passive income

Seven Silly Ways I Made Money On The Internet

We live in this really weird time in history where there is real life money to be made in the ether (i.e. the internet). I’ve been looking into (and trying) different things over the course of the last few years and I thought it would be fun to do a post about the weirdest ways I’ve made money online. (This is almost like a part two to my Thoughts On Passive Income post a couple months back.)

Seven Extra Moneymakers (With At Least An Online Component)

I sold a stock photo on Twenty20 for $2.

I take tons of pictures on my iPhone so for fun this summer, I uploaded a bunch of my nature shots (you need releases if you put photos of people online)… and proceeded to forget entirely that I did this.

Then I got this email…

As you see, this isn’t the most stunning photo ever taken. But someone still bought it, even after I’d forgotten it was for sale.

I told people to sell their extra jewlery on

One of my friends got divorced several years ago. To give her a hand, I offered to shop it around to local jewelry shops. They all offered me less than $100 (I had the original paperwork for the $2000+ ring) so I held onto it. Then I saw and decided I had nothing to lose so I sent her ring in… And got her $600 for it.

Since then, I’ve told a few other people to do this (via an affiliate link) and have made $50. Note: they did not accept my engagement ring because it was too common of a style so I ended up going through a local jewelry store. In other words, look online and real life if you are trying to find the best price for your jewelry.

I wrote reviews on 

You know, as much as I’d love to write reviews all day for free for giant corporations, I don’t typically. But if someone’s willing to pay $10 for my opinion on Quickbooks or Dropbox or whatever, I’m fine writing up a detailed review of my years of experience with it. Occasionally Capterra offers $10/review for up to 5 reviews. So I wrote 5 reviews and got $50 in Amazon gift cards. Think about it, Capterra owns my review and can use the content in marketing or for resale on their site so I don’t feel bad getting money in exchange for adding to their database of information.

Note: if you are a small business that I have a good experience with, I’m happy to leave a review gratis.

I am an Airbnb Superhost.

We could say I didn’t choose the Airbnb life, it chose me. I will say having people constantly in your living space can be a little draining (insert high strung dog and demanding day jobs for additional consideration) but it has been a good way to help pay my rent and generate some additional income for my landlord and myself. If you find yourself in Bar Harbor this summer and  want to check out the Golden Girl Palace (long story) for yourself, come on over. 

Airbnb is the largest paying part of the sharing economy. Click here to learn more.

I rent out my projector/screen setup.

My budget for starting Breaking Even was about $10,000. I used $1000 of this to buy a nice LCD projector and screen setup. I was doing a lot of presentations and was getting tired of relying on the venue’s technology. Then I met other people who needed stuff (most of what we rent this out for is family reunions and weddings with an occasional business presentation and kid’s birthday party). We rent it out for $50/day which includes any needed dongles/Mac converters, extension cords, table to set it on, etc. I estimate we rent it 3-5 times a year so we’ve more than paid back the initial investment, plus it’s a benefit we can offer our coworking space members.

I hosted an amateur comedy night.

I’ve been wanting to try standup comedy for awhile so I made a plan to really do it. When I realized I had to travel 4 hours and miss two work days to do it, I figured I had to host something local first to see if I liked it.

So I contacted a local venue and asked if they’d be up for it. We could charge a small cover, which would cover my time to organize and run the thing (and my help with marketing) and they could sell food and drink. So I made a Facebook event and talked about it a little online and then showed up that night and ran the event for two hours. It went great and I walked away with $300 in covers.

I guess the moral is, if you want to do something, see if you can find a way to do it in a low risk way and partner with a venue that has a complimentary audience.

I made and sold courses on Teachable.

You too can buy my SEO course or my online shopping card course! Basically, if you are a consultant type (or heck, any industry where people have to like you to do business with you) an online course is a low risk way for prospective clients to try you out. Plus if you naturally like public speaking (see amateur comedy night), it’s not that much of a stretch. I will, however, be moving these courses to my own domain to avoid the monthly fee, now that I know people are theoretically interested in them.

I’m not including my ‘passive’ income experiments here.

A couple months ago, I did an experiment where I did much more than this stuff. I took surveys, I joined Amazon Mechanical Turks, Google Adsense… You name it, I spent a month trying anything anyone considered passive income. It did make me some money but not a ton (See this post for more information.)

The thing with any of this online money making stuff is you have to understand:

  1. There is a learning curve, during which you clearly aren’t earning money.
  2. It’s not any money I can count on (at least for now) because it’s so variable. For example, I might sell 10 SEO courses one month and 0 the next month.
  3. Most things start online but have an offline component to be truly successful. If you want to sit in your basement and not talk to anyone and be completely anonymous, the reality is very few online opportunities will exist for you.

Now I could do more to expand these. For example, I keep meaning to email all the local caterers and other event venues about our technology setup so they could upsell/rent it for their events. I could get multiple peoples’ jewelry and shop it around for them. In other words, any of these things could bring in more money if I let them… but since most of them happened by accident, I am only thinking of these ideas now.

In other words, as long as you treat online income as a fun experiment that may or may not make you money, you’ll be able to do these (or others) with a spirit of fun and excitement (versus desperation and drudgery). You might not be able to quit your day job, but at least you can get random emails in the middle of the day that will notify you that you made a couple unexpected dollars while you were doing other things.

Experiments In Passive Income: One Month Making Under Minimum Wage

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 ( 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:

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.