27 Oct 27 Passive Income Ideas To Increase Revenue Streams
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One of my favorite money quotes is from Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha himself: “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.” Ain’t that the truth! Here are 27 passive income ideas to help make money while you sleep!
How do you make money while you sleep? The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with passive income ideas, and you have plenty of free educational resources to help you learn how to create it.
The bad news is that passive income requires an initial investment. Investment of money, investment of time, and for most passive income streams it takes both.
Yes, it takes initial effort and money to start building passive income. Over time though, as you stack up multiple passive income streams, your income starts snowballing. With each new passive income investment, you see more money coming in every month.
Eventually, your passive income streams bring in enough money to cover your expenses. At that point, you’ve reached financial independence: you are no longer dependent on your job to live. You can retire if you like, whether you’re 30 or 80.
Want to make your job optional? Read on.
Passive Income Investments Start A High Savings Rate
Many of the passive income ideas on this list require a financial investment on your part.
So where does that money come from?
From your savings, of course.
What’s your current savings rate? In other words, what percentage of your after-tax monthly income are you setting aside for investing?
I track my spending and savings rate with this free tool.
Current Budget Audit
Take an uncomfortably close look at your current budget. Start with the revenue side: four weeks’ net pay as your monthly income. (Four weeks’ pay is all you can count on in any given month, so your budget should be based on that, not your annual income divided by 12.)
Next, list all fixed monthly expenses. This includes your rent or mortgage payment, your car payment, your home internet bill, and any other monthly expenses that are consistent month-to-month.
Then list out your variable monthly expenses, that you incur every month, but which vary. Food, entertainment, water, gas, and electric bills are all examples. Go back six months to form a long-term average.
Finally, come irregular expenses. These hit you every year, but not every month. Examples include holiday gifts, birthday gifts, wedding and baby shower gifts, insurance, travel, healthcare costs. Review every statement for the last year, and then form a monthly average.
Spoiler alert: you won’t like what you find. Most Americans spend far too much on variable and irregular expenses and don’t even know it.
Armed with this knowledge, uncomfortable as it was to compile, you can start hacking away at all of your fixed, variable, and irregular expenses. Set to work on a new budget, brainstorming creative ways you can cut your fixed expenses, not just your variable expenses.
The best way to do a free budget audit is with the help from the free tool: Personal Capital. Looking to get started? Check out this Personal Capital review.
Automate Your Savings
Once you’ve tightened up your budget and set a higher savings rate, it’s time to ensure you actually achieve it every month.
You probably have a checking account for day-to-day expenses. Perhaps you also have an emergency fund. That’s a great start.
Now, set up separate savings account for irregular expenses. You’ve set a budget for each irregular expense; now set up automatic transfers to take place every payday for your irregular expenses. Then, when the holidays come around or your insurance bill comes due, you can pay from your irregular expenses fund.
Even more importantly, open an account for savings to invest in passive income. It could be at your primary bank, but the problem is the money is too conveniently accessible there. You see it every time you log into your online banking.
It’s too easy to raid.
Consider opening an account in a different bank, to use for passive income investments. Then, just as you did with your irregular expenses, set up automatic transfers to take place every time you get paid. This portion of your paycheck is your savings rate.
Discipline fails all of us sooner or later, so automate your savings so you don’t have to rely on it. Out of sight, out of mind, and what you’re left within your operating checking account is what you can live on month-to-month.
As the months go by, your investment funds will pile up, and you’ll be ready to start investing to build passive income streams.
One of the best savings accounts with high-interest rates is with Radius Bank.
Increase Income Streams
To help make enough money to invest in passive income ideas, you need to increase your income streams. Do you have a side hustle?
A side hustle is anything you do to make extra money outside of your full-time job. Anyone can go out and make a few hundred extra bucks a week on the side.
You can do anything – mow lawns, walk dogs, shovel snow, babysit, code online, tutor, make deliveries, drive people, flip on eBay, sell a product on Amazon, participate in focus groups, blog, or an infinite number of things. But not all side hustles are created equal since some can make you a lot more money than others. Read more about side hustles here…
Passive Income Ideas
So, where do you invest all that money you’re saving? What are your options for passive income investments?
