For the last time, blogging is not passive income

Scroll down ↓

blog passive income scam

A few months back, I wrote an article describing my feelings about certain myths associated with passive income.

Okay, so I pretty much called the whole “get rich from passive-income” thing a big, fat scam!

It is directly controverted by a bunch of research, including a fascinating study that showed how very few U.S. pentamillionaires made their money passively or inherited it. For the most part, they worked their butts off trying to solve a problem that affected a huge number of people. And, their success came after years of decades in a relatively short burst or event.

Well, I’m getting kind of tired of clicking onto websites and blogs that report online income, especially from blogging, as passive income.

Advertising income that is derived from any form of online content that needs to be created on a regular basis, whether through blogging, updating websites, populating or moderating forums or anything else is NOT passive income.

We don’t need data and studies to know this. Hey, here’s an interesting study, go find me 10 bloggers who earn a living blogging without working on their blogs. Okay, strike that, find me one!

Every year, millions of blogs are abandoned after 4-months. Creating and moderating content that is good enough to attract and grow a substantial readership may be fun, but…

Creating online content that is compelling enough to drive advertising or other revenue is hard friggin’ work.

It’s not even moderately passive.

What if you hire someone to manage and write your job? Still not passive, now you’re not a writer, but you are a manager and employer.

What if you take a bigger step back and launch a blog-network, so you can have someone else run everything all the time. Hmmm, I wonder if Darren Rowse, Wendy Piersall or Penelope Trunk would say if you told them starting, managing and growing a blog-network was passive?

There is no such thing as set-it-and-forget online content-driven revenue.

And, if there is, it comes only after an intensive, often extended “hard-work” effort to create content that is not only massively-valuable, but so evergreen that it’s value and impact will endure. Listen…

I’m all for everyone earning as much as they need to be comfortable in the world.

But, if you wanna sell a fundamental philosophy, how about this one…

Find something you’re madly passionate about, surround yourself with people you love to be around, work your buns off and make a ton of money…as a byproduct of the fact that you’re having the time of your life and contributing value to the world along the way!

So, what do you guys think? Fire-away!

Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

20 responses

20 responses to “For the last time, blogging is not passive income”

  1. Amen, Brother. 🙂

  2. Lin says:

    I think you and I have been reading the same posts, and I’m rather tired of it myself.

    I think it’s a true statement to say that you can work your buns off on your blog for years and still barely make any money doing it if at all.

  3. LisaN says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Spending time researching, marketing, talking to people, commenting, etc is work. I don’t know how anyone can claim otherwise.

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    Darn straight. It takes up several hours of every day for me.

    The only time I’ve known a blog to be comparatively passive was a guy who had annual text link contracts who gave up his blog but whose contractees didn’t want him to take down the links. So he just kept running them and brought in a few hundred a month…which covered hosting. Still, the creation wasn’t passive and he wasn’t exactly making a fortune.

  5. I think for those of us that write blogs, we are completely in agreement. It definitely takes a lot of work!

  6. Sandra says:

    Amen to that Jonathan! But blogging is so much fun that it doesn’t feel like hard work. And isn’t that the goal-do something you love for money?

    But it is definitely work and anyone who claims it is passive is trying to sell you an info product on how to do it.

  7. Peter says:

    This to me just sounds like a misinterpretation of the word passive income.

    Passive income

    > income is not linear to the amount of work you put out. ie. 1 hour might bring you 1000$, or just 10$

    > work you have done has the potential to bring in ongoing income over time. ie. An article written in 2004 still continues to bring in profits, through advertising, giving your website exposure, bringing in traffic etc.

    > Income that is generated without your presence needed. When you don’t need to be present to sell your work to the customer, exchange money, deliver the product and all the other things needed for say, a traditional shop.

    People get hung up on the word Passive. It’s not about doing nothing or doing little. It’s just a different approach to the income generation part of the equation of work. It’s a different mechanism. And the main benefit is that you are not bound by the hours you put in, but rather the strategy and/or quality of work you put out and the number of people you are able to reach.

