RichardBy Richard
| 7 min read

Most passive income ideas will either generate poor returns or consume lots of your time (not very passive!).  So the question is…what really works?

passive-income-streams-opportunitiesI’ve spent 100s of hours thinking about all sorts of crazy ideas for making passive income online.

From the smart ideas like an online course to the dress-me-in-the-white-jacket ideas like writing articles for adsense, I’ve thought about pretty much every passive income stream there is.

During this time the one thing I wanted more than anything else, was a big fat epic list of ALL the possible passive income streams there were.

Everything in one place so I could compare them and work out what was best for me.

Unfortunately no one has – even till this day – made a complete list. So I spent the last week getting loaded on strong Ethiopian espresso and compiling every different income stream from my head, my notes and the world wide interwebs!


PS if you want to cut to the chase you can get access to 3 of my favorite passive income ideas right here or you can check out 30 of my favorite real-life passive income businesses here.

What is passive income?

When I say passive income, I’m talking about what happens after you do the hard work up front.

ie first you need to haul ass and do something crazy, eg write a quality 20,000 word ebook (insanely not passive hahahah), but then you get to sit back and enjoy seeing PayPal sale messages pop up on your iPhone each morning as sale after sale after sale is made…on an ongoing basis and without any additional work. That’s some seriously Pina Colada flavored passive goodness!

As you can see passive income streams simply come from assets, and assets are either bought with money (eg rental property) or in the case of most of the ideas below, bought through sweat (eg ebook)!

Let’s get started…

1. Sell an ebook

The much loved model for bloggers and content creators everywhere and for a good reason…it’s pretty easy to write a 60-80 page ebook, not hard to sell say $500 worth a month through online networking, guest posting and your own SEO optimized blog, and well you get to keep a large whack of the pie after paying affiliates.  Hells yeah!  Continue reading >

2. Create a blog and get the affiliate links cranking

Who doesn’t like some down and dirty affiliate fees?!  Especially if you realize it can be even easier to make money this way than with an ebook.  After all, you simply need to concentrate on pumping out some content for your own site and getting the traffic in, often via Google or social media.  Unsurprisingly, most people can enjoy their first affiliate sale within 30 days of starting a blog.  Continue reading >

3. Sell physical products online

If you told me several years ago that this would end up being my #1 source of passive income, I would have slapped you silly and called up the men in white jackets to come take you away!  And that’s because back then selling products online was insanely complicated and time consuming.  Pretty much as ‘non-passive’ as a business gets.

But now thanks to Amazon, this is not only easy, but it can be extremely lucrative as I’ve found out.  Continue reading >

4.  Invest, but do it smartly

Investing is arguably the easiest way to make passive income.  The problem is most investments sound good in theory but don’t work out so well in practice.  And if you don’t have much experience or access to capital, let alone the time to work it all out, it can seem more or less impossible.  However, there is one smart way to invest that just might work.  Continue reading >

5.  Sell an online course with membership

We’re talking a members-only multimedia-driven website here.  And before I even dive into this idea with you, I have to say straight up this is a looooot of work.  I’ve done it and it nearly killed me. Continue reading >

6.  Create a comparison site

I really like this idea and I’ve seen some great operators online pull it off beautifully.  But I must confess I’ve never personally earned passive income from a setup like this before.

I’ll be putting something together soon though as a working case study.  But in the meantime, I really want to share this idea with you because it is rather fascinating. Continue reading >

7.  Build static guide websites and directly sell advertising

I want you to think very specific here…

I’m not talking about writing a blog on cats and inserting some Google Adsense up in there. Continue reading >

8.  Create a lead capture website for real world businesses

You can make $1000s a month with this idea, easily!

Think simple Google-friendly content site with a high converting inquiry form for capturing details (maybe even a free report attached to that or something else to boost conversion). Continue reading >

9.  Build an online store for a real world service & outsource the work

For this one it’s easiest if I give you an example I’m thinking of launching next month.

Build and SEO optimize a website for people looking to convert 8mm home videos to DVD / USBContinue reading >

10.  Get an iPhone or iPad (or Android) app built

Oh hello bankruptcy!

Haha, nah apps aren’t that expensive to get made anymore.  And if you want to create a mainly info-based app there are plenty of easy to use programs online for DIYing this for a couple hundred bucks. Continue reading >

11.  Vending machines, games machines, laundromats, ATMs etc

Joking!!  Got you!  These suck big time.

I’ve read so many blow-by-blow financial accounts of these businesses and in no way can they add up to profit, apart from the exceptional few business operators who are crafty at selecting locations, negotiating deals with vendors and efficiently outsourcing all the leg work and maintenance. Continue reading >

12.  Get a rental property

This is so tried and true it’s not funny.

