Can you really get paid to do nothing?
The dream of lounging on the couch or relaxing on the beach while the cash flows in is certainly appealing, but is it realistic?
The good news is, it can be, but earning passive income usually requires an upfront investment of either time or money.
For example, there are lots of days where I’m not working, but still getting paid thanks to the investments I made months or years earlier.
Still, here are some ideas to start making money with relatively little effort, and some that can turn into time-leveraged income streams down the road.
1. Pose for Art Classes
If you’re an expert at holding still, maybe a side hustle posing for art classes would be a fit. According to Indeed, art models earn an average of $25 an hour.
2. Test Mattresses
The ultimate side hustle has to be getting paid to sleep, right?
Occasionally I see ads pop up seeking paid mattress testers — sometimes as high as $3000. These gigs often involve writing detailed product evaluations, so there is some work involved after you catch some zzzs, but still might be worth a look.
Another option would be keeping your eye out for clinical trials or sleep studies.
3. Wait in Line
Robert Samuel started SameOleLineDudes.com in New York City when the iPhone 5s was coming out.
Sensing there would be a lot of demand for the new device, he posted an ad on Craigslist and offered to wait in line for someone’s phone.
According to EliteDaily, he once made $14k in one day waiting for iPhones, and now manages a team of 20-30 who help him wait in line for his clients! The typical rate is $45 for the first 2 hours, then $10 for every additional half hour.
Robert said that most of his customers are tourists who’d rather spend their time seeing the city they came to visit than waiting in line. Makes sense to me!
Could you start a similar service in your area?
4. Watch People Sign Papers
“Work” is often in the eye of the beholder, but as far as labor is concerned, becoming a mobile notary loan signing agent probably isn’t going to break a sweat.
In this gig — after you earn your notary commission — you walk new borrowers through their stack of mortgage documents. In exchange, you typically earn $75-150 for each appointment.
It makes a great side hustle because many of signings take place evenings and weekends. Several Side Hustle Nation members report earning anywhere from $1,000-$8,000 a month “watching people sign papers.”
5. Earn More Interest
If you have excess cash lying around, make sure you’re earning interest on it. For example, I’ve been earning 3.2% interest on my Betterment Cash Reserve savings. (Rates subject to change.)
With Betterment, your money is liquid within a couple days — meaning you can transfer it back to your bank account.
If you don’t need that level of liquidity, you can earn more with US Treasury I Bonds. These government-backed bonds currently pay 6.89%.
Individuals can buy up to $10,000 worth of these each calendar year. You can cash them in after 12 months, but forfeit 3 months of interest if you don’t hold them for at least 5 years.
6. Buy Commercial Real Estate
With as little as $10, you can own a slice of commercial real estate through Fundrise. I’ve been a Fundrise investor since 2015 and have continually added to my account as a way to invest in real estate without having to deal with “tenants and toilets” myself.
They allocate your investment across a portfolio of different properties and pay quarterly dividends.
7. Collect Dividends
Dividends — quarterly payments from the earnings of publicly-traded companies — are probably the closest thing I have to truly getting money for doing nothing. These may be my most passive form of income.
I’ve been slowly building what I call my “cash flow portfolio” over the last few years, buying shares primarily in name-brand companies that have a long history of paying (and increasing) dividends.
8. Take Online Surveys
I get that these aren’t totally doing nothing, but they don’t take much effort or physical exertion. (Many Side Hustle Nation members report using these apps from their couch in the evenings.)
Here are some of our top picks.
- Swagbucks – Earn up to $35 a survey with this mega-popular app, and get a $10 bonus just for signing up!
- Survey Junkie – Earn up to $40 a month and cash out beginning at just $5.
- Branded Surveys – One of the best-rated survey sites with millions paid out.
- InboxDollars – Get a $5 bonus just for signing up!
- YouGov – Long-running survey panel, with data often cited in the media.
- Pinecone Research – Earn $3 for each 15-20 minute survey. They'll send you a $3 check after your first one.
- American Consumer Opinion – Join millions of free members and earn up to $50 per survey.
9. Earn Miles From Your Phone
The new Miles app gives you “frequent flyer miles” for all the travel you do, whether walking, biking, driving, riding, or flying.
By letting the app track your location, you’ll earn free points that can be redeemed for gift cards. This one may be best for heavy commuters though — it takes 5,000-10,000 miles to earn a $1 Amazon gift card.
Still, every dollar counts and the app just runs in the background. After you install it, you don’t have to do anything to rack up your miles.
At press time, you can get 1500 bonus miles when you join through my referral link. To learn more, check out our full Miles app review.
10. Get a New Credit Card
If banks want to give me free money for stuff I was going to buy anyway, I’m not going to complain!
How it works is banks love to spend money getting new customers, so they give away big sign-up bonuses when you open a new account.
You just have to be smart about — don’t buy crap you don’t need with money you don’t have.
Credit cards like the Capital One Quicksilver Card offer a $200 sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months — with no annual fee. That's up to 40% cash back!
If you know you’re gonna spend $500 in the next 3 months, that’s #freemoney. This card also gives you one of the highest cash back rates, with unlimited 1.5% back on every dollar you spend.
11. Stop Overpaying for Insurance
Saving money is almost like getting paid to do nothing since it takes a small one-time effort and you can reap the benefit for months or years.
