Passive Income Ideas for Small Businesses

I was in an online community group where someone recently asked, ‘What ideas do you have for passive income for your business. Inspire me!’

What a great question.

For many of us, passive income sounds delicious – it’s not about a get-rich-quick scheme, but it is about self care, handling the practicalities of working around chronic health conditions, mental health challenges, care responsibilities, and that rich tapestry that makes up our lives.

It is about maximising the impact we can have through our work, without that being tied to hours at a desk.

It’s also about welcoming money in, and embracing opportunities to support more people, in a really leveraged way.

Truly passive income is a rare thing (although I’ll share a ‘wildcard’ option for this below) – keep in mind you will still need to create something, and market your business to bring people to what you do.

But there are ways to maximise lift for your time – I’ll talk more about outsourcing and fulfilment centres (if you have a product business) in other posts.

For now, let’s look at passive income ideas for online and product businesses – and that wildcard option to consider!

With all of these, check in on what feels good to you – which ones excite and inspire you? 

Read on for more or you can watch the video here:

Self-Study Online Content 

This could be a workshop, a mini-course, an ebook – it’s available online for someone to buy, they purchase, and it’s delivered automatically.

This can work really well, but there’s two things to keep in mind:

  • You will need to keep marketing – people need to find your website and your self-study offers
  • People need an incentive to buy

It’s human nature, if we come across something that’s always available, we often think, ‘I’ll come back to that another day’.

Two ways you can encourage people to make a decision when they come across your offer are time-specific availability (e.g., there’s a live round coming up), and a time-specific option to get the offer at a discounted price, e.g., with a countdown timer.

With time specific availability, you could:

  • Run live rounds – but this doesn’t mean you need to be on a weekly zoom call – more on asynchronous support in a second), or
  • You might give people who’ve just discovered you a window of time to join your program as self-study, then they’re on your newsletter list with everyone else, and will hear when you open the doors again to another live round.

With countdown timers, these can be set to be specific to the person who has the link, so as soon as they click on a link (e.g., on an email) the countdown timer starts for the special offer, and once it runs out, they’re redirected to another page. The most widely known software for this is Deadline Funnel ($39/month). 

Countdown timers & Integrity

A note here on countdown timers and integrity: this isn’t about coercing someone to buying something they don’t need or sleazy marketing tactics.

It is about helping them to make a decision quickly about whether it’s useful for them now – that decision can be ‘no’.

Check in with yourself on how you feel about countdown timers in marketing. I quite like them, as they do sharpen the mind to whether it’s something you genuinely want; they encourage that decision either way.

The way I like to think about it, is how much time would someone reasonably need to make a decision on this? If it’s a low-ticket, £30 / $30 thing, an hour or two may be fine. If it’s a £500+ program, they may want a number of days to weigh it up.

You also get to choose how you position it – the ‘buy now or you’ll be wasting your life’ turns most people’s stomachs, but it doesn’t have to be set that way.

It could be, ‘Hey, as a special welcome to my community, I’d love to offer you XYZ for £27 so you can get started actioning this work quickly. If you’re just curious and now’s not the time, don’t worry, it’ll still be available for you at £67 in future’.

Asynchronous support

If you’d like to offer a live element to a digital offer, but the idea of being available for regular zoom calls doesn’t appeal, you can offer asynchronous support – where you (and your customers / clients) aren’t tied to being in a specific place at a specific time.

One option is to take questions throughout a time period (e.g., a week, or a month), using an online form, and then send out a video / audio recording of you answering those questions. You can record this when it suits you and your energy is ready for it. 

Another option is to have an ‘Office Hours Voxer Day‘ (shout out to Elizabeth Goddard who introduced me to this concept), where you reply privately to voxer messages throughout a day (but during that day, can take naps / breaks when you need to). It could be Voxer, or Slack, or Whatsapp – whatever you prefer to use for work.

Affiliate Marketing

You might also want to consider or add in Affiliate Marketing – where you’d blog or create content, with links to programs and resources you use and recommend. When someone reads that content, clicks through and buys, you’d get a payment for that recommendation.

