Passive Income in Quarantine: How to Get Started

Jordan Blansit

Coronavirus. You know the name (if you don’t you have your head in a box), you’ve heard the signs and symptoms, and you’re probably stuck at home twiddling your thumbs. If you’re one of the millions Americans who filed for unemployment this year, you’re also watching your bank account whittle down to nothing due to the sudden economic recession. Coronavirus may be decimating the stock market and global supply chains, but it doesn’t have to decimate your income. While (hopefully) our society won’t be out of commission long enough to turn a side hustle into a full-time career, there’s plenty of time for almost everyone to start generating passive income during quarantine.

In this three-part article series, we’re going to take a look at three different methods of bringing in income in quarantine:

  • Your current read on creating passive income in quarantine. This article will primarily include non-job opportunities, from “free cash” to one-time earners to various investments.
  • Building a freelance side hustle. This article will primarily cover jobs typically considered “freelance-y.” Such options including writing, web design, various financial services, some consultant work, and marketing.
  • Building a successful side hustle. This article will primarily discuss work more in line with normative self-employment, such as selling physical and information products online, software as a service (SaaS), and survey work.

With that said, is everybody in the right place? You there, in the back, you good? Good! Then without further ado, here we go.

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First Thing’s First: Free Money

In cash-strapped times such as these, every penny can help. While some of these ideas require some time investment, they are quick, easy ways to increase your income in quarantine.

Stock Freebies

Who doesn’t like freebies? Nobody, that’s who. While freebies are…well, free, and therefore usually not worth much money, 5 dollars is worth more than no dollars. Many freebies can be obtained by signing up for products and services through various companies. Several of these websites also have referral freebies, where you send out a code to all of your friends and family and get a reward when they sign up. Bonus: many of these sites also allow for cashback shopping, so you get a double whammy for doing what you do, boo.

  • Robinhood – free stock
  • Webull – free stock
  • Stockpile – $5 in free stock plus $5 referral bonuses
  • Acorns – $5 signup bonus to invest, plus $40 if you get two friends to invest

Survey Sites

While survey sites aren’t exactly free money, they are a quick and easy way to make a buck. Personally, I like to use them when I’m standing in line at the grocery store or bank. While the payout for such sites may not seem worth it at first, if you’re strapped for cash and need something to do on your couch or on the go, they’re not a bad place to start. Bonus – some of them even have sign-up bonuses!

To get started, check out:

  • Survey Junkie
  • Rakuten (formerly Ebates)
  • Ibotta
  • Swagbucks
  • MyPoints
  • InboxDollars

Install Apps on Your Phone

That’s it. That’s how you make money. Simple.

While this idea won’t make you rich, it is an easy (literally click-of-a-button) way to make a few bucks. Many of these apps involve behavior tracking, from what you watch to where you shop to your physical location. Some users may shy away from this invasion of privacy. On the other hand, if you already know that Big Data is creeping over your shoulder through your Facebook app, you might as well make some money by installing the Nielson Digital and Mobile Expression apps as well.

There are also apps that less earn you money and more save you money, though some can do both. Acorns and Chime online banking both help you save money by rounding your purchases to the nearest dollar and transferring the difference to a savings account. Acorns, in particular, can even invest those little acorn nuggets of cash to bring you further passive rewards. This is especially useful during coronavirus when stock prices are low and the ability to buy is high.

Cashback Shopping

In the age of coronavirus, even before the pandemic set in, a lot of us probably headed to Amazon or other online retailers to order our goods modern-style. Now, as countries close their borders and declare stay-at-home orders, a much larger population is relegating to the world of online shopping. And if you’re shopping online, you can make money doing so (or, more likely, spend less money doing so).

While there isn’t much money to be made in cashback shopping, it’s still a quick way to generate passive income in quarantine. There are a lot of sites and apps such as Ruketen (formerly Ebates), Swagbucks, and Ibotta that let you search for products through their in-house portal/browser. When you make a purchase, the website collects a little marketing data or affiliate change. In return, you make a pretty penny doing what you were already going to do.

