Passive income is wanted by the many but only understood by the few.
Part of this comes down to the misconception that it is easy to generate passive income. We often only see the end product of the months and sometimes years of work it takes.
In reality, generating passive income is like growing a tree. You can’t force a tree to grow you can only create the perfect conditions for it to grow.
If you are like me, you want real evidence of people actually making money. So I’ve done the heavy lifting to find case studies of people who are making monthly recurring income.
What Does It Take To Earn Passive income?
Before diving into the list, I wanted to add a caveat – building passive income is difficult. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme and you will need to put in effort and time into each idea if you want to get the most out of it.
I recommend sticking with a single passive income idea and becoming an expert at it instead of putting your eggs in different baskets. All passive income ideas require one of two things:
- Upfront time investment
- Upfront monetary investment
Some require both, some require just one.
Regardless of where you lie, this list should provide you clarity on what model is best for you. I’ve also added proof-checked earnings of people implementing this model to give you a flavour of how much you can make.
Passive Income Ideas That Need Time Investment
These are the ideas that require you to invest some time upfront before seeing results. Some require a high level of skill to execute, but you can start on these ideas with as little as $10.
1. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is when you sell other people’s products and earn a commission from it. Typically affiliates set up a website and then promote offers. But, you can also use other channels such as YouTube.
$6,000/month selling software as a service
Roberto Blake is a business coach and he describes in his video how he gets $6,000/month from selling software as a service.
He promotes TubeBuddy – a premium YouTube channel management software.
Whenever someone watches his channel and clicks on the affiliate link to buy the software he gets a 30% commission. The best thing is – this is recurring revenue monthly.
So long as the buyer is subscribed to the service, Roberto gets a passive income without doing anything.
This is the beauty of promoting software as an affiliate – the payouts are typically much higher and some are even recurring.
2. Review Websites
Review websites make money usually by promoting physical products – one such example is TopTenReviews.
Whenever you click a link to buy a product from this website they usually get a 3-10% commission.
$40,000/month with a tech product review site
This site generated its first 4 figure income within the first 4 months.
Within 8 months it reached $40,000 in revenue.
He even shares his Amazon Affiliate Dashboard here:
There were other income streams as well (Lixpen – $3,520.28 and 3DSimo – $1,500.00) bringing his grand total to $40,000.
Note that in comparison to our previous case study, sites promoting physical products typically need more traffic to achieve the same revenue as the affiliate commission % is lower.
3. Membership Websites
These are websites where people pay a monthly subscription for a service. Think Netflix.
But don’t worry you don’t have to be a giant company to make your own membership website.
You also don’t need to be a software expert to create one (WordPress plugins such as Memberpress make it much easier).
If you have a skill that you want to share or a passion then creating a membership site may be the model for you.
$1,900/month with a membership site focussed on cupcake making
Rebekah Allan developed a membership site focussed on cupcake making.
As of now, it looks like the membership site is down but in 2017 she reported making $1,932 from recurring monthly memberships.
She had over 300 members paying $6.50 each for her content.
This isn’t her only income stream and she also discloses other sources of income such a recipe book and an online course.
It’s very common to have diversified streams of income when running a blog.
4. Selling EBooks
Did you know that The Martian (starring Matt Damon) actually started as a humble self-published eBook?
Andy Weir, sold the novel as an Amazon Kindle book for 99 cents a copy. Now it has gone on to make millions as a movie.
You list your book an a marketplace such as Amazon and then can earn royalties from any sales you may from it.
It may take a lot of work upfront but once the book is published – it’s pretty much passive. Definitely something to look into if you are into writing.
$4,000/month selling Ebooks on Amazon
Sean Dowlett created 4 different Ebooks which he sells on Amazon.
They each provide him around $1,000 / month in passive income for a total of $4,000/month.
You can find his video here where he explains his process.
It costs him around $600 to produce a book so he makes his return in 1 month or less!
He suggests that once the book is launched you should try to get sales as fast as possible so that Amazon organically ranks the book.
Sean actually outsources the creation of the books and just edits and proofreads it – so this could be a very passive way of making money.
5. Selling Courses
Selling courses is by far the most lucrative method of making passive income.
It isn’t easy though – you need to package your knowledge very well (e.g. in a video course) and have an audience who trusts you.
But on the flipside, you don’t have any overheads when selling.