The following passive income ideas run the gamut from easy to difficult, low-return to high, high-risk to low. As you peruse the list, pick two or three that jump out at you. Don’t try to invest in more than that for now – most of these passive income investments have a learning curve, and if you bite off more than two or three, you’ll find yourself with too much to chew.
Without further ado, here are 27 passive income ideas to help you earn money while you sleep.
1. High-Yield Dividend Stocks & Funds
While most dividend-paying stocks pay only 1.5-3.5% in dividends at best, a minority pay high yields in the 6-8% range.
Granted, those dividends aren’t written in stone. If the company has a bad quarter, they may not pay a dividend at all. Or the company may go out of business entirely, for that matter. That’s the risk you run with equities.
Instead of trying to pick individual stocks, another option is investing in mutual funds and ETFs that specialize in high dividend yields. Try researching funds on either your investment bank’s stock screener, or you can use a free service like Yahoo’s stock screener if you haven’t opened an account yet with an investment bank.
Watch out for high fund management fees. Actively-managed funds often charge high fees, which can eat up much of the fund’s returns.
When in doubt, invest in a passively-managed, low-cost index fund. According to Matthew Frankel from The Motley Fool, 92% of actively-managed funds have underperformed the market over the last 15 years.
To learn more, check out these best investing strategies…
Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, tend to pay generous dividends.
Why? Because REITs typically invest in income-producing properties or in high-interest debt service, so they’re inherently more passive income-oriented investments.
REITs tend to do well when real estate markets are performing well, and their dividends and values suffer when real estate markets suffer. But one advantage here is that investors can buy and sell REITs just as quickly and easily as mutual funds, on the same exchanges, yet still benefit from the diversification of completely different markets.
Just because of equity markets crash, it doesn’t mean real estate markets will crash, and vice versa. If you’re looking to diversify your portfolio into real estate, but don’t want to invest directly, REITs can be a high-yield option.
Bonds are the classic, traditional passive income stream. An old standby for retirees given their relative safety and stability.
The premise is simple enough: you lend money to a government or corporation by buying a bond for a certain length of time, say ten years. For the next ten years, they make interest payments to you. Then, upon reaching maturity, you get your original investment back.
Of course, by that point, the original balance will have lost money to inflation. So, the question with bonds becomes “Does the interest I receive justify the money lost to inflation, and the opportunity cost of not investing in a higher-yield investment?”
In a study of returns over 145 years between 1870-2015, bonds’ average returns were less than half those of stocks, at 2.5% compared to 6.89%. But their volatility – and therefore their risk – is also far lower than stocks.
Personally, I don’t like bonds. There’s simply too much opportunity cost for anyone under 50.
If you’re young, you can tolerate the added risk and volatility of stocks. As you close in on retirement, start looking closer at bonds as a more stable passive income stream.
4. Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Speaking of low-return, low-risk…
Certificates of deposit are about as exciting as late-night poker reruns on ESPN. Still, if you want to park your money somewhere safe and insured by FDIC, CDs can at least help you reduce your losses to inflation.
Just be aware up front that CDs require a minimum deposit period. For example, you may need to deposit the money for at least a year.
Which seems like a big sacrifice to me, considering you’re only likely to earn 1.5-2% on your money, at maximum. But it’s your money.
Consider using CDs in conjunction with other investments when you need to set money aside in a 100% secure place, for example, to store a tenant’s security deposit. If the alternative is just parking it in a savings account, a CD can present an attractive alternative.
5. Rental Properties
Rental properties are near and dear to my heart.
Earlier we referenced an extremely long-term study, measuring returns over the last 145 years. Guess which investment beat out even stocks, for the best returns?
Rental properties. See how to make money from out-of-state rental property income.
Best of all, rents and real estate values combine the low volatility of bonds with the high returns of stocks. And like stocks, investors benefit from both ongoing passive income and value appreciation.
If you only learn one lesson before buying a rental property, learn how to forecast cash flow. It’s one of the great advantages of rental properties: the returns and passive income are predictable.
The problem is that most new investors don’t know how to accurately predict them.
