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.
Creating a membership site is a powerful way to generate online income and scale a service-based business. By having members pay a monthly (or other periodic) fee to get access to a password-protected area where exclusive content is made available, you can transform a site into a RECURRING income-generating business and bring a regular flow of income from the same customer base.

Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.


I’m not a software developer, and my early software projects (Blackberry Apps) failed because after paying a developer to build the product, I didn’t anticipate needing to update it regularly or provide support for it. For years after that, however, I had a partner who helped me upgrade our software once a year, and provided support if there are any issues (pretty rare). In 2013, we released our third module for Magento (they range from $49–149), and then ended up building a pretty successful SaaS product for Shopify. I left the business to my partner, and it still pays him over $3K a month in completely passive income. He updates the software every few months and answers the occasional customer email. Not bad!

Affiliate programs are the current hot thing in monetising websites. The basics are that retailers like Amazon will pay you a percentage if you send someone to their website to buy something. The percentage ranges from around 3% with sites like Amazon all the way up to 60% or even higher for information products sold by other people looking to make passive income. 
This is an ideal strategy if you live in an area where real estate prices are too high to realistically invest in, or you don’t want the hassle and expense of traveling all over the country visiting potential properties. Plus, if you are new to single-family real estate investing, letting a place like Roofstock guide you through the process is a great way to get your feet wet.
For Tim, that was learning and writing a series of books, which he’s truly passionate about. For me, that’s traveling, learning, and working on startups that are “high risk” or have a long road to generating revenue. For you, maybe it’s spending time with your kids and not having to take overtime when it’s offered to you. In any case, the goal is to spend as little time as possible to cover your basic needs; if you want to spend more time to make more money, that’s always an option — but you want it to be an option, not a necessity.
With Google AdSense, you can earn passive online income from your website by showing ads that are relevant to your visitors. The great thing about Adsense is that Google does most of the hard work i.e., they find the advertisers, pick the ads, track the clicks, and even deposit the earnings straight to your bank account each and every month. No wonder that 65% of the top 200 websites that show ads use AdSense.
Amazon affiliate program is a great way to promote physical products through a reliable, trustworthy, and well-known online store. The fact that everyone knows Amazon is probably their biggest advantage. On the downside, commissions are fairly small - they start at 4% for most products and can go as high as 8% depending upon how many sales you make. However, when you send someone to Amazon, you earn a commission on whatever they buy within 24 hours of clicking your link, whether they end up buying the product you promoted or not. So, for example, if you promoted a book but the person you sent to Amazon ended up buying an expensive camera as well, you’ll get the commission for both the book and the camera. This can add up.
Real-estate crowdfunding ($9,600 a year): Once I sold my SF rental, it was natural to reinvest some of the proceeds into real-estate crowdfunding to keep sector exposure. I didn't invest a lot in some of my favorite real-estate investment trusts because I felt a rising interest-rate environment would be a stronger headwind for REITs. But if I could be more surgical with my real-estate investments by identifying specific investments in stronger employment-growth markets, I thought I could do better.
Ever find yourself humming a tune, or laying down tracks for yourself or friends? Your next catchy phrase might fetch you a solid passive income stream. On sites like ProductionTrax and Audio Network, musicians can license their compositions for background music in apps, commercials, and websites to earn more money. Read more about this strategy at The Guardian.
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
I had the idea about a year ago to create a simple website in WordPress and re-package the absolute plethora of data which has inundated my email Inbox for the past 18 months. I have literally over 5000 files I have downloaded from many sources and saved on my Internet Favourites. These files cover a whole range of subjects which I consider important for me to know in order to fulfill my ambition of being a successful Netpreneur and SME (small-to-medium enterprise) owner.
Given the growth in the sharing economy, your junk can start to pay for itself. For example, if you have some awesome vintage furniture inherited from your grandmother sitting in a storage unit, you can rent this out to photographers for their “styled shoots” which are becoming all the rage. If your furniture is more modern but you still can’t bear to get rid of it – perhaps a home stager will be interested.
7) Never Withdraw From Your Financial Nut. The biggest downfall I see from people looking to build passive income is that they withdraw from their financial nut too soon. There’s somehow always an emergency which eats away at the positive effects of compounding returns. Make sure your money is invested and not just sitting in your savings account. The harder to access your money, the better. Make it your mission to always contribute X amount every month and consistently increase the savings amount by a percentage or several until it hurts. Pause for a month or two and then keep going. You’ll be amazed how much you can save. You just won’t know because you’ve likely never tested savings limits to the max.
In real estate, your passive opportunities are in private lending and rental properties. Private lending commonly involves lending funds to a real estate investor or business in exchange for a set return and length of time. (Full disclosure: I am co-partner of a turnkey investment company.) Turnkey rental properties allow the investor to be as hands-off as they like. This means a turnkey company purchases, rehabs, tenants and manages the property. To truly make this a passive investment, turnkey companies do all the work for you.
* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.
There is a specific tax definition of passive income, known as “passive activity” to the Internal Revenue Service. Passive income is any income you make without actively working or are materially involved. The IRS defines it as any rental activity or any business in which the taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Nonpassive activities, or active activities, are businesses in which the taxpayer works on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.
What I’m doing: I view passive income as funny money to keep myself sane during this long journey. I estimate 2-10 years to get to my goal depending on how active I am. The dollars created are just points one can accumulate. I’ve made passive income goals for each passive income type and check in at least once a year like I am now to make sure I’m on track. Passive income is also carefully managed to minimize tax liability. When you can build a buffer for a buffer, you are then free to take more risks.

