28 Passive Income Ideas For The 21st Century
Creative and unconventional ways to use tech to make you money.
*If you are already independently massively wealthy, here's an idea; get your kid, or your grandchildren, into starting a business or a side-hustle. We could all use less entitled children, eh?*
With that aside, get ready for a rant on the ridiculousness of a single income stream.
I almost was fired for telling employees this at one of my former firms. True story.
Companies don’t want you to have multiple revenue streams because then they can’t own you.
But if this recession has taught us anything, it is that relying on one income stream is dangerous. 1/3 of all employees were laid off, furloughed or fired during this last pandemic. One out of three people lost their ONLY income stream. I don’t like those odds.
The answer – diversify. Just like you wouldn’t put all your money in one stock (or I hope you don’t), maybe you shouldn’t put all your income in one basket? Don’t get me wrong, the big companies think it’s awesome! Be reliant on me completely, let me own your entire livelihood, let me control your retirement so you can never quit! Finance is the absolute worst about this, which to be fair, is because the government over-regulates and requires disclosure of all “outside business activities,” looking for conflicts of interest. As an employee this whole one paycheck deal is far from ideal. Having multiple revenue streams means you can work because that fire in your belly wants to and not only because you can’t survive otherwise. That’s a beautiful thing. So regardless of whether it is fair, or if we have systemic issues to resolve, we need to instead take ourselves out of victim mentality and say; WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
The Unconventional Way
If you are the viewing type, you can start with a little video of yours truly on the subject, just click the image to view it.
If you like something you can see and touch, like I do, then dig in to the written portion here.
Just for you Contrarians is a list of ideas on how to stack what I call, horizontal income. What does that mean? Vertical income is income that you make by working, aka a salary. Horizontal income is income that works for you.
It's income that comes regardless of if you are doing anything or not in that moment. You have upfront work, and you may have maintenance work but the income doesn't require you to be present to earn. Think rental income, investment income and passive side income. Most people have figured out the vertical income but they haven't created the horizontal income yet. We are here to change that. As a carrot up front, I have 9 revenue streams, some make more than my "salary" (I work as a partner so salary isn't totally applicable any longer but it used to be), at varying times.
I had no idea how to do any of this just a few years ago. I was a one trick pony. I knew how to earn a lot in finance but I had no idea how to not let one company own me. So I got curious, used these examples below and now completely cover my expenses passively.
Alright that humble brag out of the way.
Here’s a couple of other disclaimers up front, first be humble. I’m a partner at a VC Firm and I still routinely mess around with other income streams:
1) Because it’s fun when you think about it like a game you are trying to win.
2) Because I don’t believe any work is below me.
3) Because I like learning.
4) Because I teach things to my companies as opposed to being a hat rack or a check.
No doubt, I have gotten more selective as I make more money. However sometimes for fun I make a patch I want for myself and sell it on etsy, I write a guide to something I want to see people succeed at and I sell it using Gumroad, I do a newsletter and add affiliate links to it.
Just like that, there are three additional revenue streams. None individually are huge, but together they represent thousands of dollars that I can donate or invest in my other businesses. One caveat – a lot of these other lists have things on there like dog-walking, uber driving etc, which are fine. But, while they make you money, they don’t make you smarter, they are the opposite of passive, and honestly, they don’t tickle my fancy. That’s why this list below is full of things I would actually do or have done.
The moral of the story is be creative, be humble, have fun, and remember you are the master of your own fate. If you think like a business owner, there are innumerable ways for you to start your own business, or simply make money off of other peoples while also helping them earn more.
I call this the three-sided win, they win with more sales, client wins with more services and you win with a cut of the deal.
BTW – THIS LIST IS INSANE.
And not because I'm proud I wrote it.
It's insane because of the amount of money you can make using tech hacks in our 21st century world. These used to take incredible amounts of time and now, they don't. You can get paid to write fantasy, get paid to create a cool notebook, get paid to talk about things.
We live in the most incredible time despite all the news and noise telling us otherwise. Only you get to decide if you want to take advantage of it.
With that… a list of more passive income streams than any hustler would know what to do with. Make sure you email/DM/comment if you do any of these, I want to hear your stories!
