5 Simple Ways to Add Passive Income to Your Business

Image of a stream to symbolize adding new passive income streams to your business using affiliate marketing, print on demand, and other ideas.

If you’ve ever wondered how you can start adding new, passive income streams to your business, you’re in the right place.

Whether you’re a small business, coach, blog looking to grow, service business, or just curious, I’ll be going over all the PROVEN (meaning I actually make money passively from each of these sources) ways to add new income streams to your business. 

This isn’t a list of ways that you can possibly make passive income.  

I’ll only be discussing ways I’ve actually made money passively (or ways I’ve helped my clients make money passively). 

You’ll also see ideas based on success I’ve seen others have.

What Exactly IS Passive Income?

I would argue that almost no income is 100% passive, but you can get pretty darn close. 

When I say passive income, I mean income you generate by not trading your time for money.  This is income that builds like a snowball rolling down hill.  

Active income: Working 1 hour for $30.

Passive income: Putting in the work up front one time (and time to maintain it) to create a process or asset that will continue to make money over time.

There are all different kinds of passive income, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll be talking about the kind you can generate using digital marketing. 

Things like:

  1. Affiliate marketing
  2. Ad revenue
  3. Selling digital products
  4. Online courses
  5. Print on demand products

And I’ll be giving you examples of how you can add them directly to your current income.

So if you’re already overwhelmed, don’t worry… You’ll have a lot more clarity by the end of this post.

If you want to skip past all of this and talk to a real person about creating a new revenue stream for YOUR business, contact me to book a strategy session. We’ll discuss how passive income can be applied directly to YOUR business and I’ll give you a customized action plan to start implementing your new income stream.

The Risks of Certain Passive Income Streams

When you type into the Google search box, “how to make passive income online,” you’ll get lots of listicles with ideas ranging from “real world” passive income examples (like investments you can make at the bank or real estate) to little side hustles you can start online.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to be talking about the type of passive income you can add to a business online in a relatively short amount of time online little to no overhead costs.

They will require initial setup, maintenance, adjustment (for what your customers need), and like any business, they’ll make more money the more you promote and market them. 

NOTE:  You COULD create an entire marketing strategy around these specific strategies that would require a lot more thought and planning.  The sky is the limit.

So, let’s dig into your “not trading time for money” passive income journey.

*Disclosure: By providing this information, I’m not guaranteeing your success with these methods. There are a lot of other factors like how much traffic you have, how you position the product, your call to action, etc… You probably already know this, but I’m putting this here for the people who think everything they read on the internet is a magic pill for money. 🙂

Types of Passive Income (With Examples) 

Image of hand drawing light bulbs and dollar signs on chalk board. Symbolizes passive income.

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are soooo many more ways to make passive income that are not listed here.  

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

Affiliate marketing is (in my opinion) the SIMPLEST way to add a revenue stream to your existing marketing strategy. 

When most people think of affiliate marketing, their minds go straight to Amazon. 

Affiliate marketing is so much than the dismal 1% commissions (last I checked) you can earn on Amazon. 

I prefer to focus on high ticket affiliate marketing. Promoting companies that offer higher ticket products (like courses or software as a service) and offer a commission above 10-20%.

Some courses offer upwards of 30% and will increase that the more you sell.

Collaborating with people in your niche, or recommending tools you’ve worked with is a much more fun way approach to affiliate marketing. 

How to Start Affiliate Marketing:

You can either…

  1. Be an affiliate for someone else (you receive a commission for sending them business) or…
  2. You can run your own affiliate program (you give them a commission for sending business over to you. 

Affiliate marketing means referring someone for a commission.  It could also be called a referral commission. 

Let’s dive into the details of how affiliate marketing works. 

Affiliate Marketing – Getting a Commission for Referring to a Something Created by Someone Else 

This is usually what people are referring to when they say “affiliate marketing.”

This doesn’t have to specifically be a company like Amazon. 

You can refer people to:

  • Physical products
  • Services 
  • Courses 
  • Ebooks
  • Workshops
  • Webinars
  • Online software
  • Programs (like CRMs and design programs)

Many companies have affiliate programs through an affiliate platform like:

These platforms offer the back end system to be able to offer commission on products.  Sort of like a broker. I’ve used Awin and Share-a-Sale, but the others are just as reputable.

Many bloggers (people whose businesses are 100% their blog) will go on these platforms and search for their niche to find products to add to their blog posts. They can then apply to your company through the platform and you can approve or reject their applications.