This could be dedicated content, e.g., a blog post about why XYZ is your favourite organisational tool, or it could be dropped into the conversation, like I’ve done in this post with a couple of resources I recommend.

I’d only use affiliate marketing with resources you genuinely recommend and are happy to be associated with, and remember to say that you have affiliate links in the content (you can see an example at the bottom of this page).

Product Business / Nurture

Product businesses are tricker to creative passive income for, but you might consider some of the options above (alongside your products), and there are ways to make things simpler for you.

You can read more examples in this post, where I talk of being pretty absent in the product business that I ran from home, over November / December (as we were moving house), but it still having a £60k turnover month – and how that was possible!

Where you can make the most of your resources, is to consider how you nurture your customers, and automations to support you with that.

  • Email automations: You can nurture your potential customers and customers with email automations that are set to run when someone takes a specific action, e.g., :
    • Joins your newsletter list = is sent a welcome sequence around how wonderful your product is, potentially with a welcome offer.
    • Starts to check out but doesn’t buy = abandoned cart email to encourage them back.
    • Last bought from you X months ago = win-back sequence to encourage them to come back, again perhaps with an offer.
  • If you supply wholesale, keep a database of customers, and have an automated system to remind you to get in touch about re-orders after a certain period of time.
  • I’m also going to mention subscription boxes! I used to run one, and it’s definitely still work to run a subscription box business, but the repetition lends itself well to systems, you have recurring income, and it’s one of my favourite models for product businesses. It’s also one I teach in my Subscription Box Academy program – you can learn more here.

Wildcard – True Passive Income

The wildcard one to consider, if you’re looking for truer passive income, is to think about investments.

If something in you just switched off, come back to me for a minute, as for years I didn’t think ‘investments’ were for me as well – I knew nothing about them except they sounded risky and a dark art.

Also, to say there’s no affiliate links or get-rich-quick recommendations here: just something for you to be aware of, that you might want to explore further. 

[I’m not a financial advisor, and this isn’t financial advice.]

3 key things to know:

  • You don’t need to know the ins & outs of specific companies, you can invest in a fund that covers the main companies in the stock market, so you’re betting on the stock market as a whole. The ‘S&P 500’ does this for the US stock market (with 500 companies included), and the ‘FTSE 100’ in the UK (with 100 companies). You can buy into either, no matter where you live.
  • You don’t need a broker, you can use sites like Best Invest to DIY.
  • The stock market as a whole has consistently gone up over the long term

If you’re looking at investments as a short term option (e.g., over 5yrs), it’s definitely risker, you can see wild fluctuations. But if you are able to put aside money to ‘set & forget’ for the long term, it’s worth exploring.

The holy grail goal is to build your ‘wealth pot’ up to the level where you could live off the interest – that may take time, but compound interest is your friend here.

To give you an idea, the average annual return of the S&P 500 over the past 30 years has been 9.89% (and over the past 100 years it’s 10.33%).

So if you put £10,000 into it 30 years ago, and never put another penny in, at 9.89% it would be worth around £200,000 now. Each year you’d get the interest, and the pot that annual interest is calculated on grows. That’s compound interest.

I appreciate you may not have £10,000 to put in now, but I just wanted to show the impact – even £50 a month will add up.

If you want to explore this further, I recommend ‘The Simple Path to Wealth’ by JL Collins (which taught me a lot about investing) and ‘The Wealth Chef’ by Ann Wilson (which introduced me to the idea of a ‘wealth pot’ and setting the big goal to be able to live off the interest).

Wrapping this up 

I’ve covered a lot here, with jumping off points to lots of different discussions!

If you’d like my support to give you a clear strategy, coaching and accountability with your own specific business, you can learn more about working with me here.

And, if you’d like more content like this in your inbox, join my free Simplified Strategy email community to create more breathing space and growth in your business. You can sign up below.

This post may include affiliate links, but only to resources I genuinely like and am happy to recommend to you, and you won’t pay any more for them! 

Moira Fuller business coach green dress