How to Make Money » Income

Passive Income Ideas: 27 Ways to Make Money Without A Lot of Effort

Passive Income Ideas: 27 Ways to Make Money Without A Lot of Effort

In the past, we’ve covered ways to make money online, ways to make money from home, and ways to make money in your spare time. This time, we’re looking at ways to generate passive income – in other words, making money without a lot of effort. In this article, we’ll cover side hustle ideas that will let you make money quickly and others that will take time, not to mention an upfront investment. Before we get to the list, let’s take a closer look at the meaning of passive income.

What Is Passive Income?

Passive income refers to income that’s generated without much in the way of time or effort. Unlike a typical 9-5 job, passive income doesn’t involve a direct time and money exchange. You could say that passive income is disconnected from time and effort. You may have heard someone say, “I’m making money while I sleep.” If the statement is accurate, they are likely referring to some form of passive income.

Passive vs. Residual Income

Some income is more passive than others. People often use residual income to describe income sources that require an upfront investment of time or money. Examples of residual income include affiliate marketing, online courses, writing a book, or building a YouTube channel. In contrast, I consider rental properties, dividend income, and royalty income to be generally very passive. Regardless, you can use the two terms interchangeably.

1. Get Paid to Shop Online

Rewards sites like Rakuten let you earn cash back when you shop online. While it won’t make you rich, it can be considered passive income because you’re earning rewards automatically while completing tasks you already do regularly, like shopping. Rakuten has partnered with hundreds of online retailers. All you need to do is sign up, then use the Rakuten website to access your favourite online stores. You can earn as much as 20% cash back, with Rakuten keeping track of your earnings and sending out payment via a monthly cheque or Paypal. You can also redeem your earnings for gift cards to your favourite stores.

2. Open an Etsy Store

Do you enjoy arts & crafts? If so, you can sell your creations via your own Etsy store, a popular online store for handmade items. Though there is work required to make the items to sell, more and more people are selling digital products, like printables, on Etsy, which require little to no work once they’ve developed the initial product.

3. Peer Lending

Lend money to Canadian businesses using a peer lending platform like Lending Loop. Lending Loop connects businesses with thousands of individual lenders who have pooled their money together using the Lending Loop platform. When the borrower repays the loan, the lender (you) gets their principal investment back, along with interest. Small businesses benefit from borrowing at lower interest rates, while peer lenders can earn better than average returns on their investment.

4. Sell Your Stuff

I always say that one of the fastest ways to earn extra money is to sell personal items you no longer have a use for. Selling your stuff is also reasonably passive income because there is very little work required on the seller’s part. All you need to do is take a few high-quality pics of the items you’re selling, post them for sale on Kijiji or your local Facebook Marketplace page, and wait for buyers to come to you. Unused exercise equipment, sports equipment, toys your kids have outgrown – these all make great items for resale.

5. Start a Blog

On the one hand, there is nothing passive about starting a blog. Finding the right domain name, building a website, and consistently publishing and promoting content takes time and effort. Eventually, however, a blog can generate multiple passive income sources, mainly through advertising or affiliate marketing.

Take display ads, for example. When people visit your site and interact with the ads they see, either by viewing or clicking on them, you earn money. The amount earned per impression or click is tiny, but if your blog attracts thousands of visitors a month, the income can be substantial, and you really can earn money while you sleep.

6. Buy a Website

If you’d rather not have to build a blog from scratch, you can buy an existing website that’s already generating a monthly cash flow. You can browse available websites through marketplaces like Flippa and Empire Flippers. There will be an upfront financial commitment, and the more income a website generates, the more you’ll have to pay. In addition to budget considerations, you should choose a website that matches your interests, experience, and skill set. A great domain name is always helpful, too. Depending on the type of website you purchase, you might be able to create an immediate source of passive income.

7. Create an Online Course

If you have just about any skill, platforms like Udemy and Teachable make it easy to create an online course, which you can sell to people wanting to pick up new skills. Many would consider this residual income due to the upfront work required in building the course. Once it’s ready, however, it’s mostly passive income.

8. Buy a Rental Property

Income generated from a rental property is generally considered passive income. Sure, there is some work involved – you must find tenants, collect rent, and maintain the property – but the regular monthly income stream generated is mainly disconnected from any time requirement. Of course, owning a rental property does require a significant upfront investment. One of the easiest ways to get into the rental real estate market is by converting the house you already live in (principal residence) into a rental property.

