February 18, 2023
How to make money online as a college student
Making money in college can be tough, but online opportunities provide flexibility in scheduling. Here’s how to earn money online in college.
College costs an arm and a leg these days—or around $35,551 per student per year, to be exact.
Financial aid can help with college costs, but it often doesn’t cover the full amount needed—particularly if you want to enjoy your time in school! So, unless you’re flush with cash, chances are good that you’ll need to make money in college in order to have some room for fun in your budget.
But of course, busy college schedules and homework commitments can make it difficult to work a standard full-time job during school. One option worth exploring is making money online.
Starting an online side gig is a great way to earn extra cash. It can also be helpful for learning business skills and the basics of financial literacy. And the flexibility of these opportunities makes them perfect for busy students!
Here’s everything you need to know about how to make money online as a college student.
Is it actually possible to make money online?
The short answer: Yes! But it’s important to seek out legitimate opportunities, as there are plenty of scams floating around.
College students can make money online by freelancing, tutoring, reselling items, creating social media content, and more. It’s just a matter of finding the right option for your skills and interests!
This guide will go over some of the best online earning opportunities for college students. But before we do that, let’s cover how to find legit opportunities—and weed out nonsense along the way.
How to find legitimate opportunities online
Here’s how to bypass the scams and time-wasters.
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If you see an advertisement or opportunity promising the big bucks for minimal effort, well, it’s likely too good to be true. Legit opportunities certainly exist, but they’re not going to make you rich overnight.
If you have to pay to start, proceed with caution. There are many, many people and companies that try to sell guides, courses, and “secrets” for how to make money online. Some of these products might be worth paying for, and others aren’t. If you’re just getting started, steer clear of any paid options.
Know where to look. Craigslist and standard job posting sites may not be the best place to look for paid online work. Looking at industry-specific websites (i.e., a freelancing platform to find freelancing work) is a better bet. Or check out vetted job boards, like your school’s internal job posting site.
Consider starting your own business. There are essentially 2 ways to make money online: you can get an online job similar to a standard job except that you work from your laptop, or you can start your own business. Becoming a business owner or freelancer might seem intimidating, but it’s often the best way to make real money online—and it leaves you in total control of your path forward.
For many of the online opportunities we discuss here, some of the best places to look for gigs are:
Upwork - a freelance marketplace for writers, designers, coders, and more
Fiverr - a marketplace for online tasks and freelance gigs
Craigslist - a localized marketplace for just about anything
Local job boards - Indeed, Monster, Salary.com, etc.
8 ways to make money online during college
There are plenty of opportunities to make money online in college. The best options are discussed in detail below.
This list covers the most popular (and lucrative) options, but it’s certainly not a comprehensive list of all the options out there. We’ve tailored the options on this list to suit the college student lifestyle as much as possible.
Freelancing is a way to get paid for certain skills on a freelance (contract) basis. When you freelance, you technically become your own business. You don’t work for an employer, but instead contract for clients. Fancy, huh?!
There are dozens of categories of freelance opportunities, but some of the most common include the following:
Freelance writing. You can get paid to write articles and blog posts for websites—just like the article you’re reading right now. If you have a keen eye for English, solid writing skills, and at least a basic understanding of how searching on Google works, you may be able to get started freelancing. Head over to the Problogger job board to apply for freelance opportunities!
Freelance graphic design. You could get paid to create web graphics, business cards, marketing materials, fliers, PDF reports, and more. If you’re familiar with Adobe or other graphic design software and have an eye for design, you can likely get paid for your work. Find opportunities on Dribbble or Upwork.
Freelance video production. If you have a quality camera and can produce advertisements, promo films, or YouTube videos, you could get paid for your skills. You could also become a video editor if your skills are more in the post-production side of things. Find opportunities on Upwork or local marketplaces (Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.).
Freelance photography. If you have a quality DSLR and an eye for photography, you could get paid to shoot portraits, grad photos, or even weddings. Find opportunities on local markets (Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.).
Freelance web development. If you know a web coding language or are familiar with a web builder like WordPress, you can get paid to create websites! Find opportunities on Upwork or local marketplaces, or you can advertise your services directly in your community.