Rental properties come with large-but-irregular expenses, such as vacancies, repairs, and maintenance. That means that while expenses can fluctuate on a month-to-month basis, they are predictable when averaged over a year-to-year basis.
Which means rental investors need to budget for the long-term average of these irregular expenses, just as you now do with the irregular expenses in your personal budget.
If you’re considering rental properties as a passive income investment, feel free to connect with me directly, and start with the free rental investing video courses and free landlord software we offer at SparkRental. We’ll show you exactly how to forecast cash flow, provide a free rental income calculator, free online rental application and tenant screening services, and everything else you need to get started earning passive income from rentals.
House Hacking is also a popular passive income through real estate strategy.
6. Private Notes
Like the idea of investing in real estate, but don’t want the hassles of ownership and property management?
One option is to lend other real estate investors money for their deals. You can lend directly to investors in the form of a private note and negotiate whatever interest rate is acceptable to both you and your borrower.
For example, I have a loan out right now with a real estate investing couple in Ohio that I know and trust. They have an excellent track record of success. For a nine-month note, I’m earning 1% per month or 12% annually.
The risk? If the borrower defaults, you may have little recourse, unless your note is attached to the property’s deed as a lien.
A word to the wise: don’t start with this passive income stream. Private notes can be incredibly lucrative and even safe, but only to the extent that you know and trust the investors involved.
7. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending Websites
One not-so-dissimilar option is lending money to individuals through peer-to-peer lending websites.
You can pick and choose the borrowers and loans that you like, browsing through the loan requests on these websites. The returns typically range in the 6-10% spectrum; nothing to scoff at.
Of course, at the higher end of that spectrum, expect the risk to be significantly higher too. Note that P2P websites tend to make personal loans, rather than real estate investment loans.
If these loans interest you, start with a small amount of money for your first loan. An amount that wouldn’t cripple you financially if you never saw it again.
As you get more comfortable with evaluating loans on these platforms, you can gradually scale up your investments here. While I have not invested in P2P website loans myself, I’ve known other passive income writers who have seen great success with them.
8. Crowdfunding Websites
Another option for investing indirectly in real estate is with real estate crowdfunding websites.
Like P2P lending websites, investors can typically pick and choose which investments they want to put their money toward. Unlike P2P websites, these are often large real estate investment projects, and your money is pooled with other investors’ funds to finance the project.
One advantage is that crowdfunding websites do put a lien against the real property, to secure the loan. Still, if the borrower defaults, investors may not see all of their money again, after the expensive foreclosure process.
Often these loans are made for terms of several years, and not easily liquidated early. Make sure you understand the terms before investing.
Finally, keep in mind that many crowdfunding websites only allow accredited investors to participate and invest money.
My favorite non-accredited real estate crowdfunding investment platform is Fundrise. You can invest in real estate for only $500.
For accredited investor real estate crowdfunding, check out RealtyShares.
9. Private Equity Funds
Speaking of accredited investors, typically private equity funds are only available to these wealthier investors.
A private equity fund is a pooled fund that invests in a large-scale project, whether a large real estate investment project, a startup company or some other investing venture. The fund is managed by an individual or management group, that oversees the fund’s investments.
Often private equity funds require medium- to long-term investment, measured in years.
While these are not viable passive income investments for most of us, they can make excellent passive income streams for the wealthy, and are worth mentioning as a possibility after you make your first million or two.
10. Rent Out Rooms to Housemates
After the highfalutin options available only to accredited investors, ready to come back down to middle-class reality?
If you’re just starting out in your search for how to make passive income, this is an easy place to start. The first home I bought was a townhouse in a happening, historic neighborhood in Baltimore called Fells Point. I wasn’t ready to invite my then-girlfriend (now-wife) to move in with me, but I didn’t need this entire house to myself, either.
So I advertised on Craigslist and Zillow, and showed the property, and collected and screened rental applications. I ended up leasing to a woman named Erika, who later became a close friend, and whose rent covered nearly three-quarters of my mortgage payment.
As an added benefit, she paid for half the utility bills, and sometimes we even shared (or more often took turns with) cooking responsibilities.
