Practically anywhere you look these days, there’s some ad pushing the promise of being able to make money online with little to no effort. Most talk about some sort of do-it-for-you or autopilot solution where you only need to spend a few bucks to get started, invest only a couple of minutes of your time, and the rest will be taken care of automatically.
There’s a set-it-and-forget-it mentality that’s being nurtured in such advertising and, frankly, it’s simply not true.
In today’s post, I’ll discuss how to make a passive income online. I’ll cover if it’s possible, what kind of commitment you should expect to make, how to actually do it, and other money-making opportunities to consider.
By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll know the truth about passive income and be better prepared for the realities of doing business online.
Table of Contents
Let’s start with the possibility of being able to make a passive income online…
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
That’s really the question here. The answer is yes, and no. OK, before you get all bent out of shape, let me explain my answers…
It is quite possible to make a passive income online. The problem is that most people think it’s a quick setup and they’re good to go. With rare exceptions, that’s simply not the case. Before you can enjoy those streams of passive income, you need to build them. The reason I said, “with rare exception” is because, if the right conditions exist, you can jump in and reap the rewards of little effort on your part.
Examples of this can be getting in on the ground floor of some opportunity that takes off (Imagine being one of the first Amazon, eBay or Facebook employees.), inventing a solution or product that people can’t live without (Think about the garage door opener. Even then I’d argue that your invention probably took a lot of effort to bring to fruition.), and so on. Another way to make passive income is to invest in solid opportunities, but even that has prerequisites (such as having the money to invest in the first place) and isn’t 100% guaranteed.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it is possible, but it will take a lot of work to get to that point.
That said, let’s talk about the type of commitment you’ll need to make to reach that ever-elusive mark…
Building a business online takes commitment; it’s as simple as that.
Now, there are many ways to go about building your business. You can join other companies and work within their marketing structure (think Amway, Mary Kay, etc.), develop your own brand and build a company from the ground up while selling your own products or services, or work in a sort of hybrid scenario where you make your own brand but market products and services from other companies and earn commissions from the sales you refer to them.
No matter which path you choose, there’s going to be a lot of work ahead of you.
If you go the first route, chances are, the company you choose to come on board with will offer some sort of training program and materials. The length and complexity will vary depending on which company you select and what products and services they offer. Still, this will usually be the fastest route as far as learning the ropes goes. That doesn’t necessarily translate into the quickest path to passive income, however.
Now, let’s think about the second option, building your own brand using your own products and services. This can be one of the longest paths to take, but also one of the most rewarding. The trick is to build your brand and offer something that people can’t live without (not necessarily literally). If you have something unique that people love, chances are you can build a decent empire (assuming you’re not knocked off and have protections in place). It just takes a lot of time to create something that lasts from nothing.
The third option I’ve listed is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. You don’t have to have your own offering but aren’t locked to a single company’s products and services, either. The easiest way to enter this world is through affiliate marketing. As for the time and effort commitment, you’re looking at somewhere in between the first and second options in most cases. I figure a good rule of thumb is not to expect any income for at least six months, as you build your reputation and brand, and it could be a year or more before you start to see real traction. Don’t let that discourage you, just be aware that this is not a get-rich-quick solution.
Again, these options can lead to passive income, but they certainly don’t start with it. It will take time, effort, and dedication to build yourself up to that position, so don’t quit that day job right away.
So, now you know that I recommend affiliate marketing as your passive income stream solution. How does it work? Where can you learn about it? How do you even start? Let’s take a look…
This introduction is going to focus on affiliate marketing as a way to make a passive income online. To that end, I’m going to provide an overview of what’s involved. I highly suggest you take a look at some of my other posts here on Small Online Biz. There are several detailed articles on various tools and platforms, as well as tips here and there that you should find particularly useful.
One of the very first things you’re going to do when it comes to affiliate marketing is to pick a niche. What’s a niche? It’s a subject or category. Here are a few examples:
That’s really it. That said, the niches listed above are quite broad. As such, there’s a lot of competition, and it can be hard to gain trust, authority, and a following when you cast such a wide net. What you should do is try to narrow your focus a bit. This will not only lower the overall competition but allow you to hone in on a more specific client and build a stronger connection. Let’s take some of the above examples and provide a few, more focused options:
The list above is not all-inclusive, just an example of more focused niche options.
By narrowing your focus, you not only lower the overall competition for your niche, but you help your visitors understand what it is you’re all about.
Let’s say someone is into modifying their car, and they’re looking for after-market car parts. Now, do you think they’re going to go to a site that’s just about cars in general, or do you think they’ll opt for the sites that are specific to after-market parts? This is something you should consider.
Another tip I have for you is that you should pick a niche that you’re knowledgeable in or passionate about (hopefully both), as this will make the process much easier for you, especially at the beginning.
When people are looking for something, the majority go directly to the web. This is where you need to be to reach the most potential customers. Depending on what you’re looking to do, you can have storefronts on services such as eBay, use solutions such as Facebook Marketplace or one of the many apps that are popping up to help you sell stuff, and so on, but I recommend building a website.
Why a website? That’s easy. When it comes to affiliate marketing, you’re not selling a product or service; you’re selling yourself. You’re building a brand. The end goal is to become a trusted authority in your chosen niche. Someone people will reach out to for an opinion.
Once you hit this level of trust, people are going to take your opinion seriously and even follow your recommendations. You can’t really do that on Marketplace or eBay. You need to have a home base, so-to-speak.
It’s not enough to have a website. You need to provide content that people want to read or view. This is where the work and dedication come in.
You’re going to write, or record if you’re more of a video person, articles for your website. They will range from general information and opinion pieces to reviews and recommendations. What’s important here is, to be honest and detailed. Nothing will kill your credibility faster than misleading people and recommending garbage just to make a sale.
