5 Passive Income Ideas for Time-Crunched College Students

passive income ideas

The part-time job is a staple for college students. It can help them cover college costs and avoid student debt.

In fact, 22 percent of students who don’t work in college have more than $50,000 in student loan debt, according to a 2015 report from Georgetown University.

But what if your part-time job doesn’t cover all your costs? Signing up for more work isn’t always an option. There might not be enough hours left in the day for studying or other coursework.

Before you decide between working or borrowing more, consider the following passive income ideas.

5 passive income ideas for college students

Passive income is money you earn without putting in additional effort. Usually, there is some upfront work and time involved.

But unlike per-hour wages, what you earn through passive income sources isn’t tied directly to your time.

Here are five passive income ideas for college students (even the busiest ones).

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 also can resell intellectual work you create for assignments. For example, you can put pictures you took for a photography class on 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 letting people cheat off your work (or encouraging it). Review your college’s honor code and make sure you know where the line is so you stay on the safe side of it.

2. Rent your stuff

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

  • Your apartment or dorm 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 campus, and many students will pay for it. If the idea of handing over your keys makes you squeamish, look for ways to get paid as a chauffeur. A girl in my college dorm made extra cash by charging $5 to tag along when she went to the grocery store. And when I drove out of town for long weekends, I often would cover my gas costs and then some by offering rides.
  • 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. 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. Find and sell stuff for a profit

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 the perfect place to start, according to Stacy Miller, director of marketing at Career Igniter.

“Buy textbooks from students on campus for a little more than the bookstore will give them,” she said. “Then take the books and sell [them] online to other buyback services.”

You can buy and turn around textbooks in about three weeks, Miller said. Using this method in college, she made as much as $50 a book.

It’s not just books, however. You can find and sell a range of highly valued items 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 break can be a free-for-all, with students dumping valuable items so they don’t have to store them. You can get awesome deals and steep discounts during this time. Plus, if you store the items until the next semester or quarter or list them online, you can earn significantly more than you paid.

4. Create a YouTube channel

During your coursework, you might be required make videos about subject material.

Since you’re already putting in the work, see if any of your school projects can be expanded into a side hustle. The cool videos you made for class could become a money-making YouTube series.

Even if you don’t have to make videos for class, you could do so as a money-making endeavor.

“If you are good [at] anything like dance, music, painting, prank[ing], talking, graphic designing, or teaching, just make videos about it and start posting on YouTube and share them on social media sites,” said Harry Goyal, owner of review site Vacuum Hub.

Appealing, quality content will start getting views — and you can make money off those views through YouTube’s ad placements.

5. Start a blog

Students also can turn their writing for class into blog posts and start their own websites. Depending on your major, you might even be required to create your own blog for a course (I had to start one for a journalism class).

If you start a blog and want to make money from it, build it up with that goal in mind. Blogs can be monetized by adding ads and getting paid for those placements or through affiliate marketing.

Through affiliate marketing, “you can promote any company’s product on your website and can make money,” Goyle said. Essentially, you get a commission payment for referring customers to a product or site.

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

“I really love this method, and I am still using it and making huge money,” Goyal added.

Other ways to earn more without cutting into study time

The passive income ideas above are a good starting point, but here are a few other creative ideas for earning money.

They aren’t technically passive income, as you’ll be required to put in time to get paid. But they can be a great way for time-crunched college students to earn money without eating into their precious free time.

Get paid to study

With the right job, you might be able to study at work.

For example, you could try dog sitting or housesitting, suggested Gabby Bastos, a marketing assistant for investing firm Community Capital Management.

You can study while keeping an eye on someone’s pet or home. “Plus, dogs are great … stress relievers for periods of intense studying throughout college,” Bastos said. “A total win-win!”

Other jobs provide similar opportunities to get paid while you do your homework. Receptionists at hotels, businesses, and on-campus offices or tutoring centers often can sneak in time for their own schoolwork between helping patrons.

Build a portfolio with paid work

When it comes to hiring recent college graduates, work experience is the qualification employers value most, according to a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey.

Consider finding jobs that will help you build your resume and portfolio — and boost your bank account balance:

  • Paid internships look great on a resume, and you often can earn college credits for completing them.
  • On-campus jobs can help you get experience in your field. I had a roommate who worked as a technician in a campus research lab. And I got paid to hone my writing skills 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, Andrews said.

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.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of business filing service MyCorporation, found such an activity as a college student: exercising.

“When I was in college, I was an aerobics instructor and team trainer,” Sweeney said. “I was able to work my own hours, got paid a strong per-class wage, and was able to exercise in the meantime. It was definitely not a time suck.”

For a time-crunched college student on a tight budget, these ideas for jobs and passive income could be a lifesaver. Try them out so you can earn more money, borrow less through student loans, and build an eye-catching resume. You’ll enjoy the returns for years to come.

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