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Updated August 19, 2019 8:39 PM PT

Passive Income: Practical Ideas to Build Wealth

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The best passive income ideas help you build real wealth and achieve financial freedom. Here are 25+ opportunities and examples for beginners.

What Is Passive Income?

Passive income is money you make when you're not actively working. It usually requires either:

  • Investing some capital that can grow
  • Putting in time and upfront work to create something that will earn money

Whether you want to keep your day job or are looking for financial independence, passive income can help.

Read on to learn how to make it, mistakes to avoid, and ways to get started right now.

Top Passive Income Ideas If You Have Money

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Got some capital to get you started? Let your money make money with these great passive income ideas.

1. Buy Dividend Stocks

Established companies like GM and IBM often pay dividends to their shareholders. These are regular (usually quarterly) payments from a company's profits.

Dividends are separate from the profit or loss you'll take from buying or selling stocks.

A payout ratio is the percentage that companies pay in dividends compared to their total profits. Companies with a 70% payout ratio generally offer the most stability.

Those paying out 100% of their profits can be risky. It's usually a better sign when companies save some of their profits.

You don't need to be a financial guru to purchase dividend stocks. But you will need to do some research. The guidance of a reputable stock brokerage can also help. Here's a great way to get started.

2. Invest with a Robo-Advisor

If you have money - but not the time - to invest, consider using a robo-advisor. These automatic programs select and manage investments based on your risk tolerance and investment goals.

Companies like Betterment and Wealthfront specialize in robo-advisor investing. Some offer extra features like:

  • Consultations
  • Professional human oversight
  • Tax advice.

Even traditional firms like Charles Schwab are now branching into this type of investment.

3. Invest in Real Estate

Fundrise is a platform that allows you to invest in crowdfunded real estate. You only need $500 to start.

Have more money to invest? Check out these options:

  • Roofstock: This is a turnkey real estate investment company that helps you buy single family homes. It does all of the work for you, like valuation of the property, inspections, and even finding tenants.

  • Realty Mogul: If you're an accredited investor (minimum net worth of $1M), you can invest in crowdfunded commercial real estate with Realty Mogul. You can also participate in REITs if you're not accredited.

You'll pool your money with other investors to purchase real estate to buy into REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts).

When rental income is collected or when the value of the shares appreciates, you'll earn money.

4. Become a Peer-to-Peer Lender

Lending has taken on a whole new look thanks to the Internet. People who don't normally qualify for bank loans can now get financing through Peer to Peer Lenders (P2P)…like you.

That's right—you can use your money to fund loans for others using P2P platforms like Lending Club and Prosper. You'll earn money as they pay back the loan with interest.

NOTE: There is a risk for default with P2P loans. If borrowers stop making payments, you can lose your investment.

Peer-to-peer lending can be a good way to diversify your investments. You may see returns between 5% and 10%.

Both Lending Club and Prosper only require a minimum investment of $25 per loan. Investing in multiple loans can minimize your financial risk in case some borrowers default.

5. Open a High-Yield Savings Account

A high-yield savings or money market account is a risk-free, low-effort way to increase your capital. Online savings accounts in particular offer great interest rates.

The more you can deposit, the more your money will grow. Best of all, your funds will be FDIC-insured so you won't lose your money.

Check out our updated list of bank promotions.

6. Earn Credit Card Rewards

You can earn money just by shopping purchases with your credit card. Rewards credit cards offer cash back or points for every dollar you spend (even more with bonus categories).

Let's say your card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases. If you charge $1,000/mo on your card, you're automatically making $15 a month.

Even better: Credit card signup bonuses may offer a nice chunk of change when you spend a certain amount after opening an account.

But remember, you DON'T need to splurge on expensive purchases. Just by charging your daily expenses, you can make money. Think of it like an rebate on your regular purchases.

Just be sure to pay off your card every month. The interest from carrying a balance will more than wipe out your cash back.

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7. Get Cash Back for Shopping and Dining

Many websites and apps offer cash back for everyday activities. Some of our favorites are:

  • eBates: Earn cash back when you shop online through eBates. Standard deals offer between 2%-5% cash back on purchases. But there are often double-cash-back specials and other incentives. You'll get cash back in the form of quarterly checks or PayPal payments.

