Whether you’re the owner of a small business, a freelancer, or a full-time worker, it’s always useful to have extra cash on hand. After all, having access to additional passive income outside of your everyday earnings can be essential to use in case of emergencies, to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, as well as to save for retirement.
This being said, however, most individuals don’t have the time to devote to an extensive small business idea or another full- or part-time job—and that’s where passive income comes in. Passive income is income that you earn without continuous, active involvement, like that you earn from a rental property.
Unfortunately, if you’re imagining lounging on the couch while the money flows in, passive income is a little more complicated than that—however, as we’ll discuss in detail below, there are a variety of passive income ideas you can pursue fairly quickly and easily to cushion your cash flow.
What Is Passive Income?
Before you can determine which passive income idea is right for you, it’s important to have a clearer understanding of what passive income is and how it works.
As we mentioned above, passive income can be defined as regular income you earn that doesn’t require active (or at least sustained and constant) involvement. It can also be thought of as any regular earnings from a source other than an employer or contractor—as well as income that you don’t have to be present to earn.
More specifically, the IRS defines passive income activities as either:
- Trade or business in which you don’t materially participate during the year or,
- Rental activities, even if you do materially participate in them
All of this is to say that passive income can be defined in slightly different ways and therefore, the lines between passive income ideas and side hustle ideas can be blurry. For example, someone who rents a room in their house on Airbnb might think of it as a side hustle, whereas someone else may simply consider it passive income.
Needless to say, however, regardless of the definition you use, it’s important to understand that passive income does involve some kind of investment—whether in time, money, or resources. As you’ll see in our list of the best passive income business ideas below, some forms of passive income will require all the work upfront, whereas others might require additional work along the way.
To this end, in deciding which passive income idea will be best for you, you’ll want to consider not only how much you can make from your efforts, but also what kind of time and money will be necessary to start or maintain these earnings.
15 Top Passive Income Ideas
Reiterating our last point, just because passive income isn’t as simple as clicking a button and earning extra capital, doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile pursuing.
As Simon Dlugowski founder and CEO of the Virex Agency, says, no matter your chosen industry as an entrepreneur, “Passive income is always a possibility, and believing is the first step.”
Therefore, if you’re looking for the best passive income idea to start boosting your earnings now, you can start with the options on this list:
1. Create and monetize a blog.
Starting a blog is one of the most effective ways to bring in passive income. Specialized business blogs offer a place for you to share valuable information about your expertise—which could consist of anything from movie reviews to basic computer programming.
This being said, although it will take some initial investment to get your blog up and running, once you’ve done so, there are a number of ways you can use it to bring in extra capital.
For example, you can run digital ads on your blog, participate in affiliate programs (more on this option later), or produce sponsored content.
As Cristian Rennella CEO and co-founder of elMejorTrato.com, says:
“My area, for example, was finance. I always liked it and I started to write about it nine years ago on my own website. Even today, articles from so many years ago still continue to generate visits and, consequently, income.”
He adds that investing in a dedicated search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and publishing on your own social networks will help you get additional website hits on Google—and this way, you’ll increase your chances of earning more passive income from your blog.
2. Write and sell Ebooks.
The second one of our passive income ideas is a common one.
Similar to starting a blog, if you want to get even more in-depth with your expertise—you can write ebooks.
In order to do so, you only need to have a story to tell or be passionate about a subject or process. This being said, although it will take some time and effort to actually write your book, once you’re finished and have uploaded it to an ebook platform, all there’s left to do is marketing.
Moreover, many ebook platforms will allow you to list your book for little to no cost.
To this point, as personal finance blogger Ming from Earn More Live Freely tells us:
“Just years ago, becoming a published author was unimaginable for most people. Now, everyone can write a book and publish online—and even selling a few units every month with minimal marketing and promotion efforts on your part makes for passive income.”
Plus, it only takes a single book to get started—and if you decide to write additional books, you can easily add them to your platform and start earning on those as well.
3. Create and sell online courses.
The next option on our list of the best passive income ideas, creating and selling online courses, is particularly useful if you have skills or expertise that are in high demand. If you have expertise in a foreign language, accounting, or even American history, you can create an online course and sell it using a website like Udemy or Coursera.
Of course, this idea will take some initial investment as you craft and list your course, but if the class contains evergreen content, the upkeep will be minimal.
Nick Malekos, a growth marketer of LearnWorlds, says the e-learning market is estimated to grow at $240 billion by 2023, and he suggests it’s an industry every entrepreneur and digital nomad should consider. It can be an easy online business idea to try out if you want to grow and add value to your brand.
“Creating and selling online courses to a training and networking membership site is a great way to monetize your skills,” he says.
4. Purchase and flip websites.
If you have some experience with SEO, website design, or other technical skills, website flipping might be the right passive income idea for you.
With this concept, instead of building your own site, you take a website that has potential, but isn’t currently making any money, fix it up, and then sell it—similar to the rationale behind starting a house flipping business.
