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Work Less, Make More: 11 Passive Income Ideas to Long-Term Build Wealth

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Passive income is never really passive. 

Although it gets touted as easy money, most passive income streams are the result of hard work: building an audience, optimizing paid ads, and delivering a great experience and a superior product. However, as a current or aspiring business owner, you’re not afraid to put in the time to do all of those things, and you might already have all three checked off your list.

Adding passive income streams to your existing business can create a revenue source with markedly different underlying economics. Typically, these income streams will have higher profit margins and can scale more easily than services or physical products—giving you more flexibility overall in your business.

And if you're just getting started, a high-profit-margin product can be a great way to build your business and earn money to invest in your next phase, as long as you go into it with the understanding that even though it’s called passive income, there will be work involved.

11 best passive income ideas to build wealth

Whether you’re running a service provider trying to stop selling dollars for hours or a product business looking to add a stream of revenue that doesn’t involve the logistics of sending out physical products, you can use the brand and audience you’ve built to add passive income streams to your business.

Start a dropshipping store

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

Dropshipping is one of the best ways to start earning from wherever you are, even if you don’t have plenty of cash flow. Some dropshippers report making upward of $100,000 per year. Dropshipping is not a get rich quick scheme, however, it takes some upfront investment of time.

This business model involves creating an ecommerce store where customers browse and buy products. What’s interesting about dropshipping is that you don’t have to see the products you sell physically. 

With dropshipping, your supplier handles everything from manufacturing to packaging to fulfillment. And since you don’t need to send money to your supplier until your customers pay, there’s limited cash risk.

Dropshipping business model 

Another risk you get to avoid is the one that comes with investing in a product that doesn’t have a market. You can use a platform like the Oberlo marketplace to find trending products in different niches to sell in your store.

Depending on the product you choose and your pricing, you can earn solid passive income and learn how to run an ecommerce business. 

Resources:

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Free Webinar:

How to Get Started with Dropshipping in 2021

Learn how to find high-margin products, add them into your store, and start selling—fast.

Create a print-on-demand store

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

If you’re an artist, designer, or entrepreneur, print on demand can be a profitable passive income idea and monetize your creativity. It involves working with suppliers to customize white label products like t-shirts, posters, backpacks, or books and selling them on a per-order basis. 

Similar to dropshipping, you only pay for the product after you sell it. There’s no buying in bulk or inventory needed. Print-on-demand stores are a good passive income stream because:

  • You can create products quickly and put them up for sale in minutes
  • Shipping and fulfillment is taken care of by your supplier
  • Once your store is set up, you can automate many marketing and sales processes

With a print-on-demand company like Printful, you can easily create products to sell in your Shopify store quickly. Overall, print on demand is a low risk, simple business idea you can get up and running with fast. 

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Free Webinar:

How to quickly start a profitable print-on-demand store

In our free 40-minute video workshop, we’ll get you from product idea to setting up an online store to getting your first print-on-demand sale.

Sell digital products

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰💰

Digital products are assets or pieces of media consumers can’t touch physically. These include downloadable or streamable files such as Kindle books, templates, plug-ins, or PDFs. 

Digital products are great passive income streams because they have high profit margins. You only have to make the asset once, and you can sell it repeatedly online. There’s no storage or inventory needed. 

You can sell as many digital products as you want. Many creators scale their passive income by selling kits, printables, files, and other assets professionals can use. UX Kits, for example, sells personas, flowcharts, and wireframes to assist the design process. 

Digital products example

The brand has sold its products to more than 10,000 customers in over 100 countries and continues to sell these lucrative products online today. 

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Teach online courses

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

It’s easier than ever for educators to sell courses online. Whether it’s marketing, illustration, or entrepreneurship, you can create courses and start selling with few limitations. Similar to digital products, you can sell online courses repeatedly without holding any inventory or stock. 

Teaching online requires some upfront investment in time. You’ll need to outline your course, record it, and make downloadable assets like templates for students to walk away with. 

Take Yegi Saryan, founder of Yegi Beauty, for example. After creating an online beauty brand selling eyelash extension products, she created an educational branch called Yegi Academy. Her lash classes help entrepreneurs around the world jumpstart their beauty careers, offering both online and on-site training. 

Yegi online course

As an online educator, you can choose the class size and length. You could offer one-on-one tutoring or masterminds if you prefer small groups, or offer training sessions and live courses if you enjoy working with big groups. Don’t want human interaction? No problem. You can create fully downloadable courses that students can finish at their own pace. 