  • Swagbucks: Earn SB points when you shop online, take surveys, watch videos, and more. You can then trade in your SB points for gift cards or cash back from PayPal.

  • Seated: The Seated app gives you rewards when you dine out. Browse the app's list of restaurants, and then upload a picture of your receipt after you have dined there. You can use your rewards for gift cards for Amazon, Lyft, and Starbucks.

A lot of credit card shopping portals offer rewards, too. The website evreward tracks every shopping portals' current offers. Browse to choose the best deal for you.

8. Try a CD Ladder

If the money you've stashed in a savings account isn't earning much interest, look into creating a CD ladder.

Key Fact: Unlike stocks, CDs are practically risk-free with guaranteed returns. But the rate of return is usually lower.

This means splitting up your investments into different CDs with different rates and maturity dates. The "ladder" provides you with fixed income at set times.

As each CD matures, you can withdraw the money and choose to re-invest. This ensures that you always get the best current rate and regular cash flow.

We review some of the best CD rates here.

9. Reduce Your Debt

Crazy as it sounds, NOT losing money is a great way to make money. The interest you pay on credit cards, car payments, student loans, or mortgages is money you could be saving.

Rather than invest in another passive income option, consider paying down your debt instead.

10. Save for Retirement

A retirement fund is the ultimate passive income stream. Every dollar you set aside is money saved for when you've left the 9-5 grind.

But saving for retirement helps you now, too. By putting money from your paycheck into a 401k, you are lowering your taxable income.

Interested in passive income but short on funds? Keep reading for ideas that require nothing but time (and effort).

TIP: Invest in your employer's retirement plan.

Many employers match 401k contributions (usually up to 3 or 5%). Maximize your profits by contributing the full amount each paycheck. And don't be afraid to look at other options like Roth IRAs.

Best Passive Income Ideas If You Have Time

© CreditDonkey

Time IS money, as the saying goes. Here's a list of great passive income if hard work is all you can afford to invest.

11. Passive Income Apps

It may sound too good to be true, but you can earn money just by using your phone. These free apps will track your phone usage and pay you for it.

  • SavvyConnect: Simply install the app and surf the web as usual. You'll also need to participate in surveys when asked.

    You'll earn: $5/month for each device type (phone, table, and computer), up to $15/month total.

  • Smart Panel: This app collects your usage data to study how people use the internet. You must have a working VPN installed on your phone.

    You'll earn: $5/mo, plus loyalty bonuses every 3 months. You can also complete surveys for a extra few bucks.

  • Nielson Computer & Mobile Panel: Download the secure app to your device and use the internet as normal.

    You'll earn: Up to $50/year.

  • Cash Magnet: Available for Android users, this app makes you money when you're NOT using your phone. It will browse sites and install games, as well as view and click on ads. This earns money from sponsors, who share it with users.

    You'll earn: It depends on how often you run the app.

12. Rent Out Your Home

© CreditDonkey

If you have a spare room, this is one of the easiest and fastest ways to turn that into passive income. You have more flexibility now ever when renting out your home.

Sites like Airbnb allow you to rent the whole place or even just one room for as many days as you like.

While Airbnb makes things easy, renting your home DOES require some work. Think of yourself as a bed and breakfast owner. Your tenants' comfort is your responsibility, especially if you want a great review.

You determine availability and price, then post a listing with pictures on the site. Travelers book through Airbnb, which handles the payment. You'll be paid within 24 hours of your guests' check-in.

I have created passive income by purchasing investment properties. Getting a mortgage for an investment property requires a large down payment—usually 25% to 30% of the purchase price and a higher interest rate, but purchasing a primary residence is so much cheaper. There are loan programs out there that require as little as 3% down.

If you want to be a real estate investor, start out by purchasing your own home to live in. Take advantage of the low down payment and the better interest rate. Live in the home for a year or two, and save up enough money to put 3% down on another house, and then rent yours out and buy another one. Do this as many times as you can in your life, and before you know it, you will have a portfolio of rental properties where the tenants are paying your mortgage and building equity.

Janis Benstock, Broker/Owner, Settle Down Philadelphia

13. Rent Your Car

© CreditDonkey

If you own a car in a major city, you might rely on public transportation more than driving. So why not loan out your car?

