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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By McKenzie Richmond, Intern
| August 6, 2019
Earning enough cash to pay bills, rent and college expenses, with a little extra spending money to help you enjoy your time in college, isn’t as hard as it seems. Plenty of moneymaking opportunities are out there for you to capitalize on between your studies; they come with the perk of no long-term commitment and, in most cases, let you set your own hours.
Some are good for a fast buck, while others could turn into consistent streams of income. Find out which cash-generating ideas could work best for you.
Stop letting your used textbooks collect dust on the shelf and start selling them online. BookScouter.com and SlugBooks.com make it easy for you to make some money back on the $200 textbook “required” for your philosophy course (which you never opened) and show who’s doling out the best prices for used college textbooks. Simply type the ISBN or the book title into either browser, and BookScouter and SlugBooks scan prices from various book-buying sites to show you which ones are offering the best prices and what you should consider selling your book for.
For example, we plugged in the ISBN for the textbook International Environmental Law and Policy 5th edition, ($241 new) and found that Amazon.com would buy it for $106.75. For more information, see Get the Best Price When Selling Back Textbooks.
Or go local (where you might get more money and spend less on shipping). Many universities have Facebook pages or other online platforms for each class. These (or other campus sites) can be good places to reach out to underclassmen who will be needing your books. There’s also Craiglist, of course. Just remember the safety rules of trading here: Insist on cash, and play it safe by meeting in a neutral, very public location (some police departments facilitate these meetings).
If you have a special skill – whether it’s the ability to play an instrument, paint like Picasso or explain calculus in a way anyone can understand – you may be able to make money sharing your skills with others. For example, you could earn $10 to $75 an hour tutoring children in your community or even other college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.
Advertise your services on campus and community bulletin boards (whether virtual or actual), or on tutoring websites, such as Wyzant (where you choose your own hourly rate) and Tutor.com. And take advantage of your social media platforms to let people know you’re ready to teach.
If your talent involves sports, consider coaching a youth team or maybe even your peers. Coaching a local elementary, secondary or club team can be perfect for students who had a special skill in high school and want to stay with their sport without joining the university team. Coaching often demands late-afternoon, evening and weekend availability plus knowledge of the intricacies of a sport – soccer, hockey, softball, you name it – and the patience and talent to teach it to others.
The pay for youth soccer coaches on club teams varies widely, according to Job Monkey, a job-search website, but it can reach $2,000 a month. That kind of money often requires certifications, which you may need to seek out (and pay for) yourself.
Another option is to coach your college’s club or recreational sports teams, though you’ll need to lower your pay expectations.
Don’t leave smartphones, tablets, computers or specialized school gadgets (iClickers, calculators, etc.) you’re no longer using in a desk drawer or at the bottom of your backpack. You can easily cash in on your unwanted electronics – even damaged items – by selling them online.
Sell used smartphones and Apple products at Gazelle.com and get paid by check, PayPal or an Amazon gift card; you can also use one of ecoATM’s mall kiosks and get instant cash. You can sell smartphones, tablets and wearables, such as a smart watch, to NextWorth.com and get paid via PayPal or by check. At uSell, you can sell smartphones, tablets, game consoles and more. You get paid by check or through PayPal. Shipping with all these sites is free. Or take your video games, game consoles, smartphones, tablets and accessories to GameStop to earn cash or store credit without the shipping hassles.
Just as with used textbooks, before you split the profit with a third-party vendor, reach out on social media to let other students know you’re selling a device that they may need for their classes. You’ll skip shipping hassles and keep the full profit for yourself.
If you have clothes, accessories or shoes that are in good condition but that you no longer wear, turn them into quick cash by selling them on consignment. Research the consignment shops in your area to find the right match for the types and styles of clothing you have to sell. Most consignment stores will price items at one-third of their retail value, and you’ll likely get 50% of the price at which your items eventually sell. Plato’s Closet is a great resale store for students to sell back their trending teenage clothes. Rather than having to wait until your items sell to get cash, nPlato’s Closet makes an upfront offer for the clothes you bring in, based on style, condition and brand. You’ll walk out the door with cash in hand for the clothes they take.
