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Ask HN: Your Passive Income Suggestions?
327 points by nns on Feb 3, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 227 comments
Please share suggestions of whats worked for you and what hasnt

* Apps with ads in them. Easy enough to churn out, but decreasing revenues and most of the high earning adverts are the scummiest. Low value and of low moral usefulness.

* Solar Panels. In the UK, the government pays you per kWh generated. Needs an upfront investment, but stable income and you reduce your own energy bills. See http://shkspr.mobi/blog/tag/solar

* Renting out property. Needs a much larger initial investment, and requires ongoing maintenance. On a good month I only hear from the managing agent once per month with details of how much rent is being paid.

* Stoozing. Find a credit card with 0% interest on balance transfers. Stick the money into a savings account. Or, if you like risk, on a horse. Need a good credit rating and decent savings rate to make more than a few hundred a year though.

* Affiliate marketing. If you can find a good theme (e.g. Halloween) and a decent place to put the links (somewhere that wants them - not spamming them everywhere) it's possible to get a moderate passive income. Well... not quite passive, requires upfront time commitment of selecting links and locations.

* Hosting / simple websites. Again, little bit of up-front commitment. Works best if you can find a local niche of people who want a friendly face to host their websites. Usually as simple as buying a domain, setting up WordPress, and turning on automatic updates.

In general, the best passive schemes require a large initial outlay and/or a dubious moral outlook. A better way to enhance your income is to eat out less, stop buying stuff you don't need, and shop around for deals. Boring but true!

I have had some success in affiliate marketing using an approach that I think many on Hacker News could duplicate. I launched my Amazon affiliate site about a year-and-a-half ago and its earnings have increased by about $100 per month with December being the first time I earned over $2,000 in a month.

The approach is to find a type of product where Amazon has thousands of listing but the specifications are not very accurate and the filtering criteria are limited, and where there are highly active forums with people talking about and asking about these products. Then you build a proper searchable catalog for the products. Include lots of search criteria, sorting criteria, side-by-side comparison, recommended accessories, anything that would be useful for people looking to buy them.

Once my catalog contained over 1,000 models I started replying to posts on forums with a link to my site that provided what they were looking for. People loved the site and it wasn't long before they were posting links to it to answer each others questions. That's all it took to start ranking on Google which is now responsible for 3/4 of my traffic.

Initially this is not passive income. The first few months are a lot of work for very little money. Eventually the balances shifts to the point where additional work is only needed if you want to keep growing. Amazon's product advertising API allows you to get current prices, availability and popularity (sales ranking) to keep everything fresh.

Did that entail a lot of hand entry of product information? (considering that Amazon was, as you said, lacking specifications)

Yes it did. I have spent a lot more time researching and documenting specs than I have writing code. The good news is that I don't mind that type of work. I often build spreadsheets for fun to compare things I'm thinking of buying so I just took that to another level.

You seem like you might be a good fit for something I have in mind - how do I contact you?

I never noticed before that this site doesn't seem to have any way to send private messages. I guess if one wants to be reached they have to share a way publicly.

True, but you could use a throwaway email that automatically forwards to you for a limited time.

Could you contact me at nicolas.john611 @ gmail.com?

Please email me as well: piptastic @ gmail


what are you looking for?

Did something similar for gifts. was a little hacky, but fun to build.

what is the typical commission that you earn on a single purchase through a link clicked on your site?

Currently my average commission is about $5.

Do you mind sharing your site?

I'd prefer not to but I'll check back a few more times to see if there are any questions about my post to answer.

There are lots of people telling others to write reviews without having purchased/used a product. Did you have to do it too? I mean, is your site only side by side comparisons or do you also post reviews?

My site does not have any reviews. Each product overview is just a description of the product and its specifications. Rather than telling people which one to buy I give them the ability to find the one that best fits their criteria. I rank all of the products by how popular they are and I think many people trust this more than they do a review.

would love to connect w/ you. My email: kadnan@gmail . com

In the nicest possible way, your post reads like "Passive income suggestions (2006)" - e.g. I can't really believe that stoozing still works when interest rates are so low, and getting new affiliate sites ranking is very difficult these days.

Using the free credit balance transfer for a savings account seems like a bad use of money. At best you're going to get something a little below the rate of inflation. You're better off investing it into a conservative index fund portfolio, but at that point you may as well just do the same thing but trading with leverage.

> Solar Panels. In the UK, the government pays you per kWh generated. Needs an upfront investment (...)

It also required upfront confidence in the sustainability of the government subsidy. In The Netherlands a lot of now-solar panel owners decided to invest because of subsidies, but last year the government decided to stop the subsidy for 2016. Especially with the low energy prices, that makes it a net loss for a lot of people.

The UK Conservative government has also just cut solar feed-in tariffs. The new scheme starts on Monday.



Nevada just did the same thing.

> Apps with ads in them. Easy enough to churn out, but decreasing revenues and most of the high earning adverts are the scummiest. Low value and of low moral usefulness.

I assume that by apps you mean native mobile apps. Anyone know how ad-supported mobile apps stack up against web apps? On the one hand, there's no such thing as ad blockers for native apps. On the other hand, web apps run on more platforms out of the box including desktops, and desktops in general seem to be easier to monetize via ads.

> Hosting / simple websites. Again, little bit of up-front commitment. Works best if you can find a local niche of people who want a friendly face to host their websites. Usually as simple as buying a domain, setting up WordPress, and turning on automatic updates.

Does anyone here have experience with this? It's an awfully saturated market, and there's not a lot of ways to differentiate yourself without turning it into a full-time job. That said, if it is as easy as edent makes it sound, I'd love to dive in as an excuse to get some system administration experience (and try out some ideas I have in that area).

>there's no such thing as ad blockers for native apps

There is on Android. Two options: install a pseudoVPN proxy that happens to consult an adblocking filter; root your device and install an /etc/hosts blocker.

