocks with companies that pay cash dividends is one of the oldest, most-proven methods for generating passive income.
A dividend is a distribution of a portion of a company’s profits to the stockholders. Dividends are decided by a company’s board of directors and are a way to reward shareholder loyalty.
For example, over the past seven years, Colgate-Palmolive has paid shareholders a dividend of between $0.34 and $0.68 for every share of stock.
If you own stock in the company, you would get paid that amount for every share you own.
There are a number of platforms that make it incredibly easy to invest in dividend stocks and the stock market in general. M1 Finance makes it easy to create a diversified portfolio, as well as offers a variety of financial tools to help you make wise financial decisions. If you want to automatically reinvest your dividends, the platform can do that for you.
In recent years, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending has grown in popularity, fueled by new technology that brings lenders and borrowers together.
P2P lending platforms create a marketplace where those who want to borrow money can be connected with those who have money to lend. Those who lend earn money as a return on their investment, just like a traditional banking institution.
P2P lending is like traditional lending except on an individual level. You let someone borrow money from you and they pay you back with interest.
There are some significant upsides to P2P lending, including:
- Democratizing the lending industry so that everyone can take part in it
- Allowing individuals to borrow money who might not otherwise be able to
- Allowing people with disposable income to make a return on their money
Prosper is one of the most popular P2P lending platforms, allowing lenders to compare things like loan details, loan purpose, interest rate, and even borrower information.
They offer 12 different types of loans you can invest in:
- Credit card refinancing
- Debt consolidation
- Home improvement
- Major purchase
- Home buying
- Car financing
- Green loan
- Business loan
- Moving and relocation
- Medical expenses
- Other types of loan
They have an annual 1% fee. Historically, lenders have made between 4-8% returns on their investments.
Build A CD Ladder
Normally, buying CDs with any significant interest rate ties up your money for a significant amount of time. Creating a CD ladder, however, can help you keep your money more liquid.
It works like this. First, you find a bank offering substantial rates on their CDs. Say, for example, that you find a bank offering:
- 6-month CD at 1% interest
- 12-month CD at 2% interest
- 18-month CD at 3% interest
You purchase one of each. After six months, your first CD matures and you get 1% interest on your money. You then replace that CD with another 18-month CD.
When the 12-month CD matures, you use that money to purchase another 18-month CD.
This creates a “ladder” effect, with CDs maturing every six-months. Instead of having all your money tied up in a single 18-month CD, you get access to your money every six months.
Yes, you do sacrifice a small amount of interest that you would get if you put all your money into an 18-month CD, but the flexibility and liquidity you gain offsets this.
Discover High Yield CDs are a great option if you’re looking to create your own CD ladder.
Invest In Annuities
An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company that requires the insurance company to make payments to you, either now or in the future.
You purchase an annuity by making either a single payment or a series of payments. In the same way, your payout may come either as one lump-sum payment or as a series of payments over time.
There are three types of annuities:
- Fixed annuity - A fixed annuity takes your contribution and the insurance company invests it. You have no say in how the money is managed. Once you trigger the income stream, called annuitization, a fixed dollar amount is paid to you.
- Variable annuity - A variable annuity allows you to choose from a number of investment options, including mutual funds, bond funds and money market accounts.
- Equity indexed annuity - An equity indexed annuity will track, at least to some degree, the performance of a stock index like the S&P 500, but also provide guaranteed minimum interest earnings.
The terms with annuities vary and there can be a variety of fees associated with them, so it’s best to talk to your financial advisor or check out a portfolio management company like Fisher Investments if you’re considering purchasing an annuity.
Invest In Gold and Silver ETFs
Gold and Silver Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are commodity ETFs that consist of a single asset: gold or silver. Exchange traded funds act like stocks and they trade on the exchange in a similar manner.
By investing in Gold or Silver ETFs, you gain many of the benefits of investing in gold or silver without having to actually invest in gold or silver.
In other words, when the price of gold or silver rises, the ETFs also rise, providing you with passive income.
Additionally, gold is known for being resilient even in the face of macroeconomic trends, such as inflation, which means it can dramatically outperform other types of investments.
If you want to get started investing in Gold or Silver ETFs, consider taking the Perfect Portfolio Gold and Silver For Life Masterclass.
Swing Trading Penny Stocks
Swing trading is a method of stock trading that seeks to capitalize on gains or falls in a stock over the course of a few days or weeks.
