A side hustle, side business, income stream, call it what you want, but students often have the same question: How can I make more money?
The student income pinch is tough, and if you’ve taken out debt for schools (or if you’re trying to avoid it) you feel the pressure of making some extra income.
If you’re looking for a business you can start on the side while studying, here are some ideas. These side hustles for college students are totally possible.
NOTE- As always, I must say that earning money can be risky if you’re an international student. It’s up to you to figure out whether running one of these side hustles will interfere with your visa or not.
This post may contain links to affiliate products, which–if you choose to purchase–pay us a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to support our work. We only promote products we’ve used and love.
1. Writing Content or Copy
Move over Hemingway, because there’s a new type of writer in town. Believe it or not, writers are in high demand, and really good ones can command a lot of money!
If you are solid writer, you might be able to make a living writing content or copy. Your main target will probably be websites, although there are still occasionally gigs for print publications (Lol right?).
But for the purpose of this post, I’m going to assume that most opportunities to make some extra cash writing are going to come online.
What you need to start a writing business online
The truth is, you need to be a damn good writer. And the second truth is, most people aren’t.
I’m not talking about the type of writing you do for school, in our civilization a ton of people can do that. But somebody who can write solid copy or content in a voice people want to read is a rare find.
You’ll need to refine your skills, and keep refining. Try taking courses in Copywriting, since it’s a very specific discipline. Learn to unleash your voice onto the page and–if you can get good at it–the world will reward you.
Try to find opportunities to write (yeah, the first ones might be free) to start building a portfolio.
And, if you’ve got a SkillShare account, there are some great courses there too. Start with Copywriting For Beginners: How To Write Web Copy That Sells Without Being Cheesy
A few books that also might help inspire you to flex your copywriting or content brain:
Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
And after you have some work together, get a profile on Upwork. You may have to set your prices fairly low to get your first few jobs, but once you do, you can raise your rates. A good writer can make $40 to $60 an hour.
2. Local Marketing Consultant
The world is going digital, and local businesses have jumped ahead by leaps and bounds – especially in the pandemic.
But many business owners are still far from savvy when it comes to digital marketing, which is where you might come in. If you already hang out on Twitter or Instagram all day, you have some basic skills. It might be time to add a little bit of knowledge, say in Facebook advertising or search engine optimization.
Learn how to get local businesses in front of people, and you can make coin from it.
If you can get results for businesses, they will gladly pay for it!
The principles are pretty simple, but not a lot of local businesses are doing it. Running a Facebook promotion with 50% off a local restaurant would provide a huge return. Creating a video ad that tells the story of a local coffee roaster would inspire and excite.
But so few local business are doing this. Which is why it’s a HUGE area of opportunity for marketers.
How to get started as a marketing consultant
You could just “hang out a shingle.” That’s old-timey speak for “tell people you do this shit.”
The more obvious way might be to volunteer your services at first. Approach to local business and offer to run their social strategy for free at first, on the condition that, if they see a bump in interest in traffic, they have to hire you for real! I know it’s SUPER SCARY to put yourself out there, but it will be totally worth it if you get a great client to work with.
The obvious thing you should do is keep growing your skills and knowledge: take courses, create practice accounts, spend the time to build this muscle so you can put it to work.
I know that Consulting is a notoriously fuzzy word. The truth is, that fuzziness is beautiful.
Because at the heart of it, consulting is just somebody hiring you to help them. It might be for a few hours, or for a few months. You might charge by the hour, by the day, or–whats best IMHO–by the project.
And the thing you do, well that can be anything too.
The easiest way to get started, especially if you are still a student, it’s probably to take stock of what you already know.
- If you are great at lab work, and you are probably looking to input on some company’s lab processes or to provide new research capacity.
- If you’re an engineer, you’re looking for a company that needs an engineer for a few hours but not full time.
- If you are social science grad, you might look for companies that you could design research project for. This could include public opinion pollsters, that new productivity app that needs input, or a local company that’s collecting data and needs to know how to do it.
- If you are humanities grad like me, look for research and policy work. Or, writing and editing.
But don’t let this limit you. You can consult on anything a company thinks you might be worth hiring for. I’d keep an open mind.
How to get your consulting business started
A consulting biz doesn’t fall out of the sky. Consulting usually starts with networking, although the rise of Upwork means that you can create a profile, even if you are specialized, and try to connect to companies that need your services.
Have a look, you might be surprised..
In my own Consulting work, I’ve written millions in grant proposals, run research projects, and done program evaluation. I’ve interviewed people, and was all set to run an international policy project when COVID shut it down :(.
Consulting doesn’t have to be a scary concept. But the only way that you can possibly do it, if you put yourself out there and meet people. It’s hard to explain, but you have a lot more to offer than you think you do.
And now, a quick word from our sponsors… I can’t write about consulting without mentioning Freshbooks. It’s super simple to use and in 10 minutes you can be up, running, and sending pro invoices. If you’re just starting out, use it. You can even try it out for free for two months.
It might seem obvious, but if you are well-educated and have area specialty, and know how to teach, you might make a great tutor. Tutors are in high demand, and since the readers of Roostervane are highly educated and often have teaching experience, y’all might make good tutors.
How to become an online tutor
The personal tutor market is booming right now, led by websites that facilitate the connection. There’s a great list of tutoring websites here. For most of them, all you have to do is sign up, and they take care of the rest. It’s a perfect side hustle.
5. Start a Blog or Channel
In general, I think starting a blog or YouTube channel is definitely the slow lane to wealth. I’m all for it, and I’ve written guides on how to do it. (Ummmmm, it’s also what I’m doing now!) You can make a lot of money. But it usually takes time.
I started Roostervane with BlueHost which is a great blog host for starting out with.