I don't have direct experience on the hosting question, but I have often though that if you could come up with the purely simplest way to allow a small, local business to create a one-page website, they would pay $30 a month for the service. Better yet, target a specific niche – Restaurants, spas, landscapers, etc. You could then have a dead-simple template they could type their info into.

Not gonna win any design awards, but so many small-biz sites suck badly because the tools available aim to do too much and become complicated or encourage the user (probably non-technical to begin with) to get too fancy and do too much.

Piggy-back off this and up-charge: https://picnic.sh

Biggest challenge would be gaining traction.

I've tried at that price point. They won't pay that but will want you to do more for less. Small business has proved to me that even a simple cms is not something they think their business needs. They're happy to trial and have themes development done as long as it's cheap but they just won't update their site themselves. And mail hosting is worse. forgot passwords and new users issues, Outlook configuration (even though comprehensive instructions were sent) and they want you to respond within the hour like it's enterprise level support.

thinking back one client moved because she said she couldn't update her site herself (note it was a cms) and some dude bamboozled her into drupal. He used the theme I'd built her from my custom cms and years later the site still has the same content copied from the one I did for her..

A friend of mine does that, but there are a few problems with that model:

- it's harder than you think and a lot of work to find new customers

- customers usually want more than "just a website"; you also need to offer things like newsletters, online reservation, etc.

- if you get enough customers to make it worthwhile, you will be get lots of support requests

Every time I meet him, someone calls him for help with their website.

Agreed. I guess I was thinking more of a "landing-page-as-a-service" option.

Barebones, but enough so anyone searching locally wouldn't have trouble finding their phone number, hours, location, etc.

I don't use Facebook or the yellow pages. If you don't have a website, I probably won't find you. And if your website quickly tells me what I want to know vs. making me click through pages under construction to find it, I'll be much happier.

But, as markyc said, Facebook may be the best strategy for small businesses.

maybe a facebook page works better these days though

Good point. Probably the best option for many types of local businesses.

* Also UK focused - Matched Betting. Exploiting Bookmakers signup/recurring offers for a guaranteed profit. This is good for an early surge of ~£2k followed by a pretty easily achievable £200-£500 per month for <5 hours commitment per week.

Any guides or links to get started on this kind of thing?

There are plenty of services that are paid and not set up in your best interestes (Profit Accumulator is the most popular these days).

If you're interested I highly recommend the MoneySavingExpert Matched Betting forum - http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/forumdisplay.php?f=41

It is free, unbiased (lots of the specifically tailored sites like PA mentioned above have affiliate deals which reduce the amount you can earn) and active.

Discussion on the MSE forum is restricted to what they define strictly as "risk free", not "EV+" opportunities, but that's a healthy start.

Their definition of risk free is making a guaranteed profit regardless of the outcome - Either natural arbitrage or an offer-dependent forced arbitrage.

http://bonusbagging.co.uk looks like a scam website, but I know a few people who have done it, myself included.

There is an upfront time element needed, and then to keep it rolling you'll need to take advantage of reload offers if you want a trickle, but if you're prepared to put the work in and use a site like this that does most of the "thinking" for you, it can work.

That website reminded me of parrotsecrets.com made & written about by cringely [1]. It is designed to slowly increase excitement in the reader as they progress through the page (that's why it repeatedly insists you slowly read the whole thing instead of skimming) as it leads them towards a sale.

[1] http://www.cringely.com/2009/03/14/parrot-secrets/

a guy I know very well does websites like this. He uses a bit more tech behind it with bandit algos etc and nets 1 to 2 million a month. He has been at it a good number of years now.

That home page is awful even by the standards of actual scam websites.

I remember the now defunct site that showed me how to bag bonuses as a student a decade ago being straightforward about your pretty modest level of expected winnings (and for blackjack bonuses, modest level of risk) and focusing mainly on the actual maths.

For anyone that wants it as a passive income project, there's some very nice potential affiliate earnings (redirected through another domain, naturally) for anyone that wants to create a less scammy looking explanation...

Either he means exploiting bonus programs for new members, which is hardly sustainable and unless there's an endless supply of those. Or it's your regular arbitrage gaming, which is also hardly worth the effort and not free of risk. If it's an arbitrage scheme in an exchange, where the quotes might vary over time, your are gambling and at that you are probably playing the bookie who always has the better latency.

There are various sites such as oddsmonkey that do a lot of the effort of finding price disparities for you, so you can arb with confidence. Regarding bonus arbing, as long as you don't get banned lots of places perform regular stunts with free bonuses for inactive accounts to try to drag punters back in. (Disclosure: I work for an exchange)

"arbitrage scheme in an exchange, where the quotes might vary over time" - The nature of arbitrage is that the profit opportunity is available at a single moment.

What I interpret your explanation as is more akin to trading - Buying backs at a time and waiting for odds to fluctuate at an exchange for a sale.

Although there is no (simple) way of doing a pure arb between a bookie/exchange, all the popular exchanges expose existing liquidity in a market and you can quite safely reduce the risk by double checking available liquidity at the exchange in the seconds before placing your back bet.

It's a combination of both. Initial signups is not sustainable, for sure, but there are some regular offers from a lot of bookies that are exploitable not for guaranteed profit, but "EV+" opportunities. This is where my consistent side income comes from.

Renting out property is a lot more than a large initial financial investment.

Most people I know who do well in that space do so after several years. Once they learn how to be a landlord, learn the quirks of the market they invest in, etc, it can be pretty low stress, although not necessarily hands off.

But if you're just starting out, you should expect to make some mistakes and run into some headaches as you figure things out.

You can hire landlords to do the work for you though.

"Stoozing" (hadn't heard it called that before) hasn't been profitable in a long time, unless you're willing to take huge risks (in which case, there are better ways to make leveraged bets). I haven't seen a balance transfer offer with a transaction fee of less than 2% in quite a while. Even at 1%, you'd just break even.