Non-fiction e-books that educate your potential audience on specific topics like finance, online marketing, and business are going to make you more money than fiction books. Of course, there are always exceptions and you could write the next Harry Potter book, but if you want to create some residual income opportunities quickly, I would suggest you go for what sells first!
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I enjoy how you lay out real numbers. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. While you admit that you are somewhat conservative, I think the $1M in CD’s is just too conservative. Assuming you don’t need the cash flow now (which you say you just save anyways) then all that could be invested for potentially higher returns. For example, what if you bought San Francisco real estate along the way instead of CD’s. Or, an SP500 Index fund. I bet your average return would have been higher than 3.75%. Sure you could lose it, but the point is if you don’t need the cash flow now, you should try to increase that nut as high as possible until the day you actually need it. Your nut could be $5M right now if you had invested in asset classes other than CD’s for the last 14 years. Don’t get me wrong, you have done far better than me, but I guess I would take a little more risk if you don’t rely on that cash flow.
Investing in rental properties is an effective way to earn passive income. But it often requires more work than people expect. If you don’t take the time to learn how to make it a profitable venture, you could lose your investment and then some, says John H. Graves, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) in the Los Angeles area and author of “The 7% Solution: You Can Afford a Comfortable Retirement.”
1. The batting cage idea is very risky. I’ve seen many of them close over the years and it is not anything close to passive income if you want to keep the business going. You have to continually promote it and target youth leagues, coaches, schools etc to catch all of the new players who grow up and want to play. I’ve played at probably 8 batting cages over the years and 7 of them closed.
In mid-2017, I sold my San Francisco rental property for 30X annual gross rent and reinvested $500,000 of the proceeds in real estate crowdfunding. I’m leveraging technology to invest in lower valuation properties with higher net rental yields in the heartland of America. With the new tax policy starting in 2018 capping state income and property tax deductions to $10,000 and limiting interest deduction on mortgages of only $750,000 from $1,000,000, expensive coastal city real estate markets should soften at the expense of non-coastal city real estate.
Revenue sharing sites give you the opportunity to earn money online without having a website or a product to sell. If writing is your hobby, for example, then you can earn extra income by writing high quality articles and submit them to different locations on revenue sharing sites. I must admit I’ve never tried it, but I wanted to get it out as it can be a viable option to get started with.
* Freelance writing: Quality freelance writing takes tremendous effort. Ironically, the better the quality of your writing, the more you don’t want to freelance and just keep the articles for your own site. Freelancing is a great way to earn side income, however, it’s not really for me. I’ll probably take on one or two freelance jobs maximum per year and write no more than four articles a month elsewhere.
I have already come up with 50 ways that a management company can screw you for profit without you ever knowing(or not finding out for awhile). Did you have an inspection before you made an offer on the property? Do you have a picture of the property you bought? How do you know if that picture shows the house you actually own? or if it even hows the ‘current’ state of the house you own?
The craziest part of this was I’d wake up in the morning and there would be more money in my bank account, from people who had bought my book overnight. When you think about it, an online store that sells something that’s digital is something that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Using tools, software and systems, you can automate the delivery process so you literally don’t have to do anything to serve that audience. That’s super powerful.
No argument here. It’s not for everybody. Just like you can’t imagine taking risks or finding the energy to be creative after you get home from work, I can’t imagine trading 40% of my waking life for money, leaving me with no time to actually spend the money I made. Even when building startups, I believe that I’m trading time for asset creation (which is why I still receive checks every month from my last startup). Nothing against you if 9–5 is how you choose to live, and in fact, I’m very happy for you if it makes you happy. Just know that you have a choice!
Freelancing is on the verge of going mainstream. Thirty-six percent of the international workforce now freelances, at least part-time. There are also 40.9 million adults in America who are self-employed. Clearly, freelancing is catching on. But with rapid growth come certain challenges, one being an increased competition for well-paying job and price reduction by those who think they can afford low-bidding at least for now.
The term “selling” probably doesn’t need much explanation, but it’s where value is transfered one time in exchange for money. Heart surgery, baguettes, and designer jeans are all ways to sell value. This one would probably the least optimal of all, at least for passive income, if it weren’t for an exception. This is because once you sell a normal commodity or service, you can’t re-sell it. Here’s the exception to this: software or digital goods can be duplicated with a very low marginal cost(now that we don’t use CDs, you can duplicate it with a cost of $0.00), and therefore, technically can be “sold” advantageously over and over and over again. This is why Microsoft grew to such a profitable company, and why I love selling digital goods.
Here’s the truth: a successful business is something that successfully solves a problem. And that business can make more money in two ways: solving more people’s problems, or solving bigger problems. The cool thing about the EP Model is that sometimes these products don’t even have to be yours. You can generate income by recommending other people’s or companies’ services or products. This is called affiliate marketing. It’s actually how I’ve made most of my money since I started in 2008.
If you’re a YouTube personality, this is how you generate your income. An amazing example of this how Antonio Centeno got 1 million YouTube subscribers. If you’re a blogger who gets a lot of traffic to your site and uses advertising or sponsorships, then you’re also following the AA Model. Got a podcast with sponsorships? Same deal. I talk about successful podcast sponsorships and other ways to make money podcasting here:
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
​Udemy is an online platform that lets its user take video courses on a wide array of subjects. Instead of being a consumer on Udemy you can instead be a producer, create your own video course, and allow users to purchase it. This is a fantastic option if you are highly knowledgeable in a specific subject matter. This can also be a great way to turn traditional tutoring into a passive income stream!
Thanks for your ideas I love them, also agriculture investment can be nice like tomato hothouse with half the produce for the grower and the sales profit for the grower The genocide against the international Japanese community some 2 million in the European Union at least can break the world economy and leave the One Sunrise War for True Japanese Survival the only alternative
It is so much better to let your property sit vacant for an extra month or two than to rush into an agreement with a bad tenant. You will be tempted to just go with your gut and not check out applicant tenants – fight the temptation if you want to keep your sanity! A bad tenant will trash your property and cost you thousands in missed rent and eviction costs.
I’m looking at accepting a professor job. It’ll be more than a 50% pay cut. But I’ll have the same life you describe – endless summers and an entire month every winter to ski. I’m thinking in the end, eventually, I might even end up wealthier in more ways than one. Happy people tend to be the most successful. I have no desire to diversify. Dividend stocks allude me. CDs seem like a good choice for older people, but I have time on my hands and real estate knowledge, so I’m sticking with what I know, despite the fact that most people will tell me it is foolish and I should diversify.
Quick story: Remember that $1.18 I found in the couch? Even when that increased to $30 to $50 a day, it still wasn’t enough to live on. So I looked for other options. In August 2008, after people started to know who I was and how I could help them pass the LEED certification exam through my blog, I wrote an ebook. It included all the information I knew about passing this exam, and I sold it on my blog for $19.95.

