Passive Income by Ramit Sethi

How to Make Passive Income: Realistic strategies for 2024

The truth about passive income? It’s not a walk in the park. Sure, at lower levels – think $100 to $1,000 a month – your involvement might be minimal. But as your passive income grows, so does the need for maintenance and oversight. This article isn’t going to sell you an unrealistic dream, instead, I’ll be laying out the hard truths about making passive income and give you a practical roadmap to set up and earn passive income effectively.

Passive Income by Ramit Sethi
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Table of Contents

How to Start Earning Passive Income

Starting to earn passive income is a journey that begins with strategic decisions. It’s not just about picking a passive income stream; it’s about aligning that choice with your personal strengths and the opportunities the market presents. Whether it’s real estate, digital products, or something entirely different, the key is to find a fit that resonates with both your skills and market demand.

1. Choose Your Passive Income Stream

The first step in your passive income journey is selecting the right stream. Options are plentiful – from online courses and stock dividends to real estate investments and eBook royalties. But here’s the deal: each stream demands a unique blend of time, effort, and sometimes, capital investment.

Take real estate, for example. It’s not just about buying property; it’s about understanding market trends, managing properties, or even dealing with tenants. On the flip side, digital products like online courses or eBooks can be less capital-intensive but require expertise in content creation and digital marketing.

The key? Align your choice with your interests, skills, and the level of risk you’re comfortable with. Assess the market demand too. There’s no one-size-fits-all here, but finding that sweet spot between your strengths and what the market needs is crucial.

2. Pick the Right Platform

Now, let’s talk about visibility and reach. Even the best passive income product or service needs the right platform to shine. It’s not just about creation; it’s about connection with your audience.

For digital products like courses or affiliate marketing, this could mean building a robust online presence. Whether it’s a website, a blog, or social media platforms, your digital real estate is where you attract and engage your audience. It’s where you tell your story and showcase your value.

In the case of physical assets like rental properties, your platform might be real estate marketplaces or networks. It’s about putting your property where potential renters or buyers are looking.

Here’s a pro tip: smaller, niche markets can be goldmines. They often have less competition and a more engaged audience. And in the ever-changing market landscape, flexibility is your best buddy. Regularly updating your offerings and staying on top of market trends will keep you competitive and relevant.

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3. Break Down Your Goals

Before diving headfirst into the world of passive income, it’s crucial to break down your goals into manageable steps. This isn’t just about saying, “I want to make money while I sleep.” It’s about defining clear, achievable objectives. Ask yourself: How much do you want to earn? What level of involvement can you commit to? And by when do you want to see results?

For example, if your goal is to earn $1,000 a month from an online course, start by outlining the course’s concept, content, and structure. Then, set milestones for content creation, marketing strategies, and sales targets. This goal-setting isn’t just motivational; it’s a roadmap that guides your efforts and keeps you on track.

4. Get Started with Work

Here’s the part where many dreams of passive income falter – the actual work. Setting up a passive income stream is often front-loaded with effort. Whether it’s researching the best real estate investment, writing an eBook, or building an online course, the initial phase is labor-intensive.

Embrace this phase. It’s where your idea takes shape and begins to have potential for future earnings. For instance, if you’re venturing into real estate, this might involve market research, property viewings, and financial planning. If it’s an online course, it means creating content, filming videos, and setting up a digital platform.

Remember, this isn’t busywork; it’s foundational work. Each step you take during this phase lays the groundwork for your passive income stream. Stay disciplined, focused, and committed to your goals, and gradually, you’ll transition from active work to earning passively.

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How to Pick the Right Passive Income Idea

Choosing the right passive income idea is like selecting a car. You don’t just want something that looks good; you want a reliable performer that matches your lifestyle and goals. So, how do you pick a winner in the world of passive income? Here’s a no-nonsense guide.