If you buy at the right price, at the right time, structure the deal so it’s good for your personal taxes and achieve full occupancy – and most importantly, then do this again and again – then just pour yourself a freaking Pina Colada son, because you’ll be retiring by 50. Continue reading >

13.  Setup your own YouTube Channel and take the ad money

Hang on, I said that relying on Google adsense is mental above.

What’s changed?

Well, I think that getting the traffic to a blog is a lot harder than getting views on You Tube these days, because the text-based content world is so freaking full (and thus crazy competitive), whilst the video world is relatively empty since most people are too shy to turn their prose into video. Continue reading >

14.  Resell online/digital products and services

The first thought that pops into my mind is web hosting and the second thought is mobile websites.

These are just two examples of the types of things you can resell to businesses (or people) in the real world. Continue reading >

15.  Write for money, I mean adsense

This is different to setting up a blog and putting up adsense on it.

With this idea instead, you write like a freaking nutjob and distribute your content to one of dozens of high page rank content publishing platformsContinue reading >

16.  Create a niched up stock content library for others to use

Build a library of whatever your creative ass can muster and live off the royalties like a fat prince (well kind of).

From photos to icons to melodies, go nuts.  Continue reading >

17.  Create software or a simpler online app (SaaS)

Whatever it is, from WordPress themes to online productivity tools to a very industry-specific thing like an online billing service for builders, this could make you serious coin. 

Obviously, you can get all the heavy lifting done by professionals, and then you just sell the software online yourself through your own marketing efforts. Continue reading >

18.  Make a book reviews website

Obviously your monetization strategy here is Amazon affiliate links.

Now I know Amazon pays sweet F all (say 4-6.5% on a book that sells for $10-$30), but a dollar here and there can add up…maybe. Continue reading >

19.  Make a ‘fake’ online store and hook it up with Amazon

This is a very interesting idea for those of you who think your own online store (where you take payment and liaise with the supplier) or fulfilling orders yourself is too hard.

I hadn’t really thought about this idea until I came across an online bedding store recently.  Continue reading >

20.  Buy and rent out expensive equipment, tools etc.

I’m thinking Canon cameras, photo booths, treadmills etc.

Obviously this is not very passive and something’s could be a biaaaatch to deal with (i.e. anything big that doesn’t fit in your closet), but hey, this is just another form of rental income and the ability to reap in rental money week after week is pretty cool.  Continue reading >

21.  Become a digital publisher

So the idea here is simple…you build the website and do the online marketing, whilst someone else creates the info product, whether that be an ebook, online course, template or whatever.  You go 50-50.

I love this idea and that’s why we’ve teamed up with a lawyer friend to create some legal kits for online sale. Continue reading >

22.  Rent a room, a space, anything

We’re getting desperate with this one.  Like David Hasselhoff on the bathroom floor, drunk and desperately trying to figure out how to eat his cheeseburger desperate.

But who cares, I want this list to be comprehensive and all encompassing.  Continue reading >

23.  Unleash your inner loan shark on peer-To-Peer lending

What the heck am I talking about?

Peer to peer lending is basically what the name says; you chuck a bunch of cash into an online account and then divvy it up among dozens of people looking for loans around the country (or world).  You lend say $25 to each person (you and a couple 100 other people together give that person enough money for their loan). Continue reading >

24.  Create, manufacture and sell your own innovative product

If you look at the success stories on Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Work Week Blog, you’ll notice many of them involve people who had a problem, couldn’t find an easy solution and so decided to just get an innovative product manufactured themselves.

They’ve then gone and setup a simple online store – many using Shopify – and spread the word through online networking, guest posts through an affiliate program. Continue reading >

25.  Buy an existing online business

It is much harder to startup a business from scratch than it is to buy an existing (and successful) business and grow it.

So why not just stump up a couple thousand and then have a cash-generating machine in your hands? Continue reading >

26.  Compile and organize fragmented public domain information

In today’s world we don’t suffer from a lack of information, we suffer from a lack of accessible information…the kind that is organized and easy to use.

If you can organize an unwieldy body of knowledge into one tight, succinct set, you can charge for it like a mofo.  (I apologize for not setting a very good example with this comprehensive and structured article on all the different passive income streams around ;). Continue reading >

27.  License out your smart ideas

If you’re not super excited about risking a bunch of capital to create and sell a product, but you have ideas for products that fill real gaps in the market, you could become a professional inventor.

This is a pretty nice passive way of earning recurring income over time. Continue reading >

28.  Create a business system and franchise it out

Now get the idea of creating the next Subway out of your head immediately.