RULE NUMBER #1 - THERE ARE NO RULES. TAKE THIS LIST AND GET CREATIVE.
GUIDE: Write a guide on a subject you are an expert in and sell it on Gumroad like mine: Get Hired, Get Hired In Cannabis. Gumroad is free and so idiot proof I did it myself as opposed to hiring someone! I donate to charity out of this and here's a screenshot from one of the products I sell.
BOOK: Turn that guide into a book you sell on Amazon like I did here: ooh la la now I’m an “author.” This falls under the model of “create something once, and sell it over and over again.” That's one of my favorite models
BUY A PROFITABLE BUSINESS. This one I’m obsessed with, buying a business with no money down using what’s called seller financing. This one is more complex sign up here if you want more on this.
Sell your services on Fiverr. I’ve used this site for graphic design, video editing, copywriting, virtual assistant, research and the list goes on.
Host a Virtual Summit. We do this at Arcview Group on cannabis investing and you can charge $100’s of dollars to get a group of humans to listen to whatever you know about. Real estate, comic book collecting, cannabis, cooking… literally google virtual events they are on every summit. My friend started his $10MM+ revenue company The Hustle/Trends with a conference where he made $50k the first event.
Start a Podcast. I am w/ Strike Fire Productions, producer of Green Entrepreneur. You can sell sponsorships, do affiliate deals w/ guests, sell your own product.
Create Your Own Journal. The amount of things you can do online is ASTOUNDING. You can create, upload, sell, package and ship a custom made journal on Blurb for nothing except a royalty on journals sold. They do all the work you collect the check.
Do a Course: Udemy or Coursera allow you to easily do your own course and are the most used. I prefer Thinkific which is where we did a course on how to by a small biz and it garnered about $10k in the 1st two weeks, this was pre-launch and I'll break down in another post on Contrarian Thinking how to succeed in a launch. Other ideas I've been thinking about for courses below:
how to workout during quarantine & home gym
how to train for a spartan race
How to invest in cannabis
the fit persons guide to travel - health and nutrition for traveling
how to angel invest
fundraising during uncertainty - fundraising during every cycle
how to create the best startup pitch deck
venture capital and fundraising master class
negotiation to make more money
sales how to win at the sales game
***You pick your area of expertise and package it.***
Write Fantasy Short Stories. Using wattpad you can connect w/ 80 million readers and find ways to monetize your short stories.
Newsletter: I'm obsessed with this one, next chapter will show you how I created one w/ 30k people following. It's had it's up and downs and I haven't cracked the code yet but it's promising. Essentially you create a newsletter on a niche you are curious about and put it behind a fire wall. I subscribe to the Dispatch and a slew of other pay walled newsletter that are all on Substack. The Dispatch has tens of thousands subscribers at $10 a month aka if they only have 10k subscribers that equals $100k in revenue a month. Not bad eh?
Consult for others. Consult on a subject you are intrigued by a la GLG which has 700k+ experts. I did this for a while but given how busy I am I found it annoying that I had to “apply” for every job back in the day, so I stopped. But if you have the time, apply away. The only part I don't love about this one is it's not passive and you can do lots of free work without pay, so be cautious.
Ask for a job. Everyone knows a business owner or two, or a wealthy person or two. Reach out to them and ask them if they have tasks they need done, problems they need solved, projects they don’t have time for, give them some ideas and have them create you a job. My fiancee did this for a family office, a big influencer and a slew of non-profits. He starts out being very helpful and letting them know he's looking for project work and it usually takes off.from there.
Create affiliate content. I do affiliate deals on brands I love and for EEC, and we make a commission on them. It’s hard to get scale here so you either need a targeted audience that will buy with larger dollar items or a big audience on some platform. It's great to just add to your blog to set and forget.
Get your own website. I prefer Squarespace, I think everyone should have a website in their name. Use it to do consulting services, speaking on your area of expertise, e-commerce, sell your finger paintings. Whatever. I have a step by step guide to creating a website in 24 hours here.
E-commerce company. Getting a website setup w/ BigCommerce and or follow SumoMe’s step by step guide to starting an e-commerce company. My gent has one called Bontempbands that sells watch bands w/ customizationos.
