Let’s face it: college life can be hard.
Between the high cost of tuition, living expenses, stupidly priced textbooks, and the desire to still have a social life, saving money or having any breathing room in the budget can be incredibly difficult.
However, regardless of if you’re using student loans, grants/scholarships, or your own savings to pay for tuition, I believe there is tremendous value in starting a college side hustle in order to make money in college.
Outside of saving money as a student, figuring out ways to make money can help lessen the burden of student loans and make life slightly more manageable.
I was lucky enough to have paid internships during my time as a student as well as some pretty successful side hustles. But, as a recent graduate, I still live quite frugally and understand the importance of finding ways to make extra income when money is tight that actually work.
So, if you have ever wondered how to make money in college, this is the post for you!
Time to break down the 7 college side hustles I used to earn over $20,000 while I was a student, as well as some other effective ways to earn money in college.
Let’s get to it!
The Best Side Hustles To Make Money In College
It doesn’t matter if your college side hustle just buys your next grocery trip or ends up paying your tuition; every little bit counts!
Below, you’ll find the 7 ways I made money during school plus some other ideas to get inspired.
1. Selling Textbook PDFs
Now, for the most part, I agree with taking the moral high ground. After all, 2 wrongs (usually) don’t make a right.
But here’s the thing: textbook companies are absolute crooks.
They create overpriced content, revise textbook editions annually with insignificant changes, and partner with professors so that students are forced into buying hardcover books every year at extortionate prices.
Plus, since the textbook you purchased 1 semester ago will be revised in 4 months, you’ll probably end up doing this with your used books:
If you are currently a student never buy a brand new textbook.
In my first year of college, I made the foolish mistake of listening to my professor, and marched down to the book store to buy a $80 economics textbook (that my professor conveniently co-authored) that attempted to explain economic theory through dinner party themed analogies.
Needless to say, I didn’t open the book once.
PDFs or online versions are really your best friend.
They’re cheap, you can often find ways to download textbooks for free on Reddit, and you can resell PDF textbooks an unlimited number of times.
Once you’ve acquired a PDF, post offerings on your college buy and sell social media groups or marketplace. A single sale at $10/PDF will usually allow you to break even. Any additional sales will result in profit.
Plus, PDF textbooks can be resold for several consecutive semesters until curriculum drastically changes. This brings some longevity to your textbook flipping operation.
You can also try selling your old textbooks on websites like Abebooks (or buying cheap ones you need for upcoming classes here)
Total side hustle income: $300.
2. SEO Consulting
The importance of SEO, content marketing, and overall more effective digital marketing practices is only growing as the world becomes a more competitive place.
In college, a friend and I started to dabble in SEO consulting, social media management, and the world of digital marketing.
We started a business together, and we actually ditched content writing and social media management pretty quickly since all of the money was in SEO and paid advertising.
During college, we booked some consulting work with a single client and spent time improving their local SEO profile, integrating analytics to the website, getting the website indexed, and improving overall website performance.
It was one SEO gig, but hey, for 2 guys just trying to make money to pay the bills it was pretty solid.
I think this particular college side hustle proves that you shouldn’t be afraid to start your own business/provide a service, even when in school.
Cut lawns, manage social media accounts, paint houses, edit assignments…choose something and run with it!
SEO consulting income: $250
Total side hustle income: $550.
Extra Reading – Make Money Selling Your Advice.
3. Phone Farming
I’ve been phone farming since September of last year, and my operation began with a humble start: 2 cheap LG phones.
During my first 2 months of phone farming, I spent time learning which apps paid the most, what data collection apps earned passive income, and how Canadian phone farming even worked.
I barely earned anything during this period, but it was a fun project to start and I enjoyed the process of meticulously tracking my earnings and comparing phone farming apps.
Over the next few months I slowly gathered phones from friends or purchased phones from Amazon with my accumulated earnings.
Eventually, I ran 7-9 phones pulled in between $30-$50/month.
Since September 2017, I’ve earned roughly $600 from my phone farming project.
While this money making idea doesn’t work as well anymore, I think it’s a testament to the fact that you can get creative when finding ways to make money in college.
Phone farming income: $600.
Total side hustle income: $1,150.
4. Placing in a Marketing Competition
During one of my marketing lectures, my Professor mentioned that there was a competition called Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec that was open to Canadian university students.
He also mentioned that the competition awarded prizes to top competitors, networking opportunities, and the chance to land some rather impressive internships or full-time jobs.
Upon heading home, I decided to look into the contest. The gist of it was to create a marketing plan for Canadian Tire.
The competition was segmented into 3 phases.
In phase 1, participants were required to submit their marketing proposal. The top 25 teams would then make it to phase 2, and have the opportunity to expand their marketing proposal into a more elaborate document for the judges to critique.
The top 25 teams also earned $1,000 in Canadian Tire gift cards. In phase 3, the top 15 teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges and industry members in Toronto for a chance to win $30,000.
Surprisingly, fewer than 200 teams seem to enter the competition annually.
So, as I sat there reading the competition requirements, it soon dawned on me that I would only have to place in the top 10%-25% percent depending on how many teams entered to make $1,000.
Anyway, I spent 2 hours working on my marketing proposal after some brainstorming and submitted it without a team member.
Weeks later, I got a phone call saying I had made it to the next round and had earned $1,000.
Unfortunately, my final marketing proposal didn’t make the cut for top 15, but overall, the competition was enjoyable.
Plus, I was able to earn a handy sum in gift cards, which have allowed me to actually furnish my apartment and not subsist in squalor like some Neanderthal.
Here is the main take away from this side hustle: seek out competitions or scholarships you are eligible for.
Everyone knows about scholarships or the chance to win prize money, but very few people are actually willing to put in the time and effort to apply. Additionally, people miss deadlines, forget, or aren’t qualified for everything…competition pools can be incredibly small.
