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 as much money as 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 compelling side-strike until the pandemic hit in 2020, when one topic struck a chord: stimulus and relief efforts, and what they mean for people’s wallets.
When my videos went viral, I registered with YouTube Adsense to further monetize my channel. That’s when my passive income journey began. In 2021, I earned $1.5 million dollars in revenue.
And this year, I’ve earned 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
Cost 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 a link or makes a purchase.
Content is free to create, making this type of business very accessible. The real challenge is creating targeted content that reaches the right audience.
Let’s say you start a lifestyle blog. You can use the Google Trends tool to gather data about what people are searching for in that category. You might find, for example, that there has been a spike in people Googling “best hair brands”.
In that case, you might consider writing a blog or creating a YouTube video in which 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:
- It is with a reputable company that offers quality products or services. You want to promote products you’re proud of and reduce the likelihood that customers will return them.
- The products have a high conversion rate. This means that more people who see the product will buy it.
- The Agreement provides for a “cookie window” of 30 days or longer. Cookies track how a 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 makes a purchase within the cookie window, it is attributed and paid to you.
2. YouTube Adsense
Cost to start: $0
More than half of Adsense revenue is paid to the creator, and many of my older videos are still generating passive income.
But before you can register you need to grow an audience; Your channel needs at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 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.
You will also know what consumers are looking for because you have already read or watched everything on your favorite topic. That’s gold, especially when you bolster 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
Cost to start: $99 at Kajabi
The first step is to identify what you can teach. This could be copywriting if you have marketing and editing skills, productivity if you have a background 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, 6-Figure YouTube Academy and Personal Brand Masterclass.
To create them, I outlined everything I wanted to teach in Notion, an online workspace organization tool. Then I filmed each course using a tripod and camera in my apartment.
My courses are divided into different modules with worksheets and PDFs, so I pulled them out after I created the videos. I then edited and uploaded my videos to Kajabi, which also lets you create marketing campaigns.
I built landing pages that told visitors what they would get if they bought my courses, then collected their email addresses. I also set up automated email campaigns that remind people to sign up.
4. Rent a room
Cost to start: It depends on your situation
In 2017, my sister and I bought a two-bedroom condo in Los Angeles. I lived in one room and rented a second room for $1,500 a month for two years.
Getting a roommate meant you had to give up privacy, but it was worth it to me because it helped me pay my mortgage.
Zillow allows you to host free rental applications on its website, and will run background checks for you.
If you don’t want to rent out your place for a long time, you can put your listing on a short-term rental platform like Airbnb. This way, people can only book your place on weekends or while you’re gone.
Charlie Chang is a content creator and serial entrepreneur whose mission is to educate people on personal finance and business. He is a UCLA graduate and founder of StartupWise. Follow Charlie Instagram and YouTube.