Many people choose not to take this route because they get intimidated by complex applications and technology. The truth, however, is that you don’t need a fancy platform or special software to create a powerful online course. Your lessons can be sent out as emails, followed by action plans and/or video tutorials. This approach can be even more effective as most people check their email on daily basis. In fact, that’s the exact approach I took with some of my freedom eCourses.
I had the same experience when my name’s frequency on the call schedule dropped for reasons that no one would discuss and were not easily discerned except by those in the know (who were staying mum). I went and found another job…. and I wish that I had found something with passive income – it’s been several years now that I’ve been working 2-3 part time jobs and I’m trying to figure out what my other thing is going to be… still working on that, but I am thankful that there are others out there discussing side gigs and alternatives to medicine.
Most people who set up passive income don’t do it so they can lay on a beach all day, or even so they can spend their time learning a third or fourth language (ok, maybe I’m doing that), or living on private islands. No, the point of passive income is to liberate your time for more fruitful endeavors — whatever those may be. If you have the ambition and gall to get out of the “9 to 5 game” and set up passive income, chances are you won’t be happy with sitting on your butt or traveling year round. You’ll want to do something with meaning and purpose.
Bryan added: "If you make your choices based on, not 'how can I get money for free?' but on, 'What challenge can I put in front of my face that's going to have me step up to be the kind of person I'd rather be?' you're going to start to forget about wanting passive income, and you're going to start to focus on what purpose you truly want to create the world."
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