Freelancing is on the verge of going mainstream. Thirty-six percent of the international workforce now freelances, at least part-time. There are also 40.9 million adults in America who are self-employed. Clearly, freelancing is catching on. But with rapid growth come certain challenges, one being an increased competition for well-paying job and price reduction by those who think they can afford low-bidding at least for now.


Occupational therapist Sarah Stromsdorfer founded occupational therapy site MyOTSpot.com three years ago as an online educational resources for occupational therapy students and professionals. She worked on it every weekend, and her site now makes enough income for her to work as an occupational therapist part-time. She believes it will be another year before her site makes enough money for a full-time living of about $4,000 per month. In addition to the digital products she also makes money from ads and online book sales.
This encompasses everything from eBooks to stock images and even Udemy courses. The idea here is to create a digital good that has value. Why digital? Well, if you’re creating really unique hand-made socks, you can’t just duplicate them and resell them. Furthermore, you have to pack and ship each pair. Both of these things mean that there’s a fixed ratio of labor to income, and we’ve already discussed why that’s not ideal. Digital goods can be duplicated, and we can engineer systems (or use online marketplaces) to deliver them automatically. Awesome.
Finally, I imagine the biggest debate with my ranking is Creating Your Own Product as the #1 passive income source. If most people have never created their own product, then it’s easy to give it a thumbs down. There won’t be much complaint about Private Equity Investing being in last place because most people are not accredited investors. But given I believe that plenty of people can create their own product if they try, pushback is inevitable because a lot of people simply don’t try!
Most people who set up passive income don’t do it so they can lay on a beach all day, or even so they can spend their time learning a third or fourth language (ok, maybe I’m doing that), or living on private islands. No, the point of passive income is to liberate your time for more fruitful endeavors — whatever those may be. If you have the ambition and gall to get out of the “9 to 5 game” and set up passive income, chances are you won’t be happy with sitting on your butt or traveling year round. You’ll want to do something with meaning and purpose.
That’s why I sometimes hesitate to even say I participate in affiliate marketing. But that’s not how I, or you, should approach it. I’m here to lead the change and show people there is so much opportunity out there in affiliate marketing the right way (and the smart way). It’s insane to me that more people aren’t really realizing their full potential with this.
John has a daily (yes, daily) podcast where he features an interview with a successful entrepreneur. Now, John enjoys many hundreds of thousands of downloads per month, he’s written a book, has products and has opened up a ton of opportunities for sponsorships and partnerships that wouldn’t have come otherwise. He’s not the first person to have a show dedicated to interviewing rock star entrepreneurs—not even close—but he’s definitely the fastest to see these kinds of results.
The reason I consider dividends artificial and believe they don’t matter is because you can just as easily reinvest your dividends. If a stock is worth $100/share, I don’t care if it issues a $1/share dividend or if the share price instead increases to $101/share – either way, I have the same amount of money, because there’s no difference to my net worth whether I take the dividend or sell part of a stock.
Investing in rental properties: Another form of real estate investment, rental investments (i.e. becoming a landlord) could steer you down the passive income path of steady monthly rent checks that you can use to pay off a mortgage loan on the rental property. After the mortgage is paid off, those monthly checks go right into your bank account -- potentially for years to come. 
Stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, annuities, etc. are great ways to earn passive income. If you're not financially savvy, you'll want to hire a financial advisor who'll help you choose the right investments for you. You may want to take a couple of finance classes to understand what your advisor is speaking about when he/she recommends an investment strategy. Done right, investments can pay off for years.
Wow! What an awesome list! My favorite is the stock photography because I love photography. I have had some success there, particularly with one photo I make some decent income from. I think the key with stock photography is finding a shot that is high demand. Then, find a new unique way to frame that shot. This is the reason my St. Louis Arch photo is a top 10 on both ShutterStock and iStockPhoto. Thanks for the awesome ideas above!
In order to build an audience, you need to have a platform. You need to have something worth following and sharing; something that’s valuable to others. And that, of course, takes time. That’s not to say you can’t build a huge audience in a short amount of time. But as much as we hear about the people who’ve succeeding at doing this, we don’t hear about the millions of others who are struggling every day to get just a few more fans and followers.

Most credit card companies offer sign-up bonuses to entice you to open a credit account with them. As long as you don’t spend money just to hit the minimum balance and always pay your balance on time, this can have a minimal impact on your credit score while earning you hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars a year. Some of the best travel credit cards offer 100,000 points to new accounts when you meet reasonable spending requirements.