Even if you are willing to take on a moderate amount of risk, most people - even those with good credit and decent incomes - are going to net a few hundred bucks per year off this thing, max.

It is a really poor way to make extra income.

> Stoozing. Find a credit card with 0% interest on balance transfers. Stick the money into a savings account. Or, if you like risk, on a horse. Need a good credit rating and decent savings rate to make more than a few hundred a year though.

I remember doing this in 2007. I wasn't aware there was a specific name for it.

also called arbitrage

>Stoozing. Find a credit card with 0% interest on balance >transfers.

Doesn't really work anymore : Most balance transfer credit cards charge a minimum fee of 1% to 3% on the transfer amount AFAIK. Savings account pay less than 1%.

True. You're better off shifting 100% of your spending to the card and keeping what you'd otherwise be spending in savings/investments.

About how much qualifies as "moderate" passive income?

Regarding your closing statement: http://slickdeals.net/ is awesome.

http://hotdealsclub.com/ is another one but without the pictures. It is done by a friend of a friend. I still check it out for black Friday and Monday to see what tech deals are out there.

UK Solar isn't a good idea any more, the current government has slashed the payments and it's only going to go down more...

Feed in tariff dropped, but the installation costs dropped significantly too. I've not done the calculations for a while but it still might be profitable.

Here's my experiences for last year in passive income:

Total Gross Revenues: $20,000 or so.

Mostly from a single high-traffic niche site which I promote almost exclusively through social media. My site offers a free version of what a few other websites in the same niche offer as a SaaS service.

From that same site, most of the revenue (~80%) is from ads (ad revenue increased when switching to responsive units). Next, Amazon associate makes up about 15% of the revenue. And about 5% from donations.

The downside is that ad rates are DROPPING pretty quickly, ad-block usage rates are increasing rapidly, some browsers block ads by default now, etc. So I'm trying to get off of ad dependency.

I'm thinking in the future a Patreon funded project or project with additional SaaS component will probably fare better if you traffic is at least medium size (~50k/mo+), and comprised of repeat visitors.

I also have eBooks, which despite the rapid increase in popularity of Amazon authors, seem to be doing well. My most popular eBook is bringing in ~40$ / mo on the 35% plan (I can't use the 70% plan because someone stole it and uploaded it elsewhere). The rest of my eBooks are bringing in ~$20 total. If you have expertise, and strong communication skills - eBooks may be a good route to go down. Leanpub offers higher % rate, and I've seen some technical authors make a killing there - might be a better option.

As far as stocks go, I'm all invested in Vanguard which seems to like tech stocks - so not so great this year. The high-dividend yield funds are probably the way to go in 2016 since growth growth isn't so hot right now.

I would stay away from IoS & Android because app discovery is messed up, and you need a marketing budget in most scenarios to make it big.

So all your eBooks are bringing in $60 / month in total? For the incredible time investment required to write books, that is quite discouragingly low.

This is less than I spend on coffee in a month.

That's a lot! :)

Just $2 a day!

I don't spend as much, and yes, coffee can be so much cheaper, but it's also not a lot of money.

Interestingly, the following guy has a recurring theme on how trying to save on lattes is inefficient and distracting (similar to the idea of premature optimization in code):


Yeah. I make coffee at home. I'm not really sure what it costs me, to be honest!

I'm interested in your path to the free SaaS tool. Do you think it would be viable to outsource the creation of tools to compete with popular, paid ones, offer the outsourced tool for free, and rake in ad-revenue/e-book sales? With proper marketing and seo a person could probably break even within a few months.

Is that anything like what you did?

I've never outsourced anything, because I've found that usually websites end up with a "core audience", aka maybe 100-500 people who make up the bulk of discussion, feedback, etc. I like to build relationships with these people, to better understand my audience. Plus they usually market my sites for me. It's a pretty painstakingly long process though.

On the other hand, I've read about owners of tools (like ListenToYouTube, W3Counter) - who run just a tool by itself with little or no social features.

If it's just the tool the audience wants, it may be totally possible to outsource the creation - and than just focus on marketing it. I'd like to see someone take a SaaS tool, outsource the development - release it for free (ad-funded or similar) and post a case study.

Could you talk about how you're promoting on social media?

Are you building relationships with influencers and getting promoted to their audiences, or have you found tactics / channels to drive traffic directly that works well for you?

on the 35% plan (I can't use the 70% plan because someone stole it and uploaded it elsewhere

Can you go into more detail? Why are there different plans?

70% is if you sign a document promising not to publish your eBook on any other websites. Standard rate is 35%. Someone rebranded my most popular eBook and uploaded it to a bunch of small eBook websites. Amazons filters caught it, and I was told if I take them down from the third party sites I'll get full revenue share again - but emails didn't cut it with some of the little players (no responses), and it's not enough money to hire a lawyer over.

I write eBooks for developers interested in using semi-new technologies. Previously, I wrote about developing websites to work with the Chromecast. Most recently, I published an eBook about AWS Lambda[1]. The income is not terribly good, but enough to make it worthwhile. I've been approached by publishing companies who want to raise the price to $50+ per copy, but I prefer keeping them at $2-$4 so they're more accessible for everyone.


As soon as I read your post I wondered if it was the 'AWS Lambda' book that keeps showing up in my recommendations. I clicked the link and sure enough there it was! Of course, now I HAVE to buy it. :D

Haha glad it was recommended for you and hope you like it!

Some overarching takeaways:

- niche sites with Google ads is a fading path, but still can work if you hit a good market or produce evergreen content

- selling niche e-books through Amazon or direct seems to be a decent option, but is a lot of work unless you can produce quickly and have a feel for the topic

- apps are dangerous because discover is nearly impossible. If you want to make apps, make quick little ones because the likelihood is that you will make $0 on any one app

My personal opinion is to make niche B2B tools. There are a million little inconveniences that small businesses deal with. If you find the right niche you can charge way more than a B2C product, deal with way fewer customers and charge extra for "custom" features and things like that. The trick is to find a business problem worth solving. The best way to do this is to find someone working a job and drilling them about their work flow. It's amazing the stuff that can be automated that people still don't recognize.

