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Making Money in College A Guide to Side Hustles for Students

College isn’t cheap, but sometimes working a traditional job doesn’t fit in to a busy student’s schedule. Side hustles – short-term work you can do in your spare time – are perfect for college students. Learn how you can leverage side hustles to put a little extra cash in your pocket and ease the burden of being a starving college student.

Meet the Experts

Anna Segova Communications Manager at 2hats
Crystal Peterson Brand Designer & Calligrapher
Ryan Barone Freelance Writer

10 Best Online Side Hustles

The online gig economy, through the Internet and mobile apps, offers opportunities for you to shore up your bank account. Instead of being a starving college student eating Top Ramen every night, take advantage of these flexible side hustles to put a real plate of dinner on the table.

  • Sell your stuff

    Whether you have a vintage record collection or way too many Nikes, you can sell some of your stuff on sales and auction sites (Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, eBay) or through smaller, niche providers. Smaller sites may target specific items, ranging from clothing (Poshmark) to electronics (Gazelle). Before starting, consider what you’re selling and the fees charged by each site. For example, eBay charges 10% of the final sale value (up to $750).

  • Take online surveys

    Companies love market data. After registering with a survey provider, you build a profile that’s matched to consumer surveys. By completing surveys, you earn points that can be redeemed for cash via PayPal or an online gift card. Popular online survey companies include Survey Junkie, MintVine, Toluna and Nielsen Digital Voice.

  • Do data entry work

    It may not be glamorous, but data entry is an in-demand option for students looking to earn cash from their dorm room. You can register for free with companies such as The Smart Crowd, Clickworker or DionData Solutions and sign-up for various tasks. Examples include data categorization, updating consumer information and proofreading.

  • Become a web searcher

    Web searching options vary, from becoming a social media evaluator with Appen to a search engine evaluator with Leapforce. These types of roles generally require you to monitor companies’ social media accounts and provide feedback on search engine results.

  • Get paid to go shopping

    If you prefer virtual stores to the mall, then online shopping with Bing Rewards, Swagbucks and Qmee.com could be right for you. Registering is free and tasks can include comparison shopping or providing consumer feedback. As you participate, you earn cash rewards that can be redeemed via PayPal.

  • Serve as a virtual assistant

    If you have a knack for organization, then serving as a virtual assistant could be a solid side hustle. Virtual assistants may handle tasks such as email management, calendars and coordinating travel. These side jobs can be found on freelance networks (PeoplePerHour.com) and on professional virtual assistant sites (VA Networking, Virtual).

  • Sell old textbooks

    Textbooks are expensive and usually don’t have a shelf-life after you leave college. Turn those old books into cash by selling via online providers like TextBookRush, Chegg, BookScouter and Cash4Books. After registering, you enter the book’s ISBN, get a price quote, sell it and ship it using free shipping labels from the vendors.

  • Review apps and websites

    College students can make a little money by writing app reviews and participating in focus groups through sites such as Apperwall and UserTesting.com. Apperwall has users download and use apps for a specific period of time so they can write a short review. For each approved review, Apperwall adds a reward into your account that can be redeemed via PayPal.

  • Rent out your parking space

    Students in busy cities such as San Francisco or Chicago know parking is a premium. You can leverage your parking spot by renting it out whenever you don’t need it through sites such as SpotHero and Parking Panda. These sites match drivers who are looking for parking with your parking spot through their mobile apps.

  • Be a translator

    If you can fluently speak another language, you can use your skill to earn some cash. You can find translator jobs through sites such as UpWork, Translators Café and Gengo. Translation services typically require you to pass a test before you can get matched to or approved for a job. Rates may vary by language, length and type of project.

10 Best Offline Side Hustles

Side hustles aren’t just in the virtual world. You can also earn some cash for in-person services, from driving in between classes to house sitting.

  • Drive for a ride-sharing service

    Ride-sharing has become a big, thriving industry. As a driver, you’d pick up passengers anytime you can – in between classes, on the weekend, only on certain days – and simply log out when you aren’t available. Popular ride-sharing services include Uber and Lyft. You must meet specified driving requirements, carry proper insurance and only use the app to pick-up riders.

  • Do tasks for others

    If you love checking things off on a to-do list, you can use TaskRabbit to take on side jobs in the gig economy. Through the app, you sign up to become a “Tasker”, select a local job and complete the assigned task. Tasks are diverse and can range from shopping to wall-mounting someone’s TV to yard work.

  • Be a tutor

    If you’re an expert at something, you may want to look in to tutoring others as a potential side hustle. Most sites such as Wyzant, Chegg Tutor and PopExpert require an application for approval. Once approved, you can locate tutoring jobs in your area of expertise, whether history, math or zoology.

  • Sell your photographs

    If photography is your passion, you can take your snapshots and upload them to crowdsourcing photo companies such as Foap and Scoopshot. Approved photographers can be hired via the sites or have their individual pictures offered for sale.

