I have been working on my passive income streams for a few years now, in all 3 areas mentioned (and some others), I don't know how much value I can add but here is my real-life $0.02.
PROPERTY: Real estate generates good returns principally because the numbers are large to start with so even modest returns on the investment can be very substantial in real terms. It is low risk if you are sensible and crunch some numbers beforehand (to ensure affordability).
If you buy a good house at a good price (mortgage long-term affordable for you even at low occupancy/yield rates) in a good area you will generally be able to rent it easily at a good return. If the property increases in value, that should be treated as a bonus. Get a few houses in same area and options such as hiring agents to find/manage tenants and maintenance companies to look after the properties become cost effective (though even with many houses on rent I still found it was cheap and easy to manage these myself and still work fulltime, the key is to have a list of good trusted tradesmen willing to do jobs for you when you need them and pay them well (above market rate) for doing a good job – it is cheaper in the long run and property is best played as a long-term game).
Buy near places that always have good and constant footfall and preferably long-term renters e.g. near universities (students will rent 1-2years generally) or centers of commerce (office staff typically rent ~6months but will pay more rent and have less wear-and-tear on your house). Favour long-term tenants on cheaper rents less likely to bother you (usually they will appreciate you charge them less and do most minor DIY jobs themselves, plus you will have more candidates to choose from so can be more selective).
WEB: Websites/Online is far more hit-and-miss and frankly unless you are building a mass-market and scalable product/service, ideally something people want, it does not seem worthwhile to me. For better or worse (generally better), you are already competing on a globalised playing field (with more competition, copycats, lower barriers to entry etc.) and without the captivity intrinsic to property. I am sure many aspire to become the next FaceBook or social-network-thingy but that generally seems hard work and risky (er, Pownce.com?). Focus on a disruptive technology product (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology) making use of new advances as they emerge, ideally combining or converging two or more disciplines, aimed towards a fixed market willing to pay seems a better bet. However, as I gear towards that, I have initially opted for the easy-wins of technically less complex but almost totally automated and revenue generating product-based sites like http://www.sportingglory.com. So far this has been working very well. Once setup, they require less than 4 hours per week combined, and provide long-term passive value without further the need for major enhancement [if they were on a the BCG Matrix, http://www.12manage.com/methods_bcgmatrix.html, they would be cash-calfs ;)]. I am now at the stage I can start having a go at the more adventurous sites/products. Hence, for websites, I would treat them as businesses initially and go for things you know you can build and create revenue from, and convert them into passive streams later in the lifecycle (but you already know that).
INVESTING: Investing (stocks, shares, bonds, savings accounts etc.) has proved to provide constant but modest returns but that is primarily because I am not a risk taker in areas I know little or nothing about and hence have always invested in safe products/funds and stayed away from the stock market. This has by far been the easiest way to make modest amounts of money (4-8% p.a.) for almost zero effort (on my part) as most products can be bought/setup/created in a few hours/days (trackers, bonds, funds) and managed by a fund manager, or minutes (savings), with little more than needing to know what the rough interest rate will be. It is a good way to park cash for a while, especially if you are lazy.
However, given that many of the people with the largest passive incomes on the planet (as well as some of the richest) belong to the world of Finance, I am sure effort spent learning about how to operate and navigate in the Finance world and invest wisely would provide the best forms of passive income I can achieve, but sadly I have no real interest in it.
TRADITIONAL BUSINESSES: Bricks-and-mortar business in conjunction with a partner, and the understanding that later on they will run the daily business while you remain in a supporting role, has provided both the best experiences and passive income I have achieved so far. This works especially well in simple businesses e.g. restaurants/bars, where once things are up and running, they basically run themselves (and they are fun to set up). Eventually even your partner will basically just oversee staff and could run several outlets. If you apply this to several businesses e.g. an estate agents, a law firm, an accounting practice, and a I.T. services company, you unsurprisingly have a series of businesses that literally grow each other, requiring little or no extra time or effort from you.
(OTHERS: I'll save it for another day/thread. Way past my bedtime and it is showing in the writing...)
