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Businesses That Run Themselves: 17 Examples of Passive Businesses That Work

Want to know the secret to becoming truly wealthy without being overwhelmed by work and stress? You need to find a business that runs itself.

Regular old investing won’t do it.

If you invest in stocks, bonds and the like, you may be able to generate returns on your investment (ROI) over the long term of like 8%-10%.

Now unless you already have a ton of money to invest, that type of ROI is not going to make you rich anytime soon…maybe in 30 years, but definitely not soon.

We need a better wealth building vehicle.

That where owning a business comes in. Your ROI gets hyper-charged.

It is not unusual to find good businesses that reliably generate 30%+ returns on your money. Most business investors I know won’t buy a business unless they can make back their money in 3 years or less.

So we know that finding a profitable business can make you a lot of money fast. But the drawback is that you actually need to run it. Most businesses are usually very hands on.

But what if you could find a business that operates without your day to day involvement while still spinning out great cash flow each month?

In this article, I am going to share 17 businesses that run themselves. They fall into four basic categories: (i) brick and mortar businesses; (ii) online businesses; (iii) routes (think vending machine routes, ATM routes, etc.); and (iv) rental businesses.

I have curated each businesses idea and selected only those that have solid profit potential, can be readily converted into a self-running operation, and have proven business models (i.e., others have operated them successfully).

For each business, I will provide a quick summary of what the business is, some of the key things you’ll need to consider regarding that business, and a link to a detailed guide on how you can get started.

Without further ado, here are the 17 businesses we will cover. If you want to skip ahead to any of them, just click on the corresponding link below.

Brick and Mortar Businesses:

1. Laundromat

2. Automatic Car Wash

3. Self-Storage Facility

4. Bakery

Online Businesses

5. Blog

6. Print on Demand Business

7. Amazon FBA Business

8. Ebook Business

9. Online Course Creator

10. YouTube

Delivery Routes

11. Vending Machine Route

12. ATM Routes

13. FedEx Routes

14. Bread Routes

Rental Businesses

15. Rental Property Business

16. Billboard Rental Business

17. Truck Rental Business

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get into it!

If you prefer to watch a condensed version of this article in video format, check out my YouTube video below.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and complete a transaction, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

1. Laundromat

A laundromat is a solid, recession proof business that can be set up to run itself.

That’s because the machines do most of the work. They will wash and dry your customers clothes without you having to lift a finger. On top of that, your customers will perform the task of loading and unloading the machines.

All you really need to do is make sure that the machines continue to operate efficiently, make sure the place is cleaned regularly, and have someone on staff to open and close the business and handle any miscellaneous tasks that customers may need help with.

Of course, you will need to swing by from time to time to collect your money, but that’s a pretty happy chore.

In particular, I love laundromats because they enjoy very high success rates (95%) over a 5 year period. They tick a lot of boxes.

If you want to learn more about how to get started, check out my article on starting a passive laundromat in six easy steps.

For an in-depth discussion of how to run a laundromat as an absentee owner, check out my article on this topic.

2. In-Bay Automatic Car Wash

An in-bay automatic car wash is, as the picture above shows, an automatic car wash that is basically self-contained and does not require workers to operate.

Your customers simply swipe their credit card or pay with bills or coins in the kiosk and then they drive their car into the “bay”. The machine does the rest.

You’ll often see multiple bays side by side in a dedicated car wash location. But you can also find these machines at 24-hour gas stations, convenience stores, etc.

If you want to learn more about this type business, check out my beginner’s guide on how to get started with a passive automatic car wash

3. Self Storage Facility

I am sure you have seen self-storage facilities around your local area.

They are a low maintenance business that allows you to get into the real estate game, without dealing with typical landlord issues, like busted toilets and other residential tenant-related matters.

With the rise of technology, customers can reserve their units online, punch in a passcode when they arrive and access their unit anytime. No onsite manager (or you) need to be at the location.

Now self storage units can be expensive, but with that comes the potential to make serious money. Plus these businesses tend to have high success rates – 92% according to betcoinc.com.

Check out my guide to starting a passive self-storage business in 7 easy steps to learn more.

4. Bakery

This one is interesting. 

Back in 2020, I was a hair’s breadth away from purchasing an absentee-run bakery. Of course, the pandemic hit and I decided to scrap the idea due to the risk of buying a business in the midst on an unprecedented time, but I was taken with the business!

Now, I know running a bakery involves a lot of work. I was deep into the due diligence process and saw what was involved. But the owner had very cleverly structured his business to run on autopilot.

He had in place a chief baker and several experienced assistants that had been working at the bakery for nearly twenty years. The location was great and due to its proximity to major roads, had a loyal stream of customers every morning and a steady crowd of regulars for lunch.

He also had an experienced team of workers interacting with the customers. Everyone knew what to do every day and it operated like clockwork.  

It was on the market for $700,000 and made net profits each year of around $250,000.   

It seemed like the perfect example of a business that essentially ran itself.  And it was: In fact, the existing owner never baked a single item in this life!

5. Blog

This one is possibly my favorite business that runs itself.

As you can imagine, I have a lot of experience with this type of business (you are after all reading a blog).

