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.
I personally haven’t tried any of the below methods so I can't speak from experience to how they work. In my mind, the most lucrative way is through building a REAL business online and providing your visitors with great value. However, after some thought, I decided to include these here because, quite often, the biggest roadblock for many is a mental one: believing that making money online is possible. From my experience, once you have made your first dollar, or even your first cent online, the world is suddenly a different color.
Focus on your primary passive income stream first. It's difficult to grow your passive income into multiple streams if you don't already have one, solid stream. Focus all of your efforts on that one project first and help it grow as productive as possible. Then, you can take the money you've made and lessons you've learned from this passive income stream and put them into others.
And if you think, I am not a photographer, creator or designer and don’t have money to invest in real estates, ETFs and so on - don’t worry. We will also cover dozens of strategies that require no up-front investments and that could potentially earn you thousands of dollars every month - like renting out a room in your apartment via Airbnb, putting ads on your car, renting it our, hosting webinars, building a membership site, teaching online and much more! 
Can you expound on the use of publicly-traded REITs as a passive income source? I’m 31 years old. No children. No wife. No dependents. (I am the closest thing to Ebenezer Scrooge you’ll ever see). My monthly expenses amount to less than $2,000 per month (most of which go to pay student loans) . I have a decent job making over $55K per year. I also have a $60K inheritance coming my way in a few weeks. I am absolutely crazy about achieving absolute financial independence, which for me would require a passive income of over $2000/month to cover my living expenses. I could achieve that in a mere couple of years if I were to save excessively and dump my savings (and inheritance) into a Mortgage REIT via the stock market, most of which are shelling out above 10% returns in dividend payments. Is this a good strategy for me? Or am I being too hasty and assuming too much risk?
Thanks for asking. https://passiveincomemd.com/what-is-passive-income/ gives a good summary of the definition I use. But in brief, it’s income that isn’t proportional to the time you physically put into acquiring it. It doesn’t mean it’s not without work or effort. It’s just that most of the work is done up front and it continues to pay off long after that initial effort. Real estate fits into that box. There’s definitely a spectrum but compared to what we do as doctors, where our compensation is directly linked to our time, most of these things are quite passive.
Returns on real estate investing vary and you don’t want to get into the business based on an estimated return but on your own calculation of what is possible for your local market and for specific properties. I have seen pretty common averages between 8% and 12% a year for single-family residential rentals with cash flow accounting for between 0% and 6% of the return.

To your point about Municipal Bonds, my concern is tax reform. While everything is mostly being worked behind closed doors (and likely wont ever see the light of day). There is still the chance they propose to limit the amount of the tax free nature of these bonds. While I dont sen panic in the streets, I do see a scenario where bond prices get additional pressure because municipalities have to increase rates due to people putting their money to work elsewhere.
Like we said above, there’s nothing passive about this, but if you can create another type of asset — a system for selling products — then it is. One example is to write a book, and use Amazon Fulfillment Services to automatically print and ship it every time you sell a copy, depositing the money in your account. Another example is Tim Ferriss, who hired overseas assistants to handle everything at BrainQuicken, from the marketing to the reordering. With drop-shipping (having the manufacturer ship directly to your customer), this has become easier, but you should know that it’s still a good bit of human labor to advertise, handle customer service, etc. But, it’s a good option, and you can experiment with automation and delegation as you go along. If you want to know more about this, read The Four Hour Work Week already!
Remember, the skills you have are an asset, they are your “unfair advantage.” They are essential to your unique personal brand, and you can start making money online using those skills if you have the right strategy, tactics, and mindset in place. Another way to describe this is your “unfair advantage,” a term I was first introduced to by Lain Ehmann in SPI Podcast Session #37.
Returns on real estate investing vary and you don’t want to get into the business based on an estimated return but on your own calculation of what is possible for your local market and for specific properties. I have seen pretty common averages between 8% and 12% a year for single-family residential rentals with cash flow accounting for between 0% and 6% of the return.