You might be able to get more for your used clothes by selling them online. For example, you can earn up to 80% of the resale value of women’s and kids’ clothing, shoes and handbags at fashion resale site thredUP.com. If you have high-end men’s or women’s clothing, jewelry, watches or accessories, try your luck with luxury consignment site The RealReal. You can earn up to 85% of the resale value in cash. Another option for designer clothing and accessories: Tradesy, which pays a 19.8% commission on the resale value of items worth $50 or more. You receive earnings via PayPal, debit card or a bank account. (Note: Several of these sites require you to register before you can enter and explore.)
Poshmark, an easy mobile consignment store, takes it all: clothing for women, men and children, plus handbags, shoes, jewelry and makeup. For sales over $15, you keep 80% of the sale price, and Poshmark keeps 20%. Ebay is also an easy-to-manage resale site; each item you post is up for auction until the deadline you set.
Keep in mind that uploading and monitoring your online closets and sales may require more effort on your part, but it could result in a bigger return.
Babysitting can be a fun way to put money in your pocket if you like kids. Hourly rates vary by city (and the demands of services). In smaller towns and cities, such as Palatine, Ill., the going rate is $10 to $15 an hour; in big cities such as New York and Washington, expect to earn $10 to $40 an hour as a babysitter or nanny. Advertise your services on community bulletin boards, at the public library, and near local primary schools or houses of worship. You can also place a listing or search for jobs on sites such as Care.com and Sittercity.
Keep your class schedule in mind. Parents commonly need someone to watch their kids after school while they are at work. And, of course, for the occasional night out.
Bringing a car to campus may be more of a hassle than it’s worth, but if your circumstances require a car, then consider putting it to use making money. If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a quick ride, you may have turned to Uber, the anytime, anywhere ride-hailing service that has gained enormous popularity over the last several years. But have you ever considered becoming an Uber driver? Uber requires a driver to have at least one year of licensed experience in the U.S. before becoming a certified driver, but if you’re under age 23, you must have three years of licensed experience. That means drivers must be at least 19 to join the rideshare service. Other requirements include owning a four-door vehicle and passing the driver screening online, which includes a review of your driving and criminal records. If you meet the requirements, you could earn cash by driving people around in your free time.
Uber’s biggest ride-share competitor is Lyft. Like Uber, Lyft has age, vehicle and background check requirements for drivers.
Uber claims drivers’ average take-home earnings are about $25 per hour, but some drivers say it’s far less than that. Your earnings depend on how much you work and how many rides you give, among other factors. And don’t forget to factor in the costs associated with using your own car, such as gas, maintenance, insurance and cleaning.
Take a shot at sending in some freelance articles and photos to your school or local newspapers. University publications are always looking for student voices to pitch in. Pay varies depending on the school and the publication, but at the University of Mississippi Oxford, I make an average of $25 per article and photo published in my school’s paper, plus a bonus if it makes it to the cover.
Off campus, plenty of media, corporate and nonprofit websites are looking for freelancers to write, edit or design content for an average of $32 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter.com. Freelancewriting.com and Freelance Writing Jobs provide a long list of freelance writing opportunities culled from several top sites, along with advice and tips for freelance writers. Freelancer.com offers a wide variety of freelancing jobs in categories such as design and content. For $14.99 a month or $119.88 for a one-year membership, you can join Mediabistro’s MB Unlimited to post your qualifications and get compensated for your work. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers, but it also posts jobs for copywriters and copy editors.
If you’re a skilled photographer, you can also earn extra cash by selling photos to stock art sites, such as iStock by Getty Images and Shutterstock. At both sites, you must apply to be a contributor by submitting samples of your photos, illustrations, videos or audio. If approved, you’ll earn royalties when your files are downloaded by paying clients.
If you have a knack for creating anything from cookies to intricate art designs, you can profit from your talent.
Say you’re an excellent baker (according to all your friends). You may find clients for your baked goods by volunteering to provide treats for university functions or religious gatherings, or by selling them at a local farmer’s market, flea market or festival.