Turo and Getaround are car rental platforms that allows you to list your car.

Both are free to join. Start making some money off your idle ride.

14. Become a Pet-Sitter

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Watch TV, take a nap or go for a walk - and get paid for it. Pet-sitting is a great way to make some extra money doing the stuff you'd be doing anyway.

Many owners would rather their beloved pets stay at home than in a kennel while they travel. If you're responsible and love animals, this is a great gig. You'll be required to walk, feed, play with them, and that's about it.

Some trustworthy sites to look for pet-sitting gigs include: Rover and DogVacay.

15. Create an Online Store

© CreditDonkey

A store sounds like a lot of work. But if managing inventory isn't required, it gets a lot easier.

Sites like Shopify use drop shipping, which allows anyone to start an online store. Shopify provides the e-commerce platform for you to sell your stuff.

Here's how drop shipping works:

  1. You design a fun product, say an "I Hate Coffee" coffee mug (don't overthink it.)

  2. Through Shopify, you connect with a manufacturer who agrees to produce your mugs.

  3. You create an online store through the site.

  4. When a customer places an order, Shopify notifies the manufacturer.

  5. They ship the product to the customer and everyone receives payment.

All you need to get started is a good idea. But not an "I Hate Coffee" mug, that's already taken.

Need more info on how drop shipping works? Drop Ship Lifestyle explains everything you should know about drop shipping and how to get started.

16. Sell Your Photographs

If you have a talented eye (and and a decent camera), consider selling your photos on Shutterstock or iStockphoto. Even one picture can earn serious cash if it's downloaded enough.

TIP: Upload an entire portfolio to showcase your work. You'll increase your chances of making sales AND build a brand customers can recognize. With any luck, you'll also sharpen your artistic eye.

Keep in mind, though, that each company offers a different payment structure. Read the fine print and choose the one offering the biggest profits for your masterpieces.

17. Hawk Your Designs Online

© CreditDonkey

You don't need your own website to put your artistic flair to work. Some options are:

  • Etsy: Etsy offers a user-friendly platform to sell digital files of your designs, such as invitations or cards. No physical products means no inventory or shipping hassles. Buyers simply purchase your design and download it to their computer.

  • CafePress: If you have a really cool design, you can turn it into merchandise and sell on CafePress. All you have to do is upload your design, and CafePress can put it on anything, from mugs to notebooks to apparel. They will handle the payment and shipping.

  • Merch by Amazon: Similarly, Merch by Amazon allows you to upload your artwork to be put on products. When someone buys it, they will make the product and handle the shipping.

Since you probably drive anyway, why not make some money while you do it? No, we're not talking about Uber.

Many companies pay people to advertise using their ride. Check out sites like Carvertise or Wrapify.

You'll need to get approved before you begin. Don't worry--your driving record doesn't matter. Companies care about where you live and drive so they can get as many eyes on their ads as possible.

Passive Income for Doctors
With mountains of student loan debt, it's no wonder that many doctors are looking for side hustles. The ideal passive income gig should be lower risk with less effort.

Here are a few options:

19. Make YouTube Videos

YouTube gets billions of views a day. This built-in audience is always ripe for new content.

You can create videos about anything. Start by asking:

  • What are some cool subjects people AREN'T talking about?
  • What kind of videos do I find entertaining?
  • What do I know that others don't?

The goal is to find something unique, whether it be funny, educational or just plain weird. Give it time and hopefully, the viewers will find you.

If you're successful, you can begin to pursue advertising revenue, which can lead to substantial passive income.

Content creators are constantly adding new videos to Youtube so you'll need to find a way to standout. Use social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to boost your Youtube channel.

We recommend steering clear from controversial topics (like politics) but strive to find cool ways to "go viral."

20. Become an Affiliate Marketer

If you have a website or blog, use affiliate marketing to make referral commissions with partner stores.

Mention a company's product on your site to make a commission whenever your readers purchase it using your link. The Amazon Associates is one of the most popular affiliate programs.

This method isn't completely passive - it takes a lot of time and hard work to build an audience and you'll need to provide consistent, high-quality content. But once you have a large following, affiliate marketing can provide a nice stream of income.