If you’re a student, actively look for opportunities to show off your skills or knowledge to win money. Competitions and scholarships are one of the easiest ways to make extra money in college, and they’re also a great way to expand your network and learn.
Marketing competition side hustle income: $1,000
Total side hustle income: $2,150.
5. Content Writing and Making Money on Medium
I’ve preached about the benefits of freelance writing many times on This Online World.
Personally, I enjoy writing, and making money online as a freelance writer has been a way I’ve make extra money in college.
I’ve written blog posts for people, edited articles, and created my own content on Medium to accomplish this. While the income hasn’t changed my life, every bit counts.
Freelance writing gigs have netted me roughly $500 over my college career, and Medium is set to cross the $200 this upcoming month:
Freelance writing + writing on Medium side hustling: Roughly $725
Total side hustle income: $2,875.
Extra reading – 32 remote job websites to find your first freelancing gig!
6. Starting A Blog
When I started This Online World in my third year of college, I had a goal of monetization.
However, even a simple $100-$200 a month can make a massive difference when you’re a student. This is grocery or gas money, utility bills, or the chance to do something fun without feeling a nagging sense of guilt.
Starting a blog isn’t just an effective way to make money as a college student either.
It’s also an incredible opportunity to learn new skills, network, and begin to diversify your income.
If you want to become a more skilled writer, learn how to actually build and manager a website, and discover new marketing techniques, I’d highly suggest blogging.
It’s essentially like running your own online business, and the rewards can certainly be worth it even if you don’t make a dime!
Blogging income: $1,761
Total side hustle income: $4,636.
EDIT: It’s been more than two years since I’ve graduated college, but I wanted to update this post with a quick blogging update to help get other students inspired to start their own blogs!
If you checkout my 2020 blog income report, you’ll see that I made over $22,000 from blogging in 2020!
This Online World now gets more than a half-million readers per year, has let me live as a digital nomad, and now helps pay for a ton of my living expenses!
Ultimately, this shows the sheer power of what a college side hustle can turn into in the future, so never be afraid of starting something. You never know where you’ll end up, after all.
7. Search Engine Marketing
In my second year of college, I landed a summer internship at a search engine marketing company. Following my internship term, I was also able to work remotely for the company while completing my degree.
No in office work or meetings; a laptop and a cup of coffee were the only things I needed to complete my contract work in the early mornings before lectures.
I am definitely fortunate to have been able to work remotely while remaining in school, and ultimately, search engine marketing has been my most successful ‘side hustle.’
By working remotely, I have been able to pay for pretty much all of my tuition.
Granted, this is over the course of 2 years of contract work, but as a student, it was a great way to pay for school, gain experience, and make some connections.
I definitely had my share of stressful times balancing contract work, school, a job as a barista, and everyday life. However, by juggling a myriad of projects, you do learn to prioritize, work efficiently, and tackle what actually matters.
Anyway, I think the main message behind this side hustle is as follows:
Don’t be afraid to reach out to employers for part-time work or ‘soft starts.’
Businesses don’t want to waste money on training and on-boarding, only to realize you don’t quite fit the company vibe or expectations. Working part time for a previous employer as a student actually makes a lot of sense.
Even if you’re in school, don’t be afraid to apply for internships or seek part-time/remote work with companies!
Search Engine Marketing Work: Tuition.
Total side hustle income: $4,636 + tuition.
Extra Reading – The 8 Best Skills You Can Sell Online.
Other College Side Hustle Ideas
There is a world of opportunity out there. I made money using the 7 methods I outlined, but there are plenty of other ways to make money as a college student.
Some realistic ideas that come to mind include:
- Finding a campus job – these normally pay competitively but have flexible students to accommodate students.
- Turning to the gig economy – from delivering food to walking dogs, there are so many ways to make money by providing services.
- Taking part in research studies – many college research groups are willing to pay students to take part in their trials.
- Babysitting – if you’re going to stay up late cramming for an exam, you might as well be getting paid to do it while the kid you’re paid to watch is asleep.
- Tutoring others – younger students are always in need of assistance, so you can probably find a side job helping out with classes you previously completed. You can read our post on online tutoring jobs for college students for more information!
- Selling Notes Online – Sell your college notes to other students for some easy passive income!
- Micro task websites – while this isn’t my favorite option, you can use micro job websites to make some beermoney every month.
- Make money on YouTube – My new YouTube channel earned about $4,000 in 2020, but you never know how far your channel will go with just one viral video!
- Try driving apps that pay if you have access to a vehicle.
- Making money by doing homework for cash.
You can also checkout my YouTube channel for even more ways to make money or save money!
Extra Reading – 8 Ways To Make $20k Fast.
At the end of the day, side hustling is really more than just income supplementation. It’s a way to test your skills, throw a bunch of ideas against a wall, and see what sticks.
I chose a few side hustles to start throughout college.
Most of them didn’t go further than adding a few hundred bucks to my bank account. However, even if an idea doesn’t immediately change your life, they can often open new doors.
That’s the beauty of side hustling: you never really know where you’ll end up.
I started this blog to make some grocery money, and almost 2 years later, I’m now earning anywhere from $500-$1,000 a month from blogging. The same can happen for any business you start.
As long as you start taking actionable steps towards you goals and stick to your plan, you can succeed.
Student life can be tough, but hopefully some of the college side hustle ideas have inspired you to take action!
Thanks for reading!
Tom is a full-time blogger and freelance writer with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and the gig economy. His work has appeared on dozens of personal finance websites like Money Crashers, The College Investor, Investor Junkie, and more. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
If you’re interested in freelance writing services or want to partner with This Online World, please use our contact page to get in touch!