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17 Passive Income Streams Every Digital Nomad Should Explore

Imagine making money online while you’re hiking in the Himalayas, sailing in the Caribbean, backpacking around Europe, or snoozing in a hammock on a tropical island. Sounds too good to be true? Not if you master how to generate passive income streams!

Passive income is amazing and so freeing. It means you no longer need to exchange your time for money and can get on with enjoying whatever you like to do. I’ve experimented with a few different sources of passive income, and today, I’m sharing with you a collection of the best.

What is Passive Income?

Passive income is money that you earn with minimal ongoing effort. It’s not exactly “free” money, because you usually have to invest a fair amount of time and effort setting everything up beforehand. However, once everything’s in place, you’ll make money without needing to put in much extra work.

I have experience with several of the following sources of passive income, including affiliate marketing, running ads on my website, and selling photography. I also know other people who have made good money from most of the other kinds of passive income mentioned below.

1. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing

One of the most popular ways of generating passive income is through affiliate marketing. Essentially, you promote products or services in exchange for a commission. You can do it in a few different ways, including on your blog or website, social media channels, or via your mailing list.

Affiliate marketing is one of my favorite ways of making money passively. It’s how I generate the majority of my income from my own blog and it can be very lucrative, depending on which products and services you are promoting and the size of your audience.

2. Running Ads

Running Ads

If you own a website, one of the best ways to earn passive income is by running ads on your site. There are several different ad networks out there, each with its own pros and cons and set of specific requirements. For bloggers, Medivine and Raptive are two of the most popular.

The amount of money you can earn through ads depends on the network you join and the amount of traffic you receive. The best networks have fairly high minimum traffic requirements. However, once you reach these thresholds and get accepted, you can make excellent money passively.

3. Sales from an eBook


Creating and selling an eBook is another popular way to earn passive income. Of course, you need to put in a lot of work upfront writing, creating, and marketing your product on platforms like Amazon or Sellfy. But once it’s finished, it can continue to generate income for years to come.

You can write an eBook on practically any topic you have expertise in, from travel to cooking, niche pet ownership to knitting. The key is to find your niche (ideally a subject that isn’t too saturated) and provide valuable content that people are willing to pay for. The possibilities are practically limitless!

4. Selling or Licensing Photography Online

selling photography

If you enjoy taking photos (and are good at it!), you can turn this creative hobby into another source of passive income by selling or licensing your photos online. Many stock photo websites like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock allow you to upload and sell or license your images for others to use.

You can even create and sell prints of your photographs through platforms like Etsy. The potential customers are endless, from individuals looking to decorate their homes to bloggers and even large corporates searching for high-quality stock images, either for their website or marketing materials.

5. Online Courses

online courses

Creating and selling online courses is a great – and potentially lucrative – way to generate passive income while sharing your expertise with others. Platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable are designed to help you create and sell courses on whatever topic you’re knowledgeable about.

Depending on the topic, online courses can sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars! As with eBooks, it takes time, effort, market research, and marketing skills to get everything set up. But once your course is up and running, you’ll earn passive money every time someone signs up.

6. YouTube Videos

youtube passive income

Similar to running ads on your website, if you have a YouTube channel, you can also earn passive income through creating and monetizing videos via this route. Of course, it takes a lot of work to build up a following and consistently create quality content, but it’s definitely possible to make good money.

There are a few ways to make money on YouTube, including through advertising revenue, affiliate marketing (see above), and paid sponsorships and product placements. Many YouTubers also make money by selling merchandise or creating paid content for their subscribers.

social media

If you have a large and engaged following on social media, you can make money by partnering with brands to promote their products or services. This is often referred to as “influencer marketing” and can be a great way to earn passive income through publishing sponsored content.

There are a few potential pitfalls to sponsored content. You need to maintain your credibility and trust, so only partner with brands that align with your brand and values. And if you’re not a huge fan of the addictive time sink that is social media, this one might not be the best option for you.

