Unexpected Ways to Earn Money While You Sleep

A man sleeping soundly in his bed.
A man sleeping soundly in his bed.

Image source: Getty Images

I've spent most of my working years as a freelance writer, and I love the flexibility it offers me. However, one of the downsides is that when I'm not working, I'm not making money. That's got me thinking more about how to earn passive income that allows me to earn money while I'm on vacation or just taking a day off.

I'm not the only one interested in this idea. In fact, about 46% of Americans who start a side hustle do so to earn passive income. Let's look at a handful of opportunities that can help you make money while you sleep.

1. Affiliate marketing

There are many different ways to make money from affiliate marketing, but one of the best options is by starting a blog or content site with affiliate links. For example, you could launch a website about your passion for bikes or hiking and create great content around that topic.

Once you've established your blog, you can sign up for an affiliate program where you link to an online shop, like Amazon, and receive a cut of each sale of backpacking gear or bikes you help generate.

Some of the latest data shows that most affiliate marketers who promote items on social media make about $1,000 per month. Of course, you can potentially earn much more if you build a successful online presence.

2. Create an online course

Creating an online course can be a great option for passive income because you can use your past work experience and package it into a product you can continually make money from.

You can do this by launching your own e-commerce website to sell the course or by using various online course platforms, like Udemy and Coursera. Using an existing marketplace may eat into some of your profits (the platforms take a cut of the sale), but you'll benefit from having a built-in customer base.

3. Start a dropshipping business

Dropshipping is a popular way for people to earn passive income because you outsource some of the e-commerce logistics to a third-party company. For example, if you like to design t-shirts, you could create an online store to sell your designs, but outsource the printing and shipping to another company.

You'll still have to spend time designing t-shirts and launching a site (or using an existing marketplace), but once the business is set up, you don't have to worry about managing inventory or shipping.

4. Buy a rental property

This is a tried-and-true way of making money while you sleep, but the unexpected angle here is that there are different ways to approach a rental property that you might not have thought of.

For example, if you buy a duplex and live in one of the units, you may be able to get a larger mortgage than you usually would be able to afford. Many banks will look at the potential rental income minus an estimate of what you'll pay to manage it, and add up to 75% of the potential rental amount as your income.

If you want a place to live and to earn some rental income, this can be a good strategy for making your own home more affordable while investing in real estate at the same time.

5. Rent out your car

With 41% of workers on hybrid schedules, many cars are sitting idle right now. Why not put yours to good use?

Car-sharing sites like Turo allow you to list your car on the platform and make money from renting it out. There are some requirements, including that your vehicle can't be more than 12 years old (unless it's a classic car) and the mileage needs to be under 130,000.

You'll have to keep up with the vehicle's maintenance, make sure it's clean after each use, and ensure delivery to the next driver, but the effort could be well worth it. Turo says the average annual income for one car listed on its site is $10,868.

Many of these passive income streams (besides the rental property) don't require a lot of upfront costs. This means that the only thing standing in the way between you and earning income while you sleep is the initial effort to get one of these income streams off the ground.

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We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Chris Neiger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.