No need to worry about inventory or fulfilment because the product is your knowledge.
This makes courses infinitely scalable and a very good way of monetising your users.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is not as passive as methods like affiliate marketing since you will still need to respond to customer requests.
$76,000/month selling an online course
Vanessa Lau sells her Bossgram online course which teaches users how to turn Instagram followers into clients.
She makes around $76,000/month selling her course and discloses everything in her video here.
Before she started the course, she began doing 1-on-1 coaching calls with her clients and after she started charging upwards of $1,000.
She realised that her knowledge had value. So she put everything she knew into a single course.
You could approach it this way as well – first get people to pay you for your time and knowledge before you create a course.
Or better yet sell other people’s courses via affiliate links before making your own. (This is similar to what Sean Dowlett does for his Amazon EBooks).
If you are looking to sell a course but don’t want to go through the hassle of building an audience. You can look at platforms such as Skillshare.
Skillshare allows you to teach a course and get paid for every minute that someone watches you.
You can also get paid $10 for every student that you refer that signs up for premium.
Teachers starting out earn around $200 a month passively but top ones can earn $3,000+.
$7,300/month teaching on Skillshare
Ali Abdal – a doctor and Youtuber earns around $7,300/month from Skillshare according to his YouTube video here.
He also has multiple income streams ranging from YouTube AdSense to Amazon Affiliates as well.
On Skillshare, he teaches about productivity, video editing and studying – you can find a link to his page here.
Ali does all this whilst having a full time job as a doctor – comes to show that some of these methods truly can be passive.
If you are camera shy – podcasts can be a great alternative to methods such as YouTube.
There are many ways of monetising podcasts but one of them is through sponsorships.
You can get paid around $18 per 1,000 downloads for a 15–second pre–roll or $25 for a 60 second mid-roll feature per 1000 downloads. (This is when the podcaster talks about the sponsor).
You may think that’s not much but as we will see in our next case study you can make a lot of money from podcasting.
$172,000/month by podcasting
Yes – I’m not kidding John Lee Dumas actually makes $172,000/month from the Entrepreneur On Fire podcast.
He even discloses his monthly earnings here and gets it checked by accountants.
Bear in mind John has been doing this for over 9 years but what’s amazing is that he even has earnings results all the way back to 2012. Awesome stuff!
He has interviewed over 2,000 incredible Entrepreneurs, including Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Barbara Corcoran, Tim Ferriss – if you do the math that’s almost 1 interview a day since he started.
8. Lead Generation
Lead generation is when you capture a customer’s email or phone number and sell it to someone interested.
An example is Homeadvisor – they are an online directory of services and sell leads to contractors such as roofers or plumbers. It’s not small money.
In 2019, parent company Angi Homeservices reported $1.1B in revenue.
But you don’t need to build a huge website like Homeadvisor to make passive income as we will see in our next case study.
$700/month through local lead generation in roofing niche
YouTuber Paul James talks about how he built a $700/month passive income stream selling roofing leads in Cedarburg in this video.
We don’t technically have a screenshot of earnings but his website received 22 calls. Selling these calls for $30 a lead amounts to around $700/month.
The theory behind local lead generation is that it is much easier to rank organically in local areas.
Roofing is also a big ticket niche with repairs costing upwards of several hundred dollars.
So in theory a roofing contractor would be more than happy to pay $30 for a qualified lead since a typical job is in the hundreds of dollars.
Dropshipping is when you buy a product from a supplier and ship it directly to the customer.
Typically you use ecommerce site builders like Shopify to create an online store.
The beauty of the model is that you actually do not need to store inventory so the startup costs are typically lower than other models like Amazon FBA.
You can rapidly test products with this model without taking inventory risk and you can make big money if you do it correctly.
$264,000/month by dropshipping a posture brace
Yeap you read it right – $264,000/month by dropshipping this posture brace buying it for $4 and selling it for $40 (10x markup).
The profit is slightly lower at around $70,000/month, but that’s still a life changing amount of money.
VerumEcom showcase in this video here how exactly they did it.
Their case study website MrPosture is still up and running.
They ran Facebook Ads to their website and managed to find the right audience.
So long as their revenue is higher than their product price and advertising cost they make a profit.
10. Print On Demand
Print On Demand is similar to the dropshipping model except instead of fulfilling products you fulfill “designs”.
Websites like Teespring allow you to create and design your own shirts.