Of course, like some of the other passive income business ideas we’ve discussed so far, this will require a little bit of an initial investment. You’ll need to pay for the website that you’re going to flip—and then, take the time and effort required to fix it.
This being said, however, you’ll be able to complete this work at your own leisure and you have the potential to make a substantial amount of money on your investment.
Jeff from Jason Coupon King, for example, bought a website for $6,000 off Flippa.com.
“The website, at the time, was making about $450 per month,” he tells us.
“I know a little about SEO and web design, so I redesigned the IU and improved the SEO. And in about five months, the site was making about $700 per month. And in about 10 months, I recouped my initial $6,000 investment. So, now the site earns about $800 per month as passive income.”
As you can see, although King put up a sizable time and money investment in the beginning, he now earns a substantial amount of passive income with little involvement or actions required.
5. Buy and sell domains.
Similar to our last passive income idea, this variation involves buying websites, but instead of flipping them to earn value, simply finding the right domain names that may have value, and selling them to interested parties.
Like website flipping, this idea is great for those with tech experience or interest in web development. As you might imagine, however, it can take some practice and experience to learn the best way to buy and sell domains, so it may take some time before this endeavor actually earns extra income.
If you can find the right niche, though, it’s certainly worth considering—especially if you can create a competitive sales strategy to promote the domains you buy.
6. Sell stock photos or other digital products.
Have you ever wondered where stock photos come from? You don’t have to be a full-time professional photographer to take and sell stock photos—or other digital products.
Of course, stock photos, videos, music, apps, plugins, or themes are all products that take some upfront work but bring in income over time.
Jeff from Good Financial Cents speaks to the benefits of stock photography: “Photography websites such as Shutterstock and iStockphoto can provide you with platforms to sell your photos. They may offer either a percentage or a flat fee of each photo that is sold to a site client.”
Plus, after you create an online portfolio, one photo can be sold multiple times, meaning you can still make money without investing the time and money into starting a photography business. This is one of the best passive income ideas for hobby photographers, amateur video makers, or really anyone who enjoys developing their own digital products that can be marketed and sold.
7. Participate in affiliate marketing.
Another great way to earn passive income in the digital space is through affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing comes in many shapes and forms—but when it comes down to it, it simply involves earning a commission from marketing and promoting someone else’s products. This can be done using a website, social media, email, or some other form of media. Ideally, you’ll want to market the products on a channel where you have a decent following.
Moreover, unlike some of the other passive income ideas on our list, this doesn’t involve too much of a time or money investment. After you find companies that are willing to work with you, the promotion can be fairly simple—many times, companies will provide samples of their products for you to test and use—an added benefit.
Plus, there are sites like Amazon that make affiliate marketing simple.
To this point, Trent Silver, millennial career and personal finance expert, tells us:
“[The Amazon affiliate program] is the most lucrative way to earn passive income nowadays. Several of my friends have set up these simple sites that typically offer reviews or side-by-side comparisons for products found on Amazon. When consumers search for a product using a search engine, the affiliate site will come up. When these shoppers end up purchasing their Amazon product through the affiliate site, Amazon will cut the affiliate in with commission.”
Overall, companies often engage in eCommerce marketing to increase their brand awareness, so there’s always a market for these kinds of affiliate sites.
8. Start housesitting.
Of all of the passive income ideas on our list, this one may actually be the most passive—all you have to do is find someone who needs housesitting services, head to their house, and keep an eye on things for them.
This can be a pretty simple and easy passive income endeavor and doesn’t require too much of a time or money investment upfront. All you have to do is list yourself on a housesitting website, like trustedhousesitters.com or mindmyhouse.com and find your clients.
Some clients may ask that you water their plants, get their mail, or some other related task, but overall, you might even have the time to invest in another passive income idea while you’re housesitting.
9. Buy property and rent it out.
Another one of our passive income ideas is an old standby for many. This is the old brick-and-mortar classic when it comes to passive income—and if you have the extra capital, purchasing property to then rent and manage can be very, very lucrative.
As realtor investor Tony Figurelli of SORS Homes says, “The monthly rental payments that come in for the initial investment and upkeep can’t be beat if you structure a good deal.”
Of course, in order to actually execute this idea, you will have to have the initial extra funds to buy the property, as well as take care of any utilities and maintenance the property requires. On the other hand, however, as Figurelli says, it’s very easy to earn a return on this investment, if it’s done right.
Plus, although you’ll need to work with tenants, provide general upkeep, and make any repairs or modifications as needed, this idea is relatively hands-off. Once you’ve rented the property, it won’t require much effort on a day-to-day basis, making this a truly passive income idea.
10. Rent out a room in your house.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the extra capital to invest in actually buying a rental property, you might instead rent out a spare bedroom in your house.
