There’s a second downside to this model. Although I’ve done advertising and sponsorships in the past, and have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so, the truth is it takes a lot of time for this business model to start to generate income for you, because you need to build that audience first. In addition, what happens when you build your audience on a platform that ends up changing its algorithm, affecting how often you actually get seen by the audience you’ve built?
Now that you’ve chosen your market, find a way to start sharing your message, whether it’s a blog or podcast or Youtube channel, or whatever platform makes the most sense for your target market. Flynn says this is where you’ll start to build a fan base — and collect subscriber emails. You don’t need to get the whole world to follow you to make this work out financially. Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly wrote an article about 1,000 True Fans, which basically says that if you have 1,000 people paying you $100 a year, that’s a $100,000 a year. “You don’t need to serve everybody,”  says Flynn. 

2. Focus on income-producing assets. Internet growth stocks may be sexy, but they provide no income. To build a large enough passive-income stream to survive, you must invest in dividend-generating stocks, certificates of deposit, municipal bonds, government Treasury bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate. You're free to invest in non-income-producing assets for capital appreciation too. You just want to earn reliable income when the day comes to leave your job.

Crowdfunding is a newer way to invest, having emerged onto the scene just within the last few years. Most people have heard of sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, and a very similar concept exists for real estate. Developers are always looking to raise capital to fund their projects. Through the various online platforms, investors have access to these projects and can choose to invest in both residential and commercial properties. See the List of My Favorite Crowdfunding Sites.
You are also free to choose a fund that is based on any index that you want. For example, there are index funds set up for just about every market sector there is — energy, precious metals, banking, emerging markets — you name it. All you have to do is decide that you want to participate, then contribute money and sit back and relax. Your stock portfolio will then be on automatic pilot.
Few real estate investors pay all cash for their properties. One of the biggest benefits to the real estate business model is the ability to buy on borrowed money and writing off the interest as a business expense for taxes. Without the leverage of financing, my experience is that the return from real estate investing is not worth the risks or headaches.

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.
I've now only got an SF rental condo and a Lake Tahoe vacation rental in my real-estate-rental portfolio. Although I miss my old house, I certainly don't miss paying $23,000 a year in property taxes and another mortgage, and dealing with leaks and managing terrible tenants. I drove by the other day and couldn't believe how much noisier and busier the street was than where I currently live. I wouldn't be comfortable raising my son there.
Hi, it’s probably been brought up before, but the statement “you can’t touch pre-tax retirement accounts without a penalty until 59.5” is incorrect. You can touch the traditional 401k accounts with a SEPP (substantially equal payment plan), and not pay the 10 percent penalty. You can also touch a Roth without the 10 penalty using the same strategy, although I understand you will pay taxes so you lose the Roth’s advantage. When I found this out, I stopped contributing to Roths because I wanted to retire early. Who knows if they will even live to age 59.5? So many people don’t!