There is one guy who was blogging about a simple scheduling app that let 1 man operations (like barbers or chiropractors) simply text the app appointment details and it would automate putting them in the calendar. It's a great little business because scheduling is a big pain point for these tiny businesses but no one addresses it in a humane way. A good way to make $ and while also producing useful things for the world.

My personal opinion is to make niche B2B tools.

How does one find what to make? That is actually a harder problem to solve than making the tool itself

I work at a small, non-tech family business. I am the default IT guy, and I have made a ton of internal tools for us. Most of these are either only useful to us or would be hard to make universally for others. However, I have turned a few into B2B web apps that have good traffic and earn a couple hundred each month with virtually no effort or optimization. And the opportunity exists to turn these into more robust SAAS offerings or do contract work, but that would be less passive.

Not everyone is in this position, so it is a very interesting conundrum. If you know anyone that works for or owns a small business or works as a professional in a specific field, ask them about the tools they already use and what tools they would like to have. Tell them to let you know the next time they are facing a problem that they know could be done better/easier/faster through a tool or app. If you can make something that will help them, perhaps it will help others. Custom forms, data collection, etc.

It requires talking to people who have these problems ;) Most programmers only end up talking amongst themselves, or attack business problems they themselves experience (hence the large market saturation for developer tools).

Listen to what problems people have. I had lunch with a friend today that has a niche need. He owns a 2 truck garbage truck company. He has a few hundred customers, and he wanted some way to document the route. He tried using Google maps but it didn't work easily enough, the industry specific software that is already out there is sized for 50 truck fleets not 2 truck fleets, etc.

If anyone has already built that app, please let me know.

An easy way is to look for a company willing to solve a specific problem that may exists in similar companies. If you make the right contracts you can replicate the solution later.

Amazon recently launched a new app store that pays developers by the minute in lieu of all other monetization techniques, it's great if you can come up with engaging apps.


One success story of a small company on Amazon Underground - https://medium.com/@PuzzleBoss/actionable-steps-to-make-mone...

TL;DR: they have a Jigsaw Puzzle Android App and make shitloads of money on Amazon Underground.

That's me. I now have a Sudoku app launched too, and a new 1200 piece jigsaw to launch this month, and a word search next month.

Thanks for writing that post!

I love the symmetry with AWS. I pay them for one minute of compute, they pay me for one minute of eyeballs.

"it's great if you can come up with engaging apps" ...and the Amazon app marketplace has a miraculous recovery and somehow because a legitimate revenue source. It probably speaks volumes how badly their device sales are on how likely that is.

It's not an App Store where someone could get a billion downloads, probably not even a million except maybe dragged out over a year.

But I netted $8k last month on Underground against 38k downloads, that's pretty decent.

Pretty decent indeed! How many apps made up that 38k?

It's a line of jigsaw puzzles, an engine packaged with distinct content as separate apps. On average about one a week gets released.

Am I understanding correctly that Amazon is only monetizing Underground through interstitials at app launch time? If so, I'm impressed.

For now yeah that's all they do, and the 'underground app' itself is tied in with your amazon.com searches advertising stuff you've been browsing.

This is not completely passive income, but after 1 ~ 2 months of some committed work, it can become passive income. This is assuming you know what you are doing and you have experience with e-commerce. (I was losing money for the first 3 months)

-Private labeling on Amazon using FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)

I currently earn some passive income (~$1000/month) by selling products on Amazon. Amazon FBA is great because you just send all the products to Amazon warehouse and they will do the packaging and shipping for you. If you shipped out all the items yourself, it wouldn't be so passive. But since all my items are currently at Amazon warehouse and everything's being shipped by Amazon, I spend little time at the moment.

A summarized process will be 1. Sign-up for Amazon seller account 2. Find an item to sell on Alibaba 3. Purchase the item, receive, check, and send to Amazon. 4. Perform SEO for your product page 5. Repeat 2 - 4 6. After some success, switch to Amazon Seller Merchant Pro.

The most difficult part wasn't finding the right item, but rather promoting the page. Ranking my product will involve tons of keyword research, pinning everything relevant on Pinterest, and revising copy-writing.

Once I start selling about 10 products/day for a single item, I'd move on to a new product. The best time to start probably is NOT at 3rd or 4th quarter. You want to have steady sales by 3rd quarter. Because if you do, you will experience some shockingly crazy sales starting November lasting until early January. If I now sell 10 units/day for product X, I was selling 100 units/day starting late November. I regret not stocking more items, but it was my first year doing this and it's a lesson learned.

A few questions, if you don't mind:

How do you figure out how much stock to order from Alibaba? Is it just based on the maximum financial risk you want to undertake, or something else?

Do you ever replenish stock, or do you continuously rotate the items you sell?

How do you pick the items to sell? Just popular items within certain categories that don't have a current Prime option? Or some other method?

What % of sales end up as returns due to defective products etc? Does Amazon cover these, or do you take the financial hit if there's a refund?

I have very similar questions...

eBooks worked for me in 2014 & 15. I am the author of an ebook Trello Dojo (https://leanpub.com/trellodojo). I update it periodically and earn a couple hundred dollars a month. Lots of people from all over the world tell me it has helped them, which feels like I'm doing honest, good work with it. I'm not going to retire early from just that, but really want to do a few more, and possibly expand that concept into niche sites/training/etc.

niche sites and blogging have not panned out for me (yet). I feel that's more a lack of time/effort on my part. A test effort showed me my niche could work, but I just haven't committed to really getting it rolling.

