How NOT To Make Money As a College Student – Don’t Believe The Hype!

Updated: March 27, 2022
by Ray Alexander

How can you make decent money as a college student, and what should you not do? Time is a limiting factor when your main focus is your studies and future career planning. It can be so hard to find the right side hustle methods that earn extra money. You may have googled already to find out some of the ways that any student can try easily. How accurate are they though?

No, not accurate at all. “15 awesome ways to make money online”, “18 ways to make additional income with no previous experience”... The topic is very popular among bloggers who promote the wealth niche. The trouble is, only one or two of the methods they listed up have actually been tried by the writers themselves. I mean, it’s easy for anyone to simply list up jobs, isn’t it? Does it help you when they say, “if you are good at science, you can become a scientist”?

So I would say, don’t take the suggestions at face value, because there are a lot of myths floating around.

How NOT To Make Money As a College Student

How Not To Make Money As a College Student

Here are some typical suggestions often made by web article writers that are not viable in reality.

Survey Taking

Perhaps the most misled and overrated “job” is a survey-for-cash. There are a lot of legitimate GPT (get-paid-to) sites that offer rewards in exchange for taking surveys, such as SwagbucksClixsenseBeerSurveys, to name a few. They all claim to pay 20-80 cents for a 10-minute survey each and all. The problem is, it will take you a lot longer to find the actual survey that’s applicable to your profile and personal circumstances. So you could end up wasting like a day just to earn a few dollars. 

Then there are some people who claim to make $10 or more a day - sure they do. They spend day-in, day-out frantically clicking away in their bedroom. They’re not learning anything valuable from it. Is that what you’d really like to do?

After all, surveys are not designed to make you money because they’re conducted by research companies. For research purposes, right? They don’t want anybody who repeatedly takes surveys for money. They look for a variety of as many people to get accurate survey results. Online surveys to make money? It’s a myth.

Selling Photos

“If you are good at taking photographs, selling images to stock photography sites is a good idea.” That’s a famous line, and whoever suggests that is NOT a photographer themselves. Why would anyone buy your photographs when they have access to royalty-free stock photo sites?

I’m not a photographer either, so I can only copy what good photographers are saying. If you are good, your Instagram account should already have thousands of followers. You should also be trying to raise your profile by uploading your photos on those royalty-free sites and letting people use them for free. 

Website Flipping

Website flipping is where you build a brand new website, keep publishing valuable information (i.e. articles), then resell it after a year or so for a profit.

This business model used to be seen as a great way to make thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars per sale…until 5-10 years ago (?) It no longer works as easy just like that. Well, it doesn’t work because everyone’s trying to do it.

A website with a thousand pages of “valuable information” is not good enough to sell. Buyers want to see the evidence of traffic, and your monthly income via your website. 

In order to drive a good amount of traffic, you need to either work insanely hard on the content or spend a lot of money on paid advertisements.

Then you have to prove that you’re actually monetising the site successfully - that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? If you’re already generating revenue with that site, the problem is solved. The only reason you want to flip the site (=resell it) is when you are ready to quit owning it. Website flipping. Eventually a good way, but no, it's not as straightforward as they say.

Asset Trading / Investments

Asset Trading / Investments

Forex trading, day tradingoptions tradingshare investmentgold investment, cryptocurrency investment… The difference between “trading” and “investment” is that trading is where you make a profit or loss in a short term, whereas investment is a long-term strategy. 

As you may already be aware, both trading and investments require you to have extensive skills. Otherwise, you’d be gambling, wouldn’t you? So whoever suggests that they are the ways to earn income is being irresponsible, unless they can teach you to step by step. 

Both require capital (a lot of money) in the first place. With asset trading, you could lose a lot of money overnight. With an investment, you usually need thousands of dollars to put in, and without the right knowledge and monitoring, you could lose too - I’ve been there!

Online Gaming

Online gaming/casino. Gambling is gambling, it should NOT be suggested as a way to make money. Most of those who recommend gaming sites are affiliates. There is nothing blatantly wrong with them. But they often mislead users by using words such as “win-win”, “400% profits”, as if they guarantee, which is unethical. 

App Developing

Yeah, right. What makes them think that every college student is capable of creating mobile apps, I’m not sure. Perhaps apps work “on the internet” and they think that young students are better at techie stuff?

According to Statista, in the first quarter of 2021, there were 3.48 million Android apps and 2.22 million iOS apps available to download. So if you are a developer, you already know whether you can break into the competitive industry. If you are not a developer…learn to become one first! Can you make some extra cash by developing apps while studying? That’s not the question you should be asking some “make money online” blogger. Ask professional developers!

App Testing

App Testing

You get paid for trying out mobile apps and leaving positive reviews. It means that the whole system surrounding this reward scheme is profit-driven, rather than genuinely helping users. If you think about the logistics cycle - who’s paying for it - you know why. 

Just as I mentioned above, the app development industry seems so competitive, right? You can imagine how much effort those companies must put into marketing their new apps. So they pay to get positive feedback from as many users.

