5 side hustles that could generate passive income

From creating an online course to renting out your car, here are five low-effort ways to make money.


Passive income is a term that seasoned side hustlers throw around as one example of how they earn money. Broadly, it means income that requires little-to-no-effort to make.

It's a term you'll usually hear about with investments like bonds, dividend-paying stocks, and rental real estate, but there are side hustles that can bring in passive income, too. You'll likely have to put in some work upfront and you may have to take on some small ongoing tasks, but, ultimately, you could continue bringing in money without putting in active effort.

"Passive income streams have helped me feel more secure as my own boss," Jen Glantz, founder and CEO of the business Bridesmaid for Hire, recently told Grow. "This year in particular, when some of my longstanding clients and jobs were paused because of the pandemic, these passive income strategies have continued to bring in income month after month."

Here are five passive income side hustles that, once set up, could help you bring in a steady stream of cash.

Create an online course

If you know how to knit the coziest sweater, build a computer, grow a social media following, and so on, consider creating and posting a course for people to download.

Personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi recently told Grow she was able to raise her earnings 25% by offering courses and workshops. "I have skills, there are things that I know, that I don't just do, that I can share and people will pay for that," she says.

Here are three sites to consider using to build a course:

  • Udemy: Instructors on Udemy teach an assortment of subject matters and charge between $20 and $200 per course. Udemy takes a cut that ranges from 3% to 75%, depending on how students find you.
  • Thinkific: Want to build an entire website for your course? Thinkific can help and even lets you include features like quizzes and videos. Teachers choose from a series of plans from a basic free plan to a $399-per-month package with marketing tools and other perks. The site recommends pricing your course at $199 or more.
  • Teachable: Teachable is a hybrid of the Udemy and Thinkific models, enabling you to create a course either on its site or your own. Teachers pick a plan, from $29 per month to $249 per month.

Write an e-book

The internet is rife with e-books about every imaginable subject matter and of every length. If you love writing and have expertise on a given topic or are part of a community that loves a specific genre (romance novels, anyone?), consider writing a work of nonfiction or fiction about what you know or love.

"Listen to what people are asking and what they're interested in," says Michelle Jackson, a digital entrepreneur who's written more than 15 e-books.

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Jackson's first e-book was about Colorado, her home state. "I would get all these questions about moving here," she says, "So I was clued into the fact that that's a book."

Jackson recommends looking into publishing platforms including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Gumroad. And don't be afraid to set a fair price. "I do not subscribe to the 99-cent book," she says. "If you can afford $3.52 for a cup of coffee in Denver, not including tip, then you can pay $2.99 minimum for any of my books."

Keep in mind that the pay structures could eat into your profits. Barnes & Noble pays e-book writers a 70% royalty ― meaning, the author gets 70% of the retail price of each sale. Amazon pays e-book authors a 35% or 70% royalty, depending on the option they choose.

Gumroad uses a different model and charges authors a fee for every sale. Fees range from 2.9% to 9% depending on how much you've sold on the site overall, plus 30 cents on each transaction. The author then keeps the profits of each sale minus the fees.

Write a travel itinerary

Whether you're an avid traveler or you simply know a few popular travel destinations like the back of your hand, perhaps from living or growing up in one, you may be able to monetize your knowledge. Consider writing a personalized travel itinerary to a specific location on sites like Wild Bum.

Wild Bum guide architects, as they're called, typically charge $25-$150 for each itinerary they write and keep 75% of every sale.

Rent out your home on Airbnb

If you own a house or apartment and plan to be out of town at some point during the year, consider listing your home on Airbnb. Airbnb hosts make an average of $924 per month, according to lending platform Earnest. Keep in mind the coronavirus pandemic may influence regular earnings as less people are currently traveling.

If you're Airbnb-ing your home during the pandemic, make sure to follow their latest guidelines on staying safe, including wearing a mask and maintaining social distance when interacting with guests and following the site's enhanced cleaning protocol.

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Rent out your stuff

You can make money renting more than just your space. Here are a few other items you can rent out.

  • Instrument: If you're a musician, instrument collector, or have sound equipment or studio space that would be perfect for rehearsals, consider renting them out on sites such as Fretish. You can set hourly, daily, or weekly rates, with a French horn going for $50 per day in New York, for example, and a microphone going for $70 per day in Austin, Texas. Fretish takes an 11% service fee.
  • Bicycle: If you have a bike lying around that you don't use on a regular basis, consider renting it out on apps like Spinlister. The site lets you list a bike for an hourly rate, say, $13 per hour; a daily rate, say, $50 per day; or a weekly rate, say, $150 per week. It's free to list, but Spinlister takes 17.5% of all transactions.

To limit your risk during the pandemic, make sure to keep items and surfaces clean according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the company that made the item may also have guidelines on its website), and to adhere to social distancing protocols when meeting with any renter.

This story has been updated to reflect the amount various sites pay their e-book authors.

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