I'm also a software developer and have a few service type sites up my sleeve. My thinking (as yet unproven in my own life) is that relatively simple subscription services that "do one thing well" and can be marketed to businesses and government agencies can earn well with minimal ongoing investment. The trick there would be to automate as much as possible- especially support- without sacrificing quality, and periodically dedicate resources to keeping the technology current (easier said than done, I know)

It's hard to balance a current "non-passive" job, family, and side passive gigs, but it _can be done_.

Peer-to-peer lending can potentially be a great source of passive income. For example, if you invested $100,000 in lower grade (C-G) notes on Lending Club with an aggregate 12.0% net annualized return, you'd receive approximately $6,000 in cash payments each month.

It's worth noting that the money received from the peer-to-peer lending counts as income, and hence can be taxed quite highly if you're already a high-income individual and/or live someplace with a state income tax.

I invested a moderate chunk of money in lending club, and I don't regret it, but between the defaults and early payoffs, I ended up at around ~8% return, and then had to pay income tax on that 8 percent, which cut it way down.

That being said, there's the more intangible return, which is that some of hte people I selected to fund were trying to get out of high-interest debt, or fund purchasing a car for work, etc. Some(all?) of it was probably BS, but it was nice to feel like you were investing money in someone who had a specific need and helping them achieve it.

I'm not doing that anymore though, it's just not worth it.

One strategy is to use an IRA on Lending Club and a taxable account for lower yield investments that are taxed as capital gains.

If you re-invest the returns are you still taxed on them?

Yes, the payments are interest, so you need to pay tax on these even if you reinvest in further loans.

Default rates on Lending Club are high enough you get ~33% of the quoted interest rate due to defaults.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but do you have data supporting this statement? I've been interested in peer to peer lending for awhile and this turns me off a bit.

Well the person I was replying to was suggesting G notes:


8.99 / 23.47 = 38%


Their median return is 7.2%.

The top 90th percentile is 9%.

> For example, if you invested $100,000 in lower grade (C-G) notes on Lending Club with an aggregate 12.0% net annualized return, you'd receive approximately $6,000 in cash payments each month.

That just isn't a situation that happens for 99% of people.

Personally, I've seen worse returns and I know a number of other people that feel the way Lending Club came up with these numbers is fudged a bit since almost everyone I know ends up below the median.


The reality is, its returns are reasonably high risk [as you are limited in how many you can invest due to the caps the other guy mentioned] and if you get a bad basket you are screwed.

I'd rather invest in stocks given the real returns for the average person in Lending Club are about the same. Also, literally 0 of its proponents factor in what happens during a major recession [ default rates will skyrocket ] which will make even these modest returns terrible very quickly as loans default.

I've made 8-10% per year (defaults included) for the past 2 years on lending club. There are investment limits based on your income that you legally have to follow. I believe its 5% of your income/assets max. They don't confirm your income/assets but there are regulations related to it.

It also takes work to liquidate quickly. So if not selling notes on a second market you're locked into your investments for up to 5 years.

Thanks for this, didn't know there was a limit. Apparently it's 10% of your net worth [0] and there are other restrictions by state [1]. Which is a shame, because it beats the pants off the stock market.

[0] http://kb.lendingclub.com/investor/articles/Investor/Is-ther...

[1] http://kb.lendingclub.com/investor/articles/Investor/What-ar...

I played around with this and found that the default rates were high, even among highly rated borrowers.

I assume that $6K/month includes return of principle? Otherwise that's 72% annual return, not 12%. So you're saying you get about $1K/month in profit and $5K/month in returned principle?

There were a couple of posts with answers to this a month ago, you might find good suggestions there:



Sounds like it's just really, really hard to get people to hand you money. If you already have a paying job, you're way ahead of the game. Maybe the best strategy is to just look for higher paying jobs.

You can add $x0,000 to your annual income today by just asking for it (correctly).


I'm slowly coming to the same conclusion. Within my circle it is fashionable to moan about the "9-5" and we spend hours having grand dreams of what it would be like to have our own thing going and earn money while we are asleep. I've started a very tiny venture right now and it is turning out to be a lot more difficult than I thought.

Looking for a higher paying job (if money is what you want to optimize) is never a bad idea, regardless of whether your future plans involve entrepreneurship.

Paint pictures of people's dogs. Yep, a little bit of painting is involved, but painting is fun, right?

There is an inexhaustible supply of middle class people wanting pictures of their dogs painted and they are prepared to pay proper art prices for competent or in-style renditions of their dog in some picturesque scene. Since we are not dogs* and are people, poor painting is not so obvious and efforts get well received.

On the back of paintings-of-dogs it is possible to also paint your own stuff. May not be entirely 'passive income' but holding a brush isn't hard and you don't have to work in an office from 9 to 5 for the man.

*on the internets nobody knows you are a dog.

While I like painting and I like dogs, this is quite literally the opposite of "passive income".

Get someone to do it for you and automate the ordering and fullfilment part. Upload pic of dog, pay online, send email to painter with shipping info, painter fills online form with picture of result + tracking code upon which she gets money in the bank. Passive.

I have a friend who gets by on painting pictures of dogs, he also starts imbibing alcohol by mid afternoon, which is after an 11 a.m. start. He is not famous, even within the small town where he lives and paints. He also spends longer just being friends with the clients rather than doing a lot of painting, which is invariably more 'painting by numbers' as people have photos they want 'interpreted'.

Really, this can be 'passive income'...!

I see you've got lots of auto-posting going on social media... have these efforts proven to be worth your while? Did you build up your followings organically?

None of the ones that Wordpress auto-posts have really done anything for me. Pinterest and Stumble Upon have to be submitted manually, but they seem to work out well.

Looks great - is it making you any money?

Thanks! It's anywhere from $100 to $200 a month, more around Christmas time.

This is great! Is all of that income from affiliate links? Does it take up a lot of your time curating the list of items? Where do you get most of your traffic from?

