5 Passive Income Ideas for Time-Crunched College Students

 September 13, 2019
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The part-time job is a staple for college students. It can help them cover college costs and avoid or lessen student debt.

In fact, according to a 2018 report from Georgetown University, about 70% of America’s college students work. But the more hours students work each week, the more likely it is their grades will suffer and they’ll take longer to graduate.

Plus, if your part-time job doesn’t cover all your costs, getting another side hustle or asking for more shifts aren’t always ideal options. There might not be enough hours left in the day to devote to coursework.

Instead, consider the following passive income ideas, which won’t require as much effort as spending extra hours in a workplace.

5 passive income ideas for college students

Unlike an hourly wage, the extra money you earn through passive income sources isn’t tied directly to your time. Usually, there is some up-front work and time involved when you put secondary income ideas into action in hopes that the effort will pay off later.

Here are five passive income opportunities for college students — even the busiest ones:

1. Sell your study materials
2. Rent out your stuff
3. Sell items secondhand
4. Create a YouTube channel
5. Start a blog
Bonus: Other ways to earn more without cutting into study time

1. Sell your study materials

If you take detailed notes or create impeccable flash cards, use them to turn a profit. Offer copies of your study materials to classmates for a price.

You can also resell certain types of intellectual work you created for school assignments. For example, you can put pictures you took for a photography class onto a stock photo site and earn passive income if they’re used. Or, if you’re a computer science major, you can offer an online tool you built for a subscription fee.

There is a fine line, however, between ethically charging for study materials and selling finished work to other students to pass off as their own. Review your college’s honor code and plagiarism policy, and follow it closely.

2. Rent out your stuff

Another source of passive income is renting out items you own. Here are a few ideas:

  • Your apartment or room: If you’re heading home for a weekend, rent your room or bed for cash. A student with a significant other or friend visiting might be looking for a place for their guest to stay.
  • Your car: Transportation can be a hot commodity on a college campus, and many students will pay for it. If the idea of renting out your car on a car-sharing platform makes you squeamish, however, offer friends rides home for long weekends, which can help cover gas money. Or rent out your parking space during busy days on campus, such as when a major sporting event takes place.
  • Your stuff: What else do you have that could be in demand? Hot rental items could include a musical instrument, bike, video game console, laptop, snowboard or skis. List items for rent on the campus bulletin board.

Be sure to consider your costs too, as your items likely will experience some wear and tear. If you rent out your car, you’ll also need to make sure it’s in safe working order and has sufficient insurance to cover drivers besides yourself.

3. Sell items secondhand

If renting out items isn’t your style, you might be able to build a profitable side hustle by selling items instead.

Textbooks can be a good place to start. Try buying textbooks from fellow students for a little more than the bookstore’s buyback price. Then, sell them online to other buyback services. That could net you a profit in the end.

You can find and sell other items, too, if you have a keen eye and can devote some time to buying them, creating listings and selling them. The last week before a long school break can be a free-for-all, with students dumping valuable items so they don’t have to store them. You can buy furniture, books and clothes at steep discounts and resell them for a profit during this time.

4. Create a YouTube channel

During your coursework, you might be required to make videos about the class’ subject matter. Since you’re already putting in the work, see if any of your school projects can be expanded into a side hustle helping other students understand the course material. The videos you made for class could become a money-making YouTube series.

If your classes don’t require videos, you could still create them as a profitable endeavor. Appealing quality content on a range of topics, including hobbies you have outside of school, could get views — and you can make money off those views through YouTube’s ad placements.

5. Start a blog

Turn your writing for class into blog posts and start your own website. Depending on your major, you might even be required to create your own blog for a course.

If you create a blog and want to make money from it, build it up with that goal in mind. Blogs can be monetized by including traditional ads or through affiliate marketing, a process where you get a commission payment for referring customers to a product or site.

Amazon, for example, has a robust affiliate program that allows you to earn a kickback for recommending your favorite products through Amazon links.

Other ways to earn more without cutting into study time

While the passive income ideas above are a good starting point, there are additional ways to earn money that might require more effort — but that will pay off in the long run.

Study while working?

With the right job, you might be able to study at work, such as by pet sitting or house sitting. Reception jobs at hotels, businesses and on-campus offices or tutoring centers might also allow downtime for studying, but make sure you’re appropriately covering your duties.

Build a portfolio with paid work

Employers value relevant work experience when hiring recent graduates. Consider finding jobs that will help build your resume and portfolio — and boost your bank account balance:

  • Paid internships look great on a resume, and you may be able to earn college credits for completing them.
  • On-campus jobs can help you gain experience in your field, such as working as a technician in a campus research lab or as an editor for the student newspaper.
  • Freelance projects or gigs “can generate income and build [students’] resumes,” said Pam Andrews, a college admissions coach at The Scholarship Shark. Many freelance gigs pay by the project rather than the hour and can be found on sites such as Fiverr and Upwork.

Market your creativity

If you’re artsy, you could make money selling your creative endeavors. For example, you can submit custom t-shirt designs to websites such as CafePress and Amazon Merch, and if they become popular, you’ll earn royalties from sales. You can also set up a shop on Etsy, an online marketplace for handcrafted items, and sell everything from handmade jewelry to digital files of your artwork.

Tutor other students

You’re immersing yourself in knowledge in school, so why not make money sharing it? If you’re a particularly strong student in a subject, you can tutor fellow college students or work with grade-school students in the community for an hourly fee.

Try advertising your expertise on campus bulletin boards, your class Facebook page or on community sites such as Craigslist, Care.com or NextDoor.

If you’re skilled in English, you could help kids in other countries learn the language. VIPKid and QKids will connect you with children in other countries for online tutoring sessions that pay up to $22 an hour.

Get paid for activities you’d do anyway

Lastly, think about things you’re already doing that you could get paid for. Maybe you love helping your classmates study and understand course material. If so, tutoring could be a great fit. If you’re involved in intramural sports, you might be able to get paid to referee matches.

For a busy college student on a tight budget, passive-income jobs and other types of low-effort work could be lifesavers. Try them out so you can earn more money, borrow less through student loans and build an eye-catching resume.

Marty Minchin contributed to this report.