11 Ways I made money on the side as a Student

11 ways to make money on the side
10 (+ 1) ways to make money on the side

As a graduate student, I spent a considerable amount of my time developing new skills, developing my network, working on side jobs, starting a couple of small businesses and growing my net worth.

As my education was sponsored by the state owning to merit, I did not have to worry about paying tuition. I commuted by public transport or by the family car, bought second hand books for core concepts, and used the university’s library to get the books on more advanced subjects and access their e-book counterparts. I also used my free membership as a govt. sponsored student to access the main library while I was writing my book.

Though you will find a few typical ways of making money as a student in this list, some of the other usual options have been eliminated. Living in a big city, with commuting time that takes up most of your energy coupled with the fact that I was a girl in my late teens and early twenties, I did not want to take up gigs or try out work models that would cause me to stay outdoors on an erratic schedule. Most of these side gigs are home based and can be taken up by anyone with some extra time in their hand or are simply developing a new business or revenue model. Some are campus based and can be eliminated if you are not a student.

Please note: This list does not follow any particular order but I’ve kept my favourite for the last.

Finding the time

Also, I will note here that we had classes 5-6 days a week and most of the side gigs like tutoring and freelancing were for the evenings or early mornings. Short term gigs and developing and trying out various business models (as well as practicing being patient) was for the vacations. I used some free lab time during on going experiments to work on my writing projects and for writing my e-book as well.

Related: 3 Hacks for instant Productivity

Need some money before the holidays? Or simply to boost your earnings in 2016? Some of the ways can be followed by any one looking to make some cash on the side.

1. Tutoring

This was the first side job that I had undertaking when I was in high school. Eventually, when I moved to a big city with my family and started college, this was naturally considered as the primary method of earning money on the side as a student. At 18 I did not know what to charge and as a result ended up under-charging because of the lack of regulation in this area and the fact that I was competing with “experienced” schoolteachers who tutored on the side.

After a couple of years of tutoring, I discontinued it as I was already working on freelance writing projects that demanded a lot of my time.  Without any plans of returning back to it, I eventually took up tutoring 2 high school students at the age of 22. Since, I was a graduate student at the time with nationally published stories, a book and a blog, I was in a position to “ask” for a nice little fee. They accepted and I chronicled how I negotiated one of the biggest deals of my life on this blog.

TIP: If you have aced an exam or have specific subject knowledge, you could start a batch for tutoring, hire other tutors or if space is a limiting factor, tutor online on sites like Tutor.com or make and sell courses on Udemy.

2. Writing e-books

This happened completely by accident. I was completely focused on seeing my writing in print during my teen years. Eventually, as a 19 year old, I was published in a national newspaper. They published my stories but did not pay for them. It was then I tried to look around ways to earn some money off my writing as well. And I came across e-book publishing. It was not yet so fired up like it is today.

You can simply use Google Docs to create an e-book and publish it as a PDF and make it available through your website or blog.

3. Science Writing/ Long term freelance projects

The editor of a well known newspaper came across my book, liked the way I had presented some scientific facts in simple terms and offered me a job writing simple news based science article for his new newsportal. I worked with him for over 2 years, later transitioning fully in to news writing and virtual assisting as well.

4. Freelance writing (Short term)

During vacations when I had more free time in my hands or even during classes, I took up minor writing gigs through Fiverr. Since I was a science student with a specialization in cytogenetics and genomics, I would write on core subjects like genetics, biotechnology, biochemistry and bioinformatics as I already had subject knowledge in those.

TIP: You can now actually package gigs and sell them at higher rates, for example, add a 100 words for an extra $5 or add research for an $10 etc.

Alternatively, you can directly pitch clients and ask for a higher rate depending on your skills and the industry you are planning to work with.

5. Selling old books

This one is pretty straightforward. I mostly bought pre used books as a college student. But I bought a lot of story books and novels as reading was a great way of relaxation for me. During my student years, the widespread shift occurred to e-books and (past 2-3 years) and big book stores started clearing off their stock at 70-80% off the marked price. I got some books at a great deal, read them, kept the ones I liked and sold off the rest at 30-45% of the marked price, making a clear profit. I had initially planned on starting a small book-lending business at home because my parents have an incredible collection of books, but I dropped the idea after planning the revenue model and organizing the repository due to problems with logistics.

