32 Ways to Earn Passive Income (and Barely Lift a Finger)

Want to earn extra income without spending additional time? Check out some ways to earn passive income, even if you don’t have money to invest.

Freelancer earning passive income
Updated May 28, 2024
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There are some business ventures that require very little of your time on an ongoing basis but can bring in significant income. This is known as “passive income," and for many, it's a building block of financial independence.

From answering surveys to renting out your car, listing your extra room, selling lesson plans, creating online courses, and even making YouTube videos, there are plenty of ways to make extra money to explore.

We've broken this list of passive income ideas into two sections, for those with some starting cash and those without, so that you can find the perfect income source to increase your cash flow and help you achieve your personal finance goals.

In this article

How to make passive income with no initial funds

Answer surveys

Some websites will pay you just for taking surveys. While this option does require you to give up some of your time, answering survey questions takes minimal effort; you could practically do it in your sleep. Some sites that pay for survey responses include:

Rent ad space on your car

If you drive frequently, you can get paid for displaying a company’s advertisement on your car. It’s easy to get a wrap on your car and start earning money just from making your regular trips. The wrap won’t damage your car, and you can earn up to $450 in passive income every month. This option could be especially lucrative for rideshare drivers. Get started by using one of the following services:

Rent out your car when you’re not using it

Infrequent drivers may be better served by an app that lets you rent out your car to other drivers. Services include:

  • HyreCar: Lets you rent out your car to rideshare drivers to make up to $12,000 annually.
  • Turo: Lets you rent out your car to travelers and make hundreds per month. Use the Carculator to find out how much your car could earn.
  • TravelCar: Rents out your car for you while you travel; simply park at qualifying airports.

Enter sweepstakes

Whether you’re sitting in a waiting room or just killing time, there’s money to be made by entering free sweepstakes on your phone or computer. PrizeGrab offers different prizes every week, including cash.

List your extra room

If you have extra space in your home, getting a roommate can be a great way to make $100 per day. Alternatively, you could also consider listing your extra room on Airbnb for short-term stays. You might even choose to list your entire home while traveling to help offset the cost of your trip.

Sell your lesson plans online

If you’re a teacher, you deserve a pat on the back and some extra income for your hard work. If you have lesson plans you’re proud of, especially materials that include high-quality graphics, you may be able to sell the content you created through Teachers Pay Teachers. There’s no limit to how much you can earn, and some teachers have even surpassed the $1 million mark

Create an online course

If you’re not a teacher, but you have the expertise you’re willing to share with the public, you can create an online course. You’ll help people around the globe acquire new skills, and you’ll get paid a residual income every time someone purchases your course. You can use the following tools:

Write a book and sell it online

Publishing a book was at one point a costly venture, but in the world of online self-publishing, all you need to get started is your unique knowledge about a topic. Sure, writing a book isn’t exactly a passive activity, but if you put in the work upfront, you can continue to sell copies without much ongoing effort. There are a few online tools that can help:

Create a design and sell it online

If writing isn’t your speed, but you have a knack for the visual arts, there are other digital products you might create. Consider creating a design to sell online. Whether you want to create a funny T-shirt or sell prints of your artwork, there are several online tools that can help you accomplish your goals:

Make YouTube videos

This might be more active income than other ideas on our list. But if you have the knowledge you want to share, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying, and the upfront investment is minimal. Like other social media platforms, your first goal should be to create engaging content and build an audience.

This may take time, but once you have enough followers, you can join the YouTube Partner Program and make money through Google AdSense. You’ll need 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 watch hours over the past year or 10 million valid public Shorts views in the last 90 days in order to be reviewed for the program. You can do this part time and even switch to full time once you begin producing enough revenue.

Sell photography

For every type of art, there is an avenue to make money online — and that includes photography. If you already have high-quality images on your smartphone, you can sell stock photos by uploading your images to one of these stock photo sites and get paid for each download. If you're already taking photos, this is a pretty low-risk venture.

Build an app

Building an app is no easy task and will require a significant time commitment. However, once you’ve sold your finished product, this venture requires little to no effort to keep bringing in money. If you have a great idea for an app but don’t know how to code, there are some services that will build your app for you. However, you’ll need some money upfront to pursue this option.

