Earning money while you sleep or sip mimosas on the beach is a dream for so many of us (and even those who say it isn’t are probably lying!). But is it actually possible to get rich without lifting a finger?
With these ingenious passive income ideas, you’ll be one step closer to living your dream life, with all the cash you need to fund it!
What is “passive income”?
Before we get into the best passive income ideas to suit your lifestyle and talents, it’s worth taking a moment to establish what we actually mean by passive income, as this phrase is frequently misused or misunderstood.
Although passive income isn’t some magic money-making scheme that will get you rich with no work, it is a way of maximizing returns so that you can work decreasingly hard over time. In other words, over time, effort goes down, and profits go up… Sounds great, right?!
One great example of a passive income stream is buying a property to rent it out. While there is some work and effort required to find the right property, deal with the legal side of things, and get it ready for tenants – plus financial investment in terms of the mortgage and deposit – once you get your tenants in, you can be earning money with minimal effort. Sure, there might be the odd property inspections and tenant changes to deal with, but the majority of your time as a landlord will be enjoying the passive income earned through the rent.
Basically, passive income is a long-term decision that involves short-term trade-offs. If you’re willing to commit your time, skills, and money towards your goal of generating passive income and potentially enjoying early retirement, then you could be making thousands in the long run.
What is not passive income?
As we mentioned, passive income is often misunderstood and confused with side hustles. While a side hustle or second job is a great way to boost your income streams, unless it’s operating in a way that allows you to step further and further back (while earning more and more cash), then it’s not truly passive.
Your passive income is not…
Your job – The idea of a passive income stream is to boost your regular earnings or allow you to retire early. Your main job is not a passive income stream.
A side hustle – While a side hustle can potentially generate passive income, they’re more often an example of active income as they require your attention and effort to maintain. However, if your side gig allows you to step back over time without losing traction, this could become passive income over time.
Consulting – Consulting is an excellent side gig or online business if you have a specialist subject that you can share with the world, but it’s not a source of passive income. If you want to make passive income by coaching or consulting, you need to build your practice with others who could take on the hands-on element while you step back and enjoy the benefits.
Investing for speculation – You’ll often hear people tout investing in the stock market as a source of passive income. However, we disagree that investing for speculation is one of the best passive income ideas for one simple reason… Stock appreciation is not income. That said, investing in high dividend-yielding stocks is an example of passive income as this provides you a regular income injection without you needing to do anything.
A good trick for figuring out whether an investment is passive income or appreciation/speculation is whether you’ll see a cash on cash return like dividends (passive income) or if you only get a monetary benefit once you sell the investment (appreciation).
Examples of what is and is not passive income:
Some of these common small business ideas are not passive income streams. However, there are alternative ways to transform them into a money-while-you-sleep business model…
|Active Income Idea||Passive Income Alternative|
|A consulting job where you charge by the hour||Create an online course that people can buy|
|Computer programming on a freelance basis||Building a specific program that you can license and sell over and over again.|
|Freelance writing||Writing a book or eBook|
|Working in construction or a similar industry||Investing in real estate|
|Driving for Uber or a delivery company||Hiring your car or selling ad space on your vehicle|
|Hosting photoshoots or taking photos for commission||Selling stock images or building your photography Instagram account|
These examples will help you understand what passive income is and how you can transform your existing side gig into a profitable enterprise that will earn you money even while you sleep.
How to start building passive income
While it’s great to have plenty of passive income ideas and dreams, it’s important to remember that not every idea is a great one. Even if you’ve seen others earning money in a particular way, that’s no guarantee that it will work for you, your skills, or your lifestyle.
To find the best ways to make passive income, you need to start with some clear goals and plans. You’ll need to know how much you’re able to commit in terms of money and time. And you’ll need to be prepared to make short-term sacrifices to meet your long-term aims.
Before we go into the best passive income ideas to inspire you, consider the following steps to get started in your passive income adventures.
1. Build a nest egg
Before you commit thousands of dollars on a money-making scheme that you’re sure will work, it’s vital to build a nest egg… This may also be your first form of a passive income!
Open a high-interest savings account with as little as $100. Over time, the interest you earn on this cash will count as passive income, and you may even receive a cash bonus for opening the account.