I should note that this isn’t an every now and then thing either. It’s for the long term. You will be creating a lot of content. To that end, be sure you don’t choose such a narrow niche that you run out of things to write about quickly.
Once you have your site up and some content published, you should look for ways to monetize it. In affiliate marketing, the primary means of generating income is to join affiliate programs and place affiliate links within the content on your site.
Take one of my websites, Mavic Maniacs. This website is all about drones. I provide informative articles and reviews of various drones and accessories on this site. Many of the links I provide in my articles are actually affiliate links. I make a commission if someone follows those links and makes a purchase. In some cases, they don’t even have to purchase what I linked to. They can simply buy anything on the website they were referred to, and I’ll make a commission.
The same can be said of this site you’re on now. Small Online Biz is an affiliate marketing site. If you follow my link to the GeneratePress WordPress theme and buy their premium version, I’ll make a commission.
It should be noted that the cost to you is the same whether you follow my link or go to the site directly and make a purchase. The only difference is, if you use my link, the company takes part of their profit and shares it with me as a thank you for referring you to them.
Another way to monetize your website is by placing ads on it. Now, these ads can be your own, but what I’m talking about here is placing ads from an advertising network such as Google AdSense and the like. The ads shown are usually relevant to the content of the page they’re displayed on. This can be a great source of income if you have the traffic, but you should not that, when people click on these ads, they’re taken away from your site so keep that in mind.
It is not enough to build a website. You need to let people know about it. There are several ways to accomplish this, and I recommend you do them all:
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of making your content known and easily accessible to the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.). The reason this is so important is, most people start their search for whatever it is they’re looking for by entering it into a search engine.
By letting the search engines know about your website, and it’s content, you’re making sure your site will end up somewhere in the search results. Where you end up (i.e., 1st page, 10th page, etc.) will depend on several factors, including; competition, post content and quality, posting consistency, and so on. The more you do to optimize your website for SEO, the better.
Let’s face it. Social media is vast. All the big names have pages, accounts, and whatnot on the major social media sites. You should too. Create a page or group for your website. Post and interact using various social media accounts. Engage others. You can even advertise on the various platforms if you wish.
Social media can drive a lot of traffic to your website, especially at the beginning, when you’re still working on getting your website higher in the search engine results.
Once you’re established, you might consider running some advertising on one or more platforms to draw in some new viewers. This can be a great option. The only words of warning I can offer are, be sure you’re targeting the right groups and platforms, set appropriate budget limits and make sure your ad is something that will draw in your target audience.
Advertising can be expensive, so make sure you do it right.
Just because your site is online doesn’t mean you’re limited to online advertising. Talk to co-workers, friends, and passer’s by. Consider placing ads in a magazine or maybe a billboard or bus bunch somewhere (especially if you’re promoting something that’s more of a local offering vs. nation or world-wide).
I guess the best way to put this is, it’s a numbers game. The more people that know about your website, the better off you are.
You don’t want your content to become stale. Update older posts, if warranted, continue to create new content, and keep the engagement with your visitors going. Relevance and interaction will go a long way toward reaching your goals.
These are just a few of the considerations for starting an online business and building passive income streams. Don’t let this overwhelm you. It may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t.
If you do it well, much of the process will become second-hand to you and, as your site builds in content and reputation, you’ll start to notice that people are following your links and making purchases, even while you sleep. Welcome to the trickling start of your passive income stream.
Now, before you run off and try this on your own, I should let you know that I learned all of this and more from a single resource, Wealthy Affiliate. They’re not just an affiliate marketing training platform, either. They offer training, hosting, an amazing supportive community, and so much more! Check out the following posts I’ve written on WA and some of their tools:
As you can see, they have a lot to offer, and I highly recommend that you check them out for yourself. Even if you don’t go with their Premium offering, the free Starter account gives you a lot.
Now, let’s talk about other opportunities…
Of course! Affiliate marketing isn’t the only game in town. It’s just the best one, in my opinion.
As I’ve alluded to before, you can join established companies looking to expand their online sales. Companies such as Amway, Mary Kay, and so on are legitimate opportunities. There are even cannabis and CBD-related companies just starting that might be a good fit for those looking to get in on the ground floor. Just be sure to read the fine print. Some may have competition clauses and whatnot to consider.
That said, many of these companies offer an affiliate marketing program vs. just becoming a direct seller for them, etc.
You can toss your money into stocks, bonds, 401K’s, angel investments, and so on. It’s more of a hands-off approach and, just like any investment opportunity, involves risk, but it is another way to make money.
This is the tried and true method of making money. Exchanging time and experience for cash. Sadly, most companies these days don’t offer a retirement package, and, as such, a passive income really isn’t possible. Still, it’s a way to make sure the bills are paid and might even come with certain perks such as paid time off or medical benefits.
As you can see, you have options. The real question is, what’s best for you? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that if you devote your time and effort to affiliate marketing, you can build something great.
So, now you have an idea of what’s involved when it comes to how to make a passive income online. It’s probably not a clean-cut as you had hoped.
Is it possible? Yes. Can it be done easily? That depends on your definition of easy. For me, it’s yes. Setting up the website and creating content is quite easy, once you know the steps. Can you create passive streams of income quickly? In most cases, no. It will take time and dedication on your part to get to that point.
Just in case you missed it, I recommend that you check out Wealthy Affiliate by clicking on the banner below. Trust me; you won’t regret it.
BTW, if you’ve decided to go the build your own brand route, check out this post on Brand Marketing for some great tips.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this whole passive income thing? Is there a method I didn’t list here that you think should be? Will you be joining me in the affiliate marketing world? Are you already an affiliate marketer and would like to share your insights? Please let me know by commenting below.