I want to be clear that starting a new blog is not passive – it takes a lot of time and effort to write enough articles to get your blog off the ground and making money.

But once it’s done, the money comes in without you doing much at all.

You basically make money from ad revenue, so as long as people are visiting your site (and the ads fire up when they do), you will be getting checks each month. There are other ways to monetize your blog, such as affiliate marketing and sponsorships, but ads are the most passive way.

There are two ways to get a blog. You can buy an existing one that’s already making money or you can start one from scratch.

If you want to buy, check out online business marketplaces like Flippa, Empire Flippers, and FE International. 

Among the three, I really like Empire Flippers because they strike the perfect blend of high quality vetting (so you don’t see a bunch of scammy websites being sold) while still having a ton of profitable options to choose from.

They get a new batch of websites for sale each week (on Monday morning), so you can predictably see what’s new and jump on any great deals that are unveiled. I am an active user and love their service.

Like with many other businesses, you can see ROIs of well over 30% for a well monetized blog.

But unlike other businesses, it’s amazingly passive. There’s no storefront, no customers, no inventory, no orders, and no hassles.  

If you want to learn more about how to buy a blog and what to look out for, check out my detailed guide here

If you don’t have the money to buy a blog and would prefer to start one from the ground up, check out my article on How to Start a Blog From Scratch.

6. Print on Demand Business

A print on demand business is also a great, low maintenance, online business option.

In general, a print on demand business is one where you operate an online store that sells merchandise (things like t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, caps, mugs, tumblers, and so on) that has a logo, design or other feature that your supplier can “print” on to the product.

You provide the design and your supplier makes the finished product and ships it when an order comes in. This is low risk, because you don’t pay the supplier until the order comes in.

No need to worry about upfront inventory costs and the supplier handles all of the key operational burdens like production and delivery to the customer.

So it can be a super passive business.

If you want to learn more, check out my beginner’s guide on how to start a print on demand business.

7. Amazon FBA Business

Amazon FBA (which stands for Fulfillment by Amazon), is one of the most popular ways for making money on Amazon.

In essence, you are a seller of products on the Amazon platform.

I don’t need to explain why being a seller on Amazon can be a big advantage. They give you access to a massive customer base and you can leverage all of the branding and infrastructure that Amazon has in place already.

Here’s how Amazon FBA works.

You come up with the product (including finding a supplier and making sure it gets delivered to the Amazon warehouse).

Then the baton passes to Amazon to fulfill orders from customers for your product, hence the name fulfillment by Amazon. This include payment processing, storage and delivery, and the lion’s share of the customer support.

potential business.

So how do you make passive income through Amazon FBA?

Like with many online businesses, you will need to do a lot of work upfront, including finding the right product to sell, contacting manufacturers, making a great prototype, and arranging for production and shipping of the final product to the Amazon warehouse.

You will then have to create your product listing and make it attractive and compelling, so that people want to buy your product.

Now the business will not be 100% passive. There is some maintenance involved, like managing inventory and so on, but it can be a solid, semi-passive business.

To learn more on how to get started, check out Amazon’s FBA site to get a good intro to the topic.

8. EBook Business

If you’ve always dreamed on becoming an author, you can now do it easily and for free through self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP.

All you need to do is publish your book on that platform (it’s free) and you can get paid royalties from each sale. You will need to include a great cover, an engaging book description, and targeted keywords so that Amazon’s algorithm will have your book show up on the right searches.

What’s great is what once the book is written, you can enjoy passive income from the sales of that book for years to come. What a great self running business, especially when you factor in that you don’t need any money to start.

To learn more on how to do this, check out may full article on how to make money passively writing ebooks.

9. Online Course Creator

Another business that can run itself is an online course business.

The concept is simple. Everyone knows something about something. All you need to do is take your specialized knowledge and convert it into an online course that you can sell.

Getting started is straightforward.

Collect your thoughts on the topic and create an outline. If you know your topic well, you’ll quickly see the key areas that you need to cover. These can be modules or lessons. There may be sub-modules within them.

Once you have organized your thoughts, create a script, and convert that into an easy to follow series of videos. You can use free tools like canva.com to punch up your videos with graphics, images and the like. But all you really need is a phone to record yourself.

You can sell your online course on platforms like udemy.com, skillshare.com, kajabi.com, teachable.com and many others.

It’ll take effort to create the course, but once it is up and running, the business operates without much involvement on your part. Every time someone buys your course, you get paid.

They key is to find a niche that a lot of people haven’t targeted, but that is still large enough to generate meaningful sales.

10. YouTube

No discussion of online businesses can be complete without YouTube.

There are many monster YouTubers who started with nothing and are now making millions per year. Like with blogging, most of your revenue will likely come from ads.

The key is to make quality videos that people will find engaging or helpful. The better your engagement numbers, the more YouTube will promote your videos. More views means more ads, which translates to more money.

I run a YouTube channel (you can see one of my videos from that channel above), so I can say firsthand that it is possible to start a successful YouTube channel, even today.

For example, I only started earlier this year and already have more than 30,000 subscribers and one of my videos has collected more than 1.3 million views.

