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Top 10 Passive Income Ideas

Which Passive Income Ideas are for You?


Money Rolling In?

Making money online sounds pretty awesome, right? You do a little work up-front and then just watch the money roll in month after month and year after year. Passive income awesome! Getting money for no work! Love it!

Wait! It’s not so Easy These Days

Let me disabuse you of that notion right now: making money online is not so easy and you actually have to know what you’re doing. 10 years ago when self-publishing was booming and affiliate marketing was in its infancy, you could get rich with some sketchiness. Those days are long gone now. Self-publishing has matured and it’s far, far harder to propel your way up the all-important rankings. Google has come down hard on the spam and if there’s any hint of that on your websites, you’ll get penalized which means no search engine traffic sent your way. This is the death of the Internet marketer.

Making Money Online is Possible Though

But, if you’re serious about making money online and generating some passive income for yourself, keep reading for some ideas on how to do that. It is possible, but it does take some serious effort and knowledge. The good news is that starting is the most important thing and you can learn all you need to as you stumble along. I started from ground zero 1.5 years ago and now I earn around $1000/month in passive income.

Passive Income: A Loose Definition

The ideas that follow are not truly “passive income,” in that they require a significant amount of effort. However, I’m defining the term loosely and considering anything where one hour of work does not equal one hour of pay as passive income. The idea is that you put the work in up-front and then reap the benefits down the road. Read on for my top 10 passive income ideas!

Passive Income Idea #1: Self-Publishing on Amazon (or other places)

How to self-publish on Amazon

Self-publishing belongs firmly at the top of any passive income ideas list. Amazon, with Kindle Direct Publishing (electronic version) and CreateSpace (print on demand version) dominates the self-publishing world. It’s both good and bad. Good in that they’re quite generous with their commission rates (usually 70%). Bad in that they can change their policies at any time to be less favourable for authors and there is nowhere else for us to go. That’s not entirely true. There are a few other options, but none of them are as good as Amazon!

However, self-publishing is a good option for generating passive income and fits very well with the “work-up-front, reap benefits later” model. It’s a ton of work to write a book, especially when you’re just getting everything like editing, formatting, cover design, and book descriptions all figured out. But, once you do all that work, you can upload it to Amazon and then hopefully keep earning commissions for months or even years.

For example, I wrote “How to Get a University Job in South Korea” in October 2014. Sales peaked for the first few months after I released it at $50+ a month, but I’m still selling a few copies here and there and making $10-20 a month. The best part about it is this $10-20 is for no work. I no longer do any sort of promotion for it aside from perhaps mentioning it in a blog article if appropriate. That’s some passive income awesome!

Want to get started with self-publishing on Amazon? See:

Writing Ebooks Full-Time

Ebook Marketing Strategies

Self-Publishing Answers Podcast

Passive Income Idea #2: Amazon Affiliate Websites

Building passive income streams

Another thing that belongs firmly at the top of passive income ideas lists is affiliate marketing, where you earn a commission for each product or service that you recommend. My new focus these days is on Amazon affiliate websites. The idea is that you talk about, or review products that you can find on Amazon. People visit your website, click on some of your Amazon affiliate links, buy a product on Amazon and you get a commission for any sales, not only for that specific product but for anything they buy within a 24-hour period.

Here are my two Amazon affiliate sites:

Diva Cups (My focus of the last six months)

Kitchen Equipment Reviews (My focus of the next six months)

Here are a few blog posts about how to get started with these kinds of websites:

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Business

How to Make Money Blogging

For all the tools you’ll need, check out my Internet Business Resources Page.

Passive Income Idea #3: Other Affiliate Websites

Amazon dominates the affiliate marketing scene with their program. However, there are a million and one other programs that you can be a part of as well, and some of them are far more lucrative than Amazons with commissions of up to 50%. You have to find the relevant ones for whatever niche you’re in.

Some that I’m an affiliate for are:

Profs Abroad

ESL Publications



Passive Income Idea #4: Adsense Websites

AdSense is Google’s program where you can put ads on your website and then you get a certain amount of money per view and per click. Amazon (CPM ads) recently came out with a similar program and it looks like it might give Google a run for their money once it gets more popular.

The key to making money with Adsense is getting a ton of traffic to your website. The big negative is that Google has a reputation for banning people for life very easily. And there’s no recourse for you if this happens.

In order to do the Adsense program, you’ll need your own self-hosted website. I recommend getting set up with Bluehost and then using the WordPress platform.