You can then sell these shirts in your own ecommerce store.
You don’t pay anything for the design – you only pay once a customer has ordered the shirt.
You fulfill items only once they are ordered.
An example of such a store is Black Fathers Exist. They sell custom shirt designs specifically for black fathers.
$60,000/month with a Print on Demand Store
Wholesale Ted makes around $60,000/month ($2,000/day) passively with her print on demand store. You can find her Youtube video here where she talks about her store.
She works with Printful to create designs. Unfortunately, she has not disclosed the store or the niche that she is working in.
We do know that she is promoting her products primarily through Facebook ads.
11. Amazon FBA
This model is more capital intensive than the dropshipping model but also more passive.
It involves selling online but instead of on your own website – you sell on the Amazon platform.
You typically source your product from suppliers like Alibaba and ship it to an Amazon Warehouse.
The great thing about this model is that it can really be passive. Amazon takes care of the fulfilment and customer service so all you need to worry about is managing inventory.
Getting on the top of Amazon organic search is the name of the game here.
$24,000/month with Amazon FBA
FBA Elite earns around $24,000/month selling 3 products on Amazon according to his video.
He makes around 25% profit on these so takes home $6,000/month.
It took him 11 months to reach this point.
He replied to 8 customer invoice requests, checked sales once per day, set up a new PPC (pay per click) campaign, checked VAT returns which took him about 2 days to set up.
So Amazon FBA can be very passive in comparison to models such as dropshipping.
If you are an avid content creator YouTube can be a great platform for passive income.
You know those annoying ads you see on YouTube videos. Well, the content creator earns money whenever an ad like that plays on their videos.
This is the most passive way of making money from YouTube.
You can also earn by promoting affiliate courses and even your own courses on YouTube (as we have seen in our previous examples).
So it’s great having a YouTube channel since you can monetise in a variety of ways.
$2,800/month with YouTube
Silicon Valley Girl shares in her video that she makes $2,800/month from ad revenue on YouTube.
She mentions that the majority of her ad revenue came from just one video – 8 most profitable business ideas in 2019.
This one video alone earned her $1,764 in a month and nearly $6,000 over 365 days.
She owns a Russian Language Blog as well and makes similar money from it.
13. Online Photography
Yes you read that right. You can actually make PASSIVE income from selling photography. This is great if photography is your hobby.
When you rank your photo on the top of these pages you get a commission whenever someone purchases your photo.
This way you can sell the photo multiple times without having to actively sell it.
$400/month selling photos on Microstock Sites
Photerloo is a hobby photographer who works as a software engineer. He made $35,000 over 7 years ($400/month) passively by selling 628 photos on microstock sites such as Shutterstock.
He details everything in this video.
What I really like is how passive it can really be. Sure the money isn’t life changing but all you need to do is upload it onto a site and the sales take care of themselves.
No need for any customer support.
He also details in his video who the best sites are.
Passive Income Ideas That Need Monetary Investment
These are ideas that need some upfront investment before starting. To generate a sizeable return with the models below, it’s best if you had a few thousand stashed in the bank before you make the investment.
Having said that, to get started you don’t need much ($200 should be enough).
14. Website Buying
If you have cash in hand and are looking for an investment with good ROI. Check out website buying.
Compared to typical investments such as property or stocks websites have a much higher yield (around 30% ROI annually).
Website costs are usually in the thousands of dollars with some going to millions.
Though there are some websites such as Cari Studio which are being sold for $500 (on Flippa) but make $90 monthly.
You could see yourself getting your money back in just 6 months with those numbers!
$1,675/month buying websites for passive income
Yaro Starak mentions in this blog post how he went generates $1,675 per month in extra passive income through buying websites. The overall return was around 10% per month for his portfolio!
He used Flippa to source his deals and in the end he bought 3 different sites:
Miniriders – Mini dirt bikes and pit bikes forum which now has 7,000 plus members, 600+ active members and usually has around 40-50 members on the site at any one point in time.
Pocket Bike Racing – A pocket bike community forum with 6,000 members, 200+ active members and around 25 members on the site at any point in time.
Mini Bike Videos – A little YouTube style video sites just for mini bike videos. This site was sort of a bonus thrown in, although it does make a few dollars a day from AdSense.
These small websites were monetised primarily using Adsense.
15. Peer-To-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending is the process of matching people who want to lend with people who want to borrow.
