17 Passive Income Ideas for Time-Crunched College Students

 July 1, 2022
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Earning a college degree can be expensive. You can take a job, but classes will limit how many hours you can work. You can take out student loans, but the repayment could weigh on you for years to come. But another option to consider is passive income for college students.

Passive income opportunities can allow you to make money as a college student without sacrificing too much of your time or burdening your future with debt. Below are some ideas to consider.


What is passive income?
Passive income is a flexible job that earns money with minimal time and effort — often overlapping with the term “side hustle.” Furthermore, these opportunities usually continue to generate revenue after the initial legwork.

For example, let’s say Joe spent 50 hours writing and editing an e-book. Once it’s uploaded online and available for purchase, he can sit back and collect the royalties without doing any more work.

An ideal passive income situation might allow you to put in longer hours during your breaks — such as over summer vacation — and then collect the earnings all semester long. Basically, it can offer an extra layer of financial security as you dive into your studies.

17 passive income jobs

If you’re wondering how to make money as a college student, here are some great passive income ideas to get you started.

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of a side hustle before overcommitting yourself. Ask yourself: Is the money worth the work involved, AND will I have enough time to focus on my college courses?

If the answer is yes, then go for it. Here are some possibilities:

1. Sublet your apartment or room
2. Rent out your car or parking spot
3. Rent out other possessions
4. Resell old items
5. Sell class notes
6. Sell textbooks
7. Stream video games online
8. Sell stock photography
9. Advertise with your car
10. Join an affiliate marketing program
11. Design an app
12. Create an online course
13. Print your designs on merchandise
14. Start investing
15. Write an e-book
16. Become an audiobook narrator
17. Participate in medical studies

 Sublet your apartment or room

If you’re heading home for a weekend, you can rent your room or bed. A student with a significant other or friend visiting might be looking for a place for their guest to stay.

Consider using platforms like your college’s Facebook page, Airbnb or even Craigslist. Just make sure that your lease agreement allows for subletting or talk to your landlord first — otherwise you could be opening yourself up to legal issues.

  Rent out your car or parking spot

Transportation can be a hot commodity on a college campus, and many students will pay a high premium for it. You could try renting your car on Turo. If the idea of a car-sharing platform makes you squeamish, you can charge to drive friends around, 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.

Just make sure your car is in safe working order and has sufficient insurance to cover other drivers.

 Rent out other possessions

What else do you own that could be in demand? Popular rental items could include a musical instrument, bike, electric scooter, video game console, laptop, snowboard or skis.

Be sure to consider the total costs involved, including wear and tear on your items.

 Resell old items

Selling used stuff could become a steady side hustle, especially if you’ve got a keen eye for spotting or fixing up popular items.

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 once school’s back in session.

Consider hitting local yard sales and digging for treasures. Someone else’s junk could be your new fortune! But reselling on campus may not always be the most lucrative option — so it’s also worth researching the best places to sell clothes online, as well as online platforms for selling electronics and other items.

 Sell class notes

If you take detailed notes or create impeccable flash cards, consider using them to turn a profit.

You can also resell certain types of intellectual work you’ve created for school assignments. For example, if you’re a computer science major, you can offer an online tool you built for a subscription fee.

Just keep in mind that there’s a fine line between ethically charging for study materials versus 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.

Sell textbooks

If you have old school textbooks — whether you bought them new from your campus bookstore or got them used from a fellow student — you can explore your options for selling textbooks.

With minimal time and effort, you could end up netting a nice profit. And even if you get less than you paid for the books, it’s still better than nothing if you have no more use for the old texts.

 Stream video games online

If you’re obsessed with video games, you may be able to generate an income from it. People from all across the globe enjoy watching their favorite gamers in action.

All you have to do is record it, post it on an online platform such as Twitch or YouTube, focus on building a group of followers — and then watch as the passive income streams in. There are also gaming influencer agencies, such as Grin.co, that can help jumpstart this side hustle.