Awesome article…if this does not give somebody a clear roadmap, they probably were never going to get there in the first place! I’m kind of like you trying to figure out where to place “new” money and maturing CD’s in this low interest environment. Rates have to go up eventually…I dream of the days again where you can build a laddered bond portfolio paying 8%. I plan for a 5.5% blended rate of return, with big downside protection.
I've got a $185,000 CD generating 3% interest coming due. Although the return is low, it's guaranteed. The CD gave me the confidence to invest more aggressively in risk over the years. My online interest income has come down since I aggressively deployed some capital at the beginning of the year and again during the February market correction. You'll see these figures in my quarterly investment-income update.
A freelancing service is something that can, with the right strategy and action, turn into something more productized and passive. Brian Casel, featured guest on SPI Podcast Session #158, talks about how he was able to turn his stress-inducing one-on-one design service business into something that was actually more productized, passive, and profitable. I highly recommend you listen to that episode if you have a service-based business and you feel stuck.
There are many comments about it being impossible to break into real estate with little money, or needing help from the bank of mommy and daddy. It is possible. I bought my first property, a multifamily, 6 months after graduating college, with a garbage job I got 3 months before and barely 7k in the bank. It’s now two years later and I’ve purchased a second this summer. Regarding management, I self-manage like most ‘small time’ landlords. Unless you own a massive apartment buidling, there’s no need to professional managment. Like another comment mentioned, I’ve only ever gotten heating issues or other minor things, for which I have a handyman to take care of. Aside from that, it’s fairly passive IMO. Dividend investing doesn’t require 100k either. It’s just an example the author used. I invest un securities with dividends ranging from 2-12%, and hedge/balance according to risk. Higher dividend % isn’t always better, but there are some good deals you can find. I think the key is to realize that you don’t need to stick to just one form of passive investment. Sure, 10 properties sounds daunting, and a $1M portfolio seems impossible, but you can combine both, as well as other passive income strategies. And ofc, the more risk you are willing to take on, the higher the potential reward (and loss). I day/swing trade, but wouldn’t advise this. It’s also not passive, I spend a massive amount of time researching and analyzing the technicals, but it’s worth it for now, as I’m fairly consistnet with profits. I have not tried blogging, and am not sure I’d be any good at it. I dabbled in ecommerce but found it was too time consuimg, but I know people who were able to quit their 9-5s from ecommerce. I’m sure no matter how much debt you have (i have 30k unsecured debt) or how little you think you make, there is a way to start investing today, even if it’s starting small.
- This is more for the experienced online entrepreneur who already has some authority in his or her niche. If that’s your case and you’re interested in becoming an instructor in CreativeLive, the world’s leading live online classroom platform, you’ll want to email them your proposal. This includes what you would want to teach, links to any websites with your work, social media sites or video of you leading instruction. If you’re just beginning, this is great goal to aim for.

Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.
My returns are based on full cash purchase of the properties, as it is hard to compare the attractiveness of properties at different price ranges when only calculating down payment or properties that need very little rehab/updates. I did think about the scores assigned to each factor, but I believe tax deductions are a SIGNIFICANT factor when comparing passive income steams.
Self-publishing has the potential to be a very lucrative source of income. However, it does involve both an investment of your time and finances. It’s very important that you get the right help from the beginning. There are many considerations that may be outside of your expertise. Rory Carruthers, a sought-after book development, book launch, and book marketing consultant, says that six-figure launches require careful orchestration and planning. “Bestsellers aren’t just born out of great talent. They are also a product of thought-out marketing and well-orchestrated book launch campaign. It’s no longer enough to just write a good text. You need to think one step ahead and warm up your audience to the book even before you finish the first draft,” he said.
If someone stole my hard work and passed it off as their own, I’d be livid and would pursue them to the ends of the Earth for full restitution. A man I hired to work with me registered my preferred domain name of my business and has re-registered it in subsequent years. That’s bad enough; I’m mad as hell. The worst aspect of his behaviour is that I don’t know WHY he has done that; I paid him the fee we had agreed on and thanked him for his input. We also got along perfectly well during the project so far as I know, so I don’t see what his problem is.
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 make a little bit of money off of referring people to services I truly believe in. I never recommend things I don’t personally use, but if I’m going to refer friends to Shopify, products on Amazon, or Udemy courses besides my own, I have no shame making a couple bucks off it. In most cases, these referral sales come from older links within my podcasts or courses, and therefore, are completely passive.

From what he describes, creating passive income definitely does not sound easy. It requires a serious ramp-up -- often requires 80- to 100-hour workweeks in the beginning, says Flynn. But once up and running, and depending on the content, some sites take fairly minimal maintenance. Green Exam Academy, the LEED exam study site he launched in 2008, takes just him four to five hours a month to maintain but brings in $250,000 annually.


If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I wish there was a product that did this,” then invent it! Create a product, medical or otherwise, and sell it as a company or get royalties for it. It’s not impossible to figure out, I have many friends who have taken a concept to market. Don’t overlook an invention as a fantastic means of attaining passive income.
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