2. Assess your skills
There’s not a lot of point in deciding you’re going to sell your photos to stock-image companies if you can’t take an in-focus picture to save your life! Along the same lines, some passive income ideas such as course-writing will require you to have specific qualifications and skills. If you have these, great! If not, then be realistic about whether you feel getting the relevant qualifications will be worth it.
But assessing your skills shouldn’t just be about what you’re not good at. You should also have a good think about the things you’re fantastic at. For example, if you’re a stock trader, perhaps you could write for financial publications? If you’re a personal trainer, maybe you could create a series of fitness videos people can purchase and follow along at home?
Be realistic about your skills and think about how you can use them to benefit others without needing to be physically there or working every day.
3. Be realistic about your time, money, effort, and other commitments.
As we’ve mentioned, although the idea behind passive income is to make money while you sleep, no business can be built without effort. In fact, you might find that building a passive income stream actually involves a lot more time and effort than a standard side gig to get it up and running.
Before you start any venture, be realistic about your other commitments. If you have a demanding job, kids, and an active social life, you might not have the time to spend building another profitable business. In that case, you might want to consider investing or asking someone else to help you out with the heavy work.
4. Consider your dreams
Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” It’s essential to consider his message when picking any job, side hustle, or passive income idea.
If at least one part of the idea doesn’t spark joy or fuel your passions, chances are it’s not going to work out. So, look for an idea that you can see yourself doing for years. Even if you can step back and let the business mostly run itself, you may still need to get involved occasionally, so make sure you pick something you’ll enjoy.
5. Find the overlap
Once you’ve analyzed your strengths and weaknesses, considered any constraints, and thought about what would make you happy, there should be a few ideas for passive income strategies in your mind already. You’re sure to achieve financial independence in no time!
The best 27 passive income ideas to make you rich
Passive income might sound complicated, but there are so many ways to make passive income in 2021 that you’re sure to find the perfect option to suit your skills, commitments, goals, and passions. To give you some inspiration for your mission towards financial independence, here are some of the best passive income ideas that almost anyone can take advantage of.
1. Invest in real estate
Real estate investing has been a well-established method for building wealth for almost as long as real estate has existed! Real estate investing was once a tricky venture to undertake – requiring a lot of time, effort, and expertise. However, real estate investment apps have now removed many complications and made it easy and assessable to become a real estate mogul from the comfort of your couch.
If buying properties seems a bit out of budget, you could also purchase a real estate investment trust – also known as a REIT. These investments generally pay generous dividends and follow the performance of the stock market. In this way, your investment value will go up/down just like physical property, but they are far easier to buy/sell, and you can diversify your portfolio by investing in different markets.
2. Get a high yield savings account.
Putting your money in a high-yield savings account might not be what you were dreaming about when we told you this list would be full of passive income ideas. Still, they are one of the safest and most reliable ways of getting your money to work for you, rather than the other way around.
Many high-yield accounts offer APYs of around 0.50% with no minimum balance to open, and some may even offer a cash bonus simply for opening the account.
You will need to place a relatively large amount of cash into the account to see any remarkable returns, but it’s still a worthwhile option.
3. Invest in dividend stocks
We mentioned earlier that we don’t consider investing for appreciation to be a passive income source. However, if you invest in stocks that offer high dividends to shareholders, you could potentially earn some impressive cash from your investments. Hopefully, the value of your shares will also increase while you own them, so you’ll be able to enjoy passive income from the dividends plus capital gains when you sell.
If you’re not an expert in the stock market, you may want to consider a broker or even try Robo-advisors for a genuinely passive investing system.
Remember, investments are high-risk, and you could lose more than you invest. Always get advice before starting an investment portfolio.
4. Buy or start a blog
A great way to earn money with minimum effort is with a blog. Of course, this will take time and effort to build, as you will need to write the blog regularly and build an audience. Still, you can earn an impressive amount of income with a blog via affiliate marketing or even selling ad space on your website.
If you’re unsure how to start a blog, you could also make money by buying an existing blog. This is a great “cheat,” as you can benefit from the traffic and cash flow already established.
5. Get involved in affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing involves partnering with a company to showcase and promote its products or services. Whenever someone follows one of your affiliate links to your partner’s site, you earn a commission.