Swing trading isn’t necessarily easy, and relies heavily on technical analysis to look for trading opportunities. However, if you know what stocks to pick, when to buy, and when to sell, it can be a great way to make passive income.
If you can buy low and sell high or appropriately short a stock, you can see big financial gains.
Invest In An Index Fund
An index fund is a mutual fund where the holdings match or track with a particular index, such as the S&P 500.
These funds can be a great way to diversify your income and earn passive income. They don’t try to beat the market like most mutual funds do.
Rather, they simply try to be the market itself, by buying stocks of every firm listed in an index.
Use A Cashback Rewards Credit Card
You already have to purchase a substantial amount every month. You’ve got groceries to buy, office supplies to replenish, and home goods to stock up on. Why not get some cash back on purchases you’re making anyway?
Many credit cards offer a percentage back on purchases you make using the card. Some credit cards offer varying percentages depending on the category of purchase.
For example, you may get 1% back on gas and 2% back on groceries.
Many credit cards also offer initial bonuses when you sign up for them. For example, if you spend a set amount within the first 90 days, you get $150 back.
Keep in mind that it’s important to pay your credit card balance off every month. If you don’t, interest and fees can quickly add up, negating this passive income strategy.
If you’re looking for a great credit card, the Capital One Quicksilver card is hard to beat. It offers unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase and also offers a one-time $150 bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months. It has no annual fee.
Use A Cashback Website
In addition to using a cash-back credit card, you should also be using a cash-back website such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates).
It is an affiliate of more than 2,000 stores (including Amazon, Macy’s, etc.) and they give you cash back for shopping through them.
Your money is paid out four times per year through PayPal or is sent to you via check.
Refinance Your Mortgage
If interest rates have gone down significantly since you purchased your house, you may want to consider refinancing your mortgage. You could save thousands of dollars in interest over the course of your loan and lower your monthly payments.
Of course, there are a variety of costs associated with refinancing your mortgage so be sure to include those in your calculations when deciding whether or not it’s worth it.
To get a quote on refinancing your mortgage, consider using a company like Lending Tree.
Purchase A Profitable Website
One of the most effective strategies for creating passive income is to build a profitable blog or website (more on that in a minute).
However, building a profitable blog or website takes a significant amount of time and effort and if you’re not dedicated to the process it can be hard to make a significant amount of passive income.
If you have disposable income available, you can skip the labor-intensive process of creating a website and purchase one that is already profitable.
Many people are experts at creating passive income generating websites and they like to sell them. You can take advantage of this and purchase an already existing website through a platform like Empire Flippers or Flippa.
Empire Flippers tends to sell more established websites and blogs, which is why their prices tend to be significantly higher than Flippa. You can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000 to $2 million for a site on Empire Flippers. However, you can be sure that you’re going to be generating cash from day one.
Purchase Storage Rentals
In many ways, storage rentals are the ultimate in passive income. People pay you every month simply to store their stuff for them.
You simply have to open them up for people, but you can even hire someone to do that for you. If you have the cash to purchase storage rentals, they can be a fantastic way to build passive income.
Sell From Vending Machines
While they may not be as popular as they once were, vending machines are still a highly effective way to make passive income.
You simply stock them with candy or small trinkets and then let people purchase from them. Then you go around, collect the money, and restock them.
It’s really a beautifully simple process. If you don’t want to handle all the collecting and restocking, you can hire someone to do it for you.
Passive Income Assets That Only Require Time & Effort
Thankfully, you don’t have to have a significant amount of money at your disposal in order to create passive income generating assets.
If you’re willing to invest time and effort, you can create assets that will generate consistent passive income month-after-month.
Affiliate Marketing With A Blog
Affiliate marketing is when you promote someone else’s products or services and then get a small percentage of every sale that is made through your promotional efforts.
For example, Amazon has an affiliate program. If someone purchases a product from Amazon through one of your affiliate links, you get a very small percentage of that purchase.
If you have a knack for writing, blogging is one of the best ways to do affiliate marketing. Blogging allows you to provide value for your audience while also promoting various products or services.
There are affiliate bloggers in every niche out there, and if you care enough about something to consistently blog about it, you can make money through affiliate marketing.
For example, let’s say you’re passionate about fashion. You could blog about different types of clothing and ways to style that clothing.
You could also promote different lines of clothing and get a small percentage of the profit if someone purchases clothing through your links.
Really, when it comes to blogging, your options are endless. If you can blog about it, you can make affiliate money through it.
