Let’s be honest, it is easy to get swept up in the Passive Income Koolaid.

The thought of making money while you sleep, of laying on a beach on a tropical island while the dollars roll in, or rolling in cash… Ok, back to reality for a moment.

The thought of it is lovely, but we all know that it’s not quite like that, which is why I’ve wanted to write about passive income for a long time.

Firstly, because everyone tells me that courses are passive income (which they aren’t) or that creating your own online course is the only/best/easiest type of passive income.

So, courses are the only/best/easiest way to make passive income, right?


There are lots of ways that you can look at including passive revenue streams into your business. In fact, there are plenty of ways that are more “passive” than building and running a course.

Before we go too far though, I want to let you know… I don’t believe that ANYTHING is completely passive. There is always work involved.

That might be work at the beginning, in the middle or even at the end. That work might include writing, marketing, fixing your SEO, work, work, work (but not like the terrible Rihannah song).

Successful people work hard. They might have put in a lot of the hard work a long time ago, and now they are reaping the rewards, but there was hard work involved. They just don’t always show all of it on social media.

Ultimately, the options in the list below mean that you don’t have to show up everyday, 9-5, to get paid… but you are definitely going to put some work in along the way, and it isn’t always easy.

Anyway, back on track.

Ways that you can make “Passive” income.

Affiliate payments

Simply put, this means getting payment for selling someone else’s product or service. You may also see this being called a commission.

In most cases, you will be given a link that is unique to you. You share this link when you tell people about the product or service. You can do this on social media, through video or by creating great blog posts about the product. When people click on your link, the site tracks where the traffic is coming from, and if they buy then you are allocated a portion of the sale. In some industries this could be as low as 5%, but often in the world of digital products or services, you could be making up to 30% – 50% of the sale.

Sometimes this payment is one off, and sometimes you continue receiving payments for as long as they remain a client.

Things to note: You’ll need to make sure that you follow any rules and regulations from the provider and for the platform that you are promoting on. These vary from company to company, so make sure you check.

As a minimum, you will normally have to declare that it is an affiliate link and that you may receive payment if they decide to purchase.

Ad revenue

You can receive money for ads placed on your content. There a lot of different ways that you can do this.

You may decide to sell space on your podcast, YouTube videos or on your blog personally. You may decide to use AdSense or Mediavine, who place adverts on your blog posts for you… and you may decide to monetise your YouTube channel so that they place ads before or during your videos automatically.

Ad revenue is often based on the number of people who see the ad, so you might not receive a lot of money unless you are getting a lot of traffic.


Royalties are payments you receive for allowing someone to use your intellectual property, like copyrights, patents and trademarks. You might receive a one-off payment, but you will often continue to receive payments over the period of time which the product is being used, or an additional payment each time an extra one is sold. 
There are lots of different ways that you could earn royalties including from book sales, from music, from photos or from art work.

Selling downloadable content

Originally, I was thinking content like ebooks, guides and templates, then I started talking to my mastermind group and the list just kept expanding.

Think graphics, stock photos, fonts, WordPress templates or plugins… the list is endless.

You might sell your content on your own site, or put it one a larger site, such as placing your font in a font library.

You may also sell your content one by one, or bundle things together for larger sales.

Really, when it comes to selling your content online, the list of what you can sell and how you can sell it, is endless. You could even sign up your own affiliates to promote and market your products for you.

Drop Shipping

“Drop shipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the merchant never sees or handles the product.” from Shopify

The upside of drop shipping is that you don’t have to hold any stock. This means that you don’t need the money to invest in stock to start with, you don’t need a warehouse to store it in, and you don’t run the risk of buying too much of something, which might not sell as well as you thought it would.

There are some downsides to drop shipping. Margins are often tight, you might not make as much profit per sale as you would if you were selling direct, as you are relying on someone else to store and ship the product. You also have to be careful where you sell your product. While you can run a drop shipping business on Ebay, you can’t on Amazon (unless you use their drop shipping platform).

Lastly, when it comes to drop shipping (in fact, this applies to everything in this list) you need to know how to market your product.

This is not a case of build it and they will come. You will need to know how to market and promote the product you are selling to get the number of sales you need, to make a sustainable income.

Develop an App or SaaS

What is a SaaS I hear you ask…?

SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Simply put, this is software that is sold to you on a licensing and delivery model, something which you pay to use, monthly or annually.

There are countless examples of SaaS, in fact you are probably already paying for a few.

Think things like Xero (or other bookkeeping software), Zoom or GoToMeetings, Leadpages, Convertkit… and many, many more.

Just like the other “passive” models that we have covered, there is definitely work involved. Getting your app or software up and running is going to take a huge amount of time, effort and possibly investment. Once it is up and running smoothly though, you can pay a customer service team to look after your customers, and developers to look after your updates.

If you have a great idea, or you can see a hole in the market, it is worth thinking about.

For example: Buffer tracks all of their stats live, in open source, which means you can follow along in their journey as they earn $1.52US million in monthly recurring revenue. (figure Sep – Oct 2018, tracked through baremetrics)

Create an online course

I couldn’t leave this off the list

While it’s not the ONLY way to create a leveraged income (I refuse to call it passive) it is definitely one way you can add an extra revenue stream to your business.

Just like selling downloadable content above, there are countless ways you can build, host and sell your course. You can even use affiliates to promote your course for you.

But at the end of the day, participants in your course will need support. You might do this yourself, or you might choose to outsource it, but you will need to make sure that they are looked after.

Making it work for you

There are plenty of ways to make leveraged income online, but let’s stop calling is passive, shall we? There’s lots of work involved with generating this income, but your hard work will pay off over time.

The difference is that you don’t need to work certain hours in a day, or see face to face clients to make the income.

Rather than trying everything at once, look through the list (or at some of the other options that are available) and find something that fits your current strategy.

For example, if you already recommend products or services to your clients, could you become an affiliate for them? Or if you are already building websites for clients, could you build a user friendly template which you could sell to clients who aren’t ready for custom designed, done for your services?

Look at your current business model and see where you can add a little leveraged income.

As seen in Issue 20 of Roooar Magazine. Download the latest Roooar magazine here.

guest writer:

Sam helps overwhelmed business owners build a sustainable income using courses and membership sites. Rather than an all or nothing approach, she helps you turn your content into leveraged income as a part of your existing business strategy.

Find Sam at samwinch.com.au.

blog categories

latest on the blog

8 Powerful Traits That Define a Strong Woman Leader

8 Powerful Traits That Define a Strong Woman Leader

“Power is taking action in a moment that could make you feel powerless. Never let anyone define you. Only you define who you are.” - Ginni Rometty, Chief Operating Officer, IMB Although there have been many influential women throughout history, from Amelia Earhart to...

read more

Continue Binge Reading Our Latest Blogs

8 Powerful Traits That Define a Strong Woman Leader

8 Powerful Traits That Define a Strong Woman Leader

“Power is taking action in a moment that could make you feel powerless. Never let anyone define you. Only you define who you are.” - Ginni Rometty, Chief Operating Officer, IMB Although there have been many influential women throughout history, from Amelia Earhart to...

Form B2B To E-commerce

Form B2B To E-commerce

Whether you’re new to business or a seasoned entrepreneur, most of us will be using technology to run and grow our businesses. For some it’s easy peasy, for others it’s their daily struggle. Doing what I do for a living, which involves managing Facebook ads, and...

Technology: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Technology: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

As a marketing strategist who started my business in the social media early years, I’ve spent a lot of time using and observing technology and how it impacts us and our business. I’ve come to realise, now more than ever, there is good, bad, and ugly with technology....