For example, if you haven’t shopped for car insurance in the last couple years, you’re paying too much. Why? Your car is probably worth less than it was two years ago, so it shouldn’t cost as much to insure!
Check out Insurify to compare quotes from different providers and save an average of $489 per year!
12. Use Cash Back Apps
I’m always testing new cash back apps, which promise to pay you a percentage of your regular purchases back. Here are some worth checking out:
- Fetch Rewards – Scan a quick picture of your receipts with Fetch to earn rewards and cash in for free Amazon gift cards (or other stores). Join through my referral link for a free $2 bonus.
- Dosh – Earn automatic cash back at participating restaurants and merchants after you link your credit card.
Did you know that several companies will pay you to just to install their apps and run in the background on your devices. These are low-maintenance, low-overhead ways to pretty much get paid do nothing.
Among our favorites are …
Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel
Nielsen now rewards you for sharing Internet usage behaviors by downloading their app to all of your devices. (Yes, this is the same Nielsen that’s been reporting TV ratings data for decades.)
As they track your usage, you earn points — up to $50 worth per year. Users can redeem points for gift cards or cash out via PayPal.
The app runs in the background and doesn’t slow down your phone or computer.
Similarly, the MobileXpression app records your smartphone usage habits. In exchange for sharing this anonymized data, you’ll earn weekly credits redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers.
Using “safe, cutting-edge technology to collect data as you surf the web,” the SavvyConnect VIP program pays you up to $5 a month per device.
That means when you connect your smartphone, tablet, and desktop/laptop — and remain active in the SavvyConnect community — you can earn $15 a month or $180 a year.
14. Get Paid to Surf the Internet
Does anyone say that anymore? Either way, I found a cool new browser extension that rewards you for sharing your data while you explore the information superhighway.
It took about 5 weeks to earn my first $10 Amazon gift card — doing nothing different than my normal day-to-day work. If that trend continues, Surf will be worth about $100 a year.
15. Get Free Stock
The popular Robinhood app gives new users a free share of stock when you sign up. Most of the time, the value isn’t much ($3-10), but could be worth up to $225 if you get lucky.
16. Store Other People’s Stuff
If you have extra space around your house, Neighbor wants to help you fill it — and get paid. The “Airbnb for storage” platform matches homeowners with garages, side yards, driveways, and attics, with people who need a place to store their stuff.
According to the site, top hosts are earning $10,000 a year.
17. Earn Royalties on Amazon
Thanks to self-publishing, it’s never been easier to become a professional author. This one does require some upfront work, but a book can earn you passive royalties for years.
I have a handful of titles on Amazon and they pay me every month. Sometimes it’s not a lot, but it’s never nothing. In fact, my books have earned over $70,000 in lifetime royalties!
To learn more about self-publishing, check out this free on-demand training I did on how to quickly go “from blank page to published author.”
Don’t know what to write about? Consider the “low content” publishing model of journals, notebooks, and diaries.
18. Listen to Music
When you listen to music or play games through the Current Rewards Android app, you’ll earn points redeemable for gift cards.
This is a pretty cool concept for music fans, because it’s not like Spotify is sharing any of their ad revenue with you!
19. YouTube Ad Income
I have no aspirations to be a full-time YouTuber, but I’m still pretty thrilled to get my advertising income from YouTube every month. Lately, it’s been in the $500/month range — whether or not I publish any new content.
Before you can monetize your channel, you need to hit certain metrics, but it’s similar to self-publishing in that videos can have a long shelf life and earning power.
What could you make videos about? Pretty much any problem you solve or any question you answer is a great candidate. If you figured it out, you could help other people and earn ad revenue at the same time.
20. Design Print on Demand Products
This isn’t a huge money-maker for us, but it’s relatively simple to set up. And when a design my wife and I uploaded years ago makes a sale, it totally feels like free money.
21. Sell Printables
Another business model where you can create something once and get paid over and over again is printables. These are digital downloadable files — like meal planners, chore charts, budget binders, intake forms, etc. — that customers can buy and print on their own.
When I spoke to Rachel Jones, she reported earning up to $10,000 a month from her growing portfolio of printables on Etsy.
22. Create an Online Course
I’ve earned over $20,000 since 2014 from a Udemy course that requires very little upkeep or maintenance. Sure, it took a lot of time to create, but every month when they send me my earnings, it feels like getting paid to do nothing.
23. Build an Informational Website
Finally, if you like the idea of creating digital assets, you might consider building out an informational website like this one. As you write helpful content that answers peoples’ questions, you can monetize your traffic with advertising or affiliate links.
It’s true that I spend a lot of time maintaining the site and making sure it’s up-to-date, but it still earns money on the days I don’t work on it at all.
(If the idea of building from scratch doesn’t appeal to you, you may be able to find a profitable site that already has traffic on a marketplace like Flippa.)
Your Turn: Find What Excites You
Getting paid to do nothing sounds great at first, but I imagine it ultimately isn’t very satisfying. After all, I could probably only sit around for a few days before I felt like I needed to do something proactive.
Tony Robbins called “progress” the 1-word secret to happiness. We all need something we look forward to doing.
So while I like the option of not working all the time, I think a better long-term solution is to find a way to spend your days on something that’s exciting and fulfilling for you.