I don’t want you to think so complex.  I mean, Subway ain’t really all that passive, since the system requires so much support from head office; from food supply to leasehold to training, head office ain’t a passive place to be. Continue reading >

29.  Sign up to solid reward or discount programs

I kinda hate myself for including this as it’s not really going to net you much more than $1k a year in income so to speak, but hey, every dollar counts.

So the idea is brain dead simple. Continue reading >

30.  Buy bulk from overseas and sell it down via ebay

How passive is this idea really?

Well, if you get someone to take care of the fulfillment side of things, pretty darn passive. Continue reading >

31.  Invest in a real world business as a silent partner

Hello silent partner investment!!

Oh no!  There are so many horror stories of people investing in their mate’s pub or bar or whatever, that the idea sends shivers up my spine. Continue reading >

32.  Create a deals site for your niche

Deal sites almost feel antiquated these days.  But people are still using them, albeit in less volume.

Before we jump in, a fair word of warning – this is gonna take some serious work, but can pay off big time.  It’s important to think outside the box with this idea and realize that any niche can work well. Continue reading >

33.  Design tshirts, mugs, whatever and sell via an online marketplace like Cafepress or Zazzle

If you’ve got any design talent at all, this can be a very cool idea.

Sites like Cafepress make it super simple to submit designs, which means just like with the stock photography idea above, you can pump out a ton of designs in an afternoon and leave them up there waiting for people to buy. Continue reading >

34.  Create a highly niched up online community and market place

Think super nichey here.

The idea is to get a bunch of people involved, creating content through forums and posts, and then sell them all kinds of products and servicesrelated to their interestsContinue reading >

35.  Build a niche focused jobs board

This ain’t going to be easy!  But once again, think real specific / super nichey here.

The upfront work can involve a fair bit of programming, even if you do use a lot of template and existing off-the-shelf programs. Continue reading >

36.  Give all your content, software, plugins etc away for free and ask for a donation

This is a popular passive income stream for lots of WordPress developers, especially of plugins, and is also quite popular amongst bloggers who pump out lots of useful content for free (eg Steve Pavlina) – not to mention a great lead generator for future premium product sales.

The idea rests on your product adding a ton of value to users lives and you systematically and nicely / in a fun way, asking for donations. Continue reading >

37.  Systematize, automate and outsource any active business

This is the craziest kind of passive income I can think of, because it basically involves executing Michael Gerber’s e-Myth idea 110%…i.e. so much so, that you are no longer involved in the daily running of the business.

But it isn’t that hard. Continue reading >

38.  Repackage your content into a structured product

The average blog is like the average wardrobe…a complete fecking mess, with gold nuggets of wisdom spread throughout 100s of articles.

How much more useful would it be – to your reader – if you created a unified guide? Continue reading >

39.  Build a niche site focused on physical products and hook it up with Amazon Affliates

This is different to the ‘fake store’ idea above, because here it’s not an online store we’re building, but rather a content-rich site with tons of product-focused articles and videos etc, and matching Amazon affiliate links.

i.e. one idea is for an online shop and the other for a blog/affiliate site of sorts. Continue reading >

40.  Build a mini e-University

This is going to make millions for those that get it right, but to be honest it’s not entirely passive.

The example that springs to mind with this idea, so I can really explain what I’m talking about here, is Corbett Barr’s FizzleContinue reading >

41.  Create a podcast or video based ‘interview with experts’ series

Kind of like Mixergy, but for any niche! 

You give away a ton of the content for free, and then charge for the premium stuff or for the latest stuff. Continue reading >

42.  Sell merchandise on your blog

Why the heck did I include this?

Well, because I am OCDing all over the joint and want to make this list uber complete to the point where we finish up with a fairly mediocre passive income idea. Continue reading >

43.  Buy up domain names and park them

You might think this idea died years ago when all the good domains were apparently all taken.

But nowadays, there is so much opportunity if you search for brand-suitable domains and also keyword-rich or otherwise popular names on the myriad of new domain name extensions like .io, .at etc.  And I should know, because I’ve paid several domain squatters a king’s ransom to purchase these sorts of domain names in the last few years!  Continue reading >

Which of these 43 ideas are the best?

1) Here is my #1 idea

2) Here are all 3 of my favorite passive income ideas

3) And here you can check out 30 of my favorite real-life passive income businesses

Happy reading!

Want to know my 3 favorite passive income ideas in 2022?

If you’re struggling to think of an idea or you’ve tried out a few ideas, but can’t seem to eek out more than a couple hundred dollars a month, STOP.

I’ve already spent 1000s of hours researching and testing all kinds of ideas. I know what works and importantly, what doesn’t. Here’s 3 of my favorite ideas that actually work...