  • First, assess your skills and interests. Passive income isn’t passive at first. You’ll be putting in a lot of work upfront, so it better be something you’re passionate about or skilled in. Are you a whiz at stock market analysis? Do you have a knack for creating engaging online content? Your strengths can guide you to the most suitable passive income stream.
  • Next, do your market research. In 2023, the global e-learning market was valued at around  $278.03 billion and is expected to grow substantially. This suggests digital products like online courses or eBooks have a thriving market. But remember, market trends can shift. Stay informed about current and future trends to ensure your idea has lasting potential.
  • Consider the initial investment. Some passive income streams, like real estate, require significant financial input. Others, like writing an eBook or starting a blog, may need more time than money. Be clear about what you’re willing to invest.
  • Evaluate the scalability and sustainability of the idea. A passive income stream should have the potential to grow without proportional increases in effort. For example, once an online course is created, it can be sold repeatedly without much additional work.
  • Don’t overlook the competition. In a saturated market, carving out a niche can be more lucrative than competing in popular domains. The key is to find a balance between a market with enough demand but not overly crowded.
  • Finally, understand the risks involved. All investments have risks, and passive income streams are no exception. Real estate investments can be affected by market fluctuations, while digital products might face challenges like changing technology or market demand.

To sum it up, passive income stream is one that not only generates revenue but also resonates with your personal strengths and market realities. By carefully weighing the above factors, you can select a passive income stream that not only adds to your financial portfolio but also aligns with your long-term goals and lifestyle. 

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Can You Make Passive Income With Little or No Money?

The short answer is yes, but with a caveat. While some passive income streams require significant financial investment upfront, others are more about investing your time and effort. It’s a common misconception that you need a hefty bank balance to start earning passive income. The reality is more nuanced.

Consider writing an eBook or starting a blog. These avenues are more labor-intensive than capital-intensive. They hinge on your ability to create compelling content, be it through your expertise, experiences, or storytelling skills. The investment here is primarily your time, effort, and perhaps a small amount for hosting or publishing services.

Even in scenarios where financial input is minimal, understand that your time and effort are valuable resources. You’re essentially trading one form of investment (capital) for another (time and skills). The trick is to leverage what you have. If you can’t invest money, invest your knowledge, creativity, and time smartly.

In essence, starting a passive income stream without a significant financial outlay is possible, but it’s not a shortcut or an easy path. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a strategic approach to turn your skills and time into a revenue-generating venture.

How Much Can I Make Through Passive Income?

When it comes to the earning potential of passive income, the sky’s the limit. However, it’s crucial to set realistic expectations, especially in the early stages. Initially, the income trickle might be modest, but as your passive income stream gains momentum, the earning potential can significantly expand.

The amount you can earn depends on several factors: the nature of your passive income stream, the market demand for what you’re offering, and how well you’ve set up and managed your venture. For example, rental properties can provide a steady monthly income, but this depends on factors like location, property type, and market conditions. Similarly, revenue from an online course or eBook sales can vary greatly based on the content’s popularity and marketing effectiveness.

It’s not uncommon for passive income ventures to start off generating a few hundred dollars a month and then grow to several thousand dollars as you refine your strategy and expand your reach. The key is persistence and continuous improvement.

So, while the earning potential is indeed limitless, reaching that “flow state” where your earnings skyrocket requires time, effort, and strategic planning. Passive income isn’t a quick fix; it’s a long-term financial strategy that, when executed well, can substantially bolster your financial freedom and security.


How to make an extra $1,000 a month passively?

To pocket an extra $1,000 a month without clocking in more hours, consider investing in rental properties where the rent exceeds your mortgage and maintenance costs. Dive into dividend-paying stocks for regular payouts, or create digital products –  ebooks, courses, or stock photography – that sell while you sleep. Peer-to-peer lending platforms also offer an opportunity to earn through interest on loans. It’s about finding the right balance between initial effort and long-term gain. 

What is the easiest form of passive income?

Arguably, the easiest form of passive income comes from high-yield savings accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs). Simply deposit your money, and watch it grow with interest. While the returns might not be as high as other ventures, the effort is minimal, and the risk is low, making it a great starting point for those new to passive income. 

What are smart passive income ideas?

Smart passive income ideas strike a balance between initial effort and ongoing returns. Renting out a property on short-term rental platforms can turn a spare room into a revenue stream. Starting a blog or YouTube channel might take upfront work but can generate ad revenue over time. Investing in index funds offers potential growth with minimal day-to-day management. And creating an app or a software tool can provide ongoing sales from a single development effort. 

If you want to delve further into this topic, consider taking a look at my post about 16 Passive Income ideas.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.