The idea of passive income has evolved over the years -- from selling basic information products through snail mail for a few dollars to sophisticated high-end webinars directed at executives for thousands of dollars. We all want in on the passive income action and the dream of logging into our email to see sales racking up overnight like magic. But it's not quite that easy.

Despite the name of his wildly popular blog, Smart Passive Income, blogger and entrepreneur Pat Flynn readily admits there is no such thing as 100 percent passive income. Although he made a name for himself with his six-figure monthly income reports from his passive income pursuits, he also details how much work it takes to get his ideas off the ground.

To truly earn a viable return on your passive income pursuits, you'll need to put in plenty of upfront work and hustle to get your idea off the ground -- with little to no reward on the front-end. But stick with your goals and you could create multiple streams of revenue that are automated and ready to put a profit in your bank account.

Here are 5 ways to get started making passive income.

1. Real estate.

Real estate investing is one of the most common passive income strategies used today. Buy a house (or a commercial property, storage unit, or building), fill it with tenants, and you'll collect income every month, whether you're sitting at the office or on the beach in Fiji. Of course, vetting tenants, making timely repairs, and handling other property management needs isn't necessarily the ideal for passive income seekers, though hiring a property manager can relieve you of this burden.

Real estate crowdfunding platforms offer another opportunity for increased passive profit without the steep investment traditionally associated with real estate. RealtyMogul.com connects accredited and institutional investors with a range of debt and equity real estate investments for as little as $5,000. The company also helps borrowers and sponsors with debt and equity financing.

Need other ideas? Companies like Airbnb are popular for turning your home into passive income, but there are other sites that turn your property into money-making machines. Camp in My Garden connects campers with home and land owners who have a backyard to spare. Advertise your garden oasis to find people who actually want to pay you to sleep in your yard and start earning.

2. Digital coaching.

Coaches have been making passive income off the need for education on a variety of subjects for years. But digital coaching is quickly becoming a viable money-making option with multiple revenue stream possibilities. Once you've built a brand for yourself as a coach, you can make money off info products, programs, webinars, and more.

If you don't want to build out your own website, sign up with Coach.me and take its straightforward test to start offering chat-based coaching, paid plans, or phone consultations. While coaching over the phone isn't exactly passive, Coach.me's paid plan system is. These micro courses are unlocked by your clients one day at a time with an available price point of $0.99 to $149.

3. Peer lending.

Help someone in need of a loan without the sky-high interest rates and complex rules while earning a healthy return on your investment. Sites like Lending Club make peer lending possible by connecting independent borrowers and investors for more flexible terms and low fixed rates. For investors, you can earn an average of 5.23 to 8.82 percent on your return and earn monthly cash flow.

Of course, there is always a risk of default in any type of lending, but it's typically pretty low. Meanwhile, the results can be highly profitable. Mr. Money Mustache detailed how he earned an annualized return of over 17 percent on a $33,000 and growing balance. But don't stop your researching with Lending Club. You can also find peer lending opportunities in places you probably haven't considered like Reddit's Borrow subreddit, where vetted users lobby for small personal loans in return for interest.

4. App development.

Creating an app for passive income isn't a new idea, but the concept has been transformed from a time-consuming and costly process to one anybody can outsource or execute quickly. From iPhones to Androids, apps are in high demand, but it can be a tough sell to stand out. Simplify the process and learn how to make easy games without coding from a site like Udemy to get started, or find a developer to do the work for you with a site like Upwork.

How much can you really earn by making and selling your own apps? The sky's the limit for savvy developers with solid marketing know-how and social media experience, but a recent thread on Quora on the topic garnered responses from $20 a day to $10,000 a month.

5. Social shopping.

Think you've got great style? Wish you weren't just spending money on great clothes, but making money as well? Thanks to new social shopping programs, it's possible.

Get paid to wear stylish clothes and take a selfie for the world to see -- and buy -- with Stylinity. When someone purchases a look that's driven by your selfie, you earn Style Perks that can be redeemed for cash, experiences, and products. Share your look on your blog or social media channels to spread the word in hopes of some purchase action on your selfie. And if you purchase a product from a Shoppable selfie (even your own), you can also rack up the rewards to put yourself one step closer to passive cash.

Of course, this list isn't comprehensive. I've experimented with several of these, and I'm active in several others, including acting as a silent partner in two or three other marketing firms in order to earn a return on my money without the hassle involved in starting my own businesses. What you'll find is that passive income is really about your mindset. There are plenty of opportunities out there to leverage the resources of others without overtaxing your own -- it's up to you to be diligent about finding them and profiting.

What's your favorite way to earn passive income? Which ones have proved the most lucrative for you? Share your experiences in the comments below:

Published on: Nov 30, 2015