99% of the income is affiliate links. I have adsense on there, but haven't really made any money on it. Finding the products is the worst part about it, i kind of restricted myself with the "under $15" theme. It sat dormant for months, but I'm going to try and get a new product up every day. As far as traffic goes, I kind of got lucky. I had an old Tumblr Blog with a domain name years ago. Tumblr used to have this program where a few people were curators for each category. This lead to a ton of followers and reblogs. They shut that program down and I've since stopped working on that blog, so I forward the domain to this new site. Still gets traffic daily. The rest is pinterest.

I'm also interested about how you curate the list of products. Do you have some kind of semi-automatic system or something? Or you just add them by hand?

When I first built it I tried to automate that part of it, but had mixed results, nothing that grabbed attention. I just post things I find cool now.

Do you market it at all?

Generally just whenever a thread like this pops up here or on Reddit.

Borrow $1 million from a Japanese bank.

You'd get a better deal borrowing from Sweden, Switzerland, or Denmark

I made a command generator for Minecraft. It earns somewhere between $300 - $500 $NZD per month (adsense). It's a passive income because even when I go months without working on it, I still get paid. But what I would like to know is how to make it earn about 10x more. So I can quit my main job and then just make more cool stuff for the web.

I believe it's at the peak of what it can earn. Also about 25% of users have adblocker.

This is for command blocks right?

Yes. The generated commands are long and complex and rarely fit into the chat bar. So the only place for them is in a command block.

Niche website. I built Casting Call Club (https://www.castingcall.club/homepage) for the voice acting community. Roughly 13,000 voice actors currently use the site, but it only breaks even with all the costs associated with it, so I couldn't call it income.

You're probably already aware, but if not you should share this in https://www.reddit.com/r/VoiceActing/

Yessir, I am, but appreciate the heads up. I love that sub.

What have been your most successful channels for reaching voice actors?

Word of mouth. I've done zero marketing, except that I was a member of various online voice acting communities, where I announced that I made the site.

Save money and invest it.

The question is about passive income, and, given interest rates, there aren't really any good options. If you're able to generate significant passive income at the ~2-3% rates[1], well, you probably already have a lot of money already, and should just focus on whatever you were doing to get that much.

Way too many comments in the thread branching off yours are answering the wrong question -- "how to grow your money in general" -- which is not the same as passive income.

[1] See Vanguard's bond fund yield https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=0084&...

I'm party to this thread branching of which you speak, but yes, it's predicated on not answering the question and using a principle similar to what you're saying: save, invest passively, and get back to work doing what you do. It's probably as a good a strategy or better than chasing returns in other ways that may also end up requiring a lot of work, depending on skillset, demand, and financial conditions.

I have no problem with people giving that advice, and agree with it myself.

However, if you're going to dispute the premise of the question, you need to explicitly say so and connect it to the alternate point you're making rather than expect readers to see the connection; otherwise, it looks like you're just being non-responsive.

And indeed, that's what the thread looks like now.

> you probably already have a lot of money already, and should just focus on whatever you were doing to get that much.

You can inherit only once from your rich parents.

But invested money is not really something that creates an income, unless it is really really much, right? Income in the sense of money that you can freely dispose.

Depends on how much risk you are willing to accept.

For example, the baseline interest rate of Brazilian Government Bonds are paying 14.25%/year.

Often this means the market is expecting ~13-14% inflation against the USD.

It is more like 7% inflation in the local currency plus a 7% premium for the risk of default.

The exchange rate is much more volatile than the inflation rate alone, but it is relatively easy to hedge.

Dividends but you are essentially right

Can you give examples of what kind of low-touch reasonable-return investments you've benefited from?

The Permanent Portfolio [1]. The plan is based on very simple economic theory, and historically it generates market-competitive returns in the long run with much lower volatility than stock indexes or 60/40 portfolios.

As in the peer thread on stock funds, this plan is not a great income generator because it's designed more for capital preservation and long term capital gains. (Unless you have half a million dollars in there and interest rates are favorable for the bonds or cash holdings.) But for me it's a great way to carve out savings and get some real compounding going. The longest drawdown in the past 40 years is 2-3 years, so I'm comfortable using it with any savings I don't expect to need to use in the next five or more years.

Implementation could hardly be simpler for the robustness that it offers. You put the money in and divide it into four parts. Once a year take a look at the balances and rebalance if any category is too far out of alignment.

For resources, Harry Browne's book mentioned in [1] is awesome for general investment sense and lays out the basics of the plan. Another book by Roland and Lawson [2] goes into much more of the nuts and bolts of implementation using different account types, tax status, and many other factors in individual situations.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fail-Safe_Investing

[2] http://www.amazon.com/The-Permanent-Portfolio-Long-Term-Inve...

Any low-fees index fund.

Vanguard had very low fee reit index funds. If you want to generate income it is a good option (as opposed to stock index funds) because reits are required to pay 90% of their income as dividends. You can look at all the historical dividend data on the website

I parked some money in a vanguard reit a year ago as an experiment, and to create more of a balanced portfolio. Yes, it has paid quarterly dividends but it's also down -11% in total. So as usual, it all depends...

They tend to be very volatile though. The VIG (Vanguard Dividend ETF) pays 2.4%. Dollar-cost average in on bad market days.

Is there a Bay Area REIT index fund?

In terms of throwing off a lot of passive income, they just aren't very good though. Looking mainly at income-generating investments, the best index one might be Vanguard LifeStrategy income (with provides income and moderate capital appreciation to protect against inflation).

The yield? 2.1% Nothing to write home about. [1]

Is there some high-yielding, regular-income fund I should know about? Even allowing for sorta-irregular funds, you probably can't do much better in this environment, though I'd like to be proven wrong.

[1] https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=0723&...