8. Paid Mailing Lists

mailing list

The majority of mailing lists are free to sign up to. But you can also create a paid mailing list, where subscribers pay a fee to join. Because people are paying, they’ll expect high-quality content in return. But if you can deliver, a paid mailing list can be another great way to generate passive income.

For this to be a viable option, you’ll need to carry out some smart research and strategize. Think about who your target audience is, what you’ll be offering, why it’s worth paying for (i.e. it’s not available elsewhere for free), and how you’ll keep people engaged and signed up.

9. Automated E-Commerce

online store e commerce

Running an e-commerce business can be a great source of passive income if you set it up to run automatically. This means selling physical products online but using fulfillment centers and automation tools such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to handle most of the work for you.

One key challenge with e-commerce is the competition. Many markets are extremely saturated so it can be tricky to make your products stand out. You’ll need a strong branding and marketing strategy and the ability to price your goods competitively while still turning a profit.

10. Selling Software

coding passive income building software

If you have the skills and knowledge to create software, you can generate passive income by selling it online. This could be in the form of one-time purchases or ongoing subscriptions. Shopify, Payhip, and Gumroad are all popular platforms for selling software online.

Just like with e-commerce, competition is often tough, and you may need to regularly update and improve your product to keep people interested and investing. But if you make it, you can make it big! The founder of Zoom, Eric Yuan, is now a multi-billionaire…

11. Designing Paid Templates

creating templates passive income

If you’re skilled at creating PowerPoint decks, CVs, business cards, or even complaint letters, you could consider creating templates for others to purchase and personalize. This can be a great source of passive income since you only need to make the template once in order to sell it multiple times.

Etsy is a popular online marketplace where you can sell pretty much any kind of template. If someone sees your template and likes it, they can pay to download a version of it for them to customize to their liking, and you’ll get a cut of the sales proceeds. It’s simple but effective.

12. Selling Graphic Design Elements

graphic designer passive income

Similar to selling templates, you can also earn passive income by selling digital graphic design elements. These include icons, fonts, logos, and even website themes. There’s a huge demand for professional-looking graphic design all around the world, so your potential market is massive.

Graphic design can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. While you definitely don’t need to be a professional graphic designer, you do need to have a good eye for design and the skills to effectively create and market designs that people are happy to pay for.

13. Paid Memberships


There are many different types of paid memberships. For example, you might decide to have a “members only” section of your blog or website that contains certain premium content and features that are hidden behind a paywall (where people either pay monthly or on a one-off basis).

Alternatively, you could create a membership community (on Facebook or elsewhere) that grants access to exclusive content, seminars, Q&A sessions, and even special discounts on products or services. Building up the necessary trust and following isn’t easy, but it can be lucrative when done right.

14. Build an App

app design passive income

If you have the necessary coding skills and a great idea, why not create your own mobile app and make it available on a “freemium” basis? You don’t need to build the next Google Maps – creating a useful tool that solves a problem or entertains people, can be enough.

The tech-heavy nature of app design will likely be a barrier to entry for many people. And the competition is fierce. But app design can be extremely lucrative. Plenty of people have made millions of dollars from designing relatively niche apps that solve a specific problem.

15. Peer-to-Peer Lending

online banking money lending P2P

First off, a disclaimer: peer-to-peer lending can be risky, it’s important to do your own research before investing any money, and this is most certainly not investment advice.

If you have some spare cash you’re happy to take the risk with, you can generate passive income through peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. Essentially, P2P lending is where you lend money to individuals or businesses through an online platform, and earn interest on the loan.

It’s crucial to understand the risks and the regulatory requirements involved in P2P lending (which vary by country). You need some spare capital and must understand that there’s a possibility you’ll lose all the money you invested. But, if that’s a risk you’re willing and able to take, it can be a high-paying source of passive income.

16. Rental Income from Property

rental property passive income

This one clearly only applies if you own a property and are able to rent it out. But plenty of people rent out their house or apartment to help fund their traveling lifestyle – I’ve met several of them – so I thought it was worth including here.