    I’m getting tired of people telling that people should follow their passion over and over again and then the money will come. It’s true that if you are passionate and you work hard, that makes a huge difference. But it’s also a limiting belief bordering on ignorance. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s so tedious for people to preach it over and over again. Come with something new.

  8. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Sandra – Agreed, blogging is great fun and there are so many other bene’s.

    @ Peter – Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, but it’s actually a pretty literal interpretation. Check out definitions at

    Income that is not not “linear” to the amount of work is not “passive,” it’s “disproportionate or relative.”

    Passive means passive, not somewhere between passive and active. Most income streams that are touted as passive are actually, as you say, not passive at all, but require ongoing work, whether that work is leveraged or not. That’s fine, I am all for that, just don’t call it passive. It’s not.

    Last thing, I totally agree with about not just following your passion and hoping the money will come. That rarely works.

    But, leveraging your passion as the foundation to create a viable, active stream of income has been the basis of nearly all wealth creation in this country. And, in fact, most streams of income that someday have the capability of becoming more passive, began as the insanely active manifestation of a mad-passion.

    Read the study I linked to and the books of nearly every successful entrepreneur of the last 100 years. So, the answer is not a dispassionate attempt to create passive streams of income, but rather a madly-passionate attempt to serve a starving market or solve a wide-scale problem.

    So, on this front, we agree, passion is at the heart of most innovation and wealth, but not because someone with passion just expected the money to come, they MADE the money come through tireless work and innovation.

  9. Peter says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I think what I’m trying to say is not so much about literal definition. When talking about passive income, as I have gathered from the likes of some of the better business minds like Jay Abraham, I understand it to be used to describe the type of income that I described in my former comment. What you are stressing is that there is a lot of work involved. So there is the misunderstanding, or to put it softer, a different perspective.

    See in a lot of cases it takes a lot of work to put something in place that generates passive income. This can require a lot of effort, especially if the medium is a blog. But the mechanism for which the income is flowing is, is passive income. It’s why it’s so good, because that part of the business is automated and it’s not directly proportionate to the time you invest.

    Steve Pavlina (the blogger) for example, can go on holiday for 2 weeks without seeing a big dip in his income. He’s built huge passive income streams through his articles (yes…which took a lot of work). He’s not actively having to work on those streams. That’s why it’s called passive income. It’s a mechanism.

    The other thing though, is that there is a notion that is very strongly held:
    and that is that good income only comes through hard work. And this is just blatantly not true. In fact – you can set up a passive income stream today and wheel in a significant amount of money. It’s called getting into a tollbooth position and all it requires is being a middle man, connecting two parties that benefit from eachother.
    On a larger scale, this is what is happening with all the major music labels. They continue to wheel in cash based on licensing and royaltees…for guess what…little to no effort.

    It’s about applying strategy, knowledge and skill.

    And the reason why successful business people are rich is not because they are working so hard and therefore the money is comnig in. It’s because with the hard work also came the strategies, knowledge and skills, making money an easier exercise than most folks looking for a getquickrich method.

  10. Blogging is NOT passive. I spend up to three hours a day on writing, commenting on other blogs, and responding to my readers – as well as doing research, etc.


  11. Chad says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    While I agree 100% blogging is not a form of passive income, there are in fact dozens of forms of online passive incomes and there certainly are “set-it-and-forget online content-driven revenue.”

    Although I’m hesitant to mention them as to give anyone ideas…

  12. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Peter (@ Chad, toward the end) – I think we are actually saying a lot of the same things, here.

    But we look at the process of revenue creation and business through a different lense.

    If you can create something from a foundation of passion that then, later on, allows you to scale back your work, while maintaining your income, great. But, there are two challenges with this.

    One, nearly all efforts start active and require substantial amounts of energy to get to a point, if ever, where you can scale back. Most businesses will never reach that…ever. And, as a general rule, long before your vehicle gets to a point where you can step back and make a solid chunk more passive, you will go through a number of trials, some small, some gargantuan. If your prime motivator is to set up a passive stream of income, with little passion for the pursuit beyond that, the likelihood of you making it through those trials, without chucking th towel is slim.