There are a number of ways to get involved in this type of passive income idea—from actually becoming an Airbnb host, to using a website like couchsurfering.com, to listing your available room on a rental platform. You can rent out your room on a continuous basis or only during certain times of the year, whatever you prefer.
Again, this idea will require some type of continued involvement—maintaining your listing, interacting with tenants, upkeep for the room, but overall, it’s pretty quick and easy to set up.
11. Rent or advertise on your car.
If you don’t have the funds to invest in a rental property or a spare room to rent out, you might turn to this passive income idea: renting out your car. Apps like Turo allow individuals around the U.S. to list their cars to be rented by customers. You can designate how much it costs per day for someone to rent your car and indicate where it’s available for pickup and dropoff.
In this case, you may have to pay a small fee to the site where you’ve listed your car, but other than that, the investment is minimal. To this point, the only thing you’ll really have to worry about is the upkeep of your car, as well as any additional auto insurance you choose to purchase.
On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable renting out your car to strangers, you might try a spin on this idea—advertising on your car. Just like listing your car for rent, there are sites like Carvertise and StickerRide that make advertising on your car easy.
12. Invest in crowdfunded real estate.
The last of our passive income ideas that are related to real estate and rentals, you might decide to invest in crowdfunded real estate. With crowdfunded real estate, the concept is similar to using any crowdfunding platform like Indiegogo or GoFundMe to raise money.
All you have to do is find the real estate crowdfunding platform you want to use—Fundrise, Streitwise, and EquityMultiple, or some examples, and make an investment. With some of these platforms, you’ll be required to meet a minimum investment amount—anywhere from $500 to $10,000 or more.
Additionally, although some platforms will include investors that manage your portfolio for you, others will require that you manage it on your own.
In this way, though, you have an opportunity to decide just how “passive” you want this passive income idea to be. It’s important to remember, however, that investing in real estate in this manner can be risky, so you’ll want to take care of where you invest and how you manage your investment.
Plus, as we’ve mentioned with some of the other best passive income ideas on our list, this option does require that you have a certain amount of extra capital to spare upfront.
13. Open a high-yield savings account or CD.
Again, although you’ll need to provide an initial financial investment from the beginning, this idea is perhaps one of the easiest to start and requires the least maintenance.
There is a variety of high-yield savings account or certificate of deposits (CDs) available out there—both for business owners and individuals. The difference, as you might be aware, is that a CD runs for a set period of time, during which, you are unable to access those funds without a penalty. The benefit of a CD, however, is that they generally offer much higher interest rates than general savings accounts.
This being said, though, if you have extra capital to open a savings account or CD, you can do so and earn interest on your funds, without having to really worry about monitoring your account.
It’s important to note though, compared to some of our other passive income ideas, this may not offer the potential to earn the greatest amount of money—nevertheless, it’s certainly worth considering for a quick and easy way to make passive income.
14. Use Robo investors to invest your money.
Similar to our last idea, using Robo investors is a great way to make passive income on your extra earnings—without having to put in much effort.
Although it might seem counterintuitive to put your investments in the hands of a machine, online “robo” investing, like Betterment, can offer significant returns on your extra capital.
All you have to do is put money into an account, choose the level of “risk” you are willing to take and an algorithm does the rest of the work to keep your portfolio together and growing. Plus, the fees are much lower than what you’d have to pay an actual person to do the same work for you.
Of course, this passive income idea assumes you have the extra cash to invest, and does require a certain level of risk, however, it’s certainly quick, easy, and worth considering if you don’t have the time upfront or long-term to manage your passive income endeavor.
15. Participate in peer-to-peer lending.
Finally, the last option on our list of the best passive income ideas is to participate in peer-to-peer lending. Overall, peer-to-peer lending will require a monetary investment upfront, as well as some continued maintenance.
This being said, however, not only does this passive income business idea have the potential to earn you money, but it can help other business owners get the funding they need.
Similar to investing in crowdfunding real estate, with peer-to-peer lending, you can use an alternative lending platform like Prosper, to invest in loans for other business owners. Again, similar to the crowdfunding platforms, some allow you to choose where you’d like to distribute your investment, whereas others will allow you to choose an automatic plan.
Ideally, you’ll want to do some initial research and planning before getting involved in peer-to-peer lending, so you know the best way to invest your money and minimize your risk. To this point, though, if you do peer-to-peer lending right, it can be a great source of passive income—while, as we mentioned, helping out other businesses.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, although the right passive income idea might require a little work or investment of time and money up front, more than likely, these investments will continue to pay off as time progresses.
Moreover, even if you start with a small idea, you may find that the endeavor grows into a fully-developed small business that you want to invest additional time and money in.
This being said, in order to ensure that your passive income is as impactful to your savings as possible, you’ll want to make sure that you plan ahead of time, monitor your operations, and follow any and all required guidelines and regulations, like paying taxes.
Plus, if you’re looking for personalized advice, you can always consult small business or industry experts, like the ones quoted here, for the help you need.