Whichever way you look at it, teaching online is a profitable passive income stream with low startup costs—just an investment of your time.

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Become a blogger

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

Starting a blog can be a challenging venture, but the blogging business model is only becoming more successful as a passive income stream. You don’t need to be an internet celebrity anymore to earn money online. All you have to do is find your people on one or two platforms, then send them to your website. 

It takes a little bit of time to build a blog. But if you create quality content and promote it through your platforms, you’ll build an audience big enough to monetize. 

You could earn passive income from blogging by:

  • Selling affiliate products
  • Creating sponsored posts
  • Selling your own products 
  • Running ads through Google AdSense

The best part? You don’t need any design or coding skills to start a blog. With a content management system and hosting service like Shopify, you can get a blog up and running in no time. 

You’ll need to invest time into creating an SEO marketing strategy and producing and promoting the content. Know that your efforts will be rewarded: the return on investment can be upward of $30,000 per month, depending on how you monetize your blog. 

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Sell handmade goods

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰💰

There’s never been a better time to sell stuff online. With over 4.6 billion people connected to the internet today, the opportunity to build and scale an online business is massive. 

There are hundreds of online sites you can sell on. Some have specific niches, like video games or handcrafted goods, while others let you sell whatever you want. 

Some popular online selling sites include:

  • Your own online store
  • Handshake
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Ruby Lane
  • AliExpress

The upfront investment is two-fold. You’ll need to invest in materials and time to make and sell DIY goods like pottery or clothing. You’ll also want to create an online store to house your products.

According to our research, the top 10 products consumers plan to buy post-pandemic include:

post pandemic products

Selling from your own store reduces the amount of fees you pay on each sale, plus, you can create a brand for yourself. The benefits of building a brand compound over time as you build an audience and connect with more customers. It’ll help you sell more over time and make money online.

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Run an affiliate marketing business

Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒🕒

Upfront investment (money): 💸

Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

Affiliate marketing involves recommending a product or service to an audience. It’s a great source of passive income because you earn a commission whenever someone uses your referral link to buy the recommended product or service.

It’s also a growing industry. Statista estimates that the affiliate marketing industry will reach $8.2 billion by 2020. Online entrepreneurs become affiliate marketers for a few key reasons:

  • It’s easy to execute. You just handle the marketing side of things. The brand will develop products and fulfill orders. 
    • It’s low risk. There’s no cost to join an affiliate program. You can sell established profits without any upfront financial investment. You’ll have to invest time in creating traffic sources so more people click on your links. Once that’s set up, you can earn relatively passive income through commissions. 
    • It’s scalable. Affiliate marketers typically don’t hire extra help. You can introduce new products to an audience and create campaigns while your past work makes money in the background. 

    Earning money with affiliate marketing can be a rewarding way to add new revenue streams to your business. All it costs is your time. Once the hours are invested, you can reap the rewards continually.

    Resources: 

    Sell stock photos online

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰💰

    One of the biggest drawbacks to running a service-based business like photography is that you get paid for your time. You must be at an event or photoshoot to make money with photography, which, even if you’re making a killing, can be tiring after a while. 

    If you’re a full-time photographer or own a good camera, you can create an extra revenue stream by selling photos online. Stock photo sites like Pexels, Shutterstock, and other online media houses will pay for high-quality photos and videos. 

    shutterstock website

    There’s no inventory to keep around the house besides your camera and laptop. These websites do the marketing for you, so once you load your photos onto the platform, getting your work out there and selling it is done for you. 

    If you run your photography business on Shopify, you can also easily tie in digital products like prints or print-of-demand products like shirts and hats, giving you even more passive income streams so you can work less and make more. 

    Resources:

    Become an Instagram influencer

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸

    Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

    $1 million: That’s how much Dwayne “The Rock” ‘Johnson makes per Instagram post. While you may not have chiseled abs or over 200 million social media followers, you can still earn passive income on Instagram as an influencer.

    To become an Instagram influencer—someone who can sway another person’s buying decisions—you’ll need to build a community of people who enjoy similar topics. 

    Are you a comics fan? You can create an Instagram account and start posting consistently about the latest Marvel and DC shows. The same applies if your interest is in sports, scuba diving, home decor, or even general culture. 

    Some influencers like Alex Lange run sponsored posts for brands like Tinder. 

    Instagram influencer example

    If you have an engaged audience, you can find many different ways to make passive income from them. You can partner with large and small businesses to promote their products to your followers. Or you can make money through selling your own merch.