    While, if you started a business as a manifestation of a deeply held passion, even with full knowledge that it could very well end up more passive down the road, that incumbent passion will serve as a source of of strength that will carry you through the bumps and make it more likely that any business will both succeed and, if desired, get to a level of maturity that allows a certain amount of pulling back.

    My yoga studio in NYC is a perfect example. O only work on that business about 508 hours a week and it provides a substantial income to me. BUT, it took me YEARS of working both hard and smart to get it to a place where I could do that. And, here’s where I get to my second point…

    Even once you’ve gotten as close to the set-it-and forget as possible, I do not believe that, in business there is any such thing as being able to passively sustain a sideways trend. You move up, through innovation or work or down, through abandoment.

    Write a bestselling book and it may stay on the list for a year, but if you stop promoting it or yourself, over time it doesn’t stay there. Time Ferriss’ book hasn’t done what it’s done because he walked away. It’s because he’s worked his butt of to keep the momentum going.

    Internet marketing driven businesses, like membership sites, product launches, all have lifespans. They take a giant effort to launch, go largely passive and then, eventually either require new content, marketing or a whole new product…which means fresh work.

    Are there the rare exceptions to the rule? Sure. Guy’s like Steve Pavlina, who finished college in 3 semester with a double-degree in I believe computer science and mathematics created a library that is so evergreen, he could stop writing tomorrow and his traffic would stay up for a while.

    BUT, Steve is a rare bird, in fact, he tells you, straight up, that most people cannot do what he’s done. And, if he stopped writing, his traffic would stay up for a period, but then start to slide. The fact that he continues to write is testament to that.

    So, where does this leave me? Is it possible to set up a business that allows you to eventually pull back and invest less time? Yes. I’ve done it myself a number of times. But, not completely passive. And, to get it to a level that lets you do that, you’d better be riding a wave of passion.

    Work smart? Absolutely. If there is a way to systematize or innovate that makes life easier, I am all for it.

    But, point me to a hugely successful person, barring anyone who started by inheriting a big fat pile of money, who hasn’t also worked extremely hard to get to a point where they can scale back and I’ll point you to a jelly donut with negative calories!

  13. Chad says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    I still agree with everything, you are correct, passion and hard work will get you the results and is the path everyone should choose.

    I was only referring to the dark side, the spammers, scammers and thieves who do not create, but steal and profit off others hard work.

    I just didn’t want to give anyone ideas on starting a splog network 🙂

  14. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Chad – Drats, you found me out, I guess I’ll have to stop scraping all the B5 blogs, now, huh?!?! 😉

  15. […] I’ve started today but my brain has been toddlerized and I can’t string two words together. (Passive income, my ass.) The only thing I seem to be able to do is drink Yellow Tail and compulsively click […]

  16. […] Entrepreneurial Spirit  6 Keys to Getting Paid for Being You – An Anti-Career Guide For the last time, blogging is not passive income […]

  17. Pete says:

    I have to say, I agree.

  18. David says:

    Thank you. I have been trying to explain this to people to no avail. They really think that we all just sit around all day and collect checks. Who do they think wrote the last 2 years of articles? Great stuff man…

  19. Hi Jonathan, I agree 110%.

    Blogs require constant care and feeding, and the larger they become, the more care and feeding they require in ways that are not apparent on the surface.

    It’s not just the writing. Writing is only a fraction of the time. As a site gets bigger you increase the time spent on technology, on marketing, on interacting with your community, on relations with advertisers, on adjusting your business model — the list goes on.

    It grows exponentially in some ways. The maintenance and growth are not linear.


  20. Laura says:

    Thanks for saying how it is. I am fairly new to blogging and feel it is frustrating for newbies to read some articles of how easy it is to sit back and let the money come in. I guess I had a light bulb moment this week when I realized that you just can’t start a blog and sit back and relax. (Duh! Right!)Lots of work to be done and like anything else in life, if you want it to grow you have to feed and nurture it.