Typically, rates are higher than savings accounts because the banking middleman is cut out.
However, from a risk perspective, it isn’t as safe as a standard savings account.
There is always a chance that the borrower defaults. This is highly unlikely with a bank.
If you are interested in the model, Money Under 30 has a list of the best sites here.
You don’t need much to start – some companies such as Lending Works require as little as $120.
Bear in mind that 5% of $120 is just $6 – so to create a passive income stream that you can live from may require a large chunk of upfront capital.
There are niches within the P2P lending space such as real estate. The company HouseCrowd facilitates loans on the property market and offer returns ranging from 5% – 7%.
$2,100/month from a P2P portfolio
In this article by Bernard Hummel he discloses exactly how he allocates €230,000 and earns roughly €2,000 ($2,100)/month with his peer to peer portfolio.
He uses a variety of sites such as Mintos, EstateGuru, Swapper, Peerberry, Viaivest ect.
He diversifies his portfolio into different P2P companies as it is inherently a riskier asset class. This way he can enjoy higher returns with smaller risk.
If you do have a bit more capital upfront then it really is possible to generate job replacing income with this model.
16. Stock Investment
Apple & Microsoft split up their ownership into small bits called shares. Whenever you buy a share you become an owner of that company and are known as a shareholder.
When the times are good companies pay out dividends to shareholders (usually quarterly).
This is how you can gain passive income through stock investment.
The Annual ROI can be very good (20%+) from this because of the fact that the stock price also increases. This is the great thing about stock investment – you benefit both by receiving a dividend and by price appreciation.
So what’s the downside – whenever the stock market crashes (e.g. in 2008), you could actually lose money.
There are platforms such as Interactive Brokers or TD Ameritrade where you can buy and sell stocks.
$8,000/month from stock dividends
If you are interested in this model, then check out Project Life Mastery’s video where he earns $8,000/month passively from his $3.5 million stock portfolio.
Dividends are passive and are usually paid out every quarter or revery year assuming that the company is doing well.
Similar to Bernard in our previous case study, Stefan has chosen to diversify his portfolio into different stocks – a smart idea given that stocks are a riskier asset class than say savings accounts.
17. Property Investment
Ah the age old guaranteed ticket to wealth. I was speaking with a private banking colleague of mine who mentioned how the majority (50% to be exact) of his high net worth clients made their money through property investment.
The way you make passive income from property is by buying it and then renting it out after.
Investing in property is usually quite pricey and in most cases you would be buying a single house outright.
So you would be looking at the $20,000 + mark for a down payment.
However, the big secret is leverage. This allows you to put a smaller downpayment in comparison to the price of the total price house.
You could buy a $100,000 house for $20,000 with a mortgage and this would allow you to increase your ROI massively.
So even though the yield is around 2 – 10%, with a mortgage it can be pushed towards the upper end.
Globally, property yields vary with certain cities (Instanbul, Turkey – 2 %) experiencing very low yields whilst other cities (Chisninau, Moldova – 10%) experiencing very high yields.
For a full list, please see this resource by Global Property Guide.
$40,000/month from a property portfolio
If this time-tested model is interesting, you should check out this video by Chandler David Smith where he talks about how he makes $40,000/month with his set of properties.
He goes into detail on aspects such as principal pay down and property appreciation.
Definitely worth a watch.
18. REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust)
If you want to invest in real estate but don’t have enough capital to buy a property. Then you should consider REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts).
These are publicly traded vehicles (like stock) and are usually companies that own, and in most cases operate, income-producing real estate.
Instead of buying a house outright, you would buy a share in this company and the stock would produce similar gains to a rented house/property.
REITs own many types of commercial real estate, ranging from office and apartment buildings to warehouses, hospitals, shopping centers, hotels and commercial forests.
There are also new platforms such as Fundrise – which allow you access to institutional quality real estate without the high fees and upfront capital.
$300/month from a REITs
Joseph Carlson’s mentions in this video how he generates roughly $300/monthly in passive income from his REIT portfolio.
He even goes into great detail on which REIT’s perform well and gives you a peek into his diversified portfolio.
As you can see, you don’t need a large amount of money upfront to start building your passive income machine.
In a lot of our case studies, those with money have actually chosen to diversify their income sources.
Semi Passive Income Ideas
I’ve added a section here on semi-passive income ideas – these require some ongoing maintenance once they are set up. These typically require a combination of time, investment as well as expertise to execute.