I found Choosing The Right Dividend ETF [1], which discusses several dividend funds and mechanisms they use to predict which companies will continue paying high dividends. A poster on another forum [2] warned that you should watch out for companies that prop up a dividend and then tank but don't roll out of the index right away. I guess that's where the more conservative filtering ETFs come into play (or you can screen stocks from the index yourself and monitor them).

The chart in [3] shows a few funds against the S&P 500. Prices seem to largely track the S&P index. Maybe there's a way to chart the dividend yield over time, too.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2014/08/22/choosing...

[2] http://gyroscopicinvesting.com/forum/stocks/what-about-a-hig...

[3] https://www.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chdv=1&...

I use betterment for automated investing. It's pretty straightforward, they provide a tech wrapper around vanguard index funds. I agree with their portfolio allocation, so it works great for me.

This is US centric, but the approach I've had good success with is outlined at: https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Bogleheads%C2%AE_investment_....

This is essentially what Personal Capital, Wealthfront, Betterment, etc., do for you. I don't use those services because I enjoy learning about personal finance and I think the work required on my part is pretty easy. Your mileage may vary.


Haven't tried this myself, but Tim Ferriss seems to advertise it a lot and I have a few coworkers that use it.

Minimum is $500 with no management fees (up to 10k I think)

Looks interesting. However, could not find any info on their past performance. Is that info available somewhere for review?

In the past 12 months, I've been up as much as 4% and am currently down 11%. The allocations in foreign stocks, emerging markets, and natural resources are killing me lately.

How do you feel about their fees compared to low cost index funds?

P.S. Only for USA citizens. This pretty sad.

On-demand proxies that you spin up in 1 second.

I can spin out cloud servers in an instant.. but I have to wait days for my proxies to be activated.

Can't you spin up a cloud server and install a proxy in short order?

If you can spin out a cloud server in an instant, why can't you install and configure some proxy software in about 10 minutes?

I SSH tunnel when I need a foreign IP.

This isn't really passive. Most people need lots of support and the servers will need to be constantly checked for abuse.

ThanksGiving season. I bought lots of YNAB codes (www.ynab.com) at 50% off and sold them at 25% off on eBAY. Win Win for everyone.

Now they moved to cloud and didn't do any 50% off this year.

There is one person (Rob Percival - google him) who is making millions on udemy teaching people how to program. Not sure if it works for everyone, but lots of people seem to be trying. There are literally thousands and thousands of courses on udemy.

http://www.bestoftheinternets.com This worked for a while until google shutdown my adsense, becuasue I had developed auto generated content.

The only good news, believe it or not, it actually got me my first programming job. So I guess it was worth it.

how ironic! Google auto generates everything and bans you for doing the same thing!!

After reading all of this, my conclusion is: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You may find some stuff with a more or less optimal f(risk, initial investment, running cost, return) function, but no no brainer. I wish someone had mentioned a blog a YouTube channel, I always been curious to know how much moderately successful guys are making.

The nearest I've seen to a free lunch is buying property in an area that's likely to go up. Low risk of loss, high chance of retirement style profits especially if you do it more that once. Ethics so so.

Wouldn't the likelihood of the area going up already be built into the price?

Built https://wholesaleorderform.com - Has 2 customers - Brings in $50 a month with zero maintenance. Still haven't even finished the homepage :) No idea how to find customers... Anyone want to partner up!

How'd you get your two customers?

Why is your landing page so disingenuous? There's several things that are lies, given that you only have two customers. "We've gathered heaps of user feedback," "contact the onboarding team," etc.

I think you need a demo.

We have gathered heaps of feedback from the two customers, but I take your point. Landing page should be written by someone who knows what they are doing :)

I had two separate unrelated customers ask for almost exactly the same system after not being able to find an existing solution that meet their needs.

Thanks for replying!

What does passive mean to you? 99% hands-off income that just shows up magically without any significant work?

Most schemes I see here and elsewhere require a lot of investment (of time mostly) upfront, and then often also ongoing attention so the scheme keeps working.

- i've tried and failed many times at this. Finally, I started an outsourcing company 5group.co. My growth model is to get business from field partners like your self and pay them 20% of the life time of profits from that customer. For example, if someone refers a chat support outsourcing customer and the customer spends 10k usd in a year, we pay out about $1400. We manage the labor/office space etc so the is no capex like in real estate. You do need to have the savvy to generate business though. -- Prosper marketplace...lend money on prosper and receive 7-8 % - tough if you dont have capital

I made a website with a free exercise to learn to type faster: http://www.learn-2-type.com ...sadly a lot of people are using ad blockers

I turned off my ad blocker for you site, and clicked on the ads. Hopefully you get 2 cents.

thanks dude, living the vida loca now

Clicked on Namecheap ad because they don't stop following me despite the fact that I'm their customer.

-$0.05 for Namecheap.

On the other hand, another person lost 5 (or 10) cents.

Me too, good luck!

A service that people want to use :)

Just started https://wormhole.network and still putting some more money and time to add an API (coming very, very soon!), but I'm pretty sure it will take off if I manage to promote it properly. The product itself is pretty awesome, probably unrivalled and the possibilities endless. I have a lot of features in the backlog and will be adding those based on user feedback.

This is not fully passive, but the income is not a linear function with the invested time, which ain't bad either.

I used my good income job to rent a three room bedroom apartment, and rent out 2 of the rooms. I pay < $100 a week on bills and housing, and I live in a city where the median house price is > $1m.

That's not against your lease?

I was upfront about it with the landlord. She could lease to a double income family, who're going to bargain with the rent at every opportunity, and complain about every issue that comes up that could possibly be the landlord's responsibility, with 3 kids, who with their parents working will have lots of time home alone, or she could lease to me, a mid-twenties young man, with high income and stability, and the kind of person who're generally quite chill about things, and will take the care to look after the house.

Now I lease the two rooms to an immigrant, and another man who came to my city to work because he couldn't find a job where his wife and kids currently live.