The 4HWW is not about working 4 hours a week, it's about designing your lifestyle to be as enjoyable as possible. The way the title was decided upon was via a Google AdWords campaign (4HWW performed best). The original title was Selling Drugs for Fun and Profit (or something like that).
It's cemented a lot of ideas that I had about time management, focusing on generating income and outsourcing as much non-essential stuff as possible. I've started to use eLance a bit more for non-programming tasks, and I'm hoping to hire a part time virtual assistant this next year.
I tested a selling a database via adwords as suggested in the book, and I got a decent enough response that I'm outsourcing the the database development in the next few weeks. It's not going to make tons of money, but it might make $300-1000 a month in passive income. That's worth the effort for me.
His sections on time management don't translate extremely well to developers, but focusing your time very narrowly on what's essential and most productive makes a lot of sense.
Yes, there's a tone of self aggrandizement throughout the book that can get annoying. But there's a lot of really helpful ideas which are worth the read.
The only big thing I got out of the book was the idea of generating passive income any which way how. Otherwise, it read like a long self-aggrandizing pat on the back. But I gotta give him kudos for at least getting me to take the bait.
edit: the chapter on virtual assistants was also interesting, but if I recall, he didn't write that chapter.
Five years ago I opened a retail clothing franchise with my father and wife. It took a long time to get here, but now we have two stores and I spend little time on them (10 hours a month maybe?).
It is hard to have true passive income, but this is pretty close. Owner involvement is definitely key to the success of a small business, but we have a managing partner which reduces the time I spend on that business.
The great thing about passive income is that it affords me the opportunity to try and create additional revenue streams. Right now I am launching http://statzen.com. I assume that will also take several years of hard work, but it is enjoyable work.
Selling Vitamins! Here's the thing: you get 3 people under you selling vitamins, and you make money off of their sales! Then each of them gets 3 people, and now you're making money off of 9 people! And so on and so forth.
Our program pays you for 3 levels below you in our sales matrix, so if you have 5 people per level you can be receiving profits from 125 people selling vitamins!
A tip to anyone thinking of starting an MLM scheme: if you ARE thinking of building an MLM scheme around your product, you NEED an MLM-specialised lawyer to validate that your scheme is legal in each of the jurisdictions you plan to operate in (most likely, US and UK).
I'm not sure there is such a thing as completely passive income. Wealthy investors (think China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan) have a lot of money (say 70 trillion) and thousands of people trying to allocate it efficiently. They don't do so well. Why would you?
Also, my understanding is that real interests rates are currently negative. On top of it all, the combination of a nominal capital gains tax and inflation means you lose ((inflation * .15) * your net worth) every year in this manner, at least if you are a US citizen. In light of all this, perhaps you should consider spending money on your intellect; it's not taxed, and it has some degree of liquidity. Alternatively, buy a cheap foreclosed house and rent it out; that may be profitable right now.
While people's portfolio's are hurting right now, for the most part you can make a positive real return on investing in dividend paying stocks or long-term bonds. The only catch is that the rate is really low, so you need to already be very wealthy to make it work.
China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan have political considerations, as well as financial, so they are more likely than an impartial investor to take unnecessary risk or allocate funds poorly.
http://ampmnotebook.com. I resell the Chronotebook from Muji. I basically order in bulk from Muji to resell individually. Set up the site, strap adwords on it and get emails from PayPal saying "You've got cash!" Then I have to order the books, package them, and run them to the post office. Not exactly passive income but most of the hard work is automated.
The price if you order over the phone (and I think the price in stores as of now) is actually $5.50, which is still a lot less than what it costs through the site.
Here is a list of other charges/fees that you'll get if you order over the phone:
Shipping: $4.xx for <4, $9.xx >5+
Basically if you order over the phone it costs you $15 or so, plus the inconvenience of having to wait on the phone, and verbally submit your credit card information and shipping address.
In the end, it really costs my customers $5 for the convenience of ordering online, through PayPal. Economies of scale let me process each order for less than what it would cost to order 1 at a time, so I can cover the final shipping cost on my end because of the savings.
I haven't had any complaints about price, but I did see a comment on Jackcheng.com comparing me to GM or Ford because of the price.
edit Here's the actual comment if you don't want to go hunting for it: "That's awesome that you take a $4.95 product and mark it up to $19.99. Do you work for Ford or GM or something?"
