As Warren Buffet famously said, “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”

Passive income safeguards your future by generating income even when you’re sick or injured. Or when you just want to focus on your family or enjoy a long vacation!

The trick to passive income is to understand the investment required. Passive income doesn’t come for free. You need to invest time or money or both to build a successful passive income stream.

In this post, we’ll look at six clever ways to earn passive income and discuss the time and money required for each.

6 Clever Ways to Earn Passive Income

1. Crowdfunded Real Estate

Real estate has a proven track record of being a solid investment. But not all of us have the cash available to purchase investment property of our own. And many of us don’t want the hassle of managing an investment property.

That’s where crowdfunded real estate comes in. You can bundle your investment dollars with other investors to fund an investment property for hands-on rehabbers and property managers.

You get the ROI of property ownership without the hassle or expense of actually owning property!

Platforms like Fundrise and stREITwise facilitate the investment for you, making it easy to get started on your new passive income stream.

Time required: Minimal. You just need to research your crowdfunding options before investing, then check on your investments periodically.

Money required: Generally at least $500-$1,000 to get started. Naturally, the more money you invest, the more you stand to earn in passive income.

2. Blogging

Blogging may not be the free money many bloggers promote it to be. But it’s a viable income stream for those who have the patience to stick with it long enough to build an audience.

You invest some time in publishing and promoting a blog post once or twice each week, and within 6-12 months, you’ll have an audience that can generate multiple passive income streams for you.

Here are some of the most popular income streams for bloggers:

  • Display ads: When a reader clicks an ad on your blog, you earn a small fee.
  • Affiliate Links: When a reader uses your link to purchase a product or service, you earn a commission.
  • Sponsored Posts: You’re creating content on behalf of a brand as part of an ad campaign.
  • Digital Products: Once your blog has an audience, you can sell eBooks, templates, graphics, and other digital downloads from your blog.

You’ve probably noticed that blogging isn’t completely passive. You do have to invest the time in publishing and promoting new posts. But once a post is published, you can earn money from that post for months or even years to come! And if you prefer purely passive income, you can always hire writers and editors to create the content for your blog, as well as a social media marketer to promote your posts.

Ready to create your own blogging income? You can launch your blog in just 10 minutes!

Time required: At least a few hours each week. And it usually takes 6-12 months to start seeing a real income.

Money required: Around $150 upfront to cover your web hosting, domain name, and a professional design theme.

3. Dividend Investing

Dividend investing is a specific investment strategy that focuses on the dividend payout (rather than the trade price) of a stock.

With traditional stock investing, you invest in stocks when the price is relatively low and sell when the price is relatively high. But with dividend investing, you’re not so concerned with the stock price because you’re going to hold on to these stocks long-term. You’re more focused on how much the stock pays out in dividends.

With careful planning and a sizable financial investment, you can earn hundreds of dollars each month in purely passive income.

Time required: Minimal. It’s just upfront research, then periodic checks to make sure you’re happy with your portfolio’s performance.

Money required: You can get started with fairly little (around $500), but to make any real money, you’ll want to invest a sizable amount in your dividend-producing portfolio. Consider making regularly scheduled investments to help your portfolio (and your income!) grow over time.

4. Online Course Creation

Online courses can be a goldmine of passive income. If you have specialized knowledge and can package your knowledge to help others learn a new skill, you’re in a prime position to make some passive income with online courses.

You’ll invest a substantial amount of time upfront to create and market your course, but then you can collect passive income for years.

Compare the online course model to live courses. With live courses, you are still trading your hours for dollars, earning $x every time you teach the course. But with online courses, you can sell your course to as many people as possible, without investing any additional time in it. So your ROI grows exponentially over time!

And you can get started today with $0 on Udemy. Udemy will host your course and give you all the tools you need to build your course for free. You keep 100% of your income for all the students you find on your own, and Udemy gets a 50% commission for any students who purchase your course at Udemy’s recommendation.

Time required: Substantial time required upfront to create and promote the course, then minimal time to maintain it.

Money required: Very little, if any. Udemy allows you to publish your course for free, with no maintenance fees. You might just want to spend a little money to promote your course online.

5. Stock Photography

Stock photos are the generic (but high-quality) images you see on most websites. Because most business owners simply don’t have the time or desire to take their own photos, they purchase stock photos. You can publish your photos online and sell the rights to your images for completely passive income.

Each sale will likely earn you less than $1 (using the big marketplaces like Adobe, Shutterstock, and Dreamstime), but since you can sell the same image over and over, you can potentially make a few hundred dollars for a single useful photo. And with a few hundred useful photos, you can build a sizable passive income stream.

It’s completely free to join most of these stock photo marketplaces, so there’s very little downside to giving stock photography a try.

To earn more money per photo, you can curate photo packages for certain business owners (financial bloggers, dry cleaners, attorneys, etc.) and market your packages directly to your target market. Just know that this will increase your upfront time investment.

Time required: Reasonable. If you enjoy taking photos, why not spend a few minutes to upload them to stock photo sites and tag them?

Money required: None! But you may want to upgrade your equipment as the income starts coming in.

6. Becoming a Social Media Influencer

Yes, “social media influencer” is a legitimate money-maker. For the right personality, anyway.

If you enjoy sharing pictures, videos, and messages on social media, and your social presence resonates with people, influencer income might be the right passive income stream for you.

When you have a large enough audience, companies are willing to pay for mentions in your posts. You can make a good chunk of change by sharing makeup tutorials, recipe ideas, or fitness photos featuring brands.

Like blogging, it takes time, patience, and strategy to build your audience. But when it’s something you enjoy and would be doing anyway, why not get paid for it?

You can start by signing up on sites like Upfluence and PaidPerTweet. You should also reach out to brands you’d like to represent to see if they’re interested in a partnership.

Time required: Can be substantial. But if you spend time on social media anyway, this may not be an issue. The trick is to stick with it long enough to build a large enough following to bring in the sponsors.

Money required: None!

The Bottom Line

Passive income is no longer reserved for the millionaires. Average Joes and Janes are finding creative ways to generate passive income even without cash to invest upfront. And you can too! Which of these six clever ways to earn passive income are you going to take advantage of?


By Jim Wang

Jim Wang has been writing about personal finance for over 15 years, most recently at WalletHacks.com. As a former software engineer, he tries to bring that perspective to his money and share his experiences with others. Connect with him on Twitter – @wallethacks.