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15 Simple Passive Income Ideas for Beginners

Usually we work for our money. But sometimes we can make our money work for us.

Passive income is an income-generating idea, product, or strategy that requires little-to-no maintenance once it’s set in motion or released to the public.

Some passive income products, like ebooks or online courses, require a serious time commitment to create and launch. But once they’re out in the world, you can step back and watch the money roll in.

Still, it’s a mistake to think that passive income doesn’t require any work, says Pat Flynn, the creator of the website Smart Passive Income. “There is no such thing as 100% passive income,” Flynn told Forbes.

“Even with real estate you still have to manage your properties, or even with the stock market, which is potentially passive income, you still have to manage your portfolio,” he explained. “[There] is always time involved.”

No matter how much time and investment income you currently have, there’s a passive income idea that will work for you. Here are 15 simple passive income ideas that will help you earn money in your sleep:

Passive Income Ideas That Require Time and Talent

You don’t have to be an “expert” to earn passive income from your products or ideas. People value knowledge and skill in a range of hobbies and are willing to pay for that knowledge, says entrepreneur Sujan Patel.

“It's easy to dismiss your expertise as something no one would pay for, but that is rarely true,” writes Patel at Inc. “Book a free speaking event at a seminar or conference on anything from small-business bookkeeping to running a remote team.”

Try these ideas to help you channel your expertise into a concrete product you can sell over and over again:

1. Write an ebook

Everyone’s an expert in something. Whether you know how to knit infinity scarves or code software like a pro, earn money for your expertise by writing and self-publishing an ebook. Use a service like Amazon Kindle Direct Publish to help you reach a bigger audience, or market the product to your own audience and sell the book on your personal website.

2. Create an online course

If your expertise requires a step-by-step break-down, then an online course might be the way to go. Sites like Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable are designed for would-be instructors to create and upload courses on everything from viral marketing campaigns to writing a novel.

3. Design products

Have a knack for witty slogans? Or maybe you’re a comic artist with a bit of a following? Easily design, create, and sell T-shirts and other collectibles on sites like Redbubble or Zazzle. Because these sites handle production and shipping, all you have to do is upload your design and wait for your royalty check.

4. Sell your photographs

If your selfies rack up faves, or your Instagram stories capture everyone’s imagination, consider selling your photographs to stock sites like iStockPhoto or Shutterstock. You can earn between 15% and 45% in royalties for every download.

5. Create YouTube videos

Whether you start a vlog or a video tutorial series, YouTube has plenty of opportunities for monetization. Earn money through advertising, by working directly with brands, or by using videos to drive your audience to your other products. Learn more about how to monetize your YouTube channel here.

6. Record your next jam session

Ever find yourself humming a tune, or laying down tracks for yourself or friends? Your next catchy phrase might fetch you a solid passive income stream. On sites like ProductionTrax and Audio Network, musicians can license their compositions for background music in apps, commercials, and websites to earn more money. Read more about this strategy at The Guardian.

7. Build an app

Want to help someone solve a problem? It might be worth teaming up with a code-savvy developer to build an app. Although the marketplace is crowded, app developers with a solid idea can earn anywhere from a solid monthly income to millions — simply by selling their apps on iTunes or GooglePlay. Read more about successful app developers here.

Passive Income Ideas That Require an Upfront Investment

If you plan to invest money, rather than time, these ideas can help you develop a solid passive income stream:

8. Invest in real estate

Don’t just sit on a pile of cash. Invest it in real estate or a rental property that will earn you more money. Rental properties require a lot of upfront investment for small returns over time, while real estate investments—like purchasing and flipping properties, for example—offer bigger returns.

9. Play the stock market

While investing in stocks can be nerve-wracking, it’s one of the easier ways to make passive income—once you understand how trading works. Still, in order to see big returns, you’ll have to carefully manage your portfolio and monitor performance—or hire someone to do the trading for you.

10. Rent your home on Airbnb

Whether you have an extra room in your apartment or a vacation home you only use a few times a year, renting your own property on Airbnb can be a path to passive income, too. Taking care of guests can require a time investment, so make sure you’re up for it before you start snapping photos of that extra room.

11. Purchase vending machines

After you factor in the cost of purchase and maintenance, vending machines are still a solid return on investment. According to The Houston Chronicle, a single, strategically-placed vending machine can earn about a $100 per week.

Passive Income Ideas You Can Set and Forget

Not sure you have a product or idea in you right now? No problem. You can also earn passive income by upgrading your personal website with affiliate links or switching to a cash-back credit card. Here are a few quick “set it and forget it ” passive income ideas:

12. Rent your stuff

Willing to share your leaf blower or stand mixer with other people in your neighborhood? You can rent household items through sites like Loanables and Zilok to earn money on stuff you’re not using at the moment.

13. Earn interest on your savings account

One of the easiest ways to earn passive income is to open a high-yield savings account. With interest rates of about 1.5%, high-yield savings accounts help you earn money on your money. Check out the best high-yield savings accounts at NerdWallet.com.

14. Use affiliate links on your website

Whether you have a personal or professional website, consider using affiliate links for the products and services that you would highly recommend to your audience. Savvy linkers with large audiences can earn thousands per month.

15. Earn cash back on your credit card

You might be obsessed with racking up credit card points or airline miles, but a cash-back credit card could be a better passive income investment. Discover which cash-back credit card works best for you at NerdWallet.com.

Whether you want to earn more money online or simply make your money work more effectively for you, passive income can help you generate more cash than a side hustle. With a little bit of an up-front investment, you’ll start earning money while you sleep in no time.


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