Eventually, she met her future husband and moved out, and my future wife Katie moved in, but the four of us have remained extremely close over the years. We even traveled to northern Italy together a few years back – and shared those expenses, too.
11. Rent Out Rooms (or Full Units) on Airbnb
Don’t want a full-time housemate?
Consider renting your spare bedroom(s) to short-term guests. You can set your own schedule, and only rent out your space when you feel like it.
That means if your in-laws are coming next month, you can block off those dates on Airbnb.
But the possibilities don’t end with renting out spare bedrooms. If you’re going on a two-week trip yourself, why not rent your entire home on Airbnb?
Or, for that matter, buy rental properties specifically to rent on Airbnb, rather than screening and leasing to long-term tenants?
My friend Zack just converted his rental property (also in Fells Point, incidentally) to a short-term vacation rental. And it took some work: he had to furnish the property, turn on utilities in his name, create a system for guests to access the property without him being physically present.
But when the work was finished, he booked several months’ worth of mortgage payments within the first day of listing the property on Airbnb.
12. Rent Your Car or Parking Space
Familiar with Turo? It’s a simple enough concept: “Airbnb for cars.”
Individuals can rent their cars out short-term, to other individuals. Yet another example of the sharing economy at its best!
Turo does provide state-minimum insurance with all bookings, and several options for car owners to add more protection if desired. Still, make sure you do your homework to fully understand all risks and liability for your car before renting it on Turo.
While I’ve never rented out my car on Turo, I have used it many times as a renter. My experiences have been largely positive, and it saves me hundreds of dollars every time I rent a car on vacation.
I’ve known some car owners to build up a fleet of cars that they rent on Turo, generating excellent passive income. It also makes for a great way to generate ongoing cash from your old cars, rather than trading them into the dealer for pennies on the dollar!
Did you know that the average vehicle is parked 96% of the time? Parking spaces are highly valuable. Especially if you live in a city. Individual parking spots can go for as much as $375/month in San Francisco. Let’s say you live in a less expensive city, I bet you could get $100/month, or $1,200/year! Draft up a contract and rent it out!
13. Earn Royalties from Your Creative Works
Are you an outstanding photographer? Musician? Writer?
You can earn ongoing passive income streams from royalties!
Of course, you have to have some hits for this to work. Look no further than the stereotype of the starving artist for a reality check on how often artists hit it big.
With that said, some arts lend themselves to royalty income on a slow-but-steady basis. Stock image websites will include your photographs if they’re eye-catching and conducive to marketing, and pay you royalties upon their purchase. E-books can generate ongoing income, especially when combined with your own online business (more on that shortly).
14. Write a Book
Grant’s book, Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need for Penguin Random House will be released in February 2019.
The book is a blueprint for fast-tracking financial independence through personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship, all broken down step by step. It’s the why, what, and how. Grant shares all of the mistakes he’s made, as well stories and strategies from others who’ve done it too. It’s definitely not your typical money book.
It’s definitely a passive income strategy that will continue to pay. Check it out!
15. Buy Royalties
Not the artistic sort? Never heard of the Rule of Thirds or an arpeggio?
No sweat. You can buy other artists’ royalties, already pumping along as passive income streams.
There are entire websites dedicated to buying and selling royalties. Try Royalty Exchange to get a sense for what kinds of royalties are available for sale.
Just make sure the royalty rights you buy are just as likely to continue generating sales in the future. Some art forms have a limited lifespan, as anyone who danced the Macarena can attest.
16. Start a Blog
What are you passionate and knowledgeable about? Share it with the world!
No matter how small the niche, other people in the world share your enthusiasm. Did you know that there are blogs dedicated to sungazing: the practice of staring at the sun, and consuming your energy that way instead of eating?
Or ugly Renaissance-era babies?
I bet your blog idea feels less weird now.
As you build traffic, you can start to monetize your blog by mentioning affiliate products or services, or by publishing ads on the blog, or by selling your own products or services.
Starting a blog might be the perfect side hustle – you can do it on your own time, build multiple passive income streams, meet new people, and unlock tons of new opportunities.
Grant made over $1 million as a result of launching the Millennial Money blog 3 years ago. Also, make sure you sign up for the Free 7 Day Blogging Side Email Hustle Course to get the exact strategy Grant used.