Credit Card Rewards

Let’s be honest: many of us who are out of a job temporarily are wondering how long our credit card is going to hold out under the onslaught of no paycheck and all day left to scroll through tempting, tantalizing, oh so shiny…oh! online marketplaces. Some of us may already be at the end of our credit and in dire need for more. Instead of getting a credit boost on already-opened accounts, the financially savvy who also happen to be financially strapped may benefit from opening a new line of credit or two to help offset those costs.

Now, this is a place to be very, very careful. For those of you with a trigger spending finger, consider the ramifications before you open a new line of debt. The last thing anyone wants out of coronavirus is $10 grand in unpaid bills and ruined credit. However, if you do your due diligence and select cards with low interest and large cashback rewards, especially those with high rewards and a high bonus signup payment, this could be a way to reduce the amount you’ll owe at the end of this crisis. Since you’re shopping online already…

Next Up: Investments

Now may seem a crazy time to invest, and if you don’t have a lot of cash lying around, making a large investment would be unwise. However, with stock markets crashing around the globe, now is the time to put some pennies into cheap stocks that have a near-guarantee of rising after the pandemic is over. In addition to traditional stock market investing, there are a few other options available for those who want minimal risk in their lending spree. (Talk about passive income in quarantine).

Robo Advisers

Modern portfolio theory states that the best method to maximize your return with minimal risk when investing in the stock market is to diversify your portfolio over a substantial length of time. Quite simply, it’s difficult to time the market – especially a market as turbulent as this. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting started in a topsy-turvy market if you know where to get started.

If you’ve invested in the stock market and are uncertain where the market is going, or you want to invest for the first time but need safe returns, there are options to help. Services like WealthSimple and Betterment are here to put your investments on autopilot and provide you with peace of mind.

These platforms will customize your portfolio around your risk tolerance, savings goals, and payment schedule (regular income or long-term growth). Robo advisers are a wise idea for those who aren’t incredibly stock market savvy, as well as for those who have a full plate and not enough time or money to hire a trusted financial advisor.

Lend a…Dollar

If you already have some savings built up,, you can invest your funds now and bring in interest after the pandemic pans out. Most people choose to do this through the stock market. However, there is another option: peer-to-peer lending. This kind of investment can be done through a lending site such as Upstart, LendingClub, or Prosper. The benefit of these sites is that you can safeguard your finances as much as possible while still investing.

These websites allow you to select the borrowers and loans that you like by scrolling through loan requests. While more interest earned often means more risk on these sites, the returns average 6-10% – not too shabby for doing nothing (physically, at any rate).

Loans through such peer-to-peer sites go toward helping people get educations, open businesses, or pursue dreams and passions. All that’s required of you is to lend the money, set your interest rate, and wait for the payments to roll in.

Mine Cryptocurrency

If you have a little bit of money to throw into some advanced machinery, then you have a little money to earn you a lot more money. For those who can invest in a mining rig, you can loan out your server to process blockchain transactions. In return, you’ll get paid with small amounts of cryptocurrency. Although the value of the currency will fluctuate with the market, ten dollars in these uncertain times could skyrocket to ten thousand dollars next week or next month – you never know with coronavirus. If you can afford this option, now may be the time to invest, as this is truly passive income. Buy the server, lease the space, and live your life while the machinery does all the heavy lifting.

Rent Your X

No, not your ex. That would be rude. Even in quarantine there are rules on how you generate your passive income.

Extra Parking Space

It’s coronavirus. Everyone’s home right now. And for those of you who have a parking space and no car to put in it, this is a great time to start making cash on those few square feet of untapped bounty. If you know someone who is home all of the time now because of the virus and needs a place to put their car without breaking the bank, maybe you can be their saving grace.

Parking spaces can cost as much as $375 per month in a big, busy city such as San Francisco. Even smaller cities can bring in a cool $100-$200 per month or more if you play your parking spot right. Talk to your neighbors, put an ad on Craigslist, market your space on Facebook Marketplace. Hell, even take a fun photoshoot if you feel the need to document the experience. Do what you need to do to get a few bites, draw up a simple contract, and boom! Passive income while you’re quarantined at home.

Be a Good Neighbor

If you’re generally not uncomfortable with the idea of renting out your spare room or garage space to living bodies as an Airbnb, in the time of the coronavirus, you should be – but what about nonliving bodies?