There are a few ways to utilize your affiliate marketing partnerships to earn passive income. You could mention sponsors on your YouTube channel or podcast, write buying guides with links to the company’s products, compile product reviews, video unboxings, and much more.
To find the right company to become an affiliate for, you need to do some research and find a brand that matches your core values and your audience’s needs. There’s no point in becoming an affiliate for a butcher if your blog’s primary audience is vegans, for example.
6. Become a silent business partner
If you would love to own a business but don’t have the time or expertise, you might want to consider becoming a silent business partner. In other words, you contribute financially to the company but leave the day-to-day operations to your partner.
After your investment, you’ll be paid a percentage of the profits regularly, and your money will be backed by a percentage ownership of the company.
Don’t trust your dodgy mate’s business idea enough to invest? There are many websites for entrepreneurs looking for a silent business partner to invest in their business.
7. Write an eBook
While writing a blog and monetizing it is a good passive income idea, writing a book or eBook is an even better example of passive income, as you only need to write it once!
Instead of writing a blog, spend a while sharing your creativity or specialist knowledge by writing a book or eBook and sell it. Every time someone buys a copy, you’ll receive royalties, which can quickly add up if you hit the right mark.
Royalties for a printed book tend to be between 5-20% of the book’s price. eBooks are even more profitable, paying around 25%. Audiobooks usually pay royalties between 10-25%.
Obviously, you need to write a great book to earn a living income from your writing. However, just a few sales could help you earn that extra money you need for an upcoming holiday or to put you closer to your early retirement goals.
8. Create an online course
Like writing a book, creating an online course that people can buy repeatedly is an excellent way to earn passive income. Sure, it’ll take time, effort, and expertise to get the course built, but once it’s ready, you can stick it online and enjoy the revenue created every time someone purchases.
These days, there are virtually no limits to the topic you could cover with your online course. Personal trainers could create a series of fitness videos, chefs could start an online cookery course, accountants could help others learn bookkeeping. Basically, if you have a skill or specialist knowledge, you could build an online course and earn money from it.
That said, you may need to show relevant qualifications and/or experience to build an online course that will actually sell. However, you might be able to earn income via a YouTube channel even if you’re not formally qualified… Everyone loves a life hack!
9. License your music
If you’re a musician, you could write and license your music to receive money anytime someone wants to use your track in their project. There are a few ways licensing your music could make you money, and it’s a great way to supplement your income if live gigging isn’t paying out (or you don’t want to perform live).
10. Sell stock photos
If you always have your camera on you and are renowned for taking excellent photographs, you could monetize your passion by selling your images to stock photography companies. With these, any time someone purchases your image via a third-party site, you’ll receive a share in the profits.
The best companies to sell your photos to are the most well-known (as these have the most customers who might see, love, and buy your images). Try Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, Alamy, etc.
Even if you only have a smartphone, several stock image businesses will buy good-quality pictures snapped on a phone, so fancy equipment isn’t necessarily vital for this passive income idea.
11. Build an app
Instead of hiring out your developing and IT skills hourly, you could transform your technical skills into a passive income enterprise by building an app that people can download. The app doesn’t have to be revolutionary or even cost anything to download to make you money… Angry Birds is a free-to-download smartphone game built-in 2009 that made approximately €272.3 million in 2020!
Even if you’re not a technical whizz, you could still make money by building an app. You could learn some basic coding (which is surprisingly interesting and useful), or even find someone with the relevant skills to build a partnership and split the profits. Sure, there’s more money available if you do it alone, but if you come up with the next Fruit Ninja, you might not mind sharing!
12. Become a social media influencer
Did you know you can earn money simply by having a thriving social media presence? We’ve all heard of social media influencers by now… But for anyone who’s been living under a rock, social media influencers are people with high follower counts and high engagement rates who get paid a commission for sponsored posts, affiliate marketing or even hosting/attending events.
Of course, getting the traction required to become a social media influencer won’t happen overnight. You need to be committed to your social media strategy and prepare a portfolio illustrating the engagement levels of your audience that you can share with brands interested in collaborating with you.
13. Rent your car
If your car is just sitting on your drive, you could earn money by lending it to others while you’re not using it. Depending on your location and what make/model the car is, there can be some substantial cash up for grabs with this money-making idea.