I know I sound like a broken record, but you will need to put in work in the beginning. But once you have a good stable of videos that are generating traffic, the money comes in like clockwork each month.

Now, you will need to “feed the beast” regularly (I try to make it as passive as possible, so only upload one video a month). That’s not too bad, in my view. But it is a numbers games, so the more videos you post, the more money you can make.

11. Vending Machine Route

Ok, let’s transition now to routes.

A vending machine route can be a terrific business that runs itself.

What’s a vending machine route? It is basically a business where you place a number of vending machines in high traffic locations and collect money from people who buy your products.

It can be largely passive because you do not need to be there when the purchase happens. People pass by, want a snickers, and put money into the machine in exchange for one.

Now, there are some pieces of the business that will require oversight by you. Vending machines need to be restocked and you need to collect coins and money from time to time.

But these functions can be outsourced.

This becomes easier and safer to do because of technology. You can buy newer machines that have modern payment readers (less bills and change to collect) and you can purchase inventory tracking software that tells you when you are running low on product. 

The software also keeps track of every penny that goes into the machine, so you can hire route runners without worrying so much about them skimming off the top.  

For more details on this business, check out my beginner’s guide on how to start a vending machine route for passive income.

12. ATM Machine Route

Similar to vending machines, an ATM route is a business where you place ATMs in well-trafficked locations. You make money by collecting a fee every time a customer makes a withdrawal from your ATM.  

What I like about this business is that it’s even easier to operate than a vending machine route.

There is only one type of inventory you need and that’s cash. And luckily, there are services that can restock your ATMs with cash for a fee.  

Want to learn more? Check out my beginner’s guide to ATMs for Passive Income.

13. FedEx Routes

Ok this type of route is a little different from a vending machine or ATM route. It is a delivery route for packages.

I am sure you have seen FedEx trucks delivering packages in your local area. Those trucks are not owned by FedEx. They are owned by regular people who have purchased a FedEx delivery territory and have the exclusive right to deliver FedEx packages within that territory.

You can make hundreds of thousands of dollars doing this. According to FedEx, the average FedEx route owner makes gross revenue of $2.3 million per year!

And you get the stability and prestige of partnering with FedEx, which is a nice bonus.

How is this highly intensive operation passive? In most cases, you have drivers and managers who handle all of the deliveries.

As you can imagine, most FedEx route owners aren’t suiting up and driving a truck. They have people who do that for them.

Want to learn more about how to get started? Check out my article on how to buy a FedEx Route in 5 Easy Steps.

14. Bread Route

Just like a FedEx route, you can buy a bread route that covers a designated territory. You will make money on bread sales within that territory. I am talking about selling well known brands like Pepperidge Farm and Arnolds to potentially huge retailers, like Target, Walmart and large grocery chains.  

Best of all, you can have drivers run these routes for you.  Many bread brands allow for (and encourage this). Once you have drivers making the bread deliveries, the business basically runs itself.  

To discover more about how to get started, check out my article on buying bread routes for passive income.

15. Rental Property Business

A rental property business is another business that can run itself.  

You can solve almost all of the day to day issues associated with operating a rental property business by just hiring a property manager. 

Property managers basically take care of everything from finding tenants, reviewing their applications, and signing them up. They will collect rents, make repairs, evict when necessary, and do all of the other little things that may pop up in between.

Of course, the key is to find rentals that will cash flow enough to support hiring a property manager (they charge roughly 10% of the rents), so it’s not a small fee.

But if you can find a good rental that will support that, then you should have very nice a self-running operation.

To find out more about rental property investing, check out my step-by-step guide to start investing in rental properties

16. Billboard Rental Business

I think you all know what a billboard is, so I won’t belabor the point.

If you own one (or several), you can renting out advertising space to local (or even national) businesses.

What’s nice is that a billboard is just there. No need to really do anything after you have rented it out, other than to collect your money.   

Of course, it’s not 100% passive.

You will need to oversee the business, including finding new customers who want to lease out billboard space from you when the current customer’s lease expires, etc., but day-to-day operations are pretty much non-existent.

Want to learn more about this business? Check out my article on how to get started in the billboard business.

17. Truck Rental Business

Did you know that you can buy semi-trucks (or even smaller vehicles, like box trucks, vans and even pick up trucks) and rent them out for profit?

There is a robust and established business model for doing this. If you want to go big, you can buy a semi-truck and rent it out on places like coop.com.

According to them, you can make thousands of dollars a month doing this. They have a revenue estimation tool and, according to that, if you rent out a tractor and trailer full time, they estimate that you can make $5890.31 per month!

Imagine you grow your business to multiple tractor trailers. You can start to make serious money from these vehicle rentals.

What I like about coop.com is that they are a Ryder company, so you will be working with a very established brand in the trucking marketplace.

This idea is a little off the beaten path, but really intriguing to me. To learn more on how to do this, check out my article on how to rent out your truck for profit.

Conclusion

So there you have it: 17 amazing businesses that can run themselves and some helpful tools on how to get started.

Hope you found this article useful and best of luck finding the perfect passive business for you!