Ehh, a couple orders per day, so around $600/month but I have to order from Muji, pack the notebooks, and run them to the post office myself. I did go ahead and get myself a VA to automate part of the process on my end. The site pays for that and I get them for personal use too (http://TimeSvr.com - they were mentioned here a few months ago).
Then again it is December and a lot of orders might be Christmas presents. I'll have to see if it holds up afterwards.
I'm still in the 3 day trial. I was impressed yesterday when they actually called me about a reminder I scheduled. I expected just an email. I can't really compare it to other VAs with hourly rates and a single point of contact, but for the price I think it's great. That, plus the site is beautiful and practical.
Google Adsense used to be a really big deal for me. It's dropped in the last month or two though.
Site / blog sponsorships. I'm not talking text link ads but actual sponsorships from key companies in my sector. It's not big money but enough for me to spend my time working on what I want rather than what I have to.
In the past, I had revenue generating webapps, but I sold those in order to build some capital for future projects, savings, etc. I should probably get on to building another to be fair..
Oh, some low-maintenance Web hosting and domain registrations too for ultra old Web design clients (when I did that sort of thing). Keeps the servers paid up for me to use for my own stuff :)
Yes. It comes in waves, I find. Sometimes pages rank well in Google, sometimes not. Lately, however, it seems to be more a case of getting less per click - but I put this down to the economic situation leading people to bid less.
I guess "sponsorship" is really a nice word for "self-managed brand advertising." It's semi-popular in the development blogging world. For example, you'll see Peepcode banners on many Ruby blogs.
Let's say you run a .Net blog and a .Net tools vendor wants their logo on the sidebar of your blog. You say, sure, it costs $500 per month (or whatever) and that's it. If you've got the readership, fame, or whatever, it's reasonably easy. You won't get an awesome CPM but it's nice to have known companies supporting you.
Great idea, mate. Enabling people to embed the upload form into their site is awesome.
I have one suggestion. I watched the "How It Works" video, which was informative, though a bit slow-paced. However, the soundtrack could really be improved. That looping Windows chime forced me to mute the video =P
Well, let me say that it's profitable. Can't live off of it 100% yet, but it looks like I will be able to soon. And I'm already building the next thingy. So again - it sure as heck isn't passive while you're building it - and only semi-passive while acquiring new users - but the churn is surprisingly low - so even though it probably wont ever turn into something that's 100% passive (gotta make sure those servers are happy!) - I'm pretty sure it'll get darn close.
This is one of the single best examples of "make something people want" I've seen in a while. A problem real people have, that they are willing to pay money to make it go away. It doesn't get any simpler than that (not that it was simple to build it and make it simple for your users, but that it is simple for them).
I wrote a lot for my own band and that was probably the best way to get into the business and get to know the right people. Our first album was released in 2004 and people still buy it (word of mouth) so I'm still getting royalties. Lately, I've been writing for other artists as well but you never know if they pick your song and when they do, whether it picks up or not. So luck is a huge factor.
It's not something you pick up just like that. I've been making music as long as I've been programming (about 27 years). So take this "passive income" and divide it by all those hours spent. You'll get something close to zero.
There are books on the topic. I recommend "Tunesmith" by Jimmy Webb. It's about the art and the industry.
On another note, it's really hard for me to bring the two things together. I could program audio software but that's programming, hardly any "art" involved. Lately, I've been making music for computer games but that's just the art, no technical knowledge required. As long as I can think, it's been either/or.
I'm hoping that tarsnap (http://www.tarsnap.com/, online backups for the truly paranoid) will end up providing a passive income stream at some point in the future. I'm trying to take myself out of the day-to-day running of the service by automating as much as possible; of course, right now I'm still writing new code to improve tarsnap.
That said, tarsnap isn't profitable yet, so the fact that it can keep itself running without help from me doesn't make it a passive income stream yet. :-/
Apple has a whole developer center with forums, etc, and their documentation is really good too.