But it’s not just bloggers who can use them.

Regardless of your niche, you can likely find something to promote on one of these platforms. 

Keep in mind that programs like this will offer a small commission. Many products that they offer are smaller ticket. Since they are a sort of broker, it is much more convenient, so the commission is a bit smaller.

Try it out: Make a list of ten things you use daily in your business.  Then Google “(name of that thing) affiliate program.”  You can find out if your favorite products have affiliate programs. 

Or try this: Think about those you collaborate with regularly. Some of them might have an affiliate program.  If they don’t, they’ll probably be happy that you asked so they can add one and you can start promoting them. 

If they have a course, digital products, a physical or ebook, etc. 

The secret sauce to affiliate marketing is to make sure you ONLY promote what you actually use.  A great test for this is if you would pay your own money (or if you already have), then it’s okay to promote.  

Affiliate marketing sometimes gets a bad name because people promote products they have never used.  In my opinion, this is not ethical.  

➡ Only promote what you truly believe in. 

Here are some REAL example of how you can add affiliate marketing to your existing business:

  1. Have a podcast? You have a podcast guest who has an online course.  Ask your guest if they have an affiliate program for any of their products, courses, or services.  Put the links in your show notes.
    1. You could then turn this podcast into a blog post and sprinkle the affiliate links.
  2. YouTube channel?  If you mention any products, courses, tools, or programs, add the affiliate link to your show notes. 
  3. In-person mastermind? If you’ve discussed any products, courses, tools, or programs, send out a resources link to the participants after the session with all the affiliate links.  Mention them in a session. 
  4. Have an Online Course? If you talk about a specific program, course, ebook, book, or tool, add the links to those tools in that section.  Also use this to upsell and cross sell your other products or courses. 
    1. Create a resources section in your course with all your affiliate links. 
    2. Make a section of your course about implementation and add links to the products & programs you use in your business as you go through your tutorials. 
  5. On your website: Use your blog to do reviews of products you use and add a resources page to your website.  
Hands all together in center to symbolize collaboration through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing – Giving a Commission for Referral 

Many people don’t realize they can easily add an affiliate program to their own products, services, or courses. 

You can set up an affiliate program to your services like:

  • In person masterminds
  • Workshops
  • Specific deliverables you offer in a package

You would need to set up an affiliate program on your website similar to the one in this post.

All you’ll need is the right tracking program and a payment program that integrates or works with the tracking program.  . 

There are lots of other ways to add affiliate programs to your business.  You could create printable workbooks, ebook, digital products, courses, and more. 

Creating an online course?  Programs like Teachable already have an affiliate function built into their programs. 

Not so techy? There’s nothing stopping you from telling your students you’ll give them a commission for anyone they refer and just asking your students “who referred you?” Then you can issue a manual payment until this is all figured out.  This can get really messy, so it’s recommended that you set up an automated program.  

You’re more likely to get takers if the entire process is automated.

Let’s go a little deeper into how you can use this information RIGHT NOW. 

For Someone Who Already Sends You Referrals

First, set up your affiliate program on your website so you have a way of tracking your referral.  

They will be more likely to refer to you because it’s now become easier for them.  This article by OptinMonster may help you figure out the nitty gritty details of setting this up.  Or you can can contact me and book a strategy session to get customized recommendations.

Real life example:  When I was still working in my 9-5, I had someone ask me about passive income.  

I explained this concept to him.  He was providing a service where you helped people create fillable forms and stamps to make their digital paperwork easier and more efficient.  (Think lawyers and financial planners who fill out a LOT of manual paperwork).

He had a particular person who referred to him on occasion.  But it was a bit of a pain for her to refer to him.  Each time she did, she had to write up an email explaining everything to him and connect him with the customer. 

He set up an affiliate program and provided her with her own link.  She was grateful for how much easier the process was.  All she had to do was give the client a link.  As a result, she sent him more business.  

It’s win-win for both you and whoever you collaborate with. 

Here’s how you can use this right now:

  • Do you know someone who has a course (live or digital) that compliments your own business?  Ask them if you can do a short training for free inside their course and give them an affiliate link to place inside their course with your section. 
  • Does anyone you know have an active Facebook group?  Offer them a free training or Q&A live for their group and give them an affiliate link.
  • Is there anyone you can think of that occasionally promotes others to their email list? Ask them to collaborate. If they know they’ll get a commission, they may be open to promoting you. 