An easier way is to buy an existing site with a built-in following. Flippa is a marketplace where you can find websites for sale.

Another option is using ads, such as with Google AdSense. You'll earn money when your readers click on an advertisement. There's less money to be made but also a lot less work.

Already own a business but mystified by affiliate marketing? LeadDyno explains how to start an affiliate marketing program in minutes and what to expect.

21. Start an Online Course

Do you have a hobby you know inside and out? Chances are, others don't have the same knowledge. They may even pay for a course on the subject.

That's right, even your intelligence can be used as capital to earn passive income.

Developing an online course takes time but very little maintenance once it's complete. Several websites like Udemy and Teachable offer platforms.

Consider the market before making an online course. You'll need a subject that's obscure enough that it hasn't been covered BUT interesting enough to find an audience. In other words, Introduction to Paint Drying is probably a bad idea.

Take advantage of their built-in audience. You may also want to sell course packages of varying prices to appeal to the masses.

22. Write an E-book

Self-published e-books are still the rage. And technology makes publishing one easier than ever.

For self-published authors without a following, non-fiction e-books like "how-to's" tend to fare better than fiction novels.

Once you finalize your manuscript and design a cover, you can upload the book to a self-publishing platform. We like Amazon Kindle Direct.

Then develop a social media presence to market your e-book.

23. Make an App

Maybe you wont copy the success of Candy Crush. But you can use creator Tommy Palm's story as inspiration to build your own app.

Got a developer friend with whom you can split the proceeds? Or maybe you have some tech talent yourself. Start brainstorming an addictive new game OR a helpful feature to a common problem.

But be sure to research your idea BEFORE putting in the work. There's an app for almost everything today.

If your app accumulates a following, you might want to consider maximizing business with email marketing. Digital Nomad Wannabe provides a thorough comparison of the top email marketing platforms to help you decide.

24. Strive for Royalties

Compose some music.
Write a great book.
Design a fun product with CafePress.

Make something valuable that people love, and you could collect royalties for a long time. Some writers and content creators receive checks decades after all their hard work ended.

25. Buy and Sell Domain Names

If you're really good at coming up with business names, try flipping domain names.

Selling a domain name can be huge money. The trick is to come up with one that sounds like something a future business would buy. Research what keywords are trending right now. You'll also have better luck if you choose a specific niche.

This is also not a quick buck. It could take months or years for an offer on your domain name.

Use websites like GoDaddy and NameCheap to find unregistered domain names and snatch them up.

If you snag a popular domain name, maybe consider keeping it for yourself. This guide from Andy Sowards breaks down everything you need to know about turning your domain into a profitable blog.

26. Rent (or Sell) Your Stuff

You can rent out equipment, tools, and other household items using websites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, and the app Peer Renters.

As always, use common sense when letting strangers borrow your stuff.

Or try selling what you don't need. Remember old fashioned yard sales? Like everything else, they've gone online.

If you've got a bunch of stuff to sell, websites like decluttr can help. Decluttr gives you cash for:

  • Old CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays
  • Video games
  • iPads, cell phones and electronics
  • Assorted other household products

Simply scan the barcode on your phone to get an estimate, then ship your stuff using a pre-paid postage label.

Tommy Palm, creator of Candy Crush, earned more than $200 million per year and still makes royalties today despite leaving the company in 2015.

Leading up to that success, however, Palm went 6 months without a paycheck. But his passion and perseverance ultimately paid off…big time.

How To Get Started

© CreditDonkey

It's time to get that passive income stream flowing. But before plunging ahead with your awesome idea, you'll need a plan. Here are steps you don't want to skip.

Make a Plan

Passive income DOES require some effort. You'll need an upfront investment in the form of money or sweat equity (hard work).

Some patience wouldn't hurt, either. Very rarely will passive income lead to overnight profits. In fact, you may lose some money at first. Consider:

  • Rental properties need repairs
  • Investment portfolios need maintenance
  • Online businesses need upkeep
  • Ongoing marketing may be necessary
  • Any income will need to be tracked and reported to the IRS

Wondering how to transform your talents into profits. We've got you covered below.

What Skills Do You Need?