If you want something more general / third party, though, check out http://www.mobileorchard.com/ - it's a site I'm involved with, but we try to be objective.. (pun semi-intended ;-)) We cover higher level stuff mostly. Lists of resources, sites to check out, etc.
What I found useful when messing around with iPhone stuff was the pragprog iPhone SDK book, Erica Saudin's iPhone developers cookbook and just reading Apple's documentation on the subject I was working on.
If you want more mac side of things then iPhone, then i can't say enough good things about Aaron Hillegass' Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X book.
I second the Hillegass recommendation. Between that and example code and a lot of head scratching i think i finally understand the iPhone dev framework. I just put out my first app (iGo) and things are promising. We'll see but my hope its enough to cover rent (in SF mind you) and tacos.
I'm a little late to the party, but here's the formula:
Scalable revenue-generating assets.
Let's work backwards on that:
Asset: We're going to call an asset as something that can generate value or appreciate in value. So your 2005 Honda Civic is not an asset, but a 1969 Corvette Stingray might be. Websites can be assets, so can intellectual property, contracts, royalties, real estate, stocks, etc. So step 1 - you need asset. Things that can go up in value, or generate value.
Revenue-generating: You can buy for appreciation, but that takes a lot more money and skill. So you want revenue-generating assets to get passive income: That means things that kick out money regularly. That would be real estate where the rents are higher than the PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance) + maintenance. That could be a website that you can make money from - ad revenues, product sales, etc. It could be something you've written that you get royalties from.
Scalable: And here's the magic that puts it all together - scalable means you can build it bigger without it demanding more of your time/resources (like a job does). Real estate with positive cashflow tends to be scalable, because if the property appreciates even 10%, traditionally you can mortgage a new property. If you don't mind doing repairs/adding value, you can mortgage a new place, repair/upgrade it to get higher rents, do so, have it appreciate, use the new equity to get a new place with cashflow, etc. Some high percentage of self-made millionaires in the USA are from real estate due to this fact.
There's other ways to get scalability. Obviously a useful website, or something with automated fulfillment or marketing. But scalability is key: All the time, if you want passive income, you need to spend money out of your profits to remove time and automate more. So pay a fulfillment company $2.50 per package (on top of the postage) to mail your thingy for you. Get into automated marketing with Adwords or Adsense. Look to ink deals that'll keep paying you without you putting in more effort.
The formula's Scalable Revenue-generating Assets. That's how to build gradual increasing passive income. It's harder than it sounds (like everything worthwhile is), but completely doable if that's what your goals are. Just don't forget that active income is pretty cool if you love what you do.
Also, once you have substantial passive income, or have people believing you have substantial passive income, don't forget to write the motivational book, follow-up video/DVD, and talks etc., and milk that passive cash cow.
Infact, mass market brand awareness and brand appeal should be the ultimate aim - if achieved, seems to be an excellent form of substantial passive income these days? Seems to work for celebs, popstars, sports stars, authors, and super-brands alike?
Developing niche sites about topics that I find interesting.
The residual income is derived from AdSense, affiliate sales, link sales, banner sales, etc.
I focus 80% of my time on new/large projects, the remaining 20% on maintaining older sites.
Here's an example site: http://www.applemacbook.com
I found writing to pay too little for too much effort. But, then, I only have the one book published. And, to be fair, I do still get a few hundred dollars in royalties every quarter five years later. So, I guess if I were to write a stable of books over the span of a few years, it could probably turn out to be a reasonable income. But then, it wouldn't be very passive, would it?
New editions of existing books is an interesting twist, though. Did you write the originals? If not, how did you end up doing the updates for later editions? (I'd be kinda ticked if my publisher didn't come to me first for a new edition of my book, for example...and it's one reason I didn't write a second book...the apress contract actually had a weird provision about not needing any permission from the original author to release new editions, and granted them the ability to do odd things to the royalty structure for subsequent editions.)
If you want to make an actual living, then write 15-20 midlist books (or 5 bestsellers) and revise them regularly (the real money is in the revisions, not the first editions). You can drop a note to an acquisitions editor to see if any authors have refused their right to revise.
Even if you lose money writing a book (you probably will--that's why editors rarely quit to become authors), you can still impress at contractor interviews by showing up with your published book. Or use the book to raise your speaking fees, etc.
