In 2014, a month-long solo trip to Europe inspired me to pursue my version of financial freedom. I spoke with people from all walks of life who were so passionate and in the moment, and it made me realize how much life I was missing. I wanted to not feel limited by my finances or feel stuck in a desk job. I wanted to see the world.
I started researching digital nomads and ways to earn passive income and in May 2016, after saving enough money to cover travel for a year, I quit my digital marketing job to travel around all over Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada, while building my own passive income streams.
For two years I worked in cafes, explored my surroundings and learned the kind of life I wanted for myself. Developing my passive income streams and investments has allowed me to increase my net worth, even with my travel expenses.
Since this passage that changed my life, I returned to a full-time position that I enjoy and from which I learn a lot. But at the same time, I’m building a brand called Digital Nomad Quest to teach people what I’ve learned about personal finance and financial freedom. I invest in rental properties and I also develop my portfolio.
In 2021, passive income from my side businesses and investments actually exceeded my salaried employment income by six figures, by 9 to 5.
Here are some of the ways I earn passive income and my top tips to inspire you to create multiple streams of income for yourself.
Create an online store
I got my first taste of passive income with my Etsy store. I was scouring the market for people selling digital products, and I thought, “I could give it a try!”
So in 2015, after learning Photoshop myself, I started selling digital products such as resume templates, backup dates, wedding cards, mini photography session announcements, and more. Within months, I was making sales on my digital products.
By selling digital products, I was able to earn money passively without having to ship and fulfill orders. I still make passive income from this method, sometimes even on products I created many years ago.
Video by Tala Hadavi
Merch by Amazon is another passive income stream you can research that requires $0 to low capital to get started. I started my Merch by Amazon store in 2017. You can sell custom clothing by uploading designs to their hoodies, shirts, and other products, which will be listed on Amazon.
Every time people buy from your listings, you receive royalties and Amazon will print and fulfill your orders for you.
Everything is very passive with this revenue stream, as there is no customer support involved and everything is paid for in royalties.
Create an online course
Online courses are one of my favorite ways to generate passive income because you can create something impactful that helps people, with the ability to scale. People can access your content globally instead of just reaching people individually through services or coaching.
To create a course, you can integrate video, audio, or even text content into a complete curriculum that takes a student from A to B. You want to make sure your students get value from the course and you help them achieve a certain goal. .
Once you’ve created the content, you can sell your course on marketplaces like Udemy or platforms like Teachable. I currently have three courses that I created based on my own experience: The Etsy Entrepreneur, Remote Rental Riches, and Blog Launch Profit.
Earn ad revenue through a YouTube channel
YouTube can be a very rewarding and lucrative side business. Until recently, I never realized how much it was possible to earn a decent income through the platform. In the past, I created a few YouTube channels for music, because I sang and played instruments, but they never really made a lot of money.
My current channel, where I make weekly videos on entrepreneurship, investing, and financial freedom, currently averages about $4,000/month in ad revenue.
Video by Lauren Shamo
To earn more ad revenue, getting more views is essential. I learned that there are many ways to do this: using SEO to create eye-catching video titles, creating thumbnails that entice users to click, and producing valuable content that makes users want to watch all along.
Typically, companies bid to place their ads on your videos, and YouTube will take 45% of those bids, and you’ll get paid 55% of that.
Earn Commissions Through Affiliate Marketing
If you are creating a website or a YouTube channel, you can also make money through affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you recommend products that you use and love. Every time people buy through your unique referral links, you will earn a commission.
This strategy can be a win-win for everyone: your audience gets value, you get commission, and the product owner gets sales.
I’ve found that the best way to approach affiliate marketing is to make sure you’re building trust and providing valuable content to your audience, rather than spamming them with useless links.
You can do this by creating full tutorials or product comparison videos to illustrate the importance of the product or tool you are recommending, for example. Your audience can tell when you use and believe in the products, so look for products that you can honestly and genuinely promote.
Invest in real estate
I bought my first rental property when I was 23, and when I got back from my travels, I wanted to get back into it. Real estate can build your wealth exponentially through cash flow, appreciation, debt repayment and tax benefits.
One of the benefits of real estate is that you don’t have to pay the entire purchase price out of pocket, as you can leverage the borrowed money. As long as you’re not over-leveraged, you can use this to your advantage and quickly grow your property portfolio.
My husband and I currently own 32 rental units, and we’ve been able to hire property managers to help us run day-to-day things and deal with tenant concerns or issues.
There are costs associated with real estate investing: mortgages, property management fees, home insurance, property taxes, future repairs and vacancy. But with a little planning and analysis, rental income can help cover these costs and provide a steady cash flow for you.
Last year, I was able to hit six figures in passive income. It didn’t happen overnight. But the time I spent was worth it, because I now have time to do the things that matter most to me.
Having these different sources of income allows me to build wealth faster, live intentionally without making fear-based decisions, and enjoy a sense of security.
Sharon Tseung is an investor and creator who teaches people how to create passive income, become financially free, and design their best life through her YouTube channel, Instagram, TikTok, and blog. She likes to talk about investing and hustling. In the past, she graduated from UC Berkeley and worked for 10 years in marketing at Google and other companies. She quit her job and traveled the world as a digital nomad for two years, while developing multiple streams of income online and through real estate.
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