© CreditDonkey

This depends on the type of passive income stream you create:

  • Someone trading stocks needs a basic understanding of the stock market.
  • A person writing a blog needs subject matter expertise.
  • A real estate investor may need to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Instead of asking what you'll need, consider the skills you already have. And don't waste time on a passive income gig that makes you miserable (you already have a dayjob for that!) Find an idea that's fun AND profitable.

Start by answering these questions:

  • What are my passions?
  • Do I have any secret talents?
  • What are my "areas of expertise?"

Once you have the answers, find a way to carve out a passive income niche.

Here's an example: Let's say you have a knack for writing and DIY projects. You can combine both skills to create passive income.

Start a blog and monetize it. Or write an e-book on DIY. You do the hard work upfront (writing) and collect the royalties (passive income) later.

Cover Your Bases

© CreditDonkey

It's time to get that passive income stream flowing. But before plunging ahead with your awesome idea, you'll need to make sure you can afford the up-front investment right now.

Here are smart moves to start with:

Pay off credit card debt
If you get swept up in a new venture and ignore your debt, the interest rates will eat away your profits. Pay your debts down first.

Build up your savings
Going broke while develop your passive income source defeats the purpose. Make sure you're saving by setting up automatic withdrawals to your 401(k) and emergency fund.

Create a benchmark
Your passive income should exceed a basic investment's rate of return. Look up today's 10-year bond rate or average CD rates.

That's how much you can make just by depositing your money in a bank account. If your passive income source can surpass this interest rate, you are on the right track.

Say Goodbye to Your Free Time
Not all passive income ideas require capital. But you will need to invest time that could be spent relaxing in front of the TV with a bag of chips.

Keep reading to find ways to avoid common mistakes.

Determine Your Risk Level

© CreditDonkey

Many passive income ideas involve some risk.

Real estate investors face deprecating property values. Writers risk spending a lot of time writing a book only to have it make no profit. Almost every opportunity has a chance for failure.

Consider what you can handle in terms of risk. Do you have retirement and emergency savings set aside?

If so, you can risk a little money, which we DO NOT recommend if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Have you earned a decent amount from passive income? Be sure to check out this article from The Financial Fairy Tales Blog to learn how you can ensure your wealth is protected.

What Is Your Why?

© CreditDonkey

Money is an obvious reason for making passive income. But it's what money buys that determines why you should pursue it.

How will you use your profits? Do you have a shopping habit? Are you saving for retirement?

Consider the reasons you need money then create a plan:

  • Short-term: things you will do in the next year
  • Intermediate: things you will do in the next 2 or 3 years
  • Long-term: things you will do in five or more years

Longevity is the key to successful passive income--your money won't start rolling in overnight.

Why It's Important to Have Passive Income

It's not just the satisfaction of making money without working. Here are some reasons passive income is important:

Reduces financial risk
Passive income sources mean less stress if you suddenly lose your job. You'll still have a stream of money coming in, which provides a little cushion during emergencies.

Frees up time to enjoy "the little things"
With passive income, you can spend more time with your family or work on personal goals like travel.

Build long-term wealth
Working a regular job means the amount of money you earn is limited to the hours you work.

But you don't have those limits with passive income. In fact, you can make money from MULTIPLE sources while you're busy doing other things (like napping).

Low-Effort Passive Income Ideas: Some passive income ideas don't seem all that passive. A few, like writing an e-book, require a lot of effort, especially upfront.

Here's a list of our top 5 low-effort ways to earn passive income:

Don't Forget the Tax Man

The government taxes passive income differently than active income (like your salary, wages and tips through a regular job.)

Passive income is money you make from all activities in which you don't actively participate.

So what constitutes actively participating? It can get confusing but here's an example: if you've started a business that you now run, it would be considered active, NOT passive activity.

But if you are a silent partner in a business, that would likely be considered passive activity.

The IRS has two separate categories for passive activity:

  • Trade or business in which you don't actively contribute.

  • Rental Activity (UNLESS you are a licensed real estate agent).

You can find more information on passive activity—and what classifies--here. But consider talking to an accountant or income tax professional BEFORE filing your taxes.

Bottom Line

© CreditDonkey

Pursuing passive income can be lucrative but it requires investment. Choose an idea you can spend the time –or money--developing.

Have fun and be patient. You may experience failure. But every venture could set you up for more passive income profits in the future.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

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