Yes, that's true. One of my best contracts was obtained because of the book. It is surprising how much caché a published book has. And for folks looking to make a living from Open Source software, I'd recommend writing a book about your project, since it gives you a huge amount of credibility within the community.
Though there are some publishers who put out crappy books that I would think would have a negative impact on your credibility. I won't name names, but two folks I know to be very smart and definitely experts in their field (I believe both are users here, though not frequent users), wrote books for Apress and Packt, respectively...and both are pretty sloppy, occasionally repetitive, and sometimes even wrong. The funny thing is that I know they're both capable of writing great documentation, because they've done it for their projects for years.
I had quite a bit of editor input throughout the process of writing my book for No Starch, and I was one of the technical readers for an O'Reilly title, so I know that a lot of effort goes into making sure books from top name publishers (and mid-tiers like No Starch) are readable and reasonably accurate.
Then again, I don't know that anyone who ever hired me because of my book actually read it. So maybe it doesn't matter if the book is sloppy. Maybe it just matters that it's available at Amazon.
It's a book about UNIX system administration with Webmin. I made about $10k in the first year or so after it was published, and then I've made $100-$400 per quarter ever since. I haven't done the math on what those ongoing royalties added up to. I just consider it "mad money". I buy myself somethin' pretty with it whenever it comes in, like a Nintendo DS, a BMX bike, or something similarly goofy.
Oh, and I received a one-time payment of $3000 for the Japanese translation. I really take great satisfaction in that one...it also looks awesome on the shelf. The American version is cute, but the Japanese version is simply amazing.
It is obviously a niche book, and a more general topic would have probably sold more (the best I ever saw it ranked at Amazon was in the 3000s, I think). But, it had ancillary value to me, so I had already written about half of the content before I ever had a book deal for it. It was also free online from the very beginning, so my website was probably competing with book sales. I guess, to be fair, I've gotten probably tens of thousands of dollars worth of marketing value out of that content over the past 8 years or so (I was working on it in one form or another from 2000, or so, onward, and it has been responsible for a large portion of the organic web traffic my two businesses have received). The book (and the wiki that replaced it) has consistently received 30,000 monthly visitors, or more, for as long as I can remember...that's an awful lot of free ad impressions (we have links to our products in strategic locations within the wiki content, and I had banner ads for my previous business' products on every page in the old non-wiki version). It's really high quality traffic, and I'd pay over a buck a click for that kind of traffic from Google AdWords.
Actually, now that I'm thinking of it in those terms, it was probably a great investment of my time. I should probably write another one. But, I spent a lot of time writing it. I'd probably go faster today, for a number of reasons.
Oh, and I'll add that I liked working with No Starch and Bill Pollock. They're all really easy going folks, and are very flexible about contract terms, schedules, etc. I can recommend them, if you do decide to write a book. I was crazy late delivering on the last few chapters, and they didn't chop my percentage, even though the contract said they could. And, the percentage they offered me (15%) was quite generous.
Also, when I moved to the valley, they went to some lengths to track me down again, so they could send me my royalty checks. I forgot to let them know I'd moved, and my old email address is one that I pretty much never check. So, I think I can say that, all around, they're good people.
a friend and I are doing it through http://www.smbzen.com it's not exactly passive income - we've been writing blog posts (http://bizjournal.smbzen.com) to attract the target audience through long tail searches, but it's been working so for, plus, the blog is nice way to pick up some business material to compliment the tech background.
Prezzle.com still generates payments from Cambrian House.
It's a way to send gift-cards without the user just getting an unthoughtful email or to send a message for free that can't be opened until a specific time.
There are some things I could never do. I mean, running drugs I'd do if things got tough. Being a pimp, yeah, I could do that. Burglary...sure, everybody's got insurance, so it's really a victimless crime. Even murder for hire if things got really bad (no women, no kids).
I don't. With real estate and investing, a decade of growth can get wiped out in 1 week. No stability whatsoever. Sure its fine to play with a disposable amount and hope for a win, but just like Vegas, you have to approach it with willingness to lose everything.