Passive Income Idea #5: E-Commerce/FBA Business

The E-Commerce model is an interesting one. The idea is that you get products made cheaply (usually China) through a site like Alibaba, ship them to a warehouse (or your own house!), put the product description up on Amazon (or your own website), get some sales and then send out the product. There is a big learning curve with this one and you need some money up-front to get the products.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is another model that has been gaining popularity in recent months. The major difference from the model that I described above is that instead of shipping it to a warehouse, you ship it directly to Amazon. For a cut of the money on each sale (and they also charge storage costs), they package it all up and send out your order. You make less money than doing it yourself, however once set up, it does have the hands-off factor going for it.

Check out this podcast episode from Empire Flippers for more details about that:

Quick Start Guide to Starting an Amazon FBA Business.

Passive Income Idea #6: HubPages

Squidoo (which later became HubPages) is how I got my start with making money online and over the years, I’ve probably earned $5000+. It’s great for those who don’t want to bother figuring out the self-hosted website thing. HubPages’ drag and drop platform is ridiculously easy to use. What isn’t easy, however, is getting past their spam filters. My most certainly not-spammy Hubs have gotten un-featured and it seems that there’s nothing I can really do about it. I’ve given up on HubPages, but perhaps you’ll figure out the secret recipe and have more success than I?

Check out these two hubs of mine for an idea of what that looks like:

ESL Warm-Up Games and Activities

Top 10 Places to Visit in South Korea

Passive Income Idea #7: Choose Your Own!

There are a million and one ways to set up passive income streams. This list of 10 is most certainly not exhaustive and there are hundreds more passive income ideas. Get creative and make some passive income awesome for yourself.

Passive Income Idea #8: Rental Housing

Passive Income Reports

Having an extra house, condo or apartment is potentially quite lucrative, especially if  what the tenant pays covers your mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc. Someone else is basically building your pool of wealth because in 10 or 20 years, you’ll have this $100,000+ asset that is paid off. You can sell it for a large chunk of cash, or keep renting it out and have a nice, steady stream of income. The major problem is that managing this isn’t exactly passive, unless you hire a rental management company who generally take one month’s rent out of the year in exchange for doing this.

Passive Income Idea #9: Dividend Stock Investing

I’ve been investing in individual dividend stocks since around 2010. For the disciplined investor in control of their emotions, I’m totally and completely convinced it’s the best investing strategy. By disciplined and in control of their emotions, I mean someone who won’t sell when times are tough, and won’t buy when times are good.

Here are a few resources to get you started with dividend stock investing:

A short video about fear and greed in investing

My dividend stock portfolio

Why I love dividend paying stocks

Passive Income Idea #10: ETF Investing

What is passive income?

ETFs (exchange traded funds) are baskets of stocks or bonds pooled together and sold as a single unit. There are big ones that cover the entire world (for example, Vanguard’s VT), or large segments of it: USA (Vanguard’s S&P 500), or Asia-Pacific (Vanguard Pacific). You can also get ones for bonds, such as: Total Bond Market (Vanguard’s BND).

ETFs are a great option for those who want to buy and forget about it. For example, you could invest twice a year with only about five minutes of simple math.

Perhaps you want to have 70% stocks and 30% bonds in your portfolio. Here’s what you need to do if you have a $10,000 initial investment and then $5,000 more to invest every six months.

Month 1: Buy $7000 of VT (total world stock) and $3000 of BND (total bond market).

Month 6: Check your account. Use that $5000 to buy VT or BND, making sure that the 70-30% ratio stays the same. This will force you to buy low. The theory is that stocks and bonds generally have an inverse relationship. If stocks have gone down over the past six months, bonds likely have gone up. This means that you’ll have to buy more stocks than bonds in order to keep the 70-30% ratio, which is good because stocks are probably “cheap,” while bonds are “expensive.”

Month 12. Repeat month six with the extra $5000.

Keep going for the rest of your life! When you retire, hopefully you’ll be earning enough income from this portfolio that you can use that to live off of. If not, you can sell your ETFs, doing the opposite of what you did when you were buying. If stocks are higher than the 70% percentage, sell a portion of them first.

Check out the following resources on this site about ETF investing:

ETFs and Dividend Paying Stocks in a Single Portfolio

ETFs Instead of Individual Dividend Paying Stocks

Your Turn!

I hope you found my list of top 10 passive income ideas useful. What have you got going on these days for building passive income streams? Comment below and tell us!



  1. I’m curious, about your plan for the two Amazon affiliate sites. Are you trying to rank on tail SEO keywords, buying cheap traffic to the pages, or some other combination?

  2. All great ideas for generating passive income. For now my focus is on dividend growth investing but, of course, earning a little extra via Adsense and the like doesn’t hurt either. I actually don’t do any formal SEO for my blog. Just write my articles and build my following organically I guess. Thanks for sharing.

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