Get into affiliate marketing on your blog

Blogging can be a great side hustle for a lot of different types of people. Whether you’re posting recipes, how-to guides, parenting advice, or just cute pictures of furry animals, there are likely some products that will be of interest to your readers. 

When you include an affiliate link to a product on your blog, you’ll either get a share of the revenue if one of your readers makes a purchase or a flat fee per click. If you’re just getting started with affiliate marketing, check out Collective Voice or the Amazon Associates Program, both of which make it easy to monetize links on your website or blog.  

Open a credit card with a lucrative sign-up bonus

One of the simplest ways to earn extra money is to open a rewards credit card with an impressive sign-up bonus. While the most robust rewards cards tend to charge high annual fees, you can still earn a nice bonus with cards that charge no annual fee.

Check out our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Earn cash back on credit cards

If you’re still using cash or a debit card for your purchases, you’re potentially missing out on a lot of free money. As long as you’re spending money on the things you buy anyway, why not use one of the best cashback credit cards that provides easy cashback rewards on every purchase?

Check out our Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card review.

You can also earn cash back on everyday purchases without using a credit card. Check out one of our favorite options below.

Discover®️ Cashback Checking

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Earn money while shopping

Whether you’re a shopaholic or just have a few mouths to feed, you can earn cash back or gift cards by shopping at grocery stores and other retailers, and it requires very little effort on your part.

Discover®️ Cashback Debit Benefits

  • Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month1
  • No minimum deposit, no minimum balance, and no account fees
  • Access your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay
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Earn gift cards for eating out

With the Seated app, you can earn up to 30% back in rewards for every meal you eat out at one of their participating restaurants. That’s a lot more in gift cards than you would earn with a credit card, even one with extra points on dining. It’s currently available in six major cities.

Become a referral source

Try networking with local businesses to see if you can get paid for referring new customers. There are also a number of sites and apps that will pay you to refer friends, so look for opportunities to recommend products and services that you are passionate about.

Invest $5

A lot of people get scared off from investing because it sounds intimidating or like you need a lot of money to get started with a traditional brokerage. But it’s simple to get started these days and the required minimum investment to begin is often only a few dollars.

Stash is a good example of an easy place to get started.2 For as little as $5, you can make your first investment in two minutes and learn how to become a confident investor over time.3 Plus, you’ll have access to over 40 different investment options, so you can invest in what matters to you most.

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The best passive income investments if you have money

Buy music royalties

If you’re a music buff who enjoys discovering new artists, this might be the venture for you. With Royalty Exchange, you can purchase a portion of an artist’s royalties via auction. You’ll then receive a return on your investment when the organizations that pay royalties, such as radio stations and streaming services, use the piece of music. You can view the history of the song’s earnings to determine what you might earn over time. And buying royalties isn’t tied to the stock market, so there’s less risk that prices will change.

Buy someone else’s blog

Building a blog on your own can take time. If you have some money saved up, you may want to consider buying one that you think has potential or already has an existing base of followers. There are a lot of bloggers out there, so you can likely find one that is lucrative and in a niche you're actually interested in. Once you have ownership, you can use affiliate marketing, ads, or related products to monetize it.

Get into index funds or ETFs

An index fund is a collection of stocks designed to match or track a market index, like the S&P 500, while an exchange-traded funds (ETF) is like a basket of stocks, bonds, and other assets. You can also consider mutual funds and dividend-paying stocks. The greater diversification offers less risk. And because index funds and ETFs are hands-off, your investment can truly be considered a source of passive income. 

You’ll be able to sit back and watch the returns pour in over time. Make sure to speak to a financial advisor if you want guidance getting started, learning about capital gains taxes, and setting up your financial goals.

Learn more about how ETFs and index funds compare.

Buy equity in a small business

When you buy equity in a small business, you are providing capital in exchange for a share of the profits or losses. There can be a lot of risk involved, so make sure you feel as confident as possible in a business’s future before choosing to invest.

Invest in rental property

If you have enough money to set aside, real estate investing can be one of the smartest moves out there. You can buy a building and hire a property manager to rent it for you, or buy a duplex and rent out one unit while you live in the other. Creating rental income is a very popular passive income strategy.

