How to Make Money in College: 7 Side Gigs Perfect for Freshmen

how to make money in college

As a freshman, I scored the greatest job in college: I worked as an assistant in the communications department, signing out photography kits and keeping an eye on the computer lab.

I worked the late shifts, which no one else wanted. But I loved it. No one came into the building, so I could write papers and study for exams while getting paid. It was perfect.

However, jobs like that one are few and far between. Competition for on-campus jobs can be fierce. In addition, if you’re a freshman, finding an off-campus job can be tough, and almost impossible at some rural schools.

If you’re wondering how to make money in college, don’t despair. There are many ways to earn cash outside of on-campus gigs. Even better, you don’t even have to leave your dorm.

Difficulties earning money as a freshman

It’s just a couple of weeks until the start of the next semester. If you’re a freshman, that means you’re likely a mix of terrified and excited. Between roommates, rigorous class schedules, and finding your way around campus, the experience can be overwhelming.

Another worry is having enough money for the occasional pizza run, buying books, and taking trips off-campus. For freshmen, it can be especially difficult to find a well-paying job. Some universities ban freshman from having cars on-campus, so you can’t just drive to a job a few miles away from school.

Also, getting through your freshman year is hard work. You likely are facing a tougher workload than you’ve ever had before. Lengthy papers, midterms, and finals can be exhausting. All of that work makes committing to a set work schedule difficult. Instead, pursuing non-traditional gigs is likely your best option.

What to look for in a job

If you don’t know how to make money as a college student, know that there are tons of options out there that can fit your interests and schedule. Before committing to any one gig, make sure you consider the following factors.


The best college jobs are scalable, meaning you can earn more money if you want, or slow business down when you get busy. Side gigs and non-traditional work are typically your best options for work. You can work as much (or as little) as you want. If you need cash quickly, you can spend more time working to earn money.


Most on-campus jobs have strict schedules. Your shifts can make your life difficult when a major paper is due or when you have to study for finals. A non-traditional job allows you to set your own schedule. If you need two weeks off to study or relax, you can allow yourself to do that.

Earning potential

On-campus jobs aren’t exactly lucrative. In fact, many pay minimum wage. Depending on where you live, that means you could earn as little as $7.25 per hour. Side gigs can pay much more, and in some cases, you could earn up to $20 an hour.

How to make money in college

With those factors in mind, here are seven ways to make money in college and tips on how to get started.

1. Tutoring

Since you made it into college, you likely got through the SATs and are familiar with the basic subjects. That experience makes you eligible to work as a tutor for young children and high schoolers.

Online tutoring is common nowadays, and you can work with kids over Skype. Tutors make an excellent hourly wage. Depending on your area of expertise, you could make $20 per hour or more.

Check out these two sites to get started:

  • Chegg: With Chegg, you can tutor students across the country whenever it’s convenient for you. Chegg pays weekly, so it can be a great source of income for college students. If you’re good at in-demand subjects like physics or calculus, you can charge more for your services.
  • This site caters to middle and high school students who need help with math, science, or English, as well as high school students preparing for the SAT/ACT exams. You can earn up to $23 an hour.

2. Graphic design

If you’re a design major, or just love doing graphic design in your spare time, then creating logos, brochures, and postcards for clients can be a great side hustle.

You don’t need to be advanced or have an extensive portfolio. Many small businesses are looking for simple designs. You can start out offering your work on Fiverr. After building out your portfolio, you can reach out to potential clients on your own.

3. Reselling online

If you need cash quickly, one place to start is by going through your dorm and selling things you don’t use. You can make money selling old clothes, accessories, or movies.

You can expand this into an ongoing gig by offering to sell classmates’ things online and taking a portion of the sales as commission. Or you can check out the college classifieds to see if students or faculty are giving away sporting equipment, tools, or books. You can pick them up for free and sell them online.

EBay and Poshmark are excellent places to start selling, and it only takes a few minutes to set up an account.

4. Virtual assistant

Small business owners often need an assistant to help them with day-to-day tasks but don’t have the budget for full-time help. Instead, they turn to virtual assistants, who work remotely.

As a virtual assistant, you’ll take care of tasks like scheduling social media posts, updating your client’s calendar, or making travel arrangements.

The pay can vary depending on the work and the company you work through, but you can expect to make about $11 an hour to start, according to salary data found on Glassdoor.

Two sites you can use to find clients and start working are Time etc and Fancy Hands. As you gain experience, you can advertise yourself online to find new, better-paying clients.

5. Translation

If you speak another language, you can earn a solid income translating online. Companies often need native speakers to translate materials into different languages to appeal to various audiences.

It can be a perfect side gig for college students. According to Gengo, a site that connects clients with translators, translators earn an average of $417 per month. However, how many hours you’ll need to work to earn that amount might vary from person to person.

To get started, Gengo requires you to complete a two-part test. Once you pass, you can begin accepting work. As you finish jobs, Gengo automatically adds your payments to your account. You can also complete qualification tests to get access to more challenging jobs with higher rates.

6. Photography

If you love taking pictures around campus, you can make money selling those photos online. You don’t even need an expensive setup — you can use photos you took with your smartphone.

Both EyeEm and Foap pay for smartphone pictures. You can sell photos for $5 to $250, depending on the photo and the usage license you offer. Even better, you can sell one photo multiple times. One great photo of that friendly squirrel on campus could earn you hundreds over the course of the school year.

7. Calligraphy

Do you have a knack for art or writing in cursive? If so, you can use your skills to sell envelopes or invitations. In most cases, customers will mail you stationary and ask you to handwrite information on each one.

While it might get tedious, one listing on Etsy was charging $1.25 per envelope. If a client wants 100 envelopes, that equates to $125 in earnings for a few hours of work.

You can offer your services on sites like Etsy or UpWork and attract clients from across the country.

Earning an income in school

Taking on a side gig can help you earn money and offset your college costs. That benefit can end up saving you in student loans or other debt. If you’re struggling to figure out how to make money in college as a freshman, these seven flexible side hustles can help you get started.

If you’re looking for other ways to make money in college, here are ways to earn cash without getting a job.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Eligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
2.75% - 7.24%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.57% - 6.39%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.57% - 7.12%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.99% - 6.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.58% - 7.26%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.89% - 8.33%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print, understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.