So you basically injected yourself as a pseudo-landlord, paying yourself with a free room. Makes sense - since you are living there it would be fairly easy to turn down a family (or conversely no family would likely want to share the house with you) whereas it would be tougher for the landlord to turn down a family in preference to a group of 3 unrelated people (discrimination laws and such). It's just that typically young families present themselves as better, more stable tenants than groups of people :)

is this nyc?

Bookmarked this post and thanks for asking! My plan, which may/may-not work out - Start consulting, work like crazy to get _high quality_ clients, find common needs among them, build products from these common needs. I'm hoping I can find specific things between multiple clients that I might be able to sell as an actual product, alongside the consulting. Anyway I just started indepedent contracting on evenings/weekends about a month ago.. so far it's working quite nicely for me :)

Start a company. Hire a hardworking and dependable general manager on a salary and give him/her great autonomy.

Sit back and enjoy the dividends.

Bit tricky to execute. You know any real world examples where it's worked like that?

I run an product (clothing, tech, home-wares) curation site [1]. It primarily uses affiliate marketing to generate an income. Lots of effort at the moment, but hopefully will pay off in time.

[1] http://iwantdis.com

I recently created http://filepiper.com, still busy validating the idea, then get someone to pay :)

I always wonder if software products are really the way to go. Getting initial traction is seriously hard

Great Idea! At my day job we occasionally (ie: a couple times a year) need customers to send us "large" files (too large to email) and the customers do not typically themselves have enough technical ability to "host" it (be it through dropbox/google drive/etc) themselves. I spent a couple days looking for something similar a year ago and ended up with a dated product at a very expensive price. [Our web-hosting is currently sucky shared hosting we've had for decades /w a small upload limit]. I was thinking of rolling my own solution but never got around to it, glad to see somebody is working on it. PS: Assuming it works, I'd start charging right now, skip this "free for now" nonsense.

Thanks for the feedback! Your use case is exactly why I started the project, I have very similar issues daily. It is definitely working. the idea behind the free for now was to entice early adopters.

At the current sign up rate I will remove that in about a week or two.

Thanks again for the feedback :)


>I presume by passive income you mean any amount of money > 0 that comes in with regularity

That definition would include 'a job' so it seems incomplete.

Bitcoin arbitrage.

Correct my if I'm wrong but bitcoin arbitrage doesn't seem like good idea, here is pretty good explanation - https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/bitcoin-price-arbitrage-expl...

I would better put my money in more "real" etf's and start from there.

> Correct my if I'm wrong...

You are very wrong, plus you are talking to jerguismi (localbitcoin's founder), who I'd presume has made quite a bit from arbitrage in the space...

The article does make a very interesting point. One which I'm hoping jerguismi could respond to.

The article talks about the slow transaction time being a barrier to arbitrage. Basically, you couldn't buy in one market and sell in another market simultaneously. Wouldn't that make an arbitrage opportunity speculative?

Also, because jerguismi is a founder of a bitcoin exchange, isn't it in his interest to promote trading bitcoin? I have no reason to believe that jerguismi would misrepresent his knowledge, but I think his role in the bitcoin community isn't de facto evidence that his statement is true.

> The article talks about the slow transaction time being a barrier to arbitrage.

The article is wrong on many levels. You don't need to transact (or even own) bitcoins in order to arbitrage. You can just buy/sell and open short/long positions via the exchanges websockets API... Not WallSt speed, but a decent speed for any self-made bot vs point&click traders.

Can you elaborate a bit more? What do you mean by "You can just buy/sell and open short/long positions"?

Can you please elaborate more? I would like to learn about this topic. Or at least give me some good pointers to look quality information.

In the Spring 2013 I made $4k in one month on that. Just bought $2k worth of bitcoins and sold them for $6k a month later. But it was way easier back then (because bitcoin price just kept growing without any downward motion), and I was risky.

Steam games, granted if you can get Greenlight which really isn't that hard to be honest. I have a game on there that isn't exactly the best, but it generates some beer money.

Allocate part of your wealth in riskier assets. If you think you're able to do it on your own, play around with some ETFs.

Alternatively, ask around for a good hedge fund.

Addons / Plugins for existing platforms that have an appropriate marketplace for this (e.g., Concrete5).

-Build a BTC gumroad version.

-AI stuff like http://predictor.ai


So thats how success looks like ;)

Perfectly readable on lynx!


It needs to be on HTTPS https://predictors.ai/#/p/Neural_Storyteller HN doesn't allow me to edit Links after an Hour...

It looks like it needs the www subdomain.


Still won't render correctly in Chrome.

https://predictors.ai/#/p/Neural_Storyteller HN doesn't aloow me to edit Links after an Hour...

"Best viewed in IE 6.0"?

N0,,, best views in chrome :D https://predictors.ai/#/p/Neural_Storyteller

Expired SSL cert killing stylesheets on http:/predicto.ai.

Sorry for that Embarrassing broken link, The URL is actually https://predictors.ai/ and an example project that I recommended for the you guys was https://predictors.ai/#/p/Neural_Storyteller

* P.S HN should take half the blame for disabling editing after a while

I think you meant http://www.predicto.ai/

Broken link?

I assume he ment predicto.ai but its just a mess of text for me. Site broken, stylesheet blocked, something like this

The problem is his SSL certificate expired last week! You can see the site if you go to https://www.predicto.ai/ and make a security exception.

We are looking for investors...

Isn't everyone looking for love...

I built a education platform and plan to charge monthly once I get more students.. http://thinkacademy.io/ http://thinkacademy.io/courses/1/learn-ruby-on-rails-in-4-we...

Some people have successfully bought cars just to rent out via Turo (formerly RelayRides). It's not hard to make well over the monthly payment if you live near a major airport. Most insurers don't like this though and I wouldn't be surprised by an Airbnb-esque crackdown in the coming years. Until then though, it's the good times.

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