7 Ways to Make Passive Income When You Have No Money

Updated on December 11, 2017
Robert P Sullivan profile image

Robert Sullivan is a self-published author, blogger, social media manager, and more.


One of the best things you can do to make life easier is to find ways to make some cash without having to keep working at it, and this is exceptionally true if you don’t have any money to put into it. Now I already touched on this topic before, but I know a few more ways to make passive income when you have no money to invest. Just keep in mind that while the first list dealt exclusively with concepts which only required labor, this list include ideas that may require you to already own certain items.

1. Selling Stock Photos

If you fancy yourself a shutterbug then you might be pleasantly surprised that you can make some decent side money selling your photos online. When businesses and blogs have to create marketing material, one of their primary concerns is where they are going to get quality images to use. As a result companies like iStockPhotos and Shutterstock took to selling a large portfolio of images online. The best part is that these companies will allow you to upload and sell your own photos, and split the profits.

It’s a great system. If you have quality photos that are in high demand, then you can make some cash off of them. But there are a couple of tricks to doing this right. For starters you have to be good at tagging your pictures.

Tagging pictures is what allows the buyers to find them in the search function. If for example you have a picture of a woman in a dress, then you of course would want to put “Woman” and “Dress” as tags. But you need to take it much further than that to get good results. Where is she? What is she doing? What color is the dress? Is the weather nice, or is it raining? Are there other people in the picture? Is she in a crowd? Does she stand out or blend in? Asking questions about the photo gives you ideas for what tags to put on it. Take this picture for example.

Be careful with tags; they make a huge difference in sales.
Be careful with tags; they make a huge difference in sales.

A good list of tags would be: Woman, dress, red dress, lake, pond, dock, relaxing, nice day, outdoors.

The more accurate the tags, the more likely someone is going to find the picture and buy it.

The second important thing to know is there are a million times too many pictures of sunsets, mountains, beaches, and forests. If you want to make real money at this, then you need to sell photos that are marketable. You should focus on people in marketable poses, or circumstances.

Look at this picture.

This picture doesn't look as nice as the last one, but it's more useful and marketable.
This picture doesn't look as nice as the last one, but it's more useful and marketable.

This picture is way more likely to make income than the last one, because it can be used in so many different ways. Take a look at the potential tag list for this one: Boss, meeting, business, business women, career, client, coworker, customer, suit, thinking, discussion, conference, company, employee, interview, manager, corporate, consulting, leader… The list just keeps going, and those are the kinds of things blogs and businesses need pictures of.

You are also going to have to get a release signed by any person who happens to be in the picture. Just to legally protect yourself.

2. Create an Online Learning Course

Education is obviously one of the biggest and most expensive businesses out there, which makes it a great opportunity for you to make some cash. In the past teaching required a very direct approach. Usually one person actually taught people directly for a set amount of money. But the advent of video and the internet greatly changed things. In steps Udemy, the teaching platform for anybody.

If you have any kind of talent or skill, then you can turn it into an online learning course, and charge money for people to take it. And because the system is automated, you hardly have to do any work in order to keep earning passive income. What’s also noteworthy, is that Udemy, unlike other online teaching resources, doesn’t require any money from the person selling the course.

Now if you want to make some real money on Udemy, then you are going to want to follow a few good business practices. This video lays the bulk of them out nicely.

The only thing I would add, to what this guy is saying, is to make sure that your content is of the highest quality. He briefly touches on that in the video, but it’s important that you stand above the competition. Make sure to have a personality, quality information, and try to keep it timeless. The more you put in up front, the better your chances of making both an impact and money.

3. Sell Your College Notes

Are you still in college? Then this one might be for you. Studysoup is a platform which allows students to sell the notes they take in class online. There are some real successes with it, take a look.

Now there are a couple of things you are going to need to focus on to do this right. First, your notes have to be all original content. If you are copying something, then that’s plagiarism, which can get you in a lot of trouble.

Secondly, you need to focus on writing the best possible notes, in plain and easy to read English. If they aren’t useful to anyone else, then they aren’t worth anything.

The third thing you need to remember is that the course you are taking notes on, must be popular enough for it to have a substantial amount of people who would buy your notes, otherwise you aren’t going to see any decent returns.

4. Rent a Spare Room with Airbnb

Airbnb is a very simple concept, if you have a spare bedroom, and you keep it nice, then you can rent it out on Airbnb for a fee. Now this isn’t exactly passive income, because you do have to clean the room, but chances are you were doing it anyway.

The real question is “Does it work?” And the answer is “It depends.”

Here is an example that I saw personally. My friends were renting an apartment for 600 dollars a month. Well the owner decided she wanted out and sold the building. The new landlord upped the rent by another 600 a month overnight! It was pretty brutal. Well my friends couldn’t justify living in such a small apartment for that cost, so they got the idea to turn to Airbnb. They managed to make so much money off of this that they not only covered the rent increase, but the rest of their rent as well! Talk about turning things around.

So can you expect to make over 1200$ a month like my friends? Probably not. The reason why they were able to make such a crazy amount of money is because they lived in Nashville, walking distance from the strip. It’s one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the country, so for them it was easy to keep that room full every single night. But realistically, you aren’t going to get that kind of return.

You can increase your chances of making constant money though. Get a nice bed, clean, decorate, and paint the room, these things all increase the value of the rental. That way you’re more likely to get traffic, even if it is no match for the perfect location.

5. Rent Your Car to Other Drivers

Like Airbnb if you have a car that you are not using, or at the very least don’t use very often, then you can rent it out for cash with sites like Hyrecar or Turo.

It can be a little difficult to get this one working well if you car is older, or more worn in. Though you can price it cheaper to get more rentals. Finding the sweet spot between number of rentals and cash paid per transaction is going to be the hard part. Location is also quite important, without living in a place where people would actually want to rent a car, this is kind of a moot option.

6. Rent Your Car as Advertising Space

If you don’t feel comfortable renting your car out to strangers, but still have a fairly nice car, then you can always rent advertising space on it instead. Some people earn up to 400$ a month doing this, which is a nice dent in your car payments.

Once again, it’s a little unfortunate if you live in a rural area, or have a car that is past its prime, as usually advertisers are only interested in putting their ads on nice clean automobiles in areas that will be seen frequently. Though if you are in luck, this is one of the easiest ways to make some extra cash.

7. Create and Sell an Audio Book

If you took my advice in a previous article and self published your own book, then you can increase the revenue substantially by turning it into an audio book. This tends to work better for informational books rather than fiction, but even they can get a good turn around if it’s narrated well.

To get this working you are going to need your own book, and furthermore all of the marketing that comes with it. So this may not be for everyone.

Are you considering any of these passive income sources?

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It can be a little hard to make passive income when you have no money to put into it, but the up side is that even if you don’t have a dime to spare you can still find ways to turn effort into cash over time. Just don’t give up, keep trying, keep learning, and you can be on your way to financial independence.


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    • SoniaSylart profile image

      Sonia Sylart 5 months ago from UK

      Hmm - this is a great list and doing an online course has piqued my interest. Thanks Robert.

    • Robert P Sullivan profile image

      Robert P Sullivan 6 months ago

      Audio books are becoming a bigger and bigger market. It's in part due to the cultural shift toward multi-tasking and ease of assimilation. But I'm also pretty sure that Audible's aggressive marketing probably has something to do with it.

      The nice part about that is you can use their marketing to your advantage.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      There's some good ideas there. I wouldn't mind doing an audio book, that's a good idea. =)