Making money while doing nothing. That’s the dream, right? How many times have you heard about money-making opportunities as ways to “make money while you sleep” or something like that?
The idea of getting paid to do nothing is something humans have probably wanted since the invention of money — and before that even happened, surely there were people who wished they could fill their barns with livestock and their silos with grain…without having to go through the trouble of actually farming anything.
It’s just human nature.
And now, in the days of the Internet, which never sleeps and which reaches a global audience every second of every day, it seems like there really could be a way to “make money in your sleep.” Right?
Well… yes and no. But mostly yes. But not entirely. Let me explain.
What We’re Really Talking About
Money that you make by doing nothing is, generally speaking, called “passive income.” It’s income because it’s income, and it’s “passive” because, theoretically, you aren’t doing anything to earn it — it just comes to you.
Passive income gets tons and tons of hype these days because of the incredible opportunity that the Internet gives us. With the global reach that never stops, if you do things right then there certainly are ways to set up an income-generating stream that lets you earn money seemingly without having to do anything for it.
It’s like magic, right? You wave your hands, do nothing, and *poof* there’s money for you.
Well… not exactly.
Passive Income Is Hardly Passive
Passive income is a real thing, but calling it “passive” is somewhat misleading. The truth is, passive income requires work — and sometimes a lot of work!
But the follow-up truth is that when you do it well, your passive income stream will require the vast majority of the work “up front.” You front-load the effort, and then you can “turn it on” and reap the benefits. Sometimes there will be ongoing maintenance and you may want to do a major marketing push every now and then to get a bump in income, but for the most part a passive income source can theoretically start making you money once it’s ready to go.
There are a few legitimate ways to make what we call passive income — and (surprise, surprise) a lot of them tie in really well with blogging, which is one clue to how many successful bloggers make their money. Let’s take a look!
1. Self-Publishing on Amazon
Generally speaking, selling your books on Amazon won’t make you a ton of money. That said, book sales can be a nice little boost. Pro tip: If you can incorporate good keywords into your book’s title and description, you’re more likely to get traction in the Amazon search results, and therefore get more sales. Don’t blow off the description — really make it count.
A lot of people use a self-published ebook as a marketing tool to build their personal brand. It becomes a way to validate your expertise, which is especially important when you’re trying to raise your profile online for your other ventures.
Others, usually fiction writers, will build a big library of self-published books. By writing a few series and making them available for readers to buy or download, you build an audience that appreciates you and is happy to pick up the next volume when it comes out. This is particularly true in book genres like sci-fi, romance, and mysteries/crime.
No matter what your approach is, though, there’s no getting around the major effort it takes to write a good book that people will be happy to pay for. Writing a book manuscript, designing a cover, formatting everything, and optimizing the book description require hours and hours of work, but those are hours you put into it once whereas the book can remain for sale (and sending you money) indefinitely.
2. Building a Downline
Downlines are an important part of making money in direct sales. If you want to build a direct sales business, you’ll need to build your own Rolodex of clients and contacts as well as building yourself a team to work “under” you. The commission you earn from your own sales is substantial, but the commission you earn from your downline is what will take you into five and six figures.
Managing a team is hardly considered “passive” because it does require you to provide training and insight as well as being available to answer questions and whatnot, but when you’re earning 8% of whatever someone else is selling, that’s a pretty good deal no matter how you slice it.
A few popular direct selling companies:
3. Ad Networks
Placing ads on your website or blog is a way to make passive income. For some bloggers and major websites, ads are a huge slice of the income pie, but for most people, they won’t bring in a whole lot. You have to know what you’re doing and have the traffic to support the ads for them to be a big success.
Ads got a reputation for being easy passive income about 10-15 years ago, but as internet technology grows and search engines get more sophisticated, it’s not nearly as easy to make cash hand-over-fist by putting up a few ads and moving on to the next project. That said, ads are pretty passive and every little bit helps!
4. Selling Your Own Digital Products
Develop a course, a workbook, a printable planner, or whatever you want. The work gets done up front and then you list it for sale for anyone to download any time. This is a big tool in the passive income toolbox.
These aren’t truly passive, though. You front-load the bulk of the work creating the digital products, but you also need to put in some time to maintain your sales. Whether it’s by dealing with advertising, getting campaigns circulating on Pinterest, or optimizing the SEO, there’s always something you can do a little better to get more eyeballs on your products and more sales in your wallet.
If you’re interested in putting together courses, though, you might want to consider the fairly passive option of listing them on a course site like Udemy or SkillShare. These sites handle their own marketing, in large part. As long as your course is something that people are interested in buying AND you’ve got the right keywords in your course title and description, you should be able to get some traction without having to put in a whole lot of energy into it.
5. Affiliate Marketing
One of my favorite ways to make passive income is to use affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when someone is offering a product or service for sale, and then when someone buys that product or service using a link with my “tag” on it, I receive a small portion of that sale. My “work” is to sign up for an affiliate account, and then when there’s a relevant time to use that link in an email or a website, to use it.
Affiliate marketing can be really passive or not-really-passive, depending on how much you want to put into it. Some people will put together a whole series of emails promoting something using their affiliate links, while others will just drop a link in a blog post and move on. But because that blog post will “live forever” on the Internet, it’ll continue to be a potential source of revenue.
6. Pick Up Those Pennies
There are many opportunities out there that will help you put money back into your pocket. Online services like Ebates only require the click of a link when you are making an online purchase to potentially put up to 20% of that purchase back in your pocket in the form of a quarterly rebate check. It’s super easy and this can add up over the course of the year.
Another great option is Paribus. This company is part of the Capital One family. Once you register your email address with them they will watch for purchase confirmations and then make sure you are getting money back for any price drops that occur within the company’s time frame. This service is entirely free and the refund is credited straight back to your form of payment. Very cool!
Make Money Doing Nothing
While you can harness passive income even without having a blog, there are a few ways that blogging can support your efforts for passive income.
Passive income is never truly “passive” because it always requires something of you, but it’s a legitimate way to make money doing nothing (or close to it) once you’ve got everything set up.