If art and design are more your speed (like they are for me), consider selling your creations at local craft shows or online at Etsy, DeviantArt or Zazzle. Etsy and Zazzle feature products such as jewelry, quote posters, vintage clothing and even pet supplies. DeviantArt, which has a large following associated with its popular Tumblr, mainly sells art prints. I share my art and photography on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, and work on commission to make a little extra cash.
Many brands are branching out into youth marketing and looking for college students to represent them. You can browse different programs at Campus Commandos . One thing to note is that campus reps and brand ambassadors typically don’t make hourly salaries, but rather make commissions on orders and events. This job is perfect for the social media guru because your work can be done right from your phone, promoting the brand name with photos of the products and promotions. Aside from the relaxed schedule, reps and ambassadors get great discounts on the brand’s products. Might your friends get tired of constant promotions and marketing on their feed? Maybe. But you can get them on board with a well-placed freebie or two.
What’s the difference between a campus rep and a brand ambassador? Campus reps are essentially the face of a brand for their campus. There are typically a few students working together on a given campus to represent a brand. At my university, two students are campus reps for the brand Pink and one represents Bumble. They are required to actively promote the brand on social media, host and attend campus events, and launcht product giveaways to get the student community engaged with the brand.
A brand ambassador isn’t limited to the college campus. Brand ambassadors tend to have fewer commitmentsa because their main job is to positively promote the brand on social media. Their job is right at their fingertips, so their work schedule is very flexible as long as they hit specific quotas per month or week.
Compensation for reps and ambassadors varies depending on the program, but many companies offer compensation when you refer someone to the brand. For example, a brand ambassador might get compensated for 5% to 10% of a buyer's total purchase, and a campus rep may get compensation for having a student show up at a brand event. While this may sound promising, watch out for gigs that require you to stockpile a lot of inventory before you get compensated.
If you like to write, or think it would be fun to share your knowledge about a particular subject, start a blog. WordPress.org and Blogger.com offer free blogging platforms. Want to go bigger? Try GoDaddy.com for domain name registration as well as website building, hosting and security. Turn to Google AdSense for a free way to display ads on your site to earn money.
If you have a camera and something unique to share, you can cash in on YouTube. A reasonable goal for amateur filmmakers is to score viral fame with a YouTube channel. Highlight a specific skill or theme -- say, cooking, stand-up comedy, or beauty channels for advice. Your videos will drive traffic to one another while you perfect your skill and earn subscribers — and, eventually, run ads against your content, from which YouTube will let you keep some of the revenue.
Lugging furniture between dorms and apartments in college is a hassle. Often students will stick items from their old dorm or apartment into storage, hoping they’ll use it later. If you have a storage unit filled with furniture you’re not using (and likely won’t!), unload those items for cash by selling them on Craigslist. (You might even end up saving the monthly cost of your storage unit if you downsize.)
Freshmen looking for dorm furnishings and décor are a perfect target to take items off your hands. If you’re a returning student, consider coming back to school early and plopping your items right down on campus where other students (and their parents) can’t help but see them. I sold a small ottoman, a headboard and some “Ole Miss” themed room décor to incoming freshmen.
If you don’t want the hassle of selling items yourself, take furniture and home accessories you no longer want to a consignment shop. Expect to split the profit 50/50 with the store. For more information, see What to Sell — And Not to Sell — at Consignment Shops.
Why not get a little exercise while you earn anywhere from $10 to $30 for about an hour’s work? Working folks will pay plenty for you to take their pups on a daily stroll while they’re at the office. Or consider pet-sitting for people while they’re on vacation for a daily fee of $50 or more. Advertise your services in veterinarians’ offices, on Facebook or on sites such as Care.com.
You can also team up with an existing dog-walking operation that handles client recruitment and scheduling. To find one, ask other dog walkers you encounter whether they’re part of a group.