And one of the best parts about blogging is that it’s not uncommon to keep making significant amounts of money from blog posts that are several years old.
As long as people keep reading your content, there is an opportunity to make money through it.
Advertising With A Blog
In addition to earning passive income through affiliate marketing, blogging can also allow you to earn passive income through advertising.
This is especially the case if you get a significant amount of traffic to your website. The more traffic you get, the more you can get through advertising.
Setting up ads on a blog is usually quite simple. It’s often as simple as installing a WordPress plugin.
If you’re not sure how to get started with blogging, you may want to consider taking the course “Launch Your Blog Biz”. You’ll learn everything from how to get your blog started to effective traffic strategies to making money through affiliate marketing. It really is a thorough resource for helping you to get started with blogging.
Create a Course or Guide
If you have expertise in a particular subject, you can monetize that expertise by creating an online course or guide and selling it.
What sorts of subjects make for effective courses or guides? You’re only limited by your imagination.
Are you an expert on the city of Chicago? Create and sell a downloadable guide about the best spots to visit.
Do you have years of experience sewing? Create an online sewing course and teach people the joys of sewing.
Have you built a solid career for yourself as a freelance writer? Why not teach others how to do the same thing?
If you have specialized knowledge, you can turn it into a highly profitable online course or guide. There are numerous platforms that make it really easy to monetize your knowledge:
If you’re not sure where to get started, consider taking the course “Six-Figure Blogger”. It will guide you through creating your own digital products and services and show you how to make significant income from them.
Create A YouTube Channel
If you know how to create interesting, entertaining, or educational videos, you should consider starting a YouTube channel. It can be an outstanding way to earn passive income.
Once you get to 1,000 subscribers on your channel, you can begin running ads before and during your videos. For every view a video gets, you’ll get a small amount of money from the advertisements.
When it comes to making money through YouTube, it really is a numbers game. The more views your videos get, the more money you’ll make.
This typically means that if you want to make a significant amount of money, you’ll need to get a fair number of subscribers and make quite a few videos. In other words, you’ll need to be diligent and stick with it.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re not making much passive income right away. It takes a lot of time and effort to build up a YouTube channel.
But once you do, you have an outstanding passive income generating asset on your hands. There are thousands of people who make a full-time income from their YouTube channels.
Build An E-commerce Site
Selling products is a great way to make passive income online. Your store is open 24/7, meaning that people can purchase from you even while you’re sleeping.
If you have your own products, you can certainly sell them, but you don’t have to have a product in order to have an e-commerce website. You can also do what’s called “dropshipping” - a proven business model.
With dropshipping, you find a product that is being sold somewhere else online (such as AliExpress). You then list that product on your own e-commerce website at a higher price.
When someone orders the product through your site, you pass that order along to the first website. They ship the product to the customer and you never actually touch the product.
Sell Your Photos Online
Do you love taking photos? Are you always snapping away with your phone or camera? You might be a great candidate for selling stock photos online.
Stock photos are photos that are licensed to others for a fee. Once someone licenses a photo, they can use it in a variety of ways, such as on their blog or social media pages or in print.
Stock photo sites, such as DepositPhotos allow you to submit your photos to their site. Every time someone buys one of your photos, you get a small royalty.
Like YouTube, making money on stock photo sites is a numbers game. If you only have a few photos available for download, you probably won’t make much money (unless they’re incredibly popular photos).
However, if you have thousands of photos available for download, and you achieve several thousand downloads per month, you can begin making a substantial amount of income.
If you want to make money through a site like DepositPhotos, get busy taking photos.
As stock photo website Shutterstock says:
When it comes to stock photography, quality is definitely important, but you also need to focus on quantity. We recommend setting a monthly goal for yourself (i.e. 50 to 100 images), so that you build momentum with your earnings. The more images you have in your portfolio, the more consistent your revenue stream will be.
For your best results, the photos you take should be of the highest quality. If you want people to download your photos, it’s important for them to be compelling, interesting, and outstanding.
One other thing to note: Avoid showing any specific brands in your photos unless you have explicit permission to do so. Putting brands in your photos without permission is a copyright violation.
Sell eBooks and Audiobooks On Amazon
Writing a book is another highly effective way to monetize your knowledge and build substantial passive income.
Does the thought of writing a book intimidate you?
Once you’ve written the book, you’ll need to get a cover designed. You can hire someone to do that for you or you can easily use a software such as Canva to do it.