    Buy a rental property

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

    Real estate investing is one of the oldest ways to build long-term wealth. 

    If you have enough money, you can buy and rent out apartment buildings or some other form of real estate. But since the job of being a landlord is pretty active, you can hire property managers to manage tenants and collect monthly payments or rent. 

    What if you don’t have money to own entire apartment buildings? Can you still earn rental income? Yes, you can. 

    With a minimum investment of $500, you can use a real estate investment trust (REIT) platform like Fundrise to invest in different real estate assets—and earn passively when the assets appreciate. 

    Invest in the stock market

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰💰💰

    Although the stock market might have a steep learning curve and can be confusing, it’s a great way to build lasting wealth. A common mistake most people make with stock investments is thinking short-term instead of playing the long game. 

    stock market chart

    The goal for investing in stocks is to diversify your portfolio and reduce risk. You can do this through investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and high-dividend stocks that earn you income slowly over time. To start investing in the stock market, you need to open up a brokerage account and fund it. 

    Resources:

    Free: The Big List of Business Ideas

    To help you find the inspiration to start, we compiled a list of 100+ in-demand business ideas, broken down into categories like fitness, apparel, and gaming.

    4 passive income ideas for extra cash

    These side hustles are good for making quick cash. They may help you reach short-term financial goals, but they are not passive income strategies that build wealth.

    Rent out your spare room

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰

    Do you have an extra room in your apartment? Or are you going on a three-week road trip and don’t want to leave your house empty? You can partner with a rental company like Airbnb to put your free space up for rent.

    Airbnb connects homeowners with people who are looking for their next getaway. Many people prefer Airbnbs because they’re usually cheaper than hotels, meaning a high demand for your free space as an Airbnb host. 

    If you want to make even more income from Airbnb, you can buy apartments for the sole purpose of renting them out. You should note, though, that renting your space out often requires work upfront. You might have to furnish or renovate your free room before putting it up for rent.

    Rent out your car

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰

    Your free space is not the only thing you can use to earn passive income. You can also offer your car up for rent with a service like Turo. If you already use your car for Uber, you can sign up with platforms like Carvertise or Wrapify to earn extra money as you take trips around town. 

    Another option is to look for someone who needs a car for Uber or Lyft. So instead of actively driving around in your free time, you can pull up a Netflix show while your car works for you.

    Peer-to-peer lending

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸💸💸

    Passive income potential: 💰

    Have a lot of cash that’s not working for you? Try Peer-to-peer lending. P2P lending involves lending money to borrowers or small businesses. 

    To make the process easy, you can sign up on a website like LendingClub, Prosper (for individuals), and Worthy (for businesses) that connects borrowers with lenders. 

    These sites usually host loan requests along with interest rates based on the borrower’s history. The return on these loans is usually around 5%–6%. 

    Cashback reward sites

    Upfront investment (time): 🕒🕒

    Upfront investment (money): 💸

    Passive income potential: 💰

    Cashback reward sites like Swagbucks, MyPoint, and Rakuten allow you to earn money when you shop online. After signing up, you don’t have to do anything extra, aside from shop, to make money from these sites. 

    The more you shop online, the more points you gain. And the more money you can make.

    As a note of caution, don’t exceed your monthly spending budget or max out your credit card in a bid to earn some reward. 

    On the road to financial freedom

    There is only so much time in a day, and finding ways to scale your income in more efficient ways can give you flexibility in your business to hit the next level. That level might be “taking a vacation, ever” or “hiring more help” or “ordering new inventory,” but whatever it is, adding streams of income with different underlying economics can give you the freedom to explore it.


    Passive income FAQ

    What is passive income?

    Generating passive income refers to active income that requires minimal work to earn and maintain. Passive income sources include investing in mutual funds, selling products online, teaching online courses on sites like Udemy, or other tactics where the earner doesn’t have to participate.

    What are the benefits of passive income?

    Passive income is important because it provides residual income with minimal time and effort. It can improve your personal finances and give you the freedom of time. Not having to trade your time for money can reduce stress and anxiety, and make you feel more confident about your financial future.

    How can I generate passive income?

    • Start a dropshipping store
    • Create a print-on-demand store
    • Teach online courses
    • Start blogging 
    • Sell handmade goods
    • Run an affiliate marketing business
    • Sell digital products
    • Sell stock photos online
    • Become an Instagram influencer
    • Buy a rental property
    • Invest in the stock market
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