If the idea of hiring your car is appealing, you’ll want to check out Turo. Think of it like Airbnb for cars.
Depending on your location, you could also make some impressive income by renting out your drive or garage. Big cities will be particularly profitable, as parking spaces are premium, and people will pay over the odds for a safe, guaranteed place to leave their car.
Naturally, a list of passive income ideas would be incomplete without mentioning the world-famous home-share platform Airbnb! While this won’t be suitable for everyone, if you have a spare room, holiday home, or any other ‘residence,’ you could be missing out on some impressive returns!
Airbnb isn’t the only option for renting accommodation, so you might want to shop around for the best platform for you.
15. Sell ad space on your vehicle.
If you regularly drive for work or even leisure, you might be able to monetize your daily commute by selling ad space on the side of your car, van, or truck. While it might not always be super stylish to drive a mobile billboard, you can make a few hundred dollars a month just to add some stickers to your vehicle and use your car as usual.
There are three major sites you can use to connect you with brands looking for ad space, these are:
16. Sell ad space on your website.
If you don’t fancy driving around with a giant advertisement on the side of your vehicle, you could also make some decent passive income by selling ad space on your website. Most blogs utilize Google Ads to match their site with advertisers and receive a monthly revenue stream.
How profitable Google Ads will be on your website depends on the traffic you’re receiving. If your own website doesn’t have sufficient traffic to earn money this way, you could consider buying an existing website (see idea #4) and selling ad space there.
17. Participate in sleep studies
Earning money while you sleep doesn’t get more literal than this! If you’re in decent health, you could apply to participate in a sleep study and put your slumber to work.
Sleep studies can pay thousands of dollars for the right participants… All you need to do is undertake a physical and psychological exam to ensure you’re fit for the task… Then sleep!
Be warned… Many sleep studies require you to be cut off from social media and your friends/family so you can be watched and studied for the duration of the experiment. However, the generous rewards up for grabs are probably worthwhile.
18. Become a dropshipper
Dropshipping is an easy way to set yourself up with an online store and earn money with virtually no effort. Simply select the items you want to sell, and a supplier will create, store, package, and ship them to your customers. The only thing you need to deal with is the storefront and marketing.
19. Design t-shirts
A few websites work to transform your designs into fashionable t-shirts or a range of other products. With this business idea, all you need to do is develop the designs for the products, and the supplier will do the rest, giving you a portion of the profits whenever your designs sell!
You can even profit from your designing genius via Amazon… With Amazon Merch, all you need to do is upload your designs, and Amazon will make the product, sell it, package it, and ship it. So you can chillax and enjoy the profits.
20. Utilize cashback sites or reward cards
If you’re not already utilizing cashback cards, sites, and schemes, what are you doing?! Many credit card providers incorporate some form of cashback scheme where you receive a return on your everyday shopping just for using the card.
You could also sign up to cashback sites such as TopCashBack. Simply complete your normal shopping via the site to receive rewards.
Okay, this might not make you rich, but it’s an excellent way to minimize your spending and earn money on purchases you would have made anyway.
21. Try peer-to-peer lending
Peer-to-peer lending has been increasing in popularity in recent years and can be a valuable way to earn extra money if you have the cash to spare.
With peer-to-peer lending, you simply loan money to borrowers who might not qualify for a traditional loan. Like a bank, you can charge interest on the money you’ve lent until it’s paid back in full.
As with any investment, it’s vital to consider P2P lending can be a potentially high-risk venture, as you won’t be able to guarantee the borrower will be able to repay you. For this reason, you should be sure to only lend through authorized, specialist P2P lending websites and never loan more than you can afford to lose.
22. Start a vending machine business.
This passive income idea might sound a bit wacky at first, but hear us out!
Vending machine businesses are a surprisingly profitable and low-maintenance small business idea that almost anyone would get involved in. Simply buy a few vending machines and hire them out to local businesses. Then, every couple of weeks, drive around to replenish the stock and empty the cash. You could even hire someone to do the cashing and replenishing for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
23. Start a YouTube channel or podcast.
Where would we be without mentioning YouTube as a potential source of passive income?
While it can take time to build a sufficient audience to monetize your YouTube channel, you can make some substantial revenue through advertisers and even affiliate marketing collaborations.