You can also sell it as an audiobook through Audible. If you need to hire someone to narrate the book, you can easily find a professional narrator on Fiverr or Upwork.
For every sale, you’ll get a portion of the proceeds. Let’s say you list the book for $7 and sell 1,000 copies. You’ll get $7,000 (minus costs and fees)!
Rent Out Your Car
Do you have a car that you don’t use much? Why not start making some passive rental income from it?
Using services like Turo or Getaround, you can rent your car out to others. Think of it like Airbnb except for with your car. You list your car on the website and then others can rent it from you.Another way to make passive income from your car is to turn it into a billboard. Companies like Wrapify will pay you to put advertisements on your car!
More and more, people need music for their videos, podcasts, etc. If you’re a musician, you can create music and license it.
Every time a person downloads one of your music files, you get a licensing fee.
Like taking photos, music licensing is a numbers game. The more files you have available for people to download, the more passive income you’ll make.
Design and Sell T-Shirts
Do you have a knack for design? Then you should consider designing and selling t-shirts online.
Merch By Amazon makes it extremely easy to upload t-shirt designs and then sell them on the massive Amazon marketplace. And the good news is that you don’t have to maintain any inventory.
Amazon prints and ships everything on demand. Whenever you make a sale, Amazon handles every aspect of it, from processing the sale to printing the shirt to making sure it gets delivered to the customer.
Sell Digital Files On Etsy
Selling digital files on Etsy is a fantastic way to make passive income. If you’re really good at graphic design, you can upload digital files to Etsy and then sell them.
Like with stock photos and music, selling files on Etsy is all about how many you can upload. The more files you have for sale, the more passive income you can make.
Rent Out Your House on Airbnb
Airbnb has totally disrupted the hotel industry. Now anyone can rent out their house or spare room and make additional monthly income from the rental.
This works especially well if you live in highly desirable locations, such as a city, or have a particularly charming house. It also works well if you live near a location where large sporting events happen.
You can make thousands of dollars per year in passive income through Airbnb if you don’t mind letting other people stay in your house or have a dedicated rental property.
Rent Out Your Boat
If you have a boat, there’s a good chance you’re not using it every single weekend. Why not generate income by letting someone else rent your boat from you?
Rent Out Your Backyard
Do you have some extra space around your house?
Do you live on a big plot of land and aren’t using every bit of it?
There are probably people who would like to spend money to camp on your property!
Rent Out Your Space
Do you have extra space in your attic?
Maybe a storage room with some extra room in it?
You can use that extra space to make passive income. The platform Neighbor wants to disrupt the storage industry.
Calling itself the “Airbnb of storage”, you simply list your open space on the website and let others rent it out from you.
Make Money Installing Apps
If you’re comfortable letting an app run in the background on your phone, you can make passive income. The Nielsen Digital app runs in the background while you surf the web, play games, watch videos, etc.
By using the app, you are entered into sweepstakes. The company gives away around $120,000 every year, some of which you could earn.
How much passive income will you earn? Probably not a fortune - but it all adds up.
Create An App
Do you think you can create the next great app?
Do you have what it takes to build the next Angry Birds?
Then why not build an app and sell it through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store?
The more people download your app, the more passive income you’ll make - get big and it can be one of the most seriously lucrative passive income sources.
If you can’t develop an app yourself, you could always consider partnering with someone to develop the app. You could simply hire a developer through Upwork to code the app for you.
Rent Out Equipment
Sometimes people need to rent out specialized things, like baby gear or camera equipment. There are now numerous websites that let you list these types of things if you own them.
Expect to pay a tiny bit of commission on passive income generated - but not much.
Lower Your Bills
Truebill is making it easier than ever to save on various bills, such as your electric or cable bill.
It works like this. You upload your bill to the website and then the company negotiates on your behalf with the billing company.
They either negotiate a better rate or find ways to get 1-time credits applied to your account.
They then charge you 40% of what they’ve saved you. While this may not technically be making passive income, you are reducing expenses, which essentially amounts to the same thing: more money in the bank.
Which Passive Income Streams Will You Create?
When it comes to making passive income strategies, the more streams you have, the better. You probably won’t get independently wealthy if you only have one or two streams of passive income.
However, if you can build up 10 or 15, you can start to seriously build wealth. So don’t wait around to start making passive income.
The faster you get started, the more money you’ll start making. Pick your streams of passive income and get started building them today.