When it comes to generating passive income, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Additionally, many guides or articles that give tips for creating multiple income streams are not geared towards young adults or students, and focus primarily on older demographics who earn full-time incomes.
However, when I was in college, I was always looking for new ways to make money as a student. I was also fascinated with various passive income ideas, and I found it frustrating that most of the resources I stumbled across were not feasible for students.
So, in order to help other young adults and students with similar financial goals, I’ve decided to break down some passive income ideas for students that have low barriers to entry and can actually produce some return.
Let’s get to it!
For more youth money making ideas, be sure to check out my post on money making ideas for teens as well!
1. Print On Demand Stores
One of the most popular beginner passive income models I come across on communities like passive income Reddit is to open a print on demand store.
‘Print on demand’ refers to a model in which the items you sell are manufactured on demand as your customers order them. This model is similar to dropshipping in that you never have to handle shipping or logistics, the main difference being that you are working with a third party manufacturer instead of suppliers already holding inventory.
Popular print on demand items include mugs, clothing, prints, or anything where you can upload a graphic to a product and market it.
I started an Etsy POD shop while in college to test out the concept, and was actually able to sell some stupid Spongebob mugs by marketing them organically on Instagram.
POD stores aren’t limited to Etsy, however.
Starting a print on demand business will require a lot of upfront work, but you can turn it into a passive income stream over time as your store gains reviews and you grow a social media following for your brand.
Extra Reading – 8 Etsy Alternatives To Power Your Online Store.
2. Use Passive Income Apps & Websites
The main way I made passive income in college was by using data collection apps and websites to generate small amounts of cash every single day.
At the time, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest, but I still wanted to create a system that could at least earn me beermoney every single month.
I ended up getting involved with phone farming, and amassed a small farm of burner phones that watched ads all day to earn me upwards of $50 a month. It wasn’t breaking the bank, but it was something.
Even if you can just make gas money by using your phone and laptop, this is a great beginner passive income idea that anyone can start (providing you live in North America, the U.K, Australia, or countries that support the apps I’m about to mention).
Some passive income apps you can turn to include:
S`mores Lockscreen App – earn $0.10/day or more for having the app installed on your lockscreen (Android only).
Mobile Performance Meter – earn $0.10-$0.30/day for having the app run in the background of your phone (Android only).
MobileXpression – receive $5-$10/month for running this app in the background (Android only).
If you combine all of these free apps, you can easily make $20-$40 in passive income or cash back every month without any effort. As long as you’re comfortable with selling your data, there’s no reason to miss out in hundreds of dollars a year in potential cash.
3. Invest In Real Estate
While investing in real estate is a popular suggestion for diversifying one’s income, it’s rarely mentioned as a viable way to make passive income in college.
There are a variety of ways to invest money in real estate, including real estate crowdfunding or putting your money in REITs (real estate investment trusts, which is basically a mutual fund but for real estate).
Additionally, while many mutual funds or ETFs can have high minimum investment amounts that are possibly out of the range for most students, many real estate platforms have lower requirements.
You’ll have to be 18 years or older to invest on your own, but this should be no problem for college students. If you’re still a minor, you can ask your parents to open a custodial account for you which you will gain access to upon becoming an adult.
Keep in mind, you should always do your research when deciding to invest and you should never invest more than you can afford to lose or if you will need access to your funds in the near future!
4. Start A Blog
Outside of attending more of my classes, the one thing I would have changed about my college career if I could go back in time would be to start my own blog sooner.
The thing about passive income is that it generally requires significant upfront effort to generate long-term results. However, if there’s one thing many college students have, it’s spare time.
I mean let’s face it, if you aren’t studying a STEM program you probably have some time to kill. I studied Psychology, so college was a 4 year vacation for me in a lot of ways, but I only started blogging in my third year.
Starting a blog is a great way to learn new skills, expand your network, and to gradually earn income. It’s feasible to create a blog that earns $100/month with just a few months of work, and as your online income grows, you can begin to outsource various tasks to slowly make this process passive.
Starting a blog is also a relatively cheap endeavor as you only have to pay for web hosting, a domain name, and possibly a premium WordPress theme. If you take this side hustle seriously, there’s no reason you can’t recoup your initial investment or turn a profit within a year.
Extra Reading – 45 Blog Niche Ideas – How To Choose Your Blog Topic.
5. Sell Courses
It might seem strange to sell courses to people while simultaneously spending most of your day in lecture halls, but I firmly believe that there is a lack of content creation by young adults and plenty of room to excel in the market.
If you’re particularly skilled in something, you can probably make money teaching other people.
Platforms like Udemy have made it incredibly easy to design, package, and sell courses, and while this student passive income idea requires upfront work, once a course is done, it’s done.
You also don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make a course: check out this one on college survival I found on Udemy:
The course has been purchased at least 36 times, and there are plenty of other niches where students could share their experiences and create a course.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to finding ways to make more money.