9. Invest In a REIT

You may want to earn passive income from real estate without the financial commitment or the headache that can come with owning a rental property. In that case, consider buying units of a Real Estate Investment Trust or REIT. A REIT is a pooled investment that makes it easy for investors to buy and sell real estate on the stock market. You can buy and sell REIT units on the TSX using an online brokerage account, and REITs can be held inside an RRSP or TFSA. There’s no easier way to add the real estate asset class to your portfolio.

10. Vending Machines

High on our list of passive income ideas are vending machines. You know, the pop or snack machines you see just about everywhere large groups of people gather. You can purchase these machines and place them in locations where they will generate a consistent income stream. For more information on building passive income streams with vending machines, check out this Side Hustle Nation interview with an entrepreneur who built a vending machine empire after starting with a $36 gumball machine.

11. Self-Storage Facility

Owning a self-storage facility requires a significant upfront investment, but you’ve got one of the best passive income streams going once you have everything set up. For starters, North Americans collect more junk than anyone else on the planet, so much that we’re running out of places to store it. Did you know that the average American household contains 300,000 items? With the self-serve model, all you need to do is collect the monthly cheques and make sure the property is secure – there’s very little day-to-day work involved.

12. Get Paid to Lose Weight

Did you know? You can get paid to exercise. There are no fewer than 15 apps in Canada that will pay you to get outside and get moving. For example, Sweatcoin uses your mobile phone’s GPS to track your daily steps and rewards you with a cryptocurrency called Sweatcoin. You earn approximately one Sweatcoin for every 1000 steps you take. You can redeem your Sweatcoins for gift cards and other rewards.

13. Complete Online Surveys

There is no shortage of paid survey companies in Canada. Survey Junkie and Ipsos i-Say are two of the more popular ones. They’re free to join, and you can earn money for completing quick surveys in your spare time. While there is some work involved – you have to take surveys – it’s usually something you can do while relaxing or watching TV. To get more survey opportunities and make more money, signup for multiple sites.

14. Sign Up for Bank Account Bonuses

It’s always nice to earn bonus money for regular, everyday activities – like opening a bank account – even if it isn’t the most lucrative of passive income ideas. If you’re thinking about switching banks, you may want to wait for a signup bonus to come around. Often, during the summer months, Canada’s banks and credit unions offer incentives for new customers.

These can include cash bonuses of up to $300 for opening a new chequing account. To qualify, you’ll need to complete some extra tasks, like setting up your payroll direct deposit, completing an online bill payment, or sending an e-Transfer. It’s a one-time thing, but it qualifies as passive income.

15. Use Rewards Credit Cards

Using a rewards credit card to earn cashback or points for travel or groceries when you shop can be a great form of passive income. Premium rewards cards have a standard earn rate of 1.5%-2%, and there are plenty of signup bonuses and ways to multiply your rewards. The key is to make sure you’re spending enough money each month to justify paying the annual fee, which is often over $100. Also, remember to pay off the balance owing in full each month so that you’re not paying those high credit card interest fees. We love two cards here at MapleMoney: the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite for cashback rewards and the BMO World Elite Mastercard for travel rewards.

16. Pay Down High-Interest Debt

Here’s one you might not have expected on our list. But if you can reduce the amount of interest you pay on loans and credit cards each month, the extra cash flow can feel like additional income. I recommend using the “debt snowball” method of first paying off the highest-interest debt, then moving to the next-highest. To get you inspired, here are 15 ways to get out of debt fast.

17. Invest with a RoboAdvisor

Robo advisors like Wealthsimple have taken the work out of investing, allowing Canadians to earn passive income on their savings for a low fee. When you invest with a robo advisor, you don’t have to worry about picking the right fund or rebalancing; it does it all for you. The more money you have invested, the more income you can earn in the form of dividends and capital gains. Dealing with a robo advisor doesn’t mean giving up complete control, however. When you open your account, you’ll need to fill out a detailed investor profile which the robo advisor will use to match you with the correct investment portfolio.

18. Invest in Dividend Stocks

If you prefer individual stocks to robo advisors, you can generate passive income streams by following a dividend investing strategy. A lot of high-quality stocks pay regular dividend income to shareholders. Those dividends can be automatically invested to purchase additional shares of the company stock. The more shares you hold of a dividend stock, the more passive income you’ll stand to earn. In Canada, banks and telecommunications companies are good dividend stock examples because they pay a consistent dividend. For more information and a list of dividend stocks, check out our article on the top 100 Canadian dividend stocks.

19. Invest In Artwork

Fine art investing might be the coolest passive income idea on our list. One of the advantages of fine art investing is a very low correlation to other asset classes, like real estate or the stock market. You can purchase shares in iconic works of art, actual physical paintings by master artists. Signup with a company called Masterworks, and pick from the available artwork.