Being a landlord comes with its own set of complications and obligations, but, if you’re in the fortunate position to own a property and are able to rent it out, this can be a great way to earn passive income. You can either opt for long-term tenants or try out short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.

17. Run an Agency


Finally, if you have expertise in a particular field, another (semi-)passive way to make money is to set up an agency, find clients, and hire freelancers to service those clients. This type of agency model can be applied to many different industries, such as graphic design, writing, SEO, and even teaching.

For example, one of my friends is a music teacher but also runs a music teaching agency where he pays other music teachers to teach some of his clients. That means he can earn extra money from providing teaching services to students without actually teaching himself.

I say “semi-passive” because it still requires a fair amount of work – you’ll need to find clients, keep them happy, and manage your freelancers. But because you’re outsourcing the bulk of your client work, you can work fewer hours while scaling your business at the same time. Result!

Choosing a Passive Income to Pursue: Things to Consider

thinking brainstorming passive income

There are countless opportunities for earning passive income, and the key is to find one that aligns with your skills, interests, and available resources. When choosing an option to pursue, here are some important factors to consider:

  • Initial Effort and Investment Required: Some methods of generating passive income require more upfront effort, skills, expertise, and/or financial investment than others.
  • Ongoing Maintenance and Management: Consider how much time and effort you’ll need to put in to keep the passive income stream running smoothly. Will it be set-and-forget (like an eBook), or will it require ongoing work (like keeping software or an app up to date)?
  • Market Demand: Choose a niche or industry that has a high demand for your product or service to ensure a steady flow of customers.
  • Competition: Research other businesses offering similar things to see if there is room for another player in the market. What can you offer that differentiates your product or service from those of your competitors? Why should people pay for your thing over theirs?
  • Scalability: Think about whether your idea can be scaled for greater profits. If so, how much extra effort and/or cost will be required for it to grow? The more easily scalable the idea, the better.
  • Personal Passion and Expertise: As a general rule, the more passionate you are about what you’re doing, the easier it is to put in the initial effort required to set up your passive income streams. And the more expertise you have, the more people are likely to trust and value what you’re offering.
  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations: It’s important to be aware of any legal or regulatory requirements that may apply to whatever form of business you’re doing. For example, with P2P lending and renting out property, there will likely be regulations and laws that you need to comply with.

Passive Income Streams for Digital Nomads: FAQs

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about passive income streams:

What’s the best passive income stream for digital nomads?

The best passive income stream for digital nomads depends on your individual skills, interests, and resources. If you have a blog or website, affiliate marketing, ads, and selling digital products like eBooks can all be great options.

What is passive income for digital nomads?

Passive income is a source of income that can be generated, often on a recurring basis, with minimal ongoing effort. As a digital nomad, this can give you the freedom and flexibility to travel more and spend less time exchanging your time for money.

Is passive income enough to live off?

Some people make more than enough money from passive income to live off. However, for other people, it’s merely a supplement to their other forms of income. A lot depends on your financial goals, what type(s) of passive income you target, and (of course) how successful you are with it.

How much money can a digital nomad make from passive income?

When it comes to how much money you can earn from passive income, in theory, the sky’s the limit! Some people earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from passive income alone, although many more people earn considerably less.

Do you pay tax as a digital nomad?

Most digital nomads will need to paytaxesx, either in their home country or in their country of residence. However, tax is a complicated area that varies from country to country, and I’m not an expert, so you should speak with a professional if you need advice on the subject.

How much does a digital nomad earn?

Some digital nomads make very little money while others earn multiple-six-figure salaries. It all depends on what kind of work you do, how much effort you put into it, and (of course) how good at it you are.

In Closing

Passive income is a fantastic way to diversify your income streams and make money while you sleep – or while you do anything else you wish to fill your newly found time with! Whatever source of passive income you want to pursue, you’ll probably need to spend a fair amount of time and effort getting it all set up.

However, once everything’s established, and assuming you’re successful, earning passive income can truly change your life. If you pick the right niche and have a solid marketing strategy, the sky’s the limit when it comes to how much you can earn. It’s an awesome feeling!

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