Can you see how easy this is to incorporate into your existing business? 

Other businesses are much more willing to promote you when there is something in it for them.  It’s win-win for both of you. 

Here are even more ways you can use affiliate marketing to promote your own offer. 

Have an online course? Set up an affiliate link and at the end of the course, add a section encouraging former students to recommend you to others and how they can promote your link. 

Are you going to be a guest on a podcast? Make sure to mention to the host your affiliate program, give them a link to add to the show notes or any supporting content they create (blog posts, social media content, etc…).

Prefer blog posts to market your business? Pitch blogs in your niche and do a guest post with your affiliate link (make sure they allow this before you write – this is also a great way to get backlinks to your site, just make sure it’s a quality blog before you do all that work.)

If you’re uncertain how to add this to your business, contact me to book a strategy session. You’ll walk away with a customized action plan to add a new revenue stream to your business.

What’s the Risk in Affiliate Marketing?

The risk with this type of passive income is..

… If you heavily promote one product or course and they discontinue that product or the company goes out of business, you have all kinds of marketing to promote a product you don’t own. 

It’s a great starting point and it’s a fantastic supplement to your business, but there is no substitute for owning your own products.

Having a mix of your own products and affiliates is a better strategy than relying solely on affiliate marketing.

How Does the Payment System Work?

Choosing the right system for keeping track of your sales is important. 

Many programs will keep track for you and send an automated payment to your affiliates (or to you).  

When setting up your own affiliate marketing, make sure the program you use integrates with your email management program. 

This will allow you to keep track of the sales you make using tags and segmenting. (You can’t do this when referring to someone else’s course because you don’t have access to the payment system.)

And if you want to set up an automation to send follow up emails to those who click, but don’t buy, the integration will make it easy to keep track of. 

Affiliate Marketing & Online Courses

Programs like Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi all have affiliate marketing programs. 

Most of these programs will offer a system for keeping track of your affiliates.  They will automatically track who purchased and offer a delay of around 30 days (sale in January is paid out in March), to allow time for any refunds.  

Teachable also offers a cross sell service if you have multiple programs.  They will do some cross selling for you. I’m not sure about the others, you’ll have to investigate the program that’s right for you. 

Affiliate Marketing For Service Providers

You may be able to set up a payment system on your website for things like productized services.  I haven’t done this, so I don’t have a specific recommendation for this. 

I’m not a big fan of this business model, but I’ve seen others use it. I’m not recommending it, I’m just letting you know it’s an option.

Create Passive Income With Digital Products

We covered affiliate marketing in depth.  I mentioned above the biggest risk (in my opinion) involved with affiliate marketing… You don’t own the product.  

If the business owner shuts down, you lose all that work you put into promoting them.  

The solution is creating your own digital products and courses. 

Creating digital products can be things like:

  • Printables 
  • Small ticket tripwire products (don’t worry, I’ll tell you what a tripwire is)
  • Ebooks
  • Workbooks
  • Checklists
  • Recipe books
  • Guides
  • Planners
  • Activity books
  • And more

If you already have a blog or a big following on social media (some traffic), you can identify what your audience wants by analyzing your data. 

For a blog, you can use Google Analytics to identify what blog posts your audience are most drawn to. 

You can also use your email marketing program (using tags) to identify what people click on the most.  If you don’t know how to use tags, you can usually go into your program and see what links people click on most or what topics they respond to.

Once you’ve decided, you can sprinkle the product around your website, add it to your email strategy, and weave it into your social media strategy. 

You can make a tripwire (a sales page that’s triggered when someone signs up to receive your lead magnet).

Here are some examples of how to add this to your business:

  • If you’re a blogger, you can add a tripwire sales page to your current lead magnet.
  • Have an online course?  Add a workbook upgrade or some additional materials. For example, you could offer a free printable, but offer the option of having a physical copy they can print for when they start the program using a print on demand program like Amazon’s. 
  • Are you a coach?  Create a quick start guide for those who want help, but aren’t ready for your training.
  • Have a great lead magnet?  Add a tripwire sales page with a beefed up version of your tripwire. 
  • Don’t have an email list? Create a small product and talk about it in your marketing, to your clients, and an add on to whatever you’re selling. Ex. You could offer a printable version of a workbook for your workshop and offer a physical option. Upload your manuscript to Amazon, and you can create a print on demand option (they print the orders as they come in) anyone can order with the link.