The amount you can earn with YouTube will vary depending on the number of subscribers, engagement rates, average viewers, and more. For advertisements, most YouTubers can expect around $0.01 to $0.03 per ad view. Many YouTubers also make money by asking for donations through Patron.
If YouTube isn’t your jam, you could also monetize a podcast by introducing paid membership tiers, selling sponsorships, joining an advertising network, or even selling premium episodes.
24. Buy a rental property.
Rental properties may well be the original source of passive income and remain a valuable asset to this day. To make the rental property genuinely passive, you can outsource daily operations and upkeep to a management company… So you just need to arrange the mortgage and enjoy the money flowing in!
It’s also possible to buy turnkey properties that allow you to skip the renovation and tenant-hunting steps most landlords need to go through before receiving rent for their properties. With turnkey properties, you buy a property that already has tenants living in it. That means all you need to do is ensure the building is well maintained to keep the tenants happy. Again, you could hire a management company to deal with this.
25. Refinance your mortgage
This one might not be a money-making idea, but it could save you thousands if you’re paying more over the odds for your mortgage.
Refinancing generally allows borrowers to obtain a lower interest rate on their mortgage and can often result in lower monthly mortgage payments.
If you don’t have a mortgage, you could also look to refinance your other loans to ensure you’re not wasting your hard-earned (or passive) income paying over the odds on your borrowing.
26. Store other people’s stuff
Got a spare room or garage that you don’t want to rent out to a human? You could make money by allowing others to rent your space as a storage unit. According to neighbor.com, you could make $100 to $600 by renting out your empty garage.
If you like this idea but would prefer not to have other people’s stuff in your home, investing in storage lockers or rentals is another fantastic money-making idea that involves virtually no effort. In fact, the only time you should need to do any work as a storage landlord is when you need to open a unit.
27. Get paid to install apps on your phone.
Yup, you read that right… You can actually be paid to install apps on your phone!
Apps like Nielsen Digital and Mobile Digital strive to learn how people use their mobile devices and pay anyone who allows their usage to be tracked. Simply download the app and use your smartphone as usual. The app will monitor your usage and report back to create studies on user behavior, and you get paid!
If you don’t want an app that tracks your usage, you could also download a money-saving app that will monitor your spending and help you make smart choices. Sure, these apps don’t actually pay, but the savings can quickly add up and make you feel like you’ve earned an income!
Put your passive income to work
Once you’ve found the perfect passive income opportunity that fits with your lifestyle, skills, and passions, it’s important not to let that extra cash get lazy. Make sure every cent is working for you by placing the money you earn into a high-interest bank and letting it continue to work no matter what you’re doing.
It’s also worthwhile to reinvest some of your passive cash back into the business. For example, you could buy additional vending machines or another storage unit to give you more passive income opportunities and boost your investment.
No matter how you choose to boost your income, make sure it works around your schedule, and don’t be afraid to try a few different options. There are no limits to the number of streams of income one person can have, so mix things up and enjoy the returns.
You’ll be sipping mimosas on the beach in no time.
How can I make $1,000 a month with passive income?
Making $1,000 a month in passive income alone might feel like a pipedream, but it’s actually entirely possible to earn this sort of cash!
Some of the best ways to earn $1,000+ a month are through a successful YouTube channel, writing a best-selling book, joining an affiliate program, creating an online course, or investing in real estate.
How can I make passive income in 2021?
As we all know, 2021 has been a bit of a weird year for businesses with so much uncertainty. That said, it’s still relatively easy to make money online in 2021 with a bit of inspiration and know-how.
Some of the best ways to make passive income in 2021 include stock investment, cashback websites, selling stock photos, affiliate marketing, and blogging.
Can passive income make you rich?
Believe it or not, passive income is the primary source of income for most of the richest people in the world. Making money with minimum effort, reinvesting it wisely, and watching spending is vital for getting rich, so passive income streams are an essential part of any wealthy entrepreneur’s portfolio.
What’s the fastest way to earn passive income?
If you want to start earning passive income fast, you’re going to need to use the resources you already have. This could be schemes such as renting out a room or your driveway, advertising on your vehicle, affiliate marketing, or dropshipping.