And while managing the property yourself and finding renters can take significant effort, especially for beginners, there are real estate investment companies that make it simple to find, purchase, and even manage investment properties. These companies may offer investments in the form of real estate investment trusts (REITs), which reduce your upfront work since they're similar to mutual funds.

Become a real estate crowdfunder

If you don’t have enough money to buy an entire building, you can still invest in real estate with a small initial investment. Real estate crowdfunding platforms include CrowdStreet, RealtyMogul, Fundrise, and Ark7.

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Buy some vending machines

A vending machine business has a relatively low startup cost. Each machine costs as little as $150 to $400, plus inventory. You can buy an existing business or a franchise opportunity, like Kytch’s Frobots, which require very little upkeep. Some management will be required to stock and maintain the machines, so you may also want to consider hiring someone to help.

Buy some parking spots

If you live in high-traffic city — like Chicago, New York, or Washington DC — renting out a parking spot can be extremely lucrative and has a lower startup cost than buying real estate. That’s what Chicago, IL resident Moustafa Mohamed, 28, realized when he began looking into buying property. 

His spot earns $250 to $300 per month in extra income, and he’s looking to buy more spots. “It will take me 4.5 years to earn back the $15,000 I spent on it,” he said, adding that the effort needed has been minimal. “I’ve invested maybe a few hours a week to getting everything researched and getting the paperwork done for the deed.” His goal is to own four to five spots to rent out, and then he hopes to start buying condos.

Buy a storage facility

Like owning a parking spot, owning a storage facility requires very little work. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the drama that sometimes comes with interacting with tenants. You can expect to earn anywhere from $20 to $300 per unit in rent each month, depending on the size and location.

Become a peer-to-peer lender

Peer-to-peer lending is a system in which a platform facilitates individual investors (like you) in lending money to individual borrowers. The borrower then pays back the loan with interest. There’s some risk of the borrower defaulting on a loan, but you may find that you’ll get a greater return than with some other investment opportunities. 

Additionally, you’ll be able to help someone in need avoid the financial strain from high-interest credit. Some sites allow you to fund loans in increments, so you can invest a small amount or lend money to a lot of different people. 

Prosper is a popular peer-to-peer lender. 

Open a dropshipping business

If you can find the right niche, a dropshipping business can be lucrative without requiring too much ongoing effort. There’s also a relatively low startup cost, since you don’t need to stock inventory ahead of time. It’s a good idea to sell something unique with a low shipping costs that people frequently search for. 

You can get started by finding some products to sell on Oberlo and creating a Shopify ecommerce website to sell your items. From there, you’ll need to invest some money in getting people to visit your site, whether that’s through content that helps your search engine ranking or through Facebook ads.

Open a high-yield savings account

If you’ve got extra money sitting in a checking account, you’re not alone. You can likely earn a higher APY (annual percentage yield) with a high-yield savings account. And many of these kinds of the best savings accounts are even free of fees and have low or no minimum balances. You can also consider certificates of deposit (CDs) that offer high APY rates.

Western Alliance Bank High-Yield Savings Benefits

  • Earn 5.27% APY4from a trusted, top U.S. bank
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Build a bond ladder

A bond ladder is an investment strategy that involves a diverse portfolio of bonds with different maturity dates. According to Richard Carter, vice president of fixed-income products and services at Fidelity, "Laddering bonds may be appealing because it may help you to manage interest rate risk, and to make ongoing reinvestment decisions over time, giving you the flexibility to invest in different credit and interest rate environments.” But you’ll need a significant amount of cash to get started, especially if your goal is diversification, since bonds are typically sold in minimum amounts of $1,000 or $5,000.

Investing money can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a lot of surplus cash lying around. You may have to take on some risk and it may require some effort upfront, but building a passive income stream is a great way to grow wealth without sacrificing what’s most precious to you ⁠— your time.

Bottom line

If you're wondering how to build passive income, it's important you know that you’ll need to put in some work upfront to get your business up and running. This could be as simple as learning how to invest money and as involved as creating meaningful content, such as an ebook, blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. You may even be able to turn $10,000 into a steady passive income.

And depending on the amount of money you want coming in each month, you may need to build more than one passive income stream to achieve the financial freedom you're after. But because there are a variety of ways to apply your unique talents and interests to earning passive income, you may find that you can actually have fun earning extra cash.


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Author Details

Lindsay Frankel

Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.