Another great way to get started is to identify an area of interest you have. For instance, Robert Duff has been successful in building passive income by selling books on Amazon. Then, go out and start talking to people. Ask them, “What are you struggling with right now? What are your biggest pains? What’s something you wish existed that doesn’t?” That’ll give you some ideas about where to get started.
Book sales ($36,000 a year): Sales of How to Engineer Your Layoff" continue to be steady. I expect book sales to rise once the economy starts to soften and people get more nervous about their jobs. It's always best to be ahead of the curve when it comes to a layoff by negotiating first. Further, if you are planning to quit your job, then there is no downside in trying to engineer your layoff so you can get WARN Act pay for several months, a severance check, deferred compensation, and healthcare.
In the real estate market, the one of best ways to generate passive income is by investing in turnkey rental properties that are ready to rent with and are managed by property management companies. In theory, the process is relatively simple. You either research properties or have people you trust do it, find ones that are in good condition and preferably in good areas, pay a reputable contractor to perform any repairs and ensure the property is in its best possible condition, and then hire a trusted property management company to handle the administrative tasks, including collecting rent, documenting and paying for maintenance and repairs, and sending money to you.
Most credit card companies offer sign-up bonuses to entice you to open a credit account with them. As long as you don’t spend money just to hit the minimum balance and always pay your balance on time, this can have a minimal impact on your credit score while earning you hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars a year. Some of the best travel credit cards offer 100,000 points to new accounts when you meet reasonable spending requirements.
The capitalization rate approach to real estate valuation is much more straight-forward but may not give you a true market value. The cap rate is simply the annual net operating income (NOI) of the property divided by the cost or value. Net operating income is the amount left from rents after all expenses are paid but before taxes and interest payments.
I’ve built several businesses since 2008 using one or more of these models. I’ve been featured in magazines and articles across the globe, and since I started my journey I’ve generated over $5M in earnings from these businesses. All of my income and expenses for those businesses dating back to October 2008 have been tracked publicly on SPI.com. You can see 10 years of income reports here.
The most liquid of the private investments are investing in equity or credit hedge funds, real estate funds, and private company funds. There will usually be 6 month – 3 year lockup periods. The least liquid of the private investments are when you invest directly into private companies yourself. You might not be able to get your money out for 5-10 years, depending on the success of the company and upcoming liquidity events.
I have only dabbled in drop-shipping before when I had an eCommerce platform 6 years ago or so. I think it is something that you could do on the side, but you would want to do in depth research on the industry you want to get into before setting up shop. It may be a little less passive up front, but over time you could take your hands off the wheel.
However, I think for those who are willing to do what it takes, the sky is the absolute limit. As an example, I’m trying to take a page out of FinancialSamauri’s book and create an online personal finance and investing blog. It is an enormous undertaking, and as a new blogger, there is a seemingly endless amount of work to be done. That said, I hope that one day I can not only generate some passive income from the hours of work I have put and will put into the project, but I hope to be able to help OTHERS reach their financial goals.
“The biggest surprise is real estate being second to last on my Passive Income Ranking List because I’ve written that real estate is my favorite investment class to build wealth. Real estate doesn’t stack up well against the other passive income sources due to the lack of liquidity and constant maintenance of tenants and property. The returns can be huge due to rising rental income AND principal over time, much like dividend investing. If you are a “proactive passive income earner” like myself, then real estate is great.”
However, until we get another reset in valuations (I’m calculating a 40% to 50% correction is justified ), I’ve moved largely to the sidelines. Beginning in July 2013, I began slowly reducing equity exposure and am now sitting firm at 40% with the balance in various forms of 5 yr cd’s and short duration bonds. This is down from over 60% when I ramped up to take advantage of the March 2009 lows.
Obviously, you want the best tenants you can find. If you’ve chosen a property in a more affluent and stable neighborhood, your tenants are more likely to be responsible with your property and reliable about paying the rent. Properties in lower income areas are more likely to attract tenants that become delinquent in paying the rent, move out without notifying you, and damage your property. This is part of the higher risk of this type of investment property. You’ll end up with the expense of repairs and less income to spend on those expenses.
Let’s continue the vintage BMW idea. Old cars obviously require quite a lot of maintenance. Many people will buy a “fixer upper” with the intention of spending their spare time repairing and restoring it. There’s a very obvious market here: a guide to restoring different BMW models. Depending on your knowledge, you could produce detailed guides for the three or four most popular models and sell them. Not everyone restoring a car will buy them, but some probably will.
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