19. AirBnB Arbitrage
This is a very interesting concept and not really very passive but I think something worth mentioning as you don’t need starting capital.
You make money by leasing a house long term and then renting it out on AirBnB short term for 3x the price.
In my opinion, it seems slightly risky but there are people who have done it successfully.
$2,400/month from AirBnB Arbitrage
Robert Lacob breaks down how he makes $2,400/month (revenue) and $1,450/month (profit) in his video here.
Those are very reasonable and sizeable margins (over 60% profit).
It’s important to bear in mind that there are typical costs that are not covered (e.g. cleaning) because he does it himself.
This is just the profit and loss for one property so you can imagine it being even larger if you have multiple properties.
You may think of consulting as non-passive. In most cases that would be true.
However, I stumbled a cross a very interesting method of consulting – billing your time out on a minute basis.
There’s a platform called Clarity.fm. It’s a platform where you can connect with world class experts and get their advice by paying on a minute-by-minute basis.
The great thing is that it is all done over phone and not in person so you could do this anywhere!
Even Mark Cuban is on there. He’s charging $166.67/minute.
If you have expertise in anything it’s free to create a profile – people can then book your time if they are interested in talking with you.
$200/month selling your time on Clarity FM
Side Hustle Nation details in his post here how he made $7,925.53 consulting on Clarity FM.
Assuming he was doing this since the inception of the website, he would be averaging around $200/month in additional income.
A single call lasts about 20-25 minutes and earns him between $50-$70. Clarity.fm makes a 15% cut from every completed call.
How To Get Started Making Passive Income
It may sound exciting to try multiple ideas I have just suggested – but in this case less is more.
To grow your passive income tree, it’s best to master one thing and become really good at it.
It is hard work but building your own passive income tree can be one of the most rewarding things you can do.
So select the idea that excites you the most and dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can about it. Use the case studies I’ve outlined to inspire you.
Don’t fall into analysis paralysis and be ready to fail – it’s all part of the learning process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does passive income really involve “no work”?
Unfortunately, passive income requires work – a lot of work, especially upfront. The idea is that you put in work now to get rewarded later. So once you have set up the passive income stream, it requires little work to maintain. An example is publishing an e-book on Amazon. It may take time and effort to write but once done, you can get monthly recurring income from royalties.
How long does it take to generate passive income?
The honest answer is – it depends. With paid passive income streams such as real estate or stocks, you can see returns in the near term (just 1 month). But for more time intensive streams such as affiliate marketing it could take a year just to see your first paycheck. Oftentimes, for these income streams you also need to educate yourself more which prolongs the time.
If I have money, where should I invest for passive income?
If you have money, you are in a good position to start generating passive income quickly. You can invest in buying websites, real estate, REITs, the stock and bond market to name a few. Each of these have different risk profiles – buying websites and real estate is considerably riskier than say investing in the bond market. It’s important to do your due diligence before going in.
If I have no money, how can I make passive income?
Even if you have no money – it is still possible to generate passive income – it just might take more time. You can build your own website, start a blog, create a Youtube channel and sell online photography. The harder the activity, the larger the payout. For example, it’s much easier to sell photographs online vs building your own website. But the potential payout of a website is much higher.
How do I create passive income?
With hard work and perseverance. Passive income takes time, effort, knowledge and a little bit of luck. Luckily, with the internet there are so many people you can learn from who are certified experts in their field. Just check out some of the examples, I’ve outlined in this post for inspiration from people who are walking the walk.
Does passive income really work?
Yes! There are many people out there who are paying the bills just with their passive income streams alone. If you don’t have money, invest your time into learning how to create and grow multiple income streams. Once you have more money, you can begin outsourcing and buying your time back so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
What are the most popular passive income ideas?
The most popular passive income ideas are real estate, stock market investing and high yield savings account. With the growth of the internet there are other models emerging such as blog building, affiliate marketing, Amazon FBA and drop shipping. I go through all these in detail in the content above.
So there you have it. 20 different ways of making passive income backed with some real statistics from real people who are actually walking the walk.
You can make a full time living with any of these ideas – it just depends on how far you are willing to go.
I hope that this list has given you some food for thought and inspiration.
If you think I’ve missed anything in this list – please contact me here. I want to make it as extensive and helpful a resource as possible.