Find out what your audience is really after and create something that will truly help them solve a problem.  Then set it up to promote automatically using the examples above. 

You can always sell it actively as well, but for the purposes of this article, I’m telling you how to sell it passively.

Don’t forget to set up an affiliate program for your digital products so others can sell it for you.  Make sure you tell people about your affiliate program.

Platforms like Sendowl and Gumroad offer a way to use their platforms to distribute your digital products and add an affiliate program for a small commission.  They also both integrate nicely with ConvertKit so you can keep track of who’s buying through your email list. 

Feeling overwhelmed? I’m throwing a lot of ideas at you, so it’s okay if you’re overwhelmed. If you want some help figuring out how this applies to you specifically, click the button below to contact me for a strategy session.

How to Use Ad Revenue to Build Passive Income

You can use companies like Adsense, Mediavine or other ad networks to put ads on your blog. 

If you have a YouTube channel or podcast, you can monetize them with ads. 

The risk of using companies like Mediavine for ad revenue is that if your traffic dips below their minimum, or they increase their minimums and decide you don’t have enough traffic anymore, they can kick you out. 

Ad revenue is fickle. 

And it can be ugly. 

Except during the superbowl, no one really likes to see ads.  They can make a website messy and hard to look at. 

If you’ve ever searched for a recipe online, you know exactly what I mean… But ad revenue is one of the reasons these recipe sites can create delicious recipes. They get paid to do it through ad revenue.

I’ve made some good money with ad revenue.  I also have some clients who have done really well with ad revenue.  

My clients agree ad revenue can be fickle. 

It fluctuates wildly and just like affiliate marketing, you don’t own it.  So they can shut it down at any time. 

The good news is, it can be a really nice supplement to your income. I wouldn’t rely on it 100%, but it can be another income stream for you.

Build Passive Income With Online Courses

When you think of online courses, you may be thinking of the big courses sold by the “gurus.”

It can be really overwhelming. 

Why not create a small course.  

A quickstart course.  

Figure out what your audience really wants and create a mini course for it.  It doesn’t have to be an all in one course. Pick one problem at a time.

Use your blog, email list, or set up an affiliate marketing program to let others promote and sell your course for you. 

Programs like Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi all have the option of adding affiliate marketing to your online course.  

How to use this strategy right now:

  • If you already have videos, lives, or trainings, you can repurpose them by editing them down into a course.  Don’t know how to do this?  Outsource it. 
  • Take an afternoon to plan out one piece of what you do and create a plan to turn that into a course.
  • Do some live training with the intention of recording it and turning it into a course.

I have not created a course as of the writing of this blog post, but I have promoted other courses as an affiliate. I have one collaborator that has several small courses.

You can use this as a building block. Solve one problem at a time, then create a bundle or turn it into a big course when you have enough pieces.

This Is Overwhelming… How Can I Start Right Now?

You’re right. 

It can be intensely overwhelming trying to figure out how to customize these recommendations to your specific business. 

Here’s how you can start right now. 

First…

Make a list of all the courses, products, services, ebooks, programs, tools, CRMs, systems, and literally anything you can think of.  

Reach out to those companies and find out if they have an affiliate program. 

Keep a list somewhere of these links.  Start adding your links to your videos, blog posts, content, promotions, etc… 

You could add a series about tools you use for your niche and do a weekly or monthly video, blog post, or content feature.  

Second…

Grab a notepad and start brainstorming digital products you can add to your marketing strategy.  

Ask your customers what they would want to see?  What they would find helpful. 

Do a survey or a poll to find out what topics they want.  

OR analyze your email data and analytics (Google Analytics, social media analytics) and find out what problem you can solve for your audience.  If the same thing comes up all the time, that’s a sign your followers need more help. 

Braindump it all onto a page and hire a designer to make it look pretty. Or use a customized Canva template to make it look on brand.

Need more help?

Book a strategy session right now so I can help you brainstorm ideas.  Together we can come up with something that your followers or customers will eat up with a spoon. 

Which Passive Option Is Right for You?

Passive income CAN be added to your business.  With the right analysis, the right marketing strategy, and the right implementation strategy, you can create a little income snowball.  

If you want help starting your income snowball, contact me and book a strategy session today.

Kristi Durham

Kristi Durham

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I'm Kristi

I help service-based businesses craft relatable email & lead generation campaigns so they can book more sales calls and pull in more clients.

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