If you want to make some extra money fast from a blog or channel, it probably won’t come from display advertising or affiliate sales. It would probably come from a personal service business you set up around your blog. In the long-term, as your traffic grows, you can make money from advertising or affiliate marketing.
For example, my friend Naomi is an expert in the effects of moving to a new city on kids. She started blogging about it, and coaches parents on how to do it with minimal impact to the kids well-being.
When I started Roostervane, the first money I ever made was from speaking. This is the type of income that starting a blog creates. It creates visibility that can translate into offers.
6. Start a Community
One of the biggest opportunities online RIGHT NOW, I believe, is online communities.
People are looking to connect, and that is why I am betting that communities will win out over a lot of other things online. If you are willing to create a community of like-minded people, you can charge access for it and make it your thing. You will have to provide people with some value, but bringing people together around our shared humanity is a worthy cause.
How to start a community
You can even use something like Facebook with a Patreon account, but I really like Mighty Networks--which is a third party site. You can start a community for free there, but if you decide to charge admission it’s really easy to do that too. Mighty Networks does not pay me to say this BTW.
And basically you can set it up this week!
Pro Tip: If you’re still studying or in an advanced degree, there is endless opportunities for special interest groups in your field. ie. A community around rocket science, or Medieval drama, or Egyptian archaeology.
If you write good and stuff and have a good eye for detail, you might make a great editor. I am a terrible editor, which is why there are a ton of typos in these blogs–and I usually find them after thousands of people have seen them. Ya know. That’s how I roll.
But if you’re actually good at this, you can earn coin. By the way, if you’re also fast and accurate, it’s a gift.
How to start an editing side hustle
I think like other side hustles, you can spread the word, let people know you want to do this work. Again, a platform like Upwork may be a natural choice to connect you with people searching for editing–you’ve got a ready-made customer base here.
I’d also suggest Reedsy, It’s where I hired my book editor, and it was a really fantastic process. Also, you can earn market rates there a little easier, and Reedsy filters out their freelancers to find people with chops. In addition to these sites, there are literally dozens that are made for editors (and writers). Do your homework!
8. Research Assistant
Staying in the vein of knowledge acquisition and transmission, why not become a research assistant (RA)? Unlike consultants, who are usually responsible for completing finished projects, RAs usually help out on an existing project, often reporting to a main researcher.
Research Assistants come in all shapes and sizes, helping with literally every field. From science to humanities, from lit reviews to archival work, people hire research assistants to help them get their projects done. Research Assistants often work for an hourly wage.
How to become a research assistant
While all the usual tips apply, and especially to explore Upwork, if you’re on a campus you might start there. Check campus job boards, ask professors you know or your department. Often profs control research budgets and can choose to hire from this pool of money.
9. Web Designer
This one takes a bit more know-how, but it’s good money. If you’ve got a knack for designing web pages, you might be able to start a side hustle as a web designer. Plus, with tools like Elementor, you really can make great-looking and mobile friendly websites relatively easily. Heck, even using something like Squarespace, you can set up professional websites.
Now I know you’re saying–“anyone can set up Squarespace–that’s not hard.”
Well, the reality is, a local entrepreneur in their 50s or 60s probably desperately needs a good website–and they probably have no idea where to start. They don’t care if you know advanced html–they just want a website that looks good and works. There are profs at your university leading research right now who would LOVE to have a good website for it, and their 10 year old geocities page just isn’t cutting it. (Is that even a thing anymore?)
10. Conference Organizer/ Event Planner
If you’ve got an eye for detail and the know-how to organize, you might be able to make some coin as a conference organizer and/or event planner. Event planners handle everything that makes an event WORK, and they are hard to come by.
Unlike many of the options on this list, being a conference organizer or event planner means building something for real–while you can do some of it online, there will probably be a real-world component to it. (Although the pandemic has pushed a shift to online events too).
In either case, there is organizing to be done, from ordering food to booking speakers. You can decide what type of this work you want to do, but you might find you enjoy it.
How to become a conference organizer or event planner
The problem with academic conferences is that they are often organized by students, for free. Still, if you get the right conference or professor with the right grant, you could still make some coin. Another alternative is to get hired on a consulting basis for a business or non-profit. For example, I realized pretty early in my career that the majority of big national associations do at least one conference or event a year, and very few of them have full-time event planners on staff. This is what makes this such a great gig–if you like this sort of thing, because by nature, it’s often project based.
But there’s no way around it. If you want to become a conference or event planner, its less likely you’ll be able to get business from Upwork. You’ll need to put yourself out there, perhaps even cold calling/emailing and networking. But once you do one or two great events, word will spread!
11. Video Editor
How about video editing? I LOVE video editing, I’m a total dork, although I don’t do it for others. Just on my YouTube Channel. Video editors are always in demand, and you could take to Upwork to build your client base. But on any university or college campus there are profs, admin, student clubs, and more who are now faced with the reality that they need to master video for their cause. If you can learn the tools of the trade (I personally use Premiere Pro), you might be able to build a nice little side hustle as a video editor.
12. Teaching Assistant
Okay, so this could have gone higher up on this list. But maybe it’s too obvious.
If you are in an advanced degree (Master’s or PhD), you are often qualified to work as a teaching assistant. While universities and colleges vary in how they give out these gigs–some build them into funding packages, some let students apply, and some go through word of mouth, a teaching assistant gig can be a great way to use your academic knowledge and earn some cash at the same time!
It’s easy to list a bunch of digital jobs, but what about the good old-fashioned stuff? People still need renos done, after all. Painting is one of those things that has a low barrier to entry. There is no certification required, you don’t need a ton of fancy tools–and you charge by the job!
Get creative about your side hustle. But don’t be afraid to try! Good luck 🙂