TIP:  Have books? Make a list and circulate it in your campus (provided your school allows this) and make people sign up for memberships. Make sure you are not listing the books that are already available in the university library.

6. Reviewing Products

This happened by accident as well. I was working as a freelance writer at the time and I came across a popular beauty and fashion website that was looking for writers. Having no prior experience/ expertise/ knowledge in the beauty and fashion domain, I drew up a list of products I owned (luckily, I had under taken  a skincare haul a few weeks previously with some shopping vouchers I had received from a blog sponsor) and e-mailed them. They asked me to review a few products from my list. Once, I had submitted those, they apparently liked my writing well enough to provide me with a variety of writing projects and sent stuff free of charge to review. Best part was the fact that the price of some of the products was 45 times my per hour rate in general freelancing as well as my eventual, well paying first job as a post grad.

If you want to earn money reviewing products, you could search around some blogs and websites operating out of your country looking for reviewers.

7. Search Engine Evaluator

Some companies like Leapforce hire people to test out search engine performance. The application process might vary based on your geographical location but it’s pretty straight forward. I applied with my CV and was selected.  You can only work as an evaluator in a country you are citizen of or have lived for a considerable period of time. The task volumes, difficulty levels and intensity varies between projects. You might have to pass an exam to be eligible for a specific task. As per the rules of agreement, I cannot divulge more details on this one.

8. Spreadsheet Consulting/ Budget Management

While growing up and even as a college student, I mostly stayed at my grandparents’ home. My grandfather handed over the responsibility of managing his finances and his assets over to me, his eldest grandchild. I put the time I had spent learning about finance in to practice and made simple, practical tweaks to his financial set up to maximise income and assets to the best of my ability. Later on, I also started managing finances for my mother and sister.

TIP: If you are finance savvy, you could try out spreadsheet consulting, or basic budget management for people.

9. Virtual Assisting

I was asked to virtually assist on 2 of the sites I had started writing for. The tasks included content management, managing other writers, keeping a track on timely publishing etc. You can start with looking for virtual assisting jobs on sites like Elance, Upwork, and Freelancer.

10. Blogging

I kept my favourite for the last.

I started my first blog in 2012 and now I run 3 blogs on various platforms. Initially blogging was simply a way of expressing myself through words, now it has transcended in to a solid, revenue generating activity. I am well on the way of earning more than what my full time job paid at half the effort.

The usual ways of generating revenue from your blog can be through ad networks like adsense etc (WordPress sites run WordAds), sponsored posts, selling your own products etc. After starting your blog, you might want to figure out the best revenue model for yourself.

You can sign up with my bluehost link now and start a blog for as low as $3.95 a month, get a free domain, receive 24×7 support and a money back guarantee. It takes less than 10 minutes to get your blog running.


11. Using Swagbucks while browsing

This is one of the few legit sites where you can actually convert virtual currency in to real cash/ vouchers/ discount at several stores.  You do not have to do a lot here but you do need to “spend your time” doing certain tasks like filling out surveys, participating in polls, using Swagbucks for your online searches, watching videos etc. Some of the features might be disabled based on your geographical location. You can cash out your swagbucks through cash via Paypal or gift cards or store discounts. I prefer shopping vouchers. You can sign up for free through my link.

Collectively, these side gigs have helped me leave my well paying and secure job at the age of 24 and pursue my passions full time.

I have kept some of these side gigs as I am working on some major projects for 2016. I have plans of registering my own company as well.

Tell us how you’ve made money on the side ? Have you tried any of these before? We would love to hear from you in the comments.



Disclaimer: Some of the recommended links are affiliate links that I have tried out myself or have read rave reviews about them!

Author: Anya

Founder at The TechGirl Journal & The IDEA Bucket ; Anya lives in California while working in the field of Computational Genomics. TechGirl Journal is focussed on the lifestyle of a girl in STEM and tips on how to build a business and a career in tech with a focus on skill-development, interviews, internship, personal projects, and pet-peeves! The IDEA Bucket is focused on small business ventures and practical, urban lifestyles. For specific inquiries, you can e-mail: hello@techgirljournal.com

5 thoughts on “11 Ways I made money on the side as a Student

  1. Gee, after just writing some checks for home repair projects, you really got my attention. As a retiree who could use some extra income, your unusual suggestions certainly beat working in a hamburger joint.


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