How Passive is your ‘Passive’ Income?

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Summed up in a sentence. It’s probably not very passive. 

According to, passive income is:

“Earnings from a rental property, limited liability partnership, or another enterprise in which a person is not actively involved.”

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, it’s almost never this easy. In today’s passive income obsessed, personal finance world, the definition has expanded to include many different ideas. Most of which are not actually passive. 

So how passive is that passive income idea you’re thinking about?

We took the 14 most common passive income sources from the thousands of articles on the topic and scored them (1-10 with 1 being least passive).  They generally fell under one of three categories, ‘somewhat passive’, ‘front-loaded’ or ‘not-so-passive.’ 

Listen here, just because something is more work or less doesn’t mean it is a better or worse option. Use this as a guide in your search for a passive income source that fits your lifestyle, whatever that may be. 

Passive income that is Somewhat Passive 

High Yield Savings

While this may not be the most exciting option, it is an option. While the payout is not big, the effort required near nothing. The highest interest rates are often offered at online banks. There are numerous articles on the best savings accounts available that can help you if this is an enticing option. The risk here is that banks can lower their rates and do not have to give you the rate you signed up for. 

Passive Income: Barely lifted a finger – 9.1

Peer-to-peer lending

This is a pretty self-explanatory one. Peer-to-peer lending involves lending out sums of money for an agreed-upon interest rate to whoever is requesting it. This can earn some relatively good returns. But, it is not without risk and you should read the fine print carefully on the different agreements and lending platforms.

However, once you decide upon a loan, and assuming the agreement is fulfilled, the income generated requires no further work. Pretty passive, but still some due-diligence required.

Passive Income Score: Not so bad, a solid 8.2

Dividend Stocks

A classic in the passive income world. Dividend stocks allow you to make some income depending on the value of the stock. The kicker is that these dividends are not guaranteed and can change. There are many dividend stocks to choose from and you can use this income or you can choose to reinvest. After you have made your choice or choices, the income is collected passively into your account(if the company does issue its dividend). 

Passive Income Score: Little more research required 7.6

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

REITs also generate income in the form of dividends. However, instead of being shares in a company, your shares reflect a portion of a real estate portfolio. REITs come in all different varieties and hold different types of real estate. Like dividend stocks, the income is passively collected once the REIT issues its dividend.

Passive Income Score: 7.3

“Front Loaded” Passive Income Sources

Were calling these income sources front-loaded because most of the work is upfront. The keyword here is ‘most’. Many of these still require some form of maintenance. Some options are more than others. 

These may be a good option if you have a chunk of free time to work on something or you are just willing to put in that initial work-load to get it done.

Selling Stock Photos and Digital Files

If you are a photographer, designer, or just enjoy photography and design, this could be a good option. What do we mean by digital files? This topic deserves a whole article by itself. Many are finding success selling digital art, invitations, calendars, you name it.  Most sell their digital wares on platforms like Etsy or Creative Market. 

This can be an especially ‘passive’ income source if you already have a large portfolio of edited, high-quality work. If not, there is a lot of work involved in making/designing and editing stock-photo-worthy images and files. 

Passive Income Score: Hmmmm depends 4.4 – 5.8


The world of E-Books has exploded in recent years. Think of any topic and there is bound to be an E-Book on it. But you can still add value to this space. Make no mistake, this income source does require a lot of work upfront.

 Researching, writing, launching, and logistics will take a generous amount of effort. Also, if you don’t already have an audience, it could take continuous work to market your E-Book. After it is all said and done, you could enjoy some nice passive income rolling through from purchases.

Passive Income Score: Serious hustle required – 4.2 


A 2020 favorite. It seems like new podcasts are popping up by the second. Thanks to podcasting platforms that handle ad placement, podcasts are easier to create than ever. You can probably guess what I’m going to say at this point. It does take work upfront to create this type of content. 

BUT, it is less involved than video creation and if you choose a topic you are passionate/already knowledgeable about it may not feel like work at all. Maybe you have a group of friends that can come on and make it more enjoyable. After the creation of your podcast episodes, the only work required is to promote it if necessary. 

Passive Income Score: Maybe a little passive 3.1 – 4.0

Writing on Medium

Surprise surprise. It wouldn’t feel right to make a passive income article on medium without mentioning medium. It is indeed, a good amount of work upfront to craft that perfect, curation-worthy article. 

If you are already a writer or enjoy writing this may not feel like a lot of work. But for others, writing is far from enjoyable, so the passiveness of this income source really depends. 

Passive Income Score: A range 2.8 – 3.7

Online Course

Similar to E-books, Online Courses will require a lot of work upfront to develop and market to your audience. Another added source of work is the support and updates that are expected with online courses. If your course takes-off or your content is more complex, this could equate to hours of answering emails every day. Not-so-passive, passive income anymore. 

Passive Income Score: Not Impressed – 2.9

Youtube Videos

Many have likened youtube videos to digital real estate. Much like real estate, there is a lot more work than initially meets the eye. Video creation and editing is no small task. Many creators spend several days dedicated to creating just one video. 

There is also the work to promote this video and get the views in order to be monetized. Youtube requires certain minimums in order to monetize your videos via ads. So, your videos may not be generating income for a while. It’s a long road to passive income with this option.

Passive Income Score: Far from passive 1.3

Not-so-passive Passive Income

These passive income sources fall under this category because they are either not that passive or not that much income or both. It’s nothing personal. These income ideas are just not likely to make you vast riches in your sleep.

However…this does not mean that these income sources are not an option for you. Maybe you prefer the low effort at the expense of lower-income. Or maybe you are okay with rolling up the sleeves in the pursuit of more cash. 

Rental Income

Rentals have been a source of ‘passive income’ since before the term even existed. But just how passive is it really? After accounting for maintenance, bill collecting, pill paying, repairs, upgrades, listing the rental, finding new tenants, and placing new tenants, your passive income is no longer passive at all. 

Passive Income Score: Meh – 1.2


As much as people want to entice you with their course on how to start a money-making blog in 30minutes, don’t buy it! While writing the content for a blog may not take too long, setting up a website, customizing it, setting up ads and affiliates will add up to a lot of work in a hurry. And THEN comes the really hard part of actually promoting and getting page views. The reward for a successful blog can be high, but there is no easy path to get there. This could still be a potential income source but only If you are willing to put in a lot of work.

Passive Income Score: A hustle – 1.0

E-commerce business

Like blogging, you may have seen ads for dropshipping or other e-commerce businesses that promise ‘passive income’. But again, like blogging, this source of income requires a lot of work. All the work that is required of a blog plus actually fulfilling orders and running customer service. This is no small feat. So while it may earn you some cash, this income is by no means passive. 

Passive Income Score: Depends on the type of site 0.0 – 3.4

Surveys, User Testing, Research

I won’t spend too much time on these. They often make appearances on blog posts about passive income. But these income sources really are not passive income. 

Some are paid based on completion but, some are paid hourly. So really, these income sources are really just jobs that you can do at your leisure. In a pinch, if you need extra cash, these could do the trick. If you are looking for true, wealth building, passive income sources this is not the place for you. 

Passive Income Score: Nope –  0.0

Is there a such thing as passive income? 

We wish. 

The reality is that success requires some leg-work. The question is, how much leg-work are you willing to put in? We hope that this article gives you a more realistic example of what you’re in for and how to better choose a passive income source for YOUR life.