There are many more opportunities than the ones mentioned here. You can freelance doing just about anything. Want to see some creative ways that people are making money online with random tasks? Check out Fiverr.
Tutoring is a great opportunity for a college side hustle, and there are plenty of online tutoring opportunities these days.
Tutoring can cover almost any subject and grade level. You could tutor fellow college students on ancient history or help an 8-year-old with their math homework! Whatever your skills are, if you are a competent teacher, you can likely find a tutoring opportunity.
Keep in mind that many traditional tutoring services are in-person. But more and more online opportunities have become available in recent years—especially since Covid.
Taking surveys online can be an easy way to earn a bit of money on the side. Survey websites like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie pay users to sign up and take online surveys. Companies use these surveys to shape their decisions on products, marketing, and more.
To be clear, surveys aren’t a ticket to big bucks, but they could be enough to fund your caffeine addiction.
Streaming content online can generate revenue from tips, sponsorships, and subscriptions. Twitch is the most popular streaming platform by far. You can sign up and start streaming for free—but you’ll have to attract an audience to earn any money.
People live stream themselves playing video games, making or creating music, or just chatting. It takes a certain personality—and patience—to build up a streaming following, but the rewards can be worth it in the long run.
Creating content for the web or social media is fun, and it can be rewarding if you stick with it for the long term.
Content creation can involve dozens of different platforms and approaches. You could become a YouTuber or TikToker, you could start a blog or a podcast, or you could create social media content.
In any case, making money through content creation involves building up a following and then using that following to attract sponsorships and/or make money off advertising revenue.
Like streaming, this is an opportunity that takes time to build up. You shouldn’t expect to start making money right away—in fact, there’s no guarantee that you’ll make money at all.
Reselling physical products can be a fun entrepreneurial experiment, and it’s an easy side hustle in college, as long as you have the space to accrue your resale items. Popular resale items include:
Textbooks (buy used ones from fellow students and resell them online)
Furniture (buy cheap items on move-out days, and resell them for a profit)
Electronics (buy locally and sell online, or vice versa)
Retail arbitrage (buy new items when they’re on sale, and sell them online for a small profit)
Reselling is also called “flipping.” Basically, anything you can buy and flip for a profit is fair game—whether it’s a couch or a philosophy textbook!
Most resellers use a combination of platforms, including local marketplaces (Mercari, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, etc.) and online platforms (eBay, Amazon, etc.). Reselling is all about finding profit margins and being a liaison between sellers and buyers. And depending on your focus, it’s an opportunity that you can test out without committing much space, time, or money. Try it out and see if it’s right for you.
Data entry & VA work
There are plenty of online opportunities for you to do data entry and “virtual assistant” work. These roles usually pay hourly on a contract basis, and they often require you to work 5–20 hours per week.
The type of work varies depending on the client. You might be answering customer service emails, managing a client’s schedule, doing some basic bookkeeping, or managing databases and spreadsheets.
You can find these kinds of opportunities on Upwork and local job boards.
Editing can be another way to make money while in college. If you’re a good writer and pay close attention to detail, people will pay you to edit all sorts of things.
For students, an obvious opportunity is editing college essays for fellow students. This is typically legit, as long as you’re editing and not actually writing the essay for someone else. Plenty of students will pay to have a second set of eyes look over key papers.
Other off-campus opportunities include editing website content, blogs, or even novels. You can find editing work on local marketplaces or platforms like Upwork.
Making money online as a college student is certainly possible. It’s a great way to earn some extra spending money, pay off your student loans faster, or explore options for potential future careers.
Opportunities like freelancing, editing, and reselling used items are popular choices for students, but the possibilities are endless. Just be sure to watch out for scams and people trying to charge you money for “opportunities”!
Want to learn more about navigating finances as a college student? Read through the Mos blog for tips on budgeting, financial aid, scholarships, and much more.
And if you want to save more money while you’re in school, look no further than Mos, the money app that helps students lower their tuition, earn cash back, and find side hustles.
- Get paired with a financial aid expert
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