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.
Why? Because you’re working a 42 hour week and that’s probably your earnings ceiling unless you add other income streams. 4 hours per week is best for me, since I have domestic responsibilities I’d much rather be addressing: Still, when I get the chance, I love working my socks off on something I enjoy, which is helping and teaching other people to be successful. It’s more fun and more productive to share 🙂
Whether you choose to invest in just one of these modern REITs or both, keep in mind that since they’re private funds and not stocks, you won’t be able to easily liquidate your investment and access your cash right away. Depending on your investment, plan to see your money tied up for anywhere from six months to five years. However, you’ll most likely still receive monthly or quarterly payments, depending on which investment opportunity you select.
My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.
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.
I have two major dilemmas: (1) Should I wait to start investing (at least until the end of the year where I’ll hopefully have $5k+ in savings) in things like CDs? I ask because a little over $2k doesn’t seem significant enough yet to start putting my money to work (or maybe it is? that’s why I’m coming to you for your advice haha) and (2) I want to invest in things like P2P and stocks but I’m honestly a bit ignorant of how it trully works. I know the basics (high risk, returns can be volatile, returns are taxable). Do you have any advice on how I can best educate myself to start putting my savings to work?
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.
First: I understand why you would say that such investments are restricted to only accredited investors, because generally, that’s true. There are means, under federal securities regulations and Blue Sky laws in each state, to sell interests to non-accredited investors – but usually those means are so heavily regulated and involve disclosures so similar to cumbersome registration requirements that it is not worth it for the seller to offer to non-accredited investors.

I have had a LC account for almost 2 years. Invested 5k. A lot of very small loans. Unfortunately I had to invest though Folio FN. The fees reduce your return. Now, they are not even allowing that. My interest and return of principal are not being reinvested. I talked with LC and they are working on it for my state. Even if I can obtain access to the prime portfolio, I would only place 10 percent of my cash here and would reinvest for at least 3 years. I am still concerned about what would happen when a recession hits.
Some people take it automated well before the year is up. When it converts, it converts. If you target the right people and you're able to create the right message that appeals to your audience, you might just hit a home run. An automated webinar often involves the creation of a webinar funnel. That includes, not only the webinar, but also the email sequences, and possibly a self-liquidating offer, and maybe some done-for-your services and up-sells.
All ideas take some amount of time and money to come to fruition. Some people have a lot of one of these, but not much of the other. A lot of successful ideas have started when one person had the resources that another did not. And many businesses have been started using 0% loans from credit cards to fund their concept and keep the business going until it achieved success.

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 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.
Part of providing value is building trust. Don’t link to things that aren’t of good quality or people won’t trust your recommendations. The other part of making an audience is consistency. It matters less how often you post than how consistently. If you only have time to do one post a month, that post should come out on the same date and time each month.
3. Start as soon as possible. Building a livable passive-income stream takes a tremendously long time, largely because of declining interest rates since the late 1980s. Gone are the days of making a 5%-plus return on a short-term CD or savings account. Today, the best 12-month CD is at 2.5%, and the best money-market rate is about 1.85%, which is not bad, considering such rates were below 0.5% just a couple of years ago. Know that every $100 you save can generate at least $2.5 in passive income.
6) Always Remember That Everything Is Relative. The best way to determine worthwhile passive income streams is by comparing the likely return (IRR) with the current risk-free rate of return. If I round up, the 10 year bond yield is at 3%. Any new venture should thoroughly beat 3% otherwise you are wasting your efforts since you can earn 3% doing nothing.