Sell Merch on Amazon. Amazon has a service called Merch by Amazon where you upload your designs and they do all the printing, packaging and shipping of whatever you design for clothing. They take a cut and you pay no upfront. I'm thinking of doing a graphic tee, too easy not to.
Get Paid to Travel. TrustedHousesitters USA, House Sitters America, HouseCarers, Nomador, and MindMyHouse. All sites where you can live for free and often get paid to house sit. On particularly long days I fantasize about going to work on an organic farm in a European clime and get lodging for labor. Then I snap out of it, maybe you should snap into it.
Sales. Reach out to Your Favorite Small Businesses to be Sales Rep. If you’re obsessed with a t-shirt brand, your gym equipment, a candle company, whatever is small enough to respond to you, reach out and ask if you can be an affiliate for them. Push sales to them in exchange for a cut.
Drop Shipping Business. Think of this like you playing the middleman. You setup an e-commerce site and sell other people's wares and inventory, when your store sells a product, you purchase the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. No warehouse needed. I think this is particularly intriguing in todays world where everything is shut down. Take IRL businesses online.
Have An Airbnb? I do, so I contract out services and get a commission on anything my renters do with my guests: if own a small Airbnb. These are things like yoga, cooking class, hiking, bar hopping, whiskey making, wine tasting, dinner suggestions. It’s a three-sided win. The renter says my code and get a discount, the small business makes a new sale and I get a cut. If I am not seeing any revenue from a place I cut it and try a new one. I make sure to tell the business proprietor that so they won’t cut me out of the deal.
Passive Investment Income. I use sites like Fundrise (online small dollar amount real estate investment platform), to invest and set up reoccurring revenue through monthly dividends.
Create an Affiliate program. Instead of being an affiliate offer the service of setting them up for your product or for another company’s and ask for a cut. Ambassador is by far my favorite program to use for affiliates and brand ambassadors who can take a cut on the product too.
Upsell The Places You Frequent. Every time I walk into a business I obsess about all the ways they are leaving money on the table. For example, our MMA gym literally just swipes your cc and gives you a membership and that’s it. If I was less lazy I’d go to my gym and say I’ll create a nutrition guide, a website and email campaign for new members linking product they need to start (gloves, wraps, shin pads), a 30 day workout plan, etc etc I’ll brand it all as the company and create a system for new members to get upsold on everything. You can either pay me a lump sum for it or I’m happy to do a revenue share on what sales we bring in. Win-win.
Pop-up events. Once this wild world gets back to normal I love the idea of pop-up events. My friend Alex does pop-up dance events using space at gyms and studios when not in use. She gets the space for free and splits whatever she makes. You could do this for any in person event. In a lockdown world you could do this with outside socially distant yoga classes for example.
Sell On Instagram. Still hurts my heart that a Kardashian was the youngest female billionaire, but don’t hate the player, hate the game right? In that vein – selling on instagram is so easy you have a veritable army of mom’s selling everything from essential oils to beauty products, to yes even wireless services. Here’s my guide to how to slay the Instagram game.
Buy An Account, Sell Products Into It. This one blew my mind. My high school age cousin Wyatt buys instagram accounts with tens of thousands of followers and then sells other peoples products to them. There are dozens of marketplaces that do this, you can buy an account with 14k followers for $350 or an account with 154k followers for $2k, then turn around and use affiliate links to sell products to them. Wild.
Buy an Online Business. On Flippa you can buy actual profitable businesses and then take over the business for “passive” income or try to grow them. Whole transaction is setup similar to Ebay and Amazon for businesses online.
Manage Others Social Media Businesses. I about lost my mind. One of our portfolio companies was paying $1,500 for a person to post 2-4 photos a month on their Instagram and manage the account. The photos were terrible and the account wasn’t growing. But I digress. $1500 for 4 photos. I’d put myself on Upwork and reach out to underperforming brands and offer that service. My friend Maria does this for local businesses in Chicago and crushes it.
Just like that you have more ways than a single person can tackle to diversify your incomes streams. Next chapter I take you behind the wall for a quick how-to on newsletters.
I’m experimenting with Twitter (@codie_sanchez) talking about Contrarian arbitrage; investing, income stacking, biz building unconventionally, so let’s connect.
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