No, I didn’t say dead people. Just people’s stuff. Now is not a time to be a vulture; now is the time to extend grace and gratitude to those around you. Everyone who isn’t rich or famous is struggling out there, so if you have some extra room, a good heart, and the need for a little bit of cash, may be the way to go. Neighbor is the self-proclaimed Airbnb of storage and space rental. This is an easy, risk-free way to turn your spare room, attic, basement, garage, or front closet into an earner. In New York City, Neighbor estimates it’s possible to generate a passive income of $10,000 annually by renting out a basement space alone.

Neighbor also assumes full protection of your space and stuff: up to $1,000,000 for personal liability for the homeowner and $25,000 worth of damage liability for the renter. A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me (and you can pretend you didn’t, but you did click on this article…).

Marketing and Technology

Even now, there is big money to be had in marketing – and especially now, there is a lot of money to be made through technological avenues. With everyone stuck at home twiddling their thumbs on their phones and laptops, there has never been a better time to exploit sources of passive income in the technological and marketing industries.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing may not make you wealthy overnight – despite what a lot of (frankly s***ty) online content would have you believe – but it is a source of passive income that can net you a decent spending allowance while you’re quarantined. With coronavirus looming and very few able or willing to leave their house for work, that spending allowance may just cover your food bill each week.

Essentially, affiliate marketing is where you provide information or links and access to other people’s content or products. In return, you get paid for suggesting the items when the item is sourced through your site. While many marketers won’t pay much for affiliate links, some more prominent names – especially tech companies – may pay substantial amounts (in some cases up to $2,000 for a merchant referral) if you’re successful and savvy in your selections. If you choose to add affiliate marketing to your playbook, ask the affiliate program for assets to aid in marketing. Items such as magnets, tools, and little goodies can spread the word about your newest source of income (without necessarily advertising that part to your customers).

Pimp Out Other People’s Merch

If you are an artist or graphic designer and have a previously completed design you think will sell, upload it to a print-on-demand platform such as Society6 or Teespring. These websites allow customers to scroll through logos, pictures, cartoons, etc. on offer and choose the ones they want. If your design is selected and available for their desired product, you’ll get a percentage paid to you on the customer’s printed order. The perk of this outlet, while it may not generate massive amounts of income, is that everything is managed for you. If you own the rights to works you’ve already drawn up, it may be worth it to give these platforms a try and see if it’s right for you.

Create an Alexa Skill

If you’re technologically savvy, chances are, you’re using this time to build a client base through freelancing or remote work. But if you’re not already hard at work, or you want a little something extra on the side, now might be the time to fiddle around with that Alexa in the corner.

Skills are Alexa’s app equivalent: small programs that work with Alexa to generate content or services for the end-user. If you are skilled enough to create a skill for Alexa to run that provides quality returns to Alexa’s built-in customer base, this can be a profitable project. Those who make a decent profit off their first app may consider turning skill development into a permanent hustle.

Start a Membership Site

Membership sites can provide a decent source of passive income for those who already have an established website peddling goods and services to a steady client base. This is recurring monthly income that can take a little bit of work – or a whole lot of input – to see to fruition. For the dedicated, that initial time investment may be worth it.

For those who run a blog, sell products, or teach online courses, adding a membership option to your site gives you the chance to sell premium resources, content, or items to a customer base that pays for monthly access. Some perk options for membership sites include:

  • Members-only how-tos, be it print or webinars
  • Premium access to your expert advice or a discussion blog you run
  • Premium content such as audio, video, or printable/shippable content
  • Free access to specific or more in-depth courses

Initially, this may require building or adding the promised additional content, and for some, it may be an ongoing project. However, once the content is posted and the membership site is fleshed out, all you have to do is let the passive income roll in and enjoy your just rewards.

Passive Income in Quarantine: Is It Right for Me?

Generating a livable passive income in quarantine is neither right nor feasible for every person. These options are ideal for those who a, having some savings to invest in a project, or b, just want to spruce up that bank account while you work on the next big thing. If you’re in the market for a temporary full-time job, or you want to do the heavy lifting on a long-term side hustle instead of going twitchy from too much time, check out our next article in the series: On Building a Freelance Side Hustle While Quarantined from Coronavirus.

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Jordan Blansit