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My passive income 'exceeded the income from my six figure 9-to-5 salary' job in 2021: Here are my top tips

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Sharon Tseung is the founder of Digital Nomad Quest.
Photo courtesy Sharon Tseung
Key Points
  • "Having these different income streams allows me to build my wealth faster, live intentionally without making fear-based decisions, and enjoy a sense of security," writes Digital Nomad Question founder Sharon Tseung.
  • "During my time abroad, developing my passive income streams and investments allowed me to increase my net worth, even with my travel expenses."
  • "This did not happen overnight. But the time I spent has been worth it, because of the time I have now to do the things that matter most to me."

In 2014, a month-long solo trip to Europe inspired me to pursue my version of financial freedom. I spoke with people from all walks of life who were so passionate and in the moment, and it made me realize all the life I was missing out on. I wanted to not feel limited by my finances or feel stuck in an office job. I wanted to see the world.

I started researching digital nomads and ways to earn passive income and, by May of 2016, after saving enough money to cover travel for a year, I quit my digital marketing job to travel all over Europe, Asia, the United States, and Canada, all while building my own passive income streams. 

Over the course of two years, I worked in cafes, explored my surroundings and learned about the kind of life I wanted for myself. Developing my passive income streams and investments allowed me to increase my net worth, even with my travel expenses.

Since this life-changing stint, I've come back to a full-time position that I enjoy and learn a lot from. But as a side hustle, I'm building a brand called Digital Nomad Quest to teach people what I have learned about personal finance and financial freedom. I'm investing in rental properties and growing my portfolio as well. 

In 2021, the passive income from my side hustles and investments actually exceeded the income from my six figure, 9-to-5 salary job.

Here are some of the ways I make passive income, and my top tips to help inspire you to build multiple income streams for yourself.

Create an online shop

I got my first taste of passive income with my Etsy shop. I was browsing the marketplace to find people selling digital products, and I thought, "I could try this out!"

So in 2015, having taught myself Photoshop, I began selling digital products like templates of resumes, save the dates, wedding cards, photography mini session ads, and more. Within a few months, I was actually making sales on my digital products.

By selling digital products, I was able to make money passively without having to ship and fulfill orders. I still make passive income from this method, sometimes even on products I created many years ago.

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Merch by Amazon is another passive income stream you can pursue that requires $0 to low capital to start. I started my Merch by Amazon store in 2017. You can sell custom apparel by uploading designs placed on their hoodies, shirts, and other products, which will be listed on Amazon.

Whenever people buy from your listings, you receive royalties and Amazon will print and fulfill your orders for you.

Everything is very passive with this income stream, because there is no customer support involved and everything is paid out in royalties.

Build an online course

Online courses are one of my favorite ways to make passive income because you can create something impactful that helps people, with an ability to scale. People can access your content globally versus merely reaching people one-on-one through services or coaching. 

To create a course, you can build video, audio, or even text content into a comprehensive curriculum getting a student from A to B. You want to make sure your students receive value from the course and you're helping them achieve a certain goal. 

Once you've built the content, you can sell your course on marketplaces like Udemy or on platforms like Teachable. I currently have three courses that I created inspired by my own experience: The Etsy Entrepreneur, Remote Rental Riches, and Blog Launch Profit. 

Earn ad revenue through a YouTube channel

YouTube can be a very fulfilling side hustle and a lucrative one at that. Up until recently, I never realized how doable it is to make a decent income through the platform. In the past I made a couple YouTube channels for music, as I used to sing and play instruments, but they never really made much money. 

My current channel, where I make videos about entrepreneurship, investing, and financial freedom every week, currently averages around $4,000/month in ad revenue alone. 

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To earn more in ad revenue, garnering more views is key. I've learned that there are a number of ways you can do this: using SEO to make eye-catching video titles, creating thumbnails that entice users to click, and producing valuable content that makes users want to watch all the way through. 

Typically, companies will bid on placing their ads on your videos, and YouTube will take 45% of those bids, and you will be paid 55% of that. 

Earn commissions through affiliate marketing

If you create a website or YouTube channel, you can also make money through affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you're recommending products you use and love. Whenever people purchase through your unique referral links, you'll make a commission.

This strategy can be a win-win for everyone: Your audience receives value, you receive a commission, and the product owner gets sales. 

I have found that the best way to approach affiliate marketing is to make sure that you're building trust and providing valuable content to your audience, rather than spamming them with unhelpful links. 

You can do this by creating comprehensive tutorials or product comparison videos to illustrate the significance of the product or tool you recommend, for example. Your audience can tell when you use and believe in the products, so look for products that you can honestly and genuinely promote. 

Invest in real estate

I purchased my first rental property when I was 23, and after returning from my travels, I wanted to get back into it. Real estate can build your wealth exponentially through cash flow, appreciation, debt paydown, and tax benefits. 

One of the advantages of real estate is that you don't have to pay the entire purchase price out-of-pocket as you can leverage borrowed money. As long as you aren't overleveraged, you can use this to your advantage and grow your real estate portfolio quickly.

My husband and I currently own 32 rental units, and we have been able to hire property managers to help run things day to day and handle any tenant concerns or issues. 

There are costs attached to real estate investing: mortgages, property management fees, homeowners insurance, property taxes, future repairs, and vacancies. But with some planning and analysis, rental income can help cover those costs and be a consistent cash flow for you.

Last year, I was able to hit six-figures in passive income. This did not happen overnight. But the time I spent has been worth it, because of the time I have now to do the things that matter most to me.

Having these different income streams allows me to build my wealth faster, live intentionally without making fear-based decisions, and enjoy a sense of security.

Sharon Tseung is the founder of Digital Nomad Quest. You can learn more about her through her Instagram, YouTube channel, or her website, www.digitalnomadquest.com.

Sharon is an investor and creator who teaches people how to build passive income, become financially free, and design their best lives through her YouTube channel, Instagram, TikTok, and blog. She enjoys talking about investing and side hustles. In the past, she graduated from UC Berkeley and worked in Marketing for 10 years at Google and other companies. She quit her job and traveled the world as a digital nomad for two years, all while growing multiple income streams online and through real estate. 

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