On the other hand, those app-testing-for-cash sites rely on the fees they receive from app development companies. It means neither of them wants you to be too honest and write negative reviews. If you do, they’ll try to get rid of you because there are plenty of other users who’d be happy to lie just to get paid. For that reason, app testing sites are, fundamentally unethical in my opinion. 

Sell Unwanted Stuff!?

Okay, they think you'll have an epiphany when they tell you this. Selling your belongings is a great way to make money as a college student.

How old do they think you are? Five? 

They tell you that there's this great marketplace called eBay, or Craigslist. Things that you can sell are clothes, shoes, books, brick-a-brac. They tell you to ask your parents if they have old CDs and vinyl that they want to get rid of. They've got to be kidding, right?

3 Steps To Make Money As A College Student

Okay, so as you may have guessed already, there is no magical way that any college student can create income without putting in the extra effort. I mean, come on, online surveys and app testing… A 10-year-old can do those. 

What you need to consider is why people will be spending money on you. If you’re going to do what tens of thousands of others are already doing, the only way to make decent cash is to show them that you’re better than others, isn’t it? Make sense?

Here are the 3 steps to start earning income.

  1. Identify your potential - Rediscover your abilities and see if you can explore. What are you good at? What are your hobbies? Do you prefer to speak or write? Are you good at maths? Sport?
  2. Decide what to do - There’s a list of things you can do to take advantage of your abilities. What kind of jobs/gigs are available out there? (See below)
  3. Improve your skills - Two skills to improve. One is the skill of your talent, and that’s continuous. The other one is the marketing skill, to let more people know that what you sell is valuable.

In the next section, I’ll elaborate on these 3 steps with an example.

What You Can Actually Do To Generate Income

Here’s one example. You are good at astrology and tarot reading. Your friends think that you’re a psychic. (?) Then that’s Step 1. That’s the talent that you may be able to monetise. 

Step 2 is what you can do with it.

#1 Sell Your Skill on Fiverr

Sign up with Fiverr and advertise yourself as a psychic/tarot card reader or an astrologist. (Under the category “Lifestyle” > “Astrology & Psychics”.) 

If you are good at writing, you can offer to write related articles, which is very popular among SEO agents. (Under the category “Writing & Translation” > “Content Writing & Editing”.)

How much you should charge for your service is all up to you. As the name suggests, the lowest you can charge is $5 per gig. I can only suggest that you should check how other sellers advertise themselves and how much they charge. That should give you an idea.

#2 Through Your Website

You can create your own website and share your knowledge with others - for free to start with. You can then monetise your efforts in several ways.

  • Create a members-only access to your website, and offer free and pay astrology/tarot courses (i.e. offer the first few lessons for free, then make the rest of the course chargeable.)
  • Create a digital product (e.g. ebook, video instruction) and sell it on your site. Spark by ClickBank can teach you how to go about it.
  • Publish blog articles on your site. Recommend related products (e.g. psychic reading programs run by other people) to your readers and earn a commission on each sale as an affiliate. It’s a good idea because if there are any problems, the seller and buyer will deal with them directly. You never have to worry about after-sales services or refund troubles.

#3 Video Marketing

Psychic-related niches are very popular on YouTube, so you can share your knowledge through your YouTube channel and do the same, i.e.

  • Earn advertising income.
  • Recommend your affiliate products and earn commissions.
  • Divert your viewers to your site and sell digital products.

You don’t necessarily have to show your face or use your own voice - there are ways to earn full-time income without appearing on the videos. Matt Par’s program is very popular right now, which teaches all about it.

You can also use TikTok to make extra cash by recommending products and also to get paid per view from the TikTok Creator Fund.

How To Improve Your Skills

As described in Step 3 above, now it comes to how you can keep learning and polish your skills. 

One is to maintain the level of the service you offer and keep raising the hurdle every now and again. It’s something that you’re good at in the first place. So I assume that you know where to get relevant learning materials from or who to ask for advice.

But the other one is how to market yourself and gain attention from as many prospects as possible. You can achieve it by;

  • Signing up with your competitors to find out their marketing methods - how they’re selling themselves so successfully.
  • Joining a marketing community where you can ask any question.
  • Taking a relevant marketing course (as mentioned earlier, such as Spark and YouTube), though some of the courses can be costly and it may be some time before your profits cover the cost.

How To Make Money As a College Student

There really is no way of earning quick bucks, and there’s no way of earning without putting in all your effort and passion. But I don't want you to be discouraged by that. One thing I can tell you is this. You might think you’re too busy with your college study and a part-time job to do anything else right now. But when you graduate and start your full-time profession - employed or self-employed - it gets even busier, because if you can't help the business generate revenue, your life will be doomed! Well, harder in years to come.

So now is the time to learn the ways to make yourself a decent income and keep yourself going. Good luck! Any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

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About the author 

Ray Alexander

ASD. Recovering alcoholic. LGBTQ+ advocate. Semi-retired. 15+ years of web-designing experience. 10+ years affiliate marketing. Ex-accountant. I'm nice and real. Ask me if you need any help in starting up your home business.

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