Would you like more money? 🙋🏾♀️
Of course, you would! But how often have well-meaning people told you over the years that nothing in life comes for free?
Well, passive income sources aren’t quite effort-free, but once they’re established, they can be a wonderful way of making some extra cash on the side. And if you’re smart and have a little bit of luck, that passive income can start adding up to a significant amount.
Here are eight ideas for how to get a passive income stream going.
Try these passive income ideas in 2024
1. Write and sell an online course
Many people have extensive knowledge about a particular subject area. It could be anything from how to make the best chocolate cupcakes to running nonprofits to implementing recruiting automation in businesses. If you’re one of them, creating a course to pass your knowledge on to others could be an excellent money-spinner.
The course content has to be worth paying for, of course. So, put your customer service objectives at the forefront when you’re coming up with ideas. There’s no point expecting people to pay for content they can easily find for free elsewhere.
Once you’ve created and polished the course content, you need to think about how you’ll market it. It’s obviously a lot easier if you already have an established presence online with a large number of followers.
If not, don’t worry—there are other options. You could add your course to an online learning platform like Udemy or Teachable. Some sites let you upload pre-created content, while others include templates and design tools. Make sure you’re aware of how much of a cut the site will take from your sales.
2. Set up a print-on-demand store
Anyone looking for flexible remote jobs should consider setting up their own print-on-demand store. It’s a terrific way to exercise some creativity and get a passive income stream going.
Create your custom designs or logos and get them printed onto objects, which are then shipped to your customers. There are all sorts of options: mugs, key chains, cushion covers, and T-shirts are just a few. If you already have an established online brand through blogging or video content, this is an obvious next step. But you don’t need to be a big YouTuber selling merch to benefit.
Yes, you do have to have some graphic design skills in the first place for this to work. However, you don’t need to be Leonardo da Vinci. Some of the most popular designs are also the simplest; often, it’s the idea that’s the most important element.
To get this off the ground, you’ll need to set up an e-commerce website so your customers can place their orders. Build your own with WordPress, or sell through Shopify or Amazon. Remember that on-demand printing is a very personalized service, so give customers several ways to get in touch with you—such as instant messaging and cloud calling.
Read our guide on print-on-demand for freelance writers.
Could it be time for you to get into dropshipping? You may have heard that it’s a license to print money, although that’s not quite true. You do need to be quite committed, particularly at the beginning when you’re setting everything up.
The concept is that you partner with a supplier. You create the online storefront, take and process orders; they receive the orders and then ship them directly to the customer. You could launch your own website via Wix or Squarespace, set up a Shopify or BigCommerce store, or sell through an online marketplace.
You remain responsible for marketing and answering any customer queries that crop up. So, you may need access to a cloud communication platform to do this efficiently. However, you don’t have to bother managing inventory or developing your own products. In a way, it’s like owning half a store.
If you’re looking to scale your business, dropshipping is a good place to start. You’ll find that once you get going, it becomes easier to scale up. And before long, you should have a tidy income stream going on the side.
4. Sell photos online
Have you been taking photos with a view to branding your freelance services? Why not go one step further and monetize your photography? If you’re into photography and have your own camera, you’ll probably already have thought of this. But with modern smartphone cameras producing superb quality images, this is actually an option that is open even to non-professionals.
There are several different ways to approach this. You could go down the self-management route, selling prints or canvases of your photos from your own site. However, that’s less of a passive income generator and more of a business in itself.
What you could try is uploading your photos to stock image sites like Alamy or Pexels. This is much less of a time investment, and if you pitch your images correctly, it can be a successful enterprise (royalties vary between sites). The key is to think about what the images will be used for (blog posts? Office presentations?) and to try to cater to that market.
5. Sell some digital products
By “digital products”, we mean items that can be downloaded, such as templates, audiobooks, or PDFs. The beauty of selling these is that once they are made, uploaded, and secure in the cloud, they will continue to provide you with income as they sell. There are also hardly any further overheads because digital products don’t cost much to store. (That makes them scalable, too.)
Your goal is to create content that is genuinely useful. Are you a spreadsheet whizz? Could you create an automated forecasting Excel file that could save people time? If you work as a life coach, perhaps you could commit some of your wisdom to an audiobook and reach many more potential clients.
You can sell via the usual marketplaces or look for specific outlets—design sites like Canva for templates or Smashwords for e-books. Whatever you’re bringing to the table, make sure it’s of high quality. There’s nothing more powerful than customer recommendations for getting your services known.
6. Monetize your blog
If you already have a popular blog going, then congratulations; you’re already halfway to generating extra income with it. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to start.
In terms of content, you should ideally be trying to leverage a niche. For example, there are literally millions of travel blogs of one kind or another online. Rather than add one more generic one with the kind of commentary everyone’s seen before, try to find a new angle. If you travel light, maybe you could focus on serving up some minimalist travel hacks. Or, if you’re a food lover, you could base your blog around reviewing cheese on every continent.
You might think that such specialized content is a bad idea because it will limit your audience. But in online marketing, niching down is the key to success. That’s because the sweet spot for advertisers and sponsors is finding a ready-made audience for their particular product or service. Small can be beautiful as long as it’s relevant.
After all, which blogger is going to be the better prospect for a small craft cheese company to partner with? The one posting the 385th article that week about visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the one who taste-tested Époisses de Bourgogne in a tiny café?
You can also consider hosting display ads on your blog by partnering with advertising networks like Google AdSense and Ezoic or reaching out to brands to suggest a sponsorship deal.
7. Affiliate marketing
This is all about getting commission for referrals. It’s another great way of achieving a passive income stream because, in theory, all you have to do is set it up and collect the cash.
Of course, as with all of these ideas, the detail matters. Affiliate marketing can mean anything from a small blog joining in with Amazon’s affiliate scheme to multimillion-dollar corporations whose entire business model is based on referring customers to other websites.
You can use a web-based collaboration tool to get others involved if you’d prefer to make it a team effort. However, if you don’t have any experience in this area, it’s best to start small. You’ll need three things:
- A website or social media account that’s attracting a reasonable volume of visitors
- Engaging content that’s relevant to the site you’re partnering with
- One or more affiliate links on your site
As you can see, it’s quite a simple idea. The trick to success lies in finding the ideal site to partner with, so make sure to do your research. As well as Amazon Associates, other popular programs include ShareASale and CJAffiliate. Most big brands also run affiliate schemes.
8. Sell your writing
There are a few ways to make money from writing. In terms of setting up a passive income stream, you should be looking at putting your writing on platforms that will earn you recurring fees.
If you specialize in short-form content, consider making money on Medium. It’s a US-based publishing site that launched in 2012 and has been going strong ever since. Premium subscribers pay to read the content, and writers in the Partner Program get paid according to how long visitors spend reading their articles.
Meanwhile, if you prefer long-form content, self-publishing an ebook is easier than it’s ever been. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service because it has the widest reach.
The truth is you’re much more likely to succeed in self-publishing if you already have a devoted following, though, so bear that in mind. The key to making money is to deliver value with your writing, whether it’s a fun listicle or an in-depth guide to technical subjects like machine learning or an AI rule engine.
Passive income is the key to success
Whatever route you decide to follow, there’s no doubt that generating passive income can greatly enhance your cash flow situation.
And let’s be honest—once you get it up and running, it’ll mean a great boost to your quality of life as well. Good luck!
About the author
Alwayne Powell is an experienced performance marketing leader with an extensive background in the digital space, working client and agency side to provide paid search, SEO and CRO solutions in the B2B and B2C sectors. They are the current Senior Digital Marketing Manager at leading communication platform provider 8×8. You can find them on LinkedIn.