Although some people can make a lot from online gaming, it really depends on your number of followers. But with enough time, you could reap some great benefits.

Sell stock photography

If you’ve got a natural flair for stellar photography, you can try selling your images to popular photo stock websites like Shutterstock, iStock or Dreamstime. You can snap a range of photos, from stunning sunsets to bowls of fruit.

You’ll then receive a percentage for every photo used — on Shutterstock, it ranges from 15% up to 40%.

 Advertise with your car

If you’re lucky enough to have a car while at college, this can be an easy way to generate passive income. A company will pay you to display their logo on your car, and your “job” is to park it in popular locations.

The exact amount you’ll earn depends on many factors, such as where you live and the company’s overall budget. But if you have your own vehicle, this could be some easy money.

 Join an affiliate marketing program

If you have a strong following on social media, affiliate marketing could be a great gig to explore. Basically, you promote products from an affiliate network, such as Amazon. If people click on your affiliate links and buy the product, you may receive a small commission.

Here are some possible ways to generate affiliate income:

  • 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. Just try to pick a popular topic for your followers to ensure steady traffic.
  • YouTube: 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.
  • Other social media: Anyone who is obsessed with the latest fashion trends can consider turning this passion into an income source. You may receive payment from sponsors by promoting their brands on social media.
  • Podcast: Podcasts have been gaining more popularity in recent years, and it could be a fun project to embark on with friends. In fact, having co-hosts or guest speakers adds to the popularity of the podcast. It’s a good idea to invest in a decent microphone and to select a niche topic that will generate interest. Adding in the affiliate marketing is easy to do — just include ads between episodes and you’re good to go.

Once you get your affiliate marketing platform(s) set up, make sure to devote adequate time to marketing them and spreading the word. Reaching a wider audience can really help in boosting your overall income.

 Design an app

Obviously you need to know the basics of app design to try this one. You could also hire a friend to help bring your vision to fruition.

Start with an innovative idea, like the next best habit tracker or an app to stay on top of homework, then take the steps to make it live. Consider adding in-app purchases to increase your earnings.

 Create an online course

What are your natural skills and talents? Could you create an online course sharing your expertise with others? Some ideas include playing a musical instrument, making crafts for kids or step-by-step tutorials on how to use specific software or programs.

You can post a few videos for free to spark interest, then require a fee for consumers to move onto the next level. Or find a website that pays for online tutorials.

This job requires some initial work to create and edit the videos, but once they’re up and running you should be able to collect the earnings without much effort.

Once you have enough content created, you could expand it into a niche membership site. You can direct followers from your social media sites to a paid platform where they can delve in even deeper to what you have to offer. Most importantly, make sure to provide a useful service, so people will keep renewing their membership fee.

 Print your designs on merchandise

Do you love drawing or coming up with unique designs? You can consider selling your artistic creations to companies that print them on T-shirts, mugs, hats and other such merchandise.

Many artists start by setting up their own “store” within a larger print-on-demand website, such as CafePress, Printful and Merch by Amazon. You simply upload your designs and the company takes care of the rest — payment, printing and shipping.

Consider taking an online course to brush up on your graphic design sBelow are some ideas to consider.kills to make sure your images are top-of-the-line. Plus, do some research to find a website that offers a decent commission on sales.

 Start investing

Investing may seem like a crazy idea on a college student’s limited budget, but you might be surprised: There are some great programs and apps available that allow miniscule contributions while still reaping in some benefits.

Stock market

Even though you might not have much to invest in stocks, it’s often worth considering it since it may help boost your long-term financial stability.

Play it safe by starting with low-risk options and holding stocks for the long term rather than trying to jump in and out of the market at the right time. It’s worth reaching out to an investment professional to make sure you’re on the right path.

Real estate

There are some cool programs that allow those with low budgets to participate in real estate investing. For example, the Fundrise app allows you to invest small amounts into a range of larger real estate projects.

Peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending is considered another form of investing. It provides funds from person to person, eliminating banks from the process. With a site like Prosper.com, you can get started with just $25.

Just like the other options, it usually comes with some risks. For example, if the lender can’t finish paying off the loan you could possibly lose everything you’ve put into it.

It’s best to start off small and talk to a financial advisor if in doubt.

 Write an e-book

If you’ve got a flair for writing, then creating an e-book is another possible way to generate income for years to come. You can write about any topic that interests you, such as budgeting tips for college students or how to save for college.

There are many self-publishing platforms to explore, such as KITABOO, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Smashwords. Often you can publish your e-book for free, and they take a portion of your sales.

The real work often comes with the marketing and promotional efforts. But once the e-book takes off, you can potentially collect royalties for the rest of your life.

For any creative writers, consider applying for these poetry scholarships and awards to help lighten the burden of your college fees.

 Become an audiobook narrator

If you have a background in acting and love books, this might be just the gig for you. Although narrating audiobooks is usually considered to be a steady job, it’s often viewed as passive income since it can be done in bursts and doesn’t require a daily commitment.

According to Audible.com, a beginner audiobook narrator should focus on honing their acting skills, such as being able to impersonate different voices, accents and dialects. The podcast and audiobook service also suggests strengthening your stamina, since you may be required to read for as many as six hours a day.

You can start by generating leads on platforms like Fiverr and look into Amazon’s ACX, as well as indie audiobook publishers. Once you’ve built a decent portfolio, you can try sending demos to traditional publishing houses.

 Participate in medical studies

A majority of colleges offer a range of medical studies that usually pay volunteers. Often they need participants with a specific medical condition, but they typically include a control group too.

If you feel uncomfortable taking experimental medicines, there are psychological studies that also have openings for test subjects. One popular option is a sleep study — you can’t get more passive than earning money while you sleep!

9 other flexible job opportunities for college students

In addition to passive income jobs, there are plenty of actual jobs that provide flexibility for busy college students. Just make sure a potential job will allow you to successfully complete the semester without burnout and complete exhaustion.

Here are nine options to consider:

  1. House or pet sitting: You can often catch up on homework while checking up on pets and staying over at someone’s house.
  2. Babysitting: Bring along your books and dive into your studies while the kids are napping or after they go to bed. Or better yet, read them some passages out loud — teaching them while getting ahead on your reading assignments.
  3. Tutoring services: Consider tutoring on campus or reach out to local schools to see if they need help. There are also online tutoring platforms that pay decent wages.
  4. Virtual assistant work: Fit the tasks around your current schedule. All you need is a laptop!
  5. Freelancing: If you think you’d be good at transcribing, copywriting, graphic design, data entry, video editor or another similar task, join a platform like Fiverr or Upwork to get started.
  6. Online translations: Fluent in another language? Check out LiveTranslation.com.
  7. Ride-sharing apps: If you’ve got your car on campus, consider picking up a few shifts with Uber or Lyft.
  8. Food delivery services: Again, if you’ve got your car on campus you can apply to drive for places like Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash and more. Many places even allow you to make deliveries on your bike!
  9. Online surveys: These often take a few minutes to complete and can be squeezed in between your classes or at night.

If you’re looking for even more opportunities, here are 8 jobs for college students that pay above minimum wage.

Passive income for college students FAQs

What’s the easiest way to earn passive income for college students?

This really depends on your level of experience and skill set. Usually the quickest options with minimal effort include using your car for advertising, investing and selling your photography to photo stock sites. If you’re a fast writer, blogging is another great path to explore.

Which option is best if I’m completely broke?

There are plenty of free options to get started, such as starting a YouTube channel — you just need access to a laptop and a smart phone’s video camera. Often you can access these in the media department of your college. Renting out your apartment or stuff is another great way to jumpstart your passive income adventure.

How can I earn money online?

You can sell an e-book, start a website, become an influencer, tutor and explore various freelancing jobs. For more ideas, check out these great remote jobs for college students.