17. Affiliate Marketing Niche Site
A niche website is a site built to attract visitors online with very focused interests. The goal is to become the authority of a specific topic. Content is extremely high quality and addresses specific questions related to that topic. The niche site targets a precise keyword, with high search volume, and provides solutions. Typically, search engines boost these sites to the top of the results page.
An affiliate niche website is one that monetizes the site using affiliate marketing and affiliate programs.
When you sign up for an affiliate marketing program, you’ll usually be given a personalized affiliate link. These links take users to the standard signup page for the software/service but give you credit for each new customer you bring in.
These programs are usually free to join, but you may need to be a current customer to participate.
When you sign-up for an affiliate program with recurring commissions, you’ll often be given access to a member dashboard where you can generate affiliate links, track signups, and choose your payment method.
Most of the time, affiliate programs will pay you every 30 to 60 days via PayPal or bank transfer. Each company is different, though, so make sure that you clarify payment times with the software company.
To learn everything you need to know to make money through affiliate marketing, this course is the best. It seriously could pay for itself with all the awesome strategies you will learn.
Check out how this guy flipped a niche website for $40,000 in just four months.
18. Start a Podcast
No Ernest Hemingway with the written word?
Writing is a skill, and not everyone is interested in developing it. Another medium for generating useful, educational, or entertaining content is by, well, talking!
If you have a touch of charisma and don’t mind a microphone, try starting a podcast rather than a blog. Just like with a blog, you can earn money from affiliates, or advertisers, or by selling your own products and services.
And no, you don’t need a $500 microphone or fancy home studio to get started. Start with a quick Amazon search for the best podcasting headsets under $50.
19. Create an Online Course
Online courses have skyrocketed in popularity over the last five years. Once again, what are you passionate and knowledgeable about?
If you love it, someone else does too. Online courses can be the perfect complement to your blog or podcast: you provide free content to attract the right prospects, then offer a full-service, detailed, step-by-step digital course for the ones who are ready to take the next step.
I’ve built several online courses myself. Our blog and landlord software serve mom-and-pop investors looking for how to make passive income from rentals. But for our users who want to go a step further, we have courses on how to retire within five years on rental income, and on how to automate their property management.
Online courses are a tricky way to start if you don’t already have a website. But if you’ve been building good content and attracting an audience through your blog or podcast, consider online courses as a way to “level up” your business from affiliate products and advertisers.
20. Create Software
Technically inclined? If you have the skill to write software, you can create code that other people pay to use on an ongoing basis.
Or not – if you see a need that’s not being met, you can simply hire someone else to create the software, and then you can sell it as a passive income stream.
Many of us think of software as having a short shelf life, as becoming obsolete quickly. But that’s not always the case, especially for niche software in specific industries. Even when the software does need frequent updating, you can simply hire a software engineer once a year to modernize and improve it.
And “software” is a broad term. It can include mobile apps, WordPress plugins, online applications, and countless other types of digital property.
If you’re wondering how to make passive income as a software creator, the options don’t end with a one-time sale. You could offer the freemium model of “free with in-app purchases,” or the subscription model of a SaaS (software as a service) website, or annual subscriptions, or a reseller licensing fee.
The options are only as limited as your vision and passive income ideas!
21. Start an E-commerce Business
Yes, digital products help you avoid the logistics of shipping. But we all still live in the physical world, and we all still need physical products.
What physical products do your online users want or need?
While I don’t sell physical products in my business, if I were to expand into them, I could offer products like lockboxes for vacant rental properties, or smart locks that can be opened by anyone the landlord grants access to. No matter what your website’s niche, there’s almost certainly a set of physical products that your users want or need.
And no, you don’t need to ship the products yourself. Use a drop shipping company to handle all the logistics for you.
One more way to add passive income streams to your online business!
22. Start a Brick-and-Mortar Business
No one says you’re limited to an online business. Why not start an old-school, brick-and-mortar business?
For example, wouldn’t it be fun to own a trendy coffee shop or wine bar? You could spend as much or as little time there as you like, while an enthusiastic and detail-oriented manager oversees day-to-day operations for you.