Or find work through one of the national dog-walking services, such as Rover.com or Wag.com. Rover offers dog boarding services, pet- and/or house-sitting services, doggy day care and even drop-in services, where caregivers stop by a house for quick potty services (for the dog) and a mini-playdate. Rover has some stringent guidelines for its hires (only taking on less than 20% of potential sitters, the company says).
If you’re leaving college housing behind, consider offering help to your landlord with cleaning, maintenance and landscaping, either at your own place or at other properties. You might be able to reduce your rent in exchange for helping your landlord with his or her workload. Though this won’t put any extra cash in your hands, lowered costs mean more to spend elsewhere.
Don’t throw away unnecessary money on rent and utilities each month when you go on break or study overseas! Put your place on the market for others to sublease. They can take over your rent for the months you’re gone and save you some cash to spend while you’re away (I didn’t know I could do this and lost more than $2,000 over the summer break). Make sure your lease allows you to sublet your place before putting it on the short-term market.
Websites such as Airbnb make it easy to rent out spare space, whether it be a condo, apartment or house.
You can list your space free on Airbnb, then pay 3% to the site when you receive a successful booking.
Modeling is another great way to earn money. If you’re comfortable posing nude in front of artists and are capable of holding poses for as long as 30 minutes, consider life modeling. Artists want to draw bodies of all shapes and sizes in order to hone their skills. Typical sessions last three hours, and pay is about $18 to $25 per hour, according to job listings on Jobmonkey.com. During sessions, models start with short one-minute gesture poses, then transition to longer poses lasting from five to 30 minutes. If you’re interested in becoming a life model, contact your campus art department, art organizations and local community centers. You can also check Artmodeltips.com for a list of life-drawing sessions in the U.S. and guidance on entering this field.
If your campus is in a metropolitan area that has dockless electric scooters, you can make money by rounding them up, charging them overnight and setting them back out in the morning. Both Bird and Lime pay roughly $3 to $5 per scooter .
Signing up to be a “bird hunter” is about as simple as using one; you apply with the same app you’d use to ride, though in busy metropolitan areas, such as Washington, D.C., you may get placed on a waiting list. Once you’re approved, the company will send you all the necessary equipment for charging a scooter, so all you need to do is pick up a scooter and remember to plug it in as you would your phone each night. Something to consider is that this may raise your electricity bill, but the scooter charging payout should exceed the few extra bucks on the bill.
If you're willing to be a human guinea pig, you can participate in clinical research trials, even in research halls and graduate schools on your campus. Compensation depends on the nature of the trial and the amount of time involved, but payment can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Legitimate studies are sponsored by medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies, and these are often affiliated with campus medical schools. You’ll be required to undergo a health screening to determine if you’re eligible to participate. Because come-ons for clinical trials litter the internet, and many are scams, check any offers against ClinicalTrials.gov, a database run by the National Institutes of Health. Search by location to identify local trials.
The average mystery shopper salary is nearly $16 per hour, according to Indeed.com. Mystery shoppers browse a store and provideg feedback on customer service, merchandise quality and other quality-control metrics.
If you like to shop, are attentive to detail and can be dispassionate, this could be a great money-making opportunity. Start by visiting the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association’s website to see a database of jobs with legitimate companies, and see the association’s tips for avoiding mystery shopping scams.
Market-research firms are hired by big businesses to get inside the heads of consumers. Participation in an in-person focus group led by a moderator, such as those run by Focus Pointe Global, can earn you between $50 and $350. Focus Pointe Global also has opportunities for telephone, app and online surveys.
In exchange for taking online and phone surveys, firms such as Harris Interactive and Schlesinger Associates offer rewards points redeemable for gift cards and merchandise from the likes of Amazon.com, Starbucks and iTunes. Beware of scams, though. Legitimate firms won’t charge a fee or ask you to cash a check and wire back part of the money.
Lawyers are getting in on the act, too. “Online jurors” can earn cash for giving their opinions on legal cases. EJury.com pays $5 to $10 per case. You’ll need a PayPal account. At OnlineVerdict.com, where fees for “jurors” range from $20 to $60 (the case reviews take 20 to 60 minutes to complete), payment is made by check.