  • Get paid to stay healthy

    If you enjoy working out and staying fit, then you can earn cash through sites like Pact and Achievement. These apps track your behaviors and provide rewards based on healthy activities. Pay varies based on the number of activities you complete or studies you participate in through the apps.

  • Deliver food to hungry people

    Much like ride-sharing, food delivery has become a big thing, especially on college campuses. You can sign-up to become a delivery driver for companies such as Uber (Uber Eats), Postmates, Favor and Deliv. Using your own car, you set your own schedule to complete deliveries. Pay varies based on the task, delivery miles and tips.

  • Look after someone else’s pets

    Love animals? Then make some cash for loving them. Sites such as Rover and TaskRabbit provide animal sitting, walking and day care opportunities in your local area. Pay varies by service. For example, Rover allows you to set your own rates, but keeps 20% of the pay for operational service fees.

  • Babysit

    If kids are more your thing than pets, you can babysit. Babysitting and child care is always in demand, which makes it a great side hustle for students. Most companies require a background check and first aid certification before you can work for them. Jobs can be found via sites and apps such as Bubble, UrbanSitter and SitterCity.

  • Take care of lawns or fix things

    From providing lawn care via Lawn Love to completing jobs around the house on HandyPro, you can use your mowing or carpentry skills to earn some extra cash. After signing up, you can select from jobs in your local area and get paid on a per project basis. These opportunities typically require you to have experience and/or your own equipment.

  • Help others move

    Turn your sweat equity into real equity by signing up for moving services such as Dolly or Lugg. Pay is based on the move, but you can set your schedule and get paid regularly. From moving furniture to taking donations to local charities, you can earn money by helping people out.

Top Freelancing Gigs

For many, a side hustle is a one-time thing that helps turn a quick profit. However, side hustles can also be used to develop skills for a career after graduation. Our three experts all turned their side hustles into a professional future and now offer insight on how you can do the same.

“Find a side hustle that makes you grow,” says communications manager Anna Sagova. Crystal Petersen, a brand designer, agrees. “Although driving for Uber is a quick financial win,” she notes, “it doesn’t provide the depth of experience that can translate to full-time career opportunities.”

Here are five side hustles that lend themselves to long-term employment growth.

Graphic design is an industry that relies heavily on the side hustle. Crystal Peterson started hustling as a graphic designer while in college at the University of Georgia. “While I was an undergraduate, I helped pay for educational expenses by selling my graphic design services to people I knew. I would take anything from a $25 business card design to $200 logo for a friend I met through Facebook.”

Sites like Etsy, 99 Designs and Café Press allow side hustling designers to sell their services and designs. Petersen recommends also setting up a professional profile on Upwork. “There are always clients in search of someone to help them with graphic design,” she says.

Quality written content is needed everywhere, making writing a solid side hustle to explore. Ryan Barone earned more than $20,000 as a freelance writer while an undergraduate at Santa Clara University. “Writing was something I could sign up for and start in a single day. After researching, I found several areas where I could win freelancing jobs, even without professional experience,” he says.

Sites like Freelancer, Guru and PeoplePerHour connect freelancers with writing jobs. However, like Petersen, Barone recommends Upwork. “I gravitated towards Elance (now Upwork). It was the most user-friendly option and has a structure that allows writers to find jobs. You can also receive feedback and build credibility,” he notes.

Marketing is a broad industry with great side hustle potential. Anna Segova started hustling in marketing while in college, which allowed her to build a portfolio and establish relationships with real-life clients. “The challenge,” she shares, “is finding well-paying gigs.” Unlike Petersen and Barone, Segova focused on offline interpersonal relationships to find clients.

“Outsourcing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr were not the right fit more me. I kept looking for more serious clients, which was challenging at first, but in the long run, worth it.”

Sites like Upwork, Small Business Directions and LinkedIn Profinder post a range of marketing jobs, from social media to copywriting.

Sites like Wix, WordPress and Squarespace make launching a blog easy. You can bring in cash through affiliate marketing links on your blog and reach a broader audience by cross-posting on sites like Facebook and Medium.

Programming is a hot industry with an unquenchable thirst for talent, professionally trained or not. There are numerous freelancing sites that connect coders and programmers with people seeking those services. Rent-A-Coderr, Codeable and Toptal are just a few examples.

Benefits of the Hustle

The obvious benefit of a side hustle is earning extra cash, but our experts say their side hustles provided much more than that in the long run.

  • You build a professional network while in college

    A side hustle can open future doors through industry contacts, says Barone. “By providing value while freelancing, it allowed me to build a network for steady freelance jobs down the road.”

  • You gain broader skills and knowledge

    Developing book-based knowledge in college is good, but so is getting professional, real world experience, says Segova. “I developed broader confidence, skills and knowledge that were one less narrow than the skills and knowledge taught at my university,” she explains.

  • You get a crash course in market and industry standards

    A side hustle throws you into the real working world, which means you have to quickly learn how to navigate it. Doing so can prepare you for life outside of college and, even better, a full-time career. “Without my side hustle experience in college,” says Petersen, “I would have to learn those lessons later, with higher stakes, and it would have taken me much longer to start my business.”