6. Sell Study Material & Textbooks
Ethics aside, this was one of the easiest money makers I found during college, and was truly a great way to make $50-$100 a semester without any effort.
If you have electronic textbooks, test banks, or notes, you can sell them to students who are about to take the course you just completed.
I bought textbook PDFs for $10 and then resold them for $10, and usually broke even or turned a profit for each course. All it took was setting up an alert on local classifieds for each course code and to periodically check my college Facebook group for requests. Easy grocery money every single semester!
I never sold test banks, but I know people who did and they made very good money.
This is definitely a questionable side hustle, but I’d rather supply my fellow students with a $10 PDF than have everyone buy a $300 edition from the bookstore. That’s my logic, anyways.
7. Rent Out Assets
When I lived with a bunch of friends in college, we never had enough room to park at our house.
Eventually, we found a house in our neighborhood that was willing to rent out their driveway to us for $30-$40 a month. They didn’t have a car in their house so for them, it was the easiest couple of hundred bucks they ever made.
If you have a valuable asset you don’t use, you can find a way to rent it for passive income.
Websites like Spot Hero make it easy to rent out unused parking spots, but you don’t have to draw the line at parking.
If your house is nice enough or has some space, you can use AirBnB to rent out a room if your city has major events going on (just don’t let your landlord know). You can also consider platforms like Neighbor and rent out spare space in your home for people to store their items.
If utilizing your house as an asset isn’t feasible, you can also use websites like Lonables.com to list items you own for rent. Party equipment, bikes, music gear/amps, and a variety of other items are frequently listed on these marketplaces, so there’s plenty of opportunity!
Extra reading – 16 Assets You Can Rent Out For Passive Income.
8. Rent Out Bandwidth
I’ve covered how you can sell your unused internet bandwidth for cash before, and while this is an incredibly sketchy money making idea, it’s the sort of thing I would have done back in college to make some side money.
These platforms primarily operate as CDNs or VPNs and allow other users to be served content or use the internet from your IP address.
While efforts are made to restrict the sorts of activities people can do through your IP address, I personally wouldn’t run these sorts of platforms on my home computer…but on a school network or in a massive student house, perhaps it’s alright to dabble.
9. Start A Business…And Franchise!
I’m going to share a pretty cool story from 2 students who actually graduated from the same school as me.
In 2015, 2 students from my town started Canadian Barbecue Boys, a BBQ cleaning service in which people can have their barbecues serviced and cleaned to function as if they were brand new.
After generating some press coverage, the company was actually featured on Dragons Den, the Canadian equivalent of Shark Tank, and the entrepreneurial duo even secured a deal.
Fast forward to today, and Canadian Barbecue Boys has grown by 400% and expanded all across Southern Ontario. The company now hires college students to run the BBQ cleaning service in new areas of operation, and I imagine this has been a fundamental part of their rapid growth.
I know other business models/college friends who have done something similar. Someone I know worked throughout school as a district manager for a window washing company, which implemented the exact same strategy: establish proof of concept, grind to get a business off the ground, and then outsource the work and keep some of the profits.
I imagine the owners of Canadian Barbecue Boys are still quite busy, but you get the idea: you can start a business and grow your revenue through outsourcing.
This isn’t the purest form of passive income by any means, but it has the potential to be (as well as the potential to change your life).
10. Start A YouTube Channel
Despite what you might think, it is possible to make money with YouTube in 2020.
Plus, YouTube is a great option for passive income for college students. In fact, my friend Ben (who we’ve featured on This Online World before) actually paid off a significant amount of his student loan debt thanks to his YouTube channel!
YouTube isn’t a fast money maker, granted. However, it is a viable passive income idea for students if you have a fair amount of spare time on your hands and are willing to put in many months (or years) of work.
I started a YouTube channel recently, and it is hard work. However, you can grow steadily if you regularly put out videos and promote your channel.
Plus, starting a YouTube channel will teach you how to shoot and edit videos, as well as how to get into digital media and, possibly, affiliate marketing. Not bad lessons from a potential passive income source.
Creating any sort of income stream is going to require upfront work. You either need to work to earn capital that can be invested, or you need to rely on sweat equity.
However, you don’t have to wait until you have a full-time income or are older to start diversifying your income. It is possible to make passive income as a student, and while you might not make thousands of dollars right out of the gate, the power of compound interest and time are on your side.
So, I hope this list of passive income ideas for students has helped provide some inspiration to get started! It might be a grind, and the results will take a while to kick in, but the effort is certainly worth it.
For additional reading, I also suggest taking a look at this post on how to pay no tax on your passive income.
You can also checkout my recent YouTube video on different passive income ideas for beginners:
Lots of the ideas in this video were ways I actually made passive income as a student, so be sure to give this one a watch (and to subscribe to the channel 😉 ).
Catch you guys in the next one!
Tom is a 23 year old recent college graduate from Canada with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and marketing. 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 visit Tom Blake Digital to get in touch!