Masterworks purchases art they feel has the potential to increase in value. They can sell fractional ownership to individual investors because they register the art with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). When the artwork is old, Masterworks pays out the profit to shareholders, minus commissions and fees.

20. Collect Songwriting Royalties

Some passive income ideas require a specialized skill set. Not everyone is musically inclined, let alone can write songs that can be played on the radio or licensed for movies or TV. If you do have that gift, however, consider getting your pieces published. Once you complete the upfront work of writing and recording, there’s no limit to the money you can make if your songs become popular. Of course, you will need a little bit of luck with that.

21. Publish a Book

Okay, so maybe you’re not a talented musician. Perhaps you can write books instead. Some people make passive income by selling books they’ve written and published themselves. Marketplaces can include retail or online stores. You can issue paperback or electronic versions of your book. To generate more sales, it does help if you have an established audience, but everyone has to start somewhere. Here is a list of 12 companies that can help you publish your next book.

22. Sell Stock Photos

If you’re an avid photographer, there are several ways you can make money with photography. Unfortunately, they are often labour intensive, requiring hours of your time, i.e., wedding/portrait photography, photo editing, etc. If you want to make passive income with your camera, consider selling your photos online. There are several stock photo websites, like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and iStock. The commission rates vary between sites, and while it can take time to make decent money, once you’ve uploaded your photos, it becomes a passive income stream.

23. Get Paid to Watch Videos and Play Games

Swagbucks is a loyalty rewards website that pays users to complete various tasks, including watching videos and playing video games. Just like paid survey websites, there is a little bit of effort required, but it’s easy stuff that you can do when you’re watching TV or just chilling at home. As you complete activities you earn Swagbucks, which can be redeemed for cash and gift cards. When you refer your friends, you’ll earn a percentage of their Swagbucks earnings. Now that’s passive income!

24. Rent Out Your Car

Turo is an app that lets you earn passive income by renting out your car. It’s available in more than 5000 cities around the world and several in Canada, like Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto. I’ve actually rented cars through Turo a few times and found it to be a pleasant experience.

To start making money with Turo, your vehicle will need to meet Turo’s requirements. For example, it can’t be more than 10 years old, and it has to have fewer than 200,000 kilometres on the odometer. This is a great way to make extra money, especially if your car spends a lot of time sitting in the driveway. For more information on this unique passive income opportunity, check out our full Turo review.

25. Rent Out Your RV

Similar to how Turo works with cars, you can rent out your motorhome or travel trailer to people looking to rent an RV for their next vacation or camping trip. Apps like Outdoorsy and Rvezy match renters with those looking for an easy way to make extra money. Depending on how nice your RV is, you can earn $200/day or more. There is a little work involved – you need to make sure the RV is ready to rent out, and spend some time showing prospective renters how it works, but it can become a mostly passive income stream.

26. Sell Advertising Space on Your Car

Here is one of the more unique passive income ideas you’ll find. If you want to earn income with your car without spending hours driving around town, you might be able to sell advertising space on your car. There are several different companies that do this – StickerRide and Wrapify come to mind – and each one works a bit differently.

Typically, once you’ve been approved, a crew comes to clean and wrap your car with advertising. From there, all you need to do is start driving and making money. You will need to keep an app running while you drive so that your kilometres and location can be tracked by the ad company. Compensation will depend on factors such as location and total time-driven, but people have been known to earn hundreds of dollars a month.

27. Domain Name Investing

Domain name investing falls under the category of unusual passive income ideas. Most people don’t realize that domain names rise and fall in value, and can be bought and sold for a profit. You can search for and purchase interesting domain names using a domain registration service like the ones offered by Namecheap or GoDaddy. There is a cost, however. Even if you purchase a cheap domain name, you need to pay an annual renewal fee. And there are no guarantees that you will be able to sell your domain for a profit. These things should be considered before diving in. For inspiration, here’s a story of someone who netted more than $50,000 from domain name investing.

Final Thoughts on Passive Income Ideas

As you can see, not all passive income ideas are equal. Some, like real estate investing or dividend income from stocks, can produce significant cash flow, especially if you’ve been at it for a while. Others, like cashback rewards sites or getting paid to exercise, will hardly be a drop in the bucket.

If you want to generate passive income, you’ll need to decide how much money you want to make, and pick something that aligns with your interests, your experience, and your skillset. The best passive income ideas are the ones that fit these criteria. Lastly, if a passive income strategy requires an upfront investment, like real estate investing, you’ll need to decide if the investment is worth it.


  1. FreshLifeAdvice

    Love the blog Tom! These are great tips on passive income. Stocks, surveys, and selling old items are my favorite passive income streams. Keep up the great work!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*