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Earn Active, Semi-Passive, and Passive Income as a Digital Nomad

Looking for ways to create active, semi-passive and passive income as a digital nomad? Here are some areas to consider.

12 mins read time
Kevin Dean
Kevin Dean

Aug 19, 2020

It was mid-December in 2010. A few thousand miles from winter’s reach and freezing temps, I was watching the sun melt into turquoise waters off the coast of Australia’s Bondi Beach. With a return flight just hours away, a literal back-to-reality frosty face slap awaited me. I desperately wished for some way to prolong my already two-month sojourn. It was in this moment I knew I had to discover a way to fuel (and fund) my wanderlust spirit.

Now 2010 wasn’t the dark ages. We had cell phones and Wi-Fi. But to this novice traveler fresh out of college and fleeing cubicle handcuffs, buzzwords like digital nomad and #WorkFromAnywhere weren’t quite commonplace. The idea of posting up at a local coffee shop and creating income using a laptop and the internet, let alone building a professional career in digital marketing, was largely unknown.

Fast-forward 10 years and my wish has come true. I’m a proud full-stack digital marketing manager working for an innovative, forward-thinking, 100 percent remote, badass inbound marketing agency, First Page Strategy. Note: I was not paid to say that. I mean yes, in a way I was, but it’s also just a fact.

Speaking of facts, a 2020 study featured on SmallBizGenius reports that the number of people who work remotely has increased a whole 140 percent since 2005. And as a vast number of people around the world get a taste for remote working during the pandemic, it’s a safe assumption that some will want the freedom, flexibility, and productivity of remote work to continue.

Even prior to our current global situation, Upwork was predicting that 73 percent of all departments will utilize remote employees by 2028. Looks like we’re already living in the future.

These days my office is a standing desk (with wheels, so when I get bored I can zoom around the apartment). In the pre-COVID days, I'd stake my claim at a corner table in my local coffee shop with ample outlets, great Wi-Fi, and even better croissants (though not as good as the ones I once had in Montmartre, Paris). Speaking of Paris, yes, oui, the real point here is I am now free to move about the globe. With cities opening back up, and airports coming alive again, the digital nomad fever is spiking again.

So the question is, are YOU ready to create a life where the money flows like free Wi-Fi? Are you ready to trade Netflix and chill for real-life excursions and passport stamps? This is the real reason you’ve come. And here’s the short answer for how to do it: create multiple revenue streams from three areas of income  active, semi-passive, and passive.

Below are just a handful of examples and areas to help you build your income from anywhere. Think of this as an a la carte menu. Bon appétit.

3 Areas of Income for Digital Nomads: Active, Semi-Passive, Passive


Let’s define active income as any revenue-generating activity that would disappear if you were to cease spending time and energy doing the work. Think of this as directly trading your time for money. Here are some examples and opportunities for you to consider:

  • Freelance Marketplace:

    • Offer your skills and services on Fiverr and Upwork. With hundreds of categories to choose from, popular services include digital marketing, graphic and web design, writing, and creating video content. The benefit of offering your services through an established marketplace is it connects you immediately to an existing community of potential clients and companies looking to hire.

  • Teaching English:

  • Virtual Tutoring or Consulting Work:

    • With virtual meeting tools like Zoom and the ability to create professional presentation decks with Google Slides and Keynote, you can hold court with paying clients from all over the globe.

  • Digital Marketing:

    • Practically every business and brand out there needs social media managers, SEOs, lead gen specialists, and email marketing specialists, all of which can be accomplished remotely — just take a look at our 100 percent remote team here at First Page.

    • In the inbound marketing world, HubSpot is the premiere platform — if you have experience and expertise using HubSpot’s platform, you’re already one step ahead of the competition.

  • Writing and Copy Editing:

    • There is no shortage of demand for guest blogging, freelance writing, copywriting, and editing. Platforms like Verblio allow you to contribute as a writer without having to find your own clients. 

  • Photography and Video Production: 


Semi-passive income is work that has the potential to continue paying out even when you’re not working on it — though it still requires some time and energy to maintain or grow. A blog with decent organic traffic that uses affiliate marketing links to generate revenue is a good example. You still need to create new content, optimize for SEO and keywords, and grow your reach. 

  • Blogs:

  • Online Courses:

    • With a little up-front investment of time, you can create online courses to sell via your own website (if you have the incoming traffic) or through an existing platform like Teachable.

  • Web Series, Travel Vlogs, Podcasts:

    • If you’re traveling and have a knack for capturing video, why not create a web series or travel vlog and monetize through YouTube? Check out these awe-inspiring travel vlogs to get some ideas flowing.

    • Do you enjoy meeting new people, sharing stories, and engaging conversations? Try starting your own podcast. Look for one-stop platforms like Anchor.fm, which can help you create, distribute, and monetize your podcast for free.

  • Influencer Marketing:

    • Leverage your audience and influence to promote brands and products. Not in the Kardashian sense per se, but many brands will pay to have their products promoted by down-to-earth, relatable "micro-influencers." If you're traveling, likely you’re already gathering some wonderfully unique content to share. Here’s a collection of 75 platforms that connect influencers to brands and content creators.

  • Video, Film, Music, Art:

    • The world is your muse. Can you write, record, and release your own music? How about filming your own documentary while traveling? Or, if you love to paint, try partnering with local galleries to sell your artwork on consignment.

    • If you’re able to create consistently, consider starting a Patreon account where a community of patrons will pay monthly to support the creative work you’re doing in exchange for exclusive updates and perks.

    • If you’re crafty, Etsy could be an option (albeit you’ll need to find some creative solutions to handle the logistics of shipping items if you're traveling frequently). 

    • This category is limitless, but the main idea is that people buy your product or service once, many times, or perpetually. 


The most intriguing and elusive of all is passive income. This is income generated from previous investments you’ve made (financially and/or time). ‘Mailbox money,’ baby. This could be things like e-book sales and royalties, copyright and intellectual property royalties, real estate and rental income, investment portfolios, business equity, and more. The obvious benefit of passive income is that it requires little to no time, energy, or effort to continue receiving a payout. Here are some areas to create your own passive income streams:

  • E-Books:

  • Shared Economy Rentals:

    • If you’re working remotely or traveling and have a car sitting unused, rent it out through Turo.

    • If you have a spare room or want to rent out your apartment or house while you travel, Airbnb and Vrbo can make that happen.

  • Intellectual Property Royalties:

    • These royalties are generated from owning copyrights, patents, music, film, books, and more. Get creating and inventing. For some inspiration, in 1937, a man named Joseph Friedman observed his daughter struggling to drink her milkshake with a straight straw. So he invented a bendable one. Cha-ching!   

  • Real Estate, Land:

  • Investment Portfolios:

    • With apps like Robinhood, it’s easier than ever to build an investment portfolio. Traditional investment firms like Vanguard can also help you build longer-term wealth through IRAs and index funds.

    • If you have some cash on hand, becoming an angel investor or silent partner is an option to create business equity.


Build the Life You Desire

With these tools at your disposal, YOU are the captain of your digital nomad journey. Extend that Airbnb stay, tack on an extra side trip to a remote island, and create the remote-working life you desire. As for me, I hear the sunsets in Bondi are life-changing. 

Want to get more out of remote work?  Listen to our Remotely Cultured podcast, full of tips and tools to live and  work your best from anywhere.  Listen Now

Kevin Dean

Kevin has 9 years of experience in digital marketing across various channels, and enjoys being a full-stack jack of all trades. In his free time he moonlights as a musician/songwriter.

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