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How to Use These 4 Side Hustles to Passive Wealth


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No longer just a weekend passion project, side hustles have become a way of life for many. In fact, as of the beginning of 2023, nearly 50% of Americans have a side hustle — even if they’re making $100k annually at their traditional 9- 5 jobs.

So why has it become such a critical aspect of life for such a large population?

One of the important reasons people tend to gravitate towards side hustles is the freedom they offer; the opportunity to be our own bosses and choose our own business path is just too good to pass up. However, according to Bankrate, 41% of those with a side hustle are doing it to make ends meet.

For most, what comes to mind at the mention of “side gigs” are driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering for Door Dash, GrubHub and Instacart, or running errands for TaskRabbit. While these are all viable options, the truth is that there’s actually a wide variety of different side business paths you could pursue. Let’s take a look at four passive streams of income that make great side businesses.

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1. Online course creation

The internet has profoundly impacted our society over the last three decades. Few would argue that. But, what many don’t consider is just how much easier (and more affordable) it is to upskill, advance your education or jump to a completely new career path, thanks to the advent of online courses.

What started in 1989 as a new and exciting way to pursue a college degree eventually branched out into a world of massive open online courses (MOOCs). MOOC providers, such as Coursera, pull together content from a variety of universities and colleges, such as Stanford University (Coursera’s creator), Princeton, the University of Michigan, the University of London and the Indian School of Business.

But MOOC providers aren’t just limited to partnering with universities. One of the most popular online education sites is Udemy, which was founded in 2010 and, as of 2023, has 64 million learners, over 210,000 courses, and over 75,000 instructors.

The site primarily caters to people who are looking to improve or grow skills related to their job roles and positions. For example, a writer who has mainly written blogs or articles may take a course on copywriting or direct response writing. As an instructor, you can showcase your unique skill set or expertise by uploading videos, presentations, source materials, or other relevant content to help a learner understand and grasp your niche.

Skillshare, like Udemy, is an online education course for those who want to learn and share their knowledge. The difference is that Skillshare caters more to those seeking a creative outlet or means of earning an income.

For example, a casual singer might find taking a class on breathing exercises or maybe even music theory fascinating to explore. Similar to Udemy, teachers on Skillshare can earn a passive income by creating a course around their passion and letting the automated nature of the platform handle the rest of the transaction.

These are just two examples of online courses, but there are other sites that you can use to demonstrate your expertise while earning a profit.

Related: 7 Passive Income Ideas to Make Money and Build Wealth in 2024

2. Ecommerce

Did you know online shopping has been around since the late 70s? Surprised? Obviously, it wasn’t what we know today, but it was certainly the first of a thousand cuts that would weaken the brick-and-mortar retail empire. It began with a phone line and a TV; some particularly savvy English inventor discovered he could link the two and, thus, connect a consumer to a business… and topple a kingdom.

Of course, this was merely the foundation of online retail. Soon after, the Boston Computer Exchange (BCE) capitalized on the idea and became the very first ecommerce company to sell used computers.

Fast forward to today, and ecommerce is just a normal part of our everyday lives. The global ecommerce market was expected to total 6.3 trillion dollars in 2023, with nearly 21.2% of total retail sales happening online. Sites like Amazon, Red Bubble and Etsy have made finding unique items or gifts easy and have also provided a selling platform for those who enjoy showcasing their artistic craft.

Utilizing ecommerce stores is a great route for sharing your creativity and earning additional income while doing something you love. Etsy has become a popular hub for artists, designers, and other creatives (totaling about 7.5 million active sellers as of 2022) using the domain to build up their own businesses.

3. Mobile app development

I’ve talked about how the invention and growth of the internet have changed how we learn and shop. But its implications go even further.

While many of these programs got their start on a desktop, the rise of the smartphone also meant the rise of the mobile app. Mobile apps aren’t limited to just education and shopping. I’d wager you’re reading this very article on your smartphone’s browser, aren’t you?

Though apps are often created and programmed by large programming departments, this isn’t always the case. Frequently enough, mobile apps are created by independent programmers, fulfilling a need that bigger manufacturers might have missed.

If you have a talent or interest in app design, programming or coding and you’ve identified a market need, app development can cultivate a steady stream of passive income through monetization (in-app purchases, direct sales, and ads).

Related: This Graduate Student Started a Side Hustle to Help Pay Tuition. It Earned Over $115,000 Last Year — More Than His Full-Time Job.

4. Content creation

Right alongside the transition of the physical market into the digital market is the shift from traditional marketing to digital marketing. Today, digital marketing is a fast-growing industry – it already dominates the marketing world and seems poised to continue growing.

As a result, the demand for quality content – already high – is amplifying by the year. Writers, photographers, digital artists, and other creatives seeking ways to make income through content creation have innumerable opportunities with the force of digital marketing at their backs.

Depending on your skills and interests, you can combine these into a multifaceted income stream.

For example, if you’re a writer who has also done design work, you could offer either service to one business organization or work for multiple businesses depending on which service they need. Content creation services can be remarkably lucrative, though depending on the company you partner with, their pay rate and how long they require your service may vary.

Related: This Retired UPS Employee Started a People-Oriented Side Hustle That Earns More Than $500,000 a Year — and ‘Anyone With a Pulse Can Do It’

The world is open

Creating a passive income stream can start as something small, something you can do while working your traditional 9-5; however, for many of us, that side hustle can become the career we truly want.

Personally, I was downright unhappy in my previous work environment. I wanted an opportunity that didn’t feel like it was taking years off my life, one that I might even enjoy and that would allow me actually to live the life I wanted. It may take time, effort, and a lot of energy, but side hustles very often become true sources of passive income for people worldwide. Whether you run your side hustle alongside your current job or are seeking to make it into your full-time career, the opportunities to create an extra source of income are infinite.

They’re out there waiting for you.

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