However, you should pick a niche and blog about that. If you're launching a money related blog, maybe it'll be about how to make money in real estate or simply how to make money online. Pick the niche and stick to it. If it's a diet and fitness related blog, maybe the niche is the Ketogenic diet, the Atkins diet or some other form of diet or fitness.
Another benefit, which many online entrepreneurs do not even consider, is that you don’t need to create the whole product before launching it. You only need to create a small portion of your actual content, and complete it only after you get your first member during his membership - that means you get paid IN ADVANCE of actually creating your site content. It also means that you can modify your content based on LIVE feedback from paying customers. More importantly, this is a great way to VALIDATE your site and ensure you create a product based on what customers want, not just what you think they want.
I’ve never invested in real estate (except to live in), but am always intrigued by communities like FS who seem to have such a passion for it. My intrigue stems back to my earlier comments that the long term trends in appreciation in real estate are simply not very competitive versus equities, despite what Robert Kiyosaki had to say in his book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
So many great tips in this big post, thanks! I think it’s so true that people should focus on the things they do well at and are interested in. And yes save, save, save in the beginning and throughout. I have several interest and dividend earning investments and am looking to expand further. Diversification is a great goal for all of us so we can avoid having all our eggs in one basket.
If you are a photographer looking to diversify your income stream, putting together styled stock photo packages can be lucrative. For example, a package of 15 wedding-themed stock photos for $10. You can then market this to any bloggers or businesses who are in the wedding business for their use (photos of different engagement rings styles are super popular). Through this method, it’s possible to make a continuous stream of income off of photos you’ve taken once (similar to a licensing deal).
Remember, the skills you have are an asset, they are your “unfair advantage.” They are essential to your unique personal brand, and you can start making money online using those skills if you have the right strategy, tactics, and mindset in place. Another way to describe this is your “unfair advantage,” a term I was first introduced to by Lain Ehmann in SPI Podcast Session #37.
Crowdfunded real estate companies like Fundrise are similar to today’s peer-to-peer lending companies. Like Lending Club and Prosper, they offer a platform that matches real estate investors with investment choices. They help people looking to invest money in real estate in a passive manner. Also, investors can avoid bargaining with sellers. No need to get involved in the transfer of ownership and management of those properties either.
You also get to see specific details about each loan, including what the borrower is using it for, the state they live in, how long the pay-off period is, what the monthly payments are, and what rate the borrower will pay. It helps you get a better picture of what type of risk you’re exposing yourself to, and you get to take more control over your investment.
I am an English major and a herbalist with so many ideas and no extra income to fulfill them. I recently started renting my extra apartment in the attic with Airbnb. It’s amazing how fast I accumulated some money for few hours of work between guests. Now I want to persue all my dreams of opening an online herbal store, publishing my ebook of treating Ulcerative Colitis with herbs, blogs, and videos, and pretty much all of the ideas mentioned here. I will save this article as its really helpful for whomever needs some ideas…
Now, if you choose to deliver part or all of your course in video format, you can use professional video hosting sites like Wistia or Vimeo. Beside giving you the option of removing the hosting company’s logo, these services also provide analytics which can show you how effective your video is at holding your audience’s attention. Alternatively, you can use litmos, a learning management system that enables you to create an online course with your own branding, domain name, and landing page. There is no percentage cut taken from your revenue like Udemy. Instead there is a monthly fee for their service.
I just can’t seem to get my head around creating my own online product. When you talk about it, you make it sound like its mostly just about putting in the time and plugging away at it. Problem is I can never seem to come up with any ideas for a site or product that seem remotely unique or compelling or that I have any special knowledge about. The stuff I do know about is pretty commodity type knowledge that can mostly be found on thousands of sites on the internet already. Any tips on discovering what your “unique angle” is? I mean, you have a pretty compelling and somewhat unique personal story of working on wall street and then walking away at a young age.
Peer-to-peer lending ($1,440 a year): I've lost interest in P2P lending since returns started coming down. You would think that returns would start going up with a rise in interest rates, but I'm not really seeing this yet. Prosper missed its window for an initial public offering in 2015-16, and LendingClub is just chugging along. I hate it when people default on their debt obligations, which is why I haven't invested large sums of money in P2P. That said, I'm still earning a respectable 7% a year in P2P, which is much better than the stock market is doing so far in 2018!
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