Granted, brick-and-mortar businesses come with larger startup costs in many cases than online businesses. The physical space alone will add an ongoing rent payment to your monthly expenses. But if a brick-and-mortar business appeals to you, start learning the ropes of the industry that pulls your heartstrings.
23. Buy an Existing Business
Starting a business is a lot of work. Trust me, I know. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, not just financially or strategically, but emotionally.
If you like the idea of owning a business, but don’t want to go through the hurdles of starting your own, you can skip all the early startup headaches and just buy an already-profitable, functioning business.
Brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, online application or software – you name it, you can buy it. Browse a few businesses for sale on BizBuySell to whet your appetite and see what’s out there.
But if you’re serious about the idea, do deep research into the industry, and don’t stop at a single business listing website. Buying a business is an enormous commitment, not just of your funds, but as a business owner you hold the employees’ careers in your hand. It’s a responsibility that you can’t take lightly.
Do your homework on the business and industry in question. When you think you’ve done all the due diligence you need to, go back and do even more.
24. Offer Automated Services
Sure, you can hire a manager to oversee any business. But some businesses are designed from start-to-finish with only one goal: stacking up passive income streams.
The classic example is a laundromat. Every washing machine, at every location, is a little-automated worker, ready and willing to generate passive income every hour of every day.
Other passive income ideas for automated services include vending machines, arcade games, pinball machines, batting cages, golf driving ranges.
25. Lease Equipment
Own some equipment you’re not using?
It could be anything: farm equipment, industrial equipment, office equipment, even your lawnmower. Someone could use it.
For that matter, you could lease furniture to Realtors looking to stage homes, or lease party tents, or those bouncy-houses that kids jump around in at the county fair.
Again, there’s a niche for everything. And an opportunity for anyone brainstorming how to make passive income.
26. Rent Out Storage Space
Did you know one in 11 Americans pays for extra storage space?
The self-storage industry is booming and has been for years. As passive income ideas go, this business model is a pretty simple one.
While you could buy or build a full-scale commercial self-storage complex, that’s not the only option. My partner Deni used to rent out space in her garage! And no, it wasn’t enough to make her rich, but it covered about half of her mortgage payment, and required no work or headaches on her part.
It’s also far less regulated than the residential rental industry, making evictions far cheaper and faster, if the worst happens and your renters default.
27. Get Paid to Install Apps on Your Phone
Admittedly, you won’t get rich from this last one. But every penny counts, right?
One option is behavior tracking apps, which aggregate data from as many users as possible to create an accurate snapshot of how people use their mobile devices. Nielsen Digital and Mobile Expression are two such examples, which offer rewards to users who allow their usage to be tracked.
But these usage-tracking apps aren’t the only option. If having your behavior tracked is too Orwellian for your taste, why not use an app that helps you save money automatically?
We started this journey with a discussion about budgeting and automating your savings. It’s only fitting that we end there.
Apps like Acorns, Qapital, and Chime online banking move money to savings for you without you having to lift a finger. In some cases, they round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference to your savings account. Some of the apps even invest the money into index funds on your behalf, if you approve them to do so.
Final Word on Passive Income Ideas
If you take nothing else from this list, take this: increase your savings rate, automate it, and then put that money to work for you.
Robert Kiyosaki uses the metaphor that every dollar you save can be dressed for work and sent out to earn money for you. Most of the passive income ideas above come with some degree of risk. Many require education on your part if you are to succeed.
Just because passive income doesn’t require work eventually doesn’t mean it doesn’t require work and money up front!
Build passive income streams while you’re young and fit and can harness the power of compounding over time. By doing so, you set the stage for retiring young and wealthy. We feature success stories all the time on our website, of everyday people who retired at 29 or 32 or 36 based on their rental income.
But if you don’t learn how to make passive income while you sleep, prepare to work until you die.
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About the contributor: G. Brian Davis is a long-time landlord, real estate investing educator, personal finance writer, and the co-founder of SparkRental.com. He spends most of the year living overseas (current home base: Abu Dhabi), and is lucky enough to visit at an average of ten countries every year.
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