I started off my year with three resolutions:

  1. Simplify my life.
  2. Travel three times a year.
  3. Double my income.

I get those aren’t SMART goals but they gave me something to focus every decision on. If it wasn’t moving toward one of those things, it either went WAY down on the list or removed altogether.

As far as the first two goals go, simplifying my life involved selling many of my worldly possessions and unloading responsibilities. And that was lovely and continues to be as I look around my house and life at what else I can get rid of. Traveling three times a year was twofold of finding cheaper ways to travel (nextvacay.com is my new favorite thing ever) and making it a priority (book it already!). This year, I’m up to two trips, next year hopefully three.

The ‘hardest’ one is of course number three. I promised myself this year no more catering gigs (I even gave away my uniform so I wouldn’t be tempted) so I had to get creative about money but the truth is 1) anything I do can’t take away from my businesses or work (ideally it would ENHANCE them) and 2) this income would be passive.

To me there are three ways to think of “passive income”:

  1. Completely automated. The idea of this is you set it and forget it. Examples of this would be display advertising or some kind of affilate link sharing (if you have social media scheduling software that is).
  2. Moderately hands on. This could be something that needs periodic tweaking or interaction from you. Examples of this may be an online course that you respond to questions/comments on periodically or renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb.
  3. Stolen moments. This is actually not at all passive but you can fit it in where you fit it in. An example of this would be taking a survey on Swagbucks or performing a task on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk site.

Now I love those “How I Made $10,000 Blogging Last Month” posts as much as the next person, but they also make me roll my eyes. The rest of us would be thrilled with a couple hundred bucks a month, am I right?

I have been spending my weekends exploring some passive income options and thought it would be fun to report back how it works for a moderately sized website run by a moderately internet saavy person who can only give very part time attention to this cause.

I will share a few nuggets I’ve learned so far:

You seem to have to pay your dues before getting the sweet gigs.

I know, don’t spend it all in one place…

As a new person on ANY of these platforms, you are going to be the low person on the totem pole, which means you have to do low paying stuff for awhile and get experience or other “cred” before you qualify for more lucrative gigs.

Let me now bury the lede: Amazon Mechanical Turks has earned me $2.58 for about four hours of work. I applied for this program knowing that much like Amazon Merch, because of its popularity I could be waiting weeks or months to hear back. When I got approved in five days, I was excited to be let into this very exclusive club. Note: I am not sure whether my website creds, my amount of Amazon ordering, some combination of the two, or other factors got me approved. Amazon doesn’t share its criteria but no doubt big data knows a lot about us.

I will say this system does feel pretty gamified, from the timer that runs as you complete tasks to the ‘pending’ and ‘approved’ statuses of your submitted gigs. So if you enjoy that kind of thing and don’t mind working on it awhile, something like that kind of gig marketplace would be good for you.

We might be able to say the same things about Upwork, Fiverr, and other online gig platforms. In short, you still have to build up a reputation before people throw money at you.

If it seems to good to be true, it is.

Don’t be jealous of me for my roughly $0.06 USD in bitcoin money I made over the course of 6 hours.

So I’ve been looking at bitcoin for a couple months and thinking the idea is pretty neat. This episode of Fresh Air is a really nice primer on cryptocurrency if you aren’t familiar and not at all boring.

Since I personally was unsure about buying hardware and software (or I guess more accurately, knowing how to maintain it), I began looking into cloud mining, which is basically where you use someone else’s equipment (which you can run from your computer) to “mine” for bitcoins (which are being slowly released into the world and will cap out at a certain number). What’s the catch, you ask? There is a minimum amount to withdraw (to save the zeros and put it into understandable US dollars) of like $20… and when you run it you make about $0.01/hour. And you read websites about people getting stiffed on payments so it leaves you to wonder if you really want to invest hundreds of hours in something before knowing if you’ll get a payout.

Most people in the space say this is “worth it” if you have access to cheap or free electricity OR you just buy Bitcoin and hold onto it, like stock.

In other words, too good to be true is just that.

One “dollar” is not equal to $1 USD.

So Swagbucks is a survey taking company that promises you three swagbucks or fifty swagbucks (some amount anyway) that you can earn and cash in. (Note, that is an affiliate link so if you try it, I get three swagbucks). I am a smart person and I keep thinking 3 SW is like $3 USD. It is not. Approximately 300 SB is redeemable for a $3 Amazon gift card. (Different gift cards have different discounts). In other words, you got to get a lot of SB to get real money.

Different earning systems may have similar features, not just to gamify the experience but to keep you from thinking each SB is like $0.01. Because 17 Swagbucks sounds WAY better than $0.17 USD. (And you signing up gives me a whole 3 cents so please, don’t feel like you are getting me too rich clicking on that link!)

You make the most (and easiest) money referring stuff (ie being an affiliate) but a good program is like a unicorn.

The most passive of passive income that generates real money is affiliate ads.

How I knew affiliates were a thing when I noticed them being a substantial part of Darren Rowe’s income report:

My Blogging Income Breakdown for the First Half of 2016

Now if you look at his earnings graph even from two years ago, affiliate is not the majority so it represents a shift.

There are tons of affiliate programs out there, but finding one that pays enough to be worthwhile can be a needle in the haystack situation.

On our end, we’re adding our affiliate links to our social media rotation, our email template, and a few other places and will monitor results.

If we add up my weekends of work, I made somewhere between $0.01 and $.50/hour. 

I have also been going through and adding a few ads to some of our better performing blog posts (I started this three days ago). Kassie wrote a post previously about Google Adsense so head there if you want to get a good primer on this. 

So looks like we’re making $0.02 and $0.04/day which makes a whopping $7.30 to $14.60/year. I could similarly add Amazon Affiliate links (which I’ve started doing) to give us 3% of purchase price and probably make around $30/year in very passive income.

Remember, I’m not starting a brand new site with no traffic so this would be harder if I was only getting a couple website visits a day. But you get the idea.

  1. Truly passive income doesn’t pay well unless you have a TON of traffic.
  2. Income that is less passive pays better but you have to put in your dues.
  3. That said, some money for “nothing” is better than no money for nothing.

Pick your poison, my friends. Because I want you to make money, but having made less than minimum wage for a month, I hope this post makes you feel better for not being an instant success. You’re too smart for that and now, I am too.