Oh and I don't mean that first house, as an investment....I mean that 2nd and 3rd you buy, hoping to make a few hundred K in a couple of years.
So for passive, you gotta go with something safe. Stuff like gov't bonds etc. Because otherwise you are pretty much guaranteed to lose a ton of money.
With real estate and investing, a decade of growth can get wiped out in 1 week.
Really? My father has been involved in RE for over 20 yrs, has done great and is doing very well currently. There is much more to RE than just homes: Raw land, commercial properties, multi-unit housing, agriculture land (which is actually appreciating right now).
I mean that 2nd and 3rd you buy, hoping to make a few hundred K in a couple of years.
This is not investment. This is flipping. Something that has got a lot of ignorant people in a whole lot of financial shit now days.
With my fathers advisement, we are making great passive income with the four-plexes we own (think small apartments).
I think you need to read some books on balanced investing. Making money on stocks is easy, keeping it takes self control. You have to take some percentage of your gains out of equity and put it in bonds or cash on a regular basis or at a time like this you can lose everything. If you had been regularly rebalancing your portfolio on the upswing in the last 6 years, you would be sitting on a pile of cash that you would now use to reinvest during the turn, again rebalancing the portfolio.
I'm sorry, but this topic is stupid. And I don't know why everyone upvoted it.
Do you honestly think you can get money passively? As in by doing nothing? Downvote me all you want, but I'm actually disappointed to see a thread like this on the home page of hacker news.
You guys should know that there is no such thing as "passive income" and anything worth doing is going to be difficult. You are wasting your time trying to find these "do nothing and make money" or "get rich quick" schemes.
I think you might have a different idea of "passive income" than the rest of us here.
Passive income is money generated without requiring you to go to work, trading a set amount of hours for steady cash. Instead, it's spending the effort on building something (whether it be a book for royalties, a website for subscription payments, investments for interest / asset worth increase, or real estate for rental money) that generates a cash flow without requiring the 40 hour work week.
Granted, it's not "passive" in that you still need to spend the time and effort to get it up and running, but once your system in place there's usually much less time involved to keep it operating, which is why this type of income is much more attractive - you can scale this system to make much more money than you ever could through salary.
However, the risk is correspondingly higher; if your product doesn't do well, you don't get money, whereas you can get away with a reasonable amount of subpar performance at larger companies without too much problem.
No one said "free" income, no one said "do nothing" income and no one said "quick" income-- they said passive. i.e. spend once (either with time or money) and keep earning.
I get a check every month from a biz I sold-- no effort for the last two years. I rent a house up in Anchorage, Alaska with a property manager-- no effort for the last 3 years. Some passive income is easier than others, but almost none of it is easy.
Sadly, I've come to realize this is true. On a positive note, I've also come to realize that you can get enjoyment from gardening your projects.
I had a Facebook app which was basically working well, generating thousands a month. I thought it was on autopilot. But always stuff would go wrong. An ad network would start paying less after they realize I'm not trying the competition, so I have to try to negotiate. Facebook would change their API in seemingly compatible ways, but necessitate changes if you want to stay in the game. Disk space would run out. Increasing popularity would require optimizing stuff and so on and so on.
You're right and wrong. Because yes, making money from doing nothing won't work. But making (quasi) passive money off of something that you've built might. Yep. That's the trick I say. Don't just say something is stupid. It makes sense to think about this stuff.
Dividend yielding stocks generate passive income. Some of the stocks which have been hit hard because of the downturn, IBM, for example, have more attractive dividend yields than before. So, sure, you may not become wealthy, but you can generate passive income. Building wealth is different then generate income from zero to very few hours of work.
That's a pessimistic and limiting attitude, sir. Software is a great business because it's easy to copy; analogously, so is the web because of its scale. Most of the work goes into developing, setting up the system. The rest of the work goes into watching and maintaining it while you either build the next thing or sit on a beach. If the latter can be monetized, that's arguably a valid way of generating passive income.
I think "Set it and forget it" is an appropriate phrase for what making money passively entails. Unless it's a lucky investment that pays out over time, most people view passive income as working really hard on something, launching, then sitting back and allowing the revenue to come in while doing routine maintenance on whatever the product is.