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9 Ideas to Combine Income Streams That You Control

In 2015, my wife and I moved across the world to Abu Dhabi. Within six months, I lost my remote job—leaving me stranded on the other side of the world with no contacts or income. 

Over the next few years, I cobbled together multiple income streams. It started with launching my business, SparkRental, but it didn’t end there. 

I’ve now lived in four countries and visited dozens of others. I work on my own terms, from anywhere in the world. 

It wasn’t easy per se to build a series of income streams. But anyone can do it, allowing you to design your perfect lifestyle from the ground up. 

Active Income Streams

You probably haven’t reached financial independence yet. I haven’t, either. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create the freedom to work when and where you like. 

If you dream of ditching your day job but can’t live on passive income alone, start brainstorming ways to earn a living on your own terms. Try these nine ideas to get you started.

1. Self-employed and freelance work

It took a few years to make SparkRental profitable. And it didn’t help that the web development company we hired initially took half of our seed capital and then never delivered the website we ordered. 

To extend our runway in those lean early years, my cofounder and I each picked up work on the side to make ends meet. My cofounder Deni Supplee worked as a Realtor. I started freelance writing and discovered two surprises along the way. 

First, it forced me to constantly learn, as I wrote about real estate investing, market trends, and personal finance in general. I ended up finding new tools and platforms, experimenting with real estate crowdfunding platforms, and more in the course of writing about them.

Second, I discovered I actually love freelance writing. I still do a little to this day, despite SparkRental’s success. 

Of course, you probably don’t want to become a Realtor or freelance writer. But you have endless options to get paid for work you love and excel at: graphic design, web design, software development, photography, copy editing, bookkeeping, accounting—you name it. 

2. Start a business

Whether you quietly start a side hustle business or launch the next unicorn start-up, building your own business puts you in the driver’s seat. 

It’s not easy, of course. It takes an enormous amount of blood, sweat, and tears (pools and pools of tears). You have to learn how to become an expert marketer and operations manager, in addition to expertise in the actual service or product you provide. But it’s yours. 

3. Wholesale real estate

Don’t know what kind of business you want to start? You could always do wholesale real estate

It requires you to master two skills: finding great deals and building a buyer’s list. Both require work and knowledge. Wholesaling isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme or easy money. It’s a business like any other. 

4. Flip houses

This is a real estate publication, after all, so I figured I’d throw one more real estate-related business into the mix as an idea. 

Keep in mind, however, that flipping houses requires you to master even more skill sets than wholesaling. You have to learn how to find good deals, of course, but also how to finance them, hire and manage contractors (harder than it sounds), navigate permits and local inspectors, and price and market properties effectively. 

Oh, and it usually requires significant capital to get started. But get it right, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn. 

Passive Income Streams

As you earn active income, you want to set aside as much of it as humanly possible to start building passive income streams, too. After all, the more you can cover your living expenses with passive income, the less dependent you are on your active income. When you can cover 100% of your living expenses, you’ve reached financial freedom. 

Consider combining some or all of these passive income streams.

5. Distributions from passive real estate syndications and funds

When you invest in a real estate syndication or a private equity real estate fund, you typically collect cash flow as a passive investor. And appreciation. And full tax benefits. All without becoming a landlord.

It’s how I invest personally these days. After discovering passive real estate syndications, I loved that I could get all the benefits of real estate ownership without the headaches of owning properties myself. But I hated the high minimum investment. 

This is how our Co-Investing Club was born: I wanted to go in on these hands-off investments with a bunch of other investors so we could each invest small amounts. Today, our passive real estate investing club meets every month to vet new deals and go in on them together. 

What started as a way to invest $5,000 at a time instead of $50,000 to $100,000 grew into an actual community of experienced passive investors. Half of the benefit today is that we all gain from everyone else’s expertise in vetting deals together and avoiding lemons. 

“You can lose money in real estate, of course,” Luke Babich from Clever Real Estate tells BiggerPockets. “But the greater your expertise, the greater your average real estate returns will be. You’ll learn how to avoid the overwhelming majority of losing investments, and stack your investment deck with winners.”

6. Profits from passive syndications

As I’ve touched on, real estate syndications generate profit in addition to cash flow.

We become fractional owners in a property, silent partners. As the syndicator renovates the property or otherwise adds value, we benefit from that forced equity and appreciation. They sell or refinance the property after a few years—and we all get paid out

7. Interest income

We don’t just invest in syndications. We also sometimes invest in notes paying fixed interest—which arrives every month like clockwork. 

You can also earn interest on other passive real estate investments like debt funds and real estate crowdfunding platforms like Groundfloor and ConcreitFor that matter, you can earn interest from bonds, although I use real estate to serve the same role as bonds in my portfolio. 

8. Rents—sort of

I cut my teeth in real estate investing with rental properties. They come with plenty of perks. Unfortunately, they also come with far more work than the average novice realizes. 

Alexandra Alvarado from the American Apartment Owners Association told BiggerPockets this: 

“Rental properties offer amazing benefits. They generate ongoing income, while letting you leverage other people’s money to boost your cash-on-cash returns. They offer a hedge against inflation, as you can lock your loan in yesterday’s dollars while rents grow based on today’s inflation. Rental properties provide tax benefits and diversification. But if you expect them to generate truly passive income, prepare yourself for a rude awakening.”

Sure, you can make your rental properties semi-passive. But even if you hire a property manager, you still need to:

  • Manage the manager
  • Make repair and renovation decisions
  • Track income and expenses for clean accounting
  • Complicate your tax return
  • Hassle with insurance 

That’s on top of a million other small tasks that a property manager can’t take over for you.

Plus, the less expensive the property, the lower the quality of a property manager you’re likely to find willing to take it on. Take it from someone who knows firsthand, having owned dozens of low-income properties. 

9. Dividends from stocks

You can also collect dividend income from stocks and REITs, of course. 

actually don’t love REITs, due to their strong correlation with the stock market at large. But you do you. 

do love stocks in general, from their easy diversification to their liquidity to the automation of investing with a robo-advisor. As passive as my real estate investments are through our Co-Investing Club, they still don’t happen on autopilot the way my stock investments do. 

Final Thoughts

In December 2022, I took my first “red month.” I took a red marker and crossed a big X through the December page on my work calendar. (Not literally, since I don’t use a paper calendar, but you get the idea).

My wife, daughter, and I spent the month traveling through Argentina, mostly in Patagonia. We hiked in Ushuaia and El Chaltén, gawked at the glacier in El Calafate, ate great steaks in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, and drank great wine in Mendoza. 

I could do it because I now have many streams of income—none of which require me to clock into a job or tie me to a physical location. 

And you can do the same. Start by adding a single stream of income, and then keep stacking up streams from there. You’ll like where it takes you: anywhere you want to go. 

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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