10 Passive Income Ideas You Might Not Have Thought Of

Jen Williamson Updated on May 14, 2019

Want a set-it-and-forget-it way to make more money? Obviously the answer is yes—and thanks to the Internet, there are more ways to do this than ever.

Here are a few totally legit ideas people actually use to earn supplemental or primary income.

passive income-293747-edited

What is passive income, exactly?

First, let’s take a look at what passive income is, and what it isn’t.

Basically, active income is income you make by trading your time. This is the salary you earn while spending 40 hours plus at the office, or wherever your workplace is. You’re trading your time for money.

Passive income comes in without you having to do anything after an initial setup period. It’s a product you put out there that people will pay for, without having to do any work on your part.

Of course, even that definition is a misnomer. Actually, most passive income options require a considerable amount of up-front work, and some (or a lot) of work afterwards to drive income—in terms of self-promotion. 

But if you nail it, your passive income has the potential to make you more money than you’d earn just by trading your time. Once you liberate yourself from the time-for-money cycle, your life suddenly opens up—and you can spend time on things other than making a living.


Here’s a look at some passive income streams across different talents, abilities, and levels of difficulty. We've ranked each entry as easy, moderately difficult, or hard.

New call-to-action


1. Peer-to-peer lending 

You don’t have to be a bank to lend money. You can lend to people directly through a broker like Lending Club or Prosper. If you have extra money sitting around, you could potentially earn as much as 10% on it.

2. Rent your stuff 

At Peer Renters, you can rent things you aren’t using all the time—like your leaf-blower or camping gear—to people in your area.

Moderately difficult 

3. Rent out property

Got an extra house you’re not using? Consider becoming a landlord. Of course, being a landlord isn’t work-free—it’s still on you to make sure your tenants pay and your building complies with local laws about what makes a building livable.

This can be extremely difficult—or it can be relatively easy, depending on how you make it. If you’re one of those landlords who’s always on hand to fix every broken fuse, consider this a “difficult.” But it doesn’t have to be.

4. Sell things you make

Like with rental properties, this is as difficult as you make it. You can create handcrafted wonders that you sell on Etsy, or hire a graphic designer to do a simple but eye-catching t-shirt design, and sell that on Shopify. 

5. Write a guide or course

Not as in-depth as a book, and if you pick a topic people want to know about, a step-by-step guide can do quite well.

You can sell this on its own (say, on Amazon Kindle Direct) or offer it on your blog or podcast if you have one.

6. Retail arbitrage

If you like to shop, this is for you. Buy stuff at a low price—doesn’t matter what stuff, as long as it’s something you can find for cheap and that other people will pay more for (that’s the sweet spot). Send it to one of Amazon’s distribution centers and open an online store. Watch people buy it.  

This will require you to do a certain amount of trolling thrift stores and EBay, and it requires knowing what will and won’t sell. Seasoned arbitrage-ers will tell you to watch Amazon’s best seller category in the type of products you’re thinking of, and see what’s selling well before deciding what to go with. 

7. Airbnb

Airbnb (if you’ve been living under a rock) lets you out a room in your house, or your whole house, on a short-term basis. Being a good Airbnb host does require a lot of work—your place has to be clean, and the most committed host will sometimes pick visitors up at the airport or show them around. But it doesn’t have to be that time-consuming. 

See also: The 11 Best Side Hustles for Paying Off Student Loans


8. Run a blog

The idea is simple: start a blog, find your audience, get some traffic going, and then monetize it through online advertising. Pick a niche sweet spot—find a topic that other blogs aren’t already serving, but for which there’s a significant demand—and you’re golden.

You can make money by linking to Amazon Associates, ClickBank, ShareASale, and other sites that will pay you a commission whenever someone clicks on that link and buys. You can also let Google Adsense pay you to host ads on your site.

Simple in theory. In practice, it takes considerable writing ability, a lot of consistent work, and digital marketing strategy. It can morph into a full-time job in itself. But if you can get it going, you could, theoretically, earn a decent income this way. People do.

9. Write a book 

Again, this is not easy. But if you have the ability, it may be worth a try.

It’s not that hard to self-publish on Amazon Kindle Direct, Lulu, Booktango, and other places. Genre fiction can do particularly well. You can pay for editing and marketing services if you have the cash, or release your novel out into the world and hope for the best.

You can do this with how-to books as well—these sometimes fare even better than fiction, especially if you have good credentials.

10. Run a podcast 

If you get your podcast popular enough, you can earn money from sponsors. Some companies will pay you a flat fee to run ads on your podcast, while others will pay a set price per number of downloads. 

Another way to increase cashflow

Want another way to give yourself a raise? Refinance your student loan. See how much of your monthly salary you could free up with our handy refinancing calculator.

Published in: Financial Freedom

About the Author
Jen Williamson

Jen Williamson is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She has written for a variety of industries, including software, education, business, and personal finance. Prior to that, she worked at an adult literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, where she coached nontraditional students in passing the GED test and applying for college. When she isn’t writing or reading—which is rare—she can usually be found planning her next travel adventure, training for a marathon, or sneaking in somewhere she’s not supposed to be. Read more by Jen Williamson

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 1.89% - 6.77%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No Maximum when refinancing
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

#2 View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial capital they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 1.99% - 5.79%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#3 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 1.99% - 6.20%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
View More Details
Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#4 View More Details

Credible is an online marketplace that provides borrowers with competitive, personalized loan offers from multiple, vetted lenders in real time.

  • Free to use, no hidden fees
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit Credible View Loan Disclosure

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover student loan refinancing options that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Our integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 2,000 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 9.5/10. Credible is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

For more information, click here to apply now with Credible.

  • Compare prequalified rates from multiple, vetted lenders in 2 minutes.
  • Refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans.
  • San Francisco-based customer support 7 days a week.
  • Checking your rates won't affect your credit score.
  • Get your final offer in as little as 1 business day.
  • Credible’s partner lenders do not charge prepayment penalties, loan application fees, or origination fees.
  • Free to use, no hidden fees: Requesting rates can take just minutes and costs you nothing.
#5 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 1.99% - 5.79%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#6 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 1.99% - 8.77%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#7 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.39% - 5.99%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now