In 2014, I graduated college with a tidal wave of medical school rejections. In search of a new career plan, I spent the next few years making money any way I could—modeling, tutoring, and even working as a real estate agent.
But in 2018, I started posting personal finance videos on YouTube. It wasn’t a lucrative side hustle until the pandemic hit in 2020, when one theme struck a chord: stimulus and relief efforts and what they mean for people’s wallets.
When my videos went viral, I signed up for YouTube Adsense to monetize my channel. That’s when my passive income journey began. In 2021, I made $1.5 million in revenue.
And this year I’m earning an average of $114,000 per month in passive income through my videos, online courses and social media posts.
Here are four businesses you can start today for $99 or less:
1. Affiliate Marketing
Price to start: $0
Affiliate marketing is when you earn a commission for promoting a brand’s products or services by sharing them on your blog, social media platform or website. You get paid every time someone clicks on the link or makes a purchase.
Since content creation is free, this type of business is very affordable. The real challenge is creating targeted content that reaches the right audience.
Let’s say you’re starting a lifestyle blog. You can use the Google Trends tool to gather data about what people are searching for in this category. You might find, for example, that there has been a spike in people Googling “best hair brands.”
In that case, you could consider writing a blog or creating a YouTube video where you test and review different hair products.
To find affiliate deals, I use management platforms like Impact Radius, Partnerstack, and Share-A-Sale. There are three things I look for in a partnership:
- This is with a reputable company that offers quality products or services. You want to promote products you’re proud of and minimize the likelihood of customers returning them.
- The products have a high conversion rate. This means that many people who see the product end up buying it.
- The deal offers a “cookie window” of 30 days or more. Cookies track how the user came to click on a product link. Cookies remain embedded in the user’s browser for a certain period of time. If a customer who first clicked on a product through you buys it within the cookie window, it is credited and paid to you.
2. YouTube Adsense
Price to start: $0
More than half of Adsense revenue is paid to the creator and many of my older videos still generate passive income.
But you need to develop an audience before you can sign up; your channel needs at least 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time in the last year.
I started my channel because I had a passion for personal finance. When you have an innate passion, you will be so invested in your niche that you will understand how to create quality content.
Plus, you’ll know what users are looking for because you’ve already read or watched everything on your favorite topic. This is gold, especially when you augment your market research with tools like Google Trends.
My last tip is to upload videos consistently. I currently post three to four times a week. But when I first started growing my channel, I posted almost every day.
3. Digital Products
Price to start: $99 at Kajabi
The first step is to determine what you can teach. This could be copywriting if you have marketing and editing skills, productivity if you have experience in organizational psychology, or management if you have leadership experience.
Next, I recommend using a platform like Kajabi or Teachable to host your course. My courses are currently hosted on Kajabi, the 6-figure YouTube Academy and Personal Branding Masterclass.
To create them, I outlined everything I wanted to teach on Notion, an online workspace organization tool. I then filmed each course in my apartment using a tripod and camera.
My courses are divided into different modules, with worksheets and PDFs, so I made them after I created the videos. I then edited and uploaded my videos to Kajabi, which also allows you to create marketing campaigns.
I created landing pages that told visitors what they would get if they purchased my courses, then collected their email addresses. I also set up automated email campaigns that reminded people to sign up.
4. Room rental
Price to start: It varies depending on your situation
In 2019, my sister and I bought a two bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. I lived in one room and rented out the second one for $3,000 a month for two years.
Getting a roommate means you’ll have to give up your privacy, but it was worth it to me because it helped me pay off my mortgage.
Zillow allows you to host free rental applications on your website and will perform background checks for you.
If you don’t want to rent out your place for a long period of time, you can place your listing on a short-term rental platform like Airbnb. That way, people can only book your place on weekends or when you’re away.
Charlie Chang is a content creator and serial entrepreneur whose mission is to educate people about personal finance and business. He is a graduate of UCLA and the founder of StartupWise. Follow Charlie Instagram and YouTube.
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