How do I earn money during college?

College isn’t cheap – but you don’t have to be broke.

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There are a thousand ways to earn money but it’s a common theme of conversation amongst the more cash-strapped in the population, namely students! So let’s go through a few ways you can help cover that rent, eat this week, buy that next pint or – god forbid – buy your textbooks for the year!

WORK

For the love of God don’t be afraid to get yourself a job! This might be obvious but I bet most people ending up at this article will do so because they were looking for a short-cut. There is no substitute for hard work and it will instil a work ethic in you that will translate into your study, future career and any other endeavours. It will also help to round out a CV from being purely academic to being a more complete picture of who you are and what you bring to the table. It will also provide you with a work reference for future job applications. There really is no better way to ensure an income while in college but you have to find the right one. Retail hours work for many students as they have evening, weekend and holiday work they can provide. Clubs, bars and restaurants busiest hours are suitable to student hours of study and so can help and have busy periods in line with student breaks to allow for extra income to carry you through those weeks you need to really buckle down and study. There are a lot of jobs that can work while you study but you should definitely look at this as your first line of finding income.

For me, I took work in security and sales.

Security is a relatively high paying part time job (I was getting €15 to €20 an hour), the hours are all suitable so as to not conflict with my university hours and it was pseudo-socializing so I never felt I was missing out on the nightlife. It also limited my expenses as I was working when others were out spending their money. You also end up making a great group of friends and in my case manage to reach a supervisory and management position relatively easily meaning you gain practical real-world management experience. Plus being a doorman is a whole lot of fun 90% of the time.

As for sales, this was something that came quite naturally with me. I have always been very sociable and able to communicate with people effectively. Applying this ability, having a little training and a lot of confidence almost anyone can create a career in sales and get to a well-paid position quickly. My first job was as a door to door salesman which only paid commission. This was a tough gig and I enjoyed the challenge of it. It also provided a great learning base to progress my career on. Almost everyone higher up in sales has worked door to door or at least knows the struggle that it is. It’s almost like a right of passage. From here I worked in showrooms, had telesales positions and also gained management experience quickly. In door to door sales, the turnover of staff is high as you might expect. This means that if you manage to stick around you will be senior staff quite quickly meaning you can gain supervisory experience quickly. You really learn a work ethic in sales but unless it was your objective don’t get trapped in this as your career. Sales skills translate across your life as every interview, new business idea, promotion meeting, etc will involve you selling something.

START A BUSINESS

But I am just starting college how can I start a business!? Easily. Very, very easily. There is a whole host of things people don’t want to do themselves. Ever cut grass before? GREAT! Go into college make up a flyer and post them in well-to-do neighbourhoods, elderly communities, etc. You made a flyer? How did it look? GREAT! Start a media/marketing company and offer your service to businesses. You are in college they have societies and clubs. Offer your services to them to create a portfolio of work. Use your student base. Offer companies and brands the chance to reach out to the student population through you. Clubs, bars, etc may be interested in luring business to their venue. You can go super simple in flyering for them, you can go gorilla and have popular/good looking students wear t-shirts with a company brand on it. You can do a million things and they don’t have to be the next million euro idea, they just have to create a revenue stream. All the better are ideas and companies you can set up and then have them run without you undertaking all elements of the job. Grass cutting? Get enough customers and pay someone else to do the route for you while you collect on top of what you pay. Media? Open source ideas and designs from students and offer a small fee for it while you earn on top. You live in student accommodation? Talk to reception about the cleaning contract on the complex. Make a bid. You are on-site so can respond to any “emergency” cases. It could be preferable if there have been any issues and in the service industry, there are always issues.

This should be pretty straight forward but the core of it is that you will have to do the starting work on all ideas before it becomes something you can get to run on its own. It is worth it as long as you put the effort in early, staff appropriately and give it a reasonable amount of time to make sure clients are happy and you gain new clients to mitigate against churn and to keep the business growing. I’ll do a whole post on small business ideas.

USE YOUR DEGREE

This might be obvious but it’s something almost everyone misses. Get relevant experience so that your degree is accompanied but suitable experience meaning you are a more viable candidate in future job applications in line with your degree. Getting a degree in marketing? Look at marketing agencies. Undertaking a graphic design UG? Look at design companies. Engineering? Engineering positions … You get the point.

This not only generates an initial cash flow that you will need whilst in college, it adds relevant experience for you moving forward into the job market and gives you real world experience to use during your studies and exams that others may not have due to lacking the practical element.

TUTOR

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
― Phil Collins

Good old Phil. Tutoring helps to make you look at the material and the best way of teaching it. This also helps you to understand the material better yourself. This is another one that almost everyone misses. If you are undertaking a degree in commerce like I did you can tutor secondary school students in business studies. This creates a source of revenue, is viewed quite highly by prospective employers and has almost completely flexible hours. The pay isn’t bad either if you can get the work. You can also tutor students the year below you in university based on your results the year previous. If you got a 1.1 grade in a subject the year previous then you already have your notes, the textbook and a direct link to the students. This can be carried over to all your modules throughout all your years. As if you needed extra incentive to get good grades – put that work to work. I routinely saw €30 individual study sessions or €50 for two students. When exam time rolls around students go into a mini panic and so you can routinely pick up a couple of sessions across all modules you can prove you did well in and notch up €1000 pretty easy. By your final year of study, you should have a couple years worth of notes and proof of not only your own results but those you tutored to keep business rolling. Add a couple thousand to your earnings annually for as long as you keep up to date with the curriculum.

ONLINE

This is the one most people are looking for as they don’t want to have to punch a clock and been shouted at by someone they hate a couple times a week. I get it. We all need to be able to work for a boss we can’t stand because most of us will have to in our chosen career paths but that’s not what we are talking about here. So where do you go to earn money online?

Fiverrr / People-per-hour / Listverse / Transtutors / UpWork
Here you can complete jobs that are listed for set sums, offer your own skills to others, answer questions for money and more. This can create some nice income whilst allowing you to develop skills, build a portfolio and pay some bills! People who develop good feedback, do good work and can establish regular customers can develop a stay at home career from sites like these. You can queue requests and so have a regular stream of work and know what is coming in. Logo design, sales copy writing, transcribing, graphic design, etc. all have people lining up to give you their money. If you can type quickly then you can make money.

EVENTS

This can be HUGE and a personal favourite of mine. An event can be anything for 100 to 5000 people depending on your initial budget. A 100 person event selling tickets for €15 can give you €1000 clear and free. the more you escalate the customers the more you can make. Find something that works, an underserved market or something that you can make your own. What I noticed in university was that all clubs played top 40 and mainstream music. This left large groups on people without a suitable venue playing music they were interested in. Enter the opportunity. Small bars are willing to negotiate for quieter nights and you can get a good deal. Many places aren’t interested in the student market and have quiet nights throughout the week. This gives you scope, relative leverage and numerous venues you can talk to. Find the right DJ or entertainment and then its all marketing. Social media here is key as its only real expense is time. You can flyer, use social media, put up posters, etc. Pre-sell tickets so that you have some indication of how well it will do rather than just clicks on Facebook. Also if tickets sell out before the event even begins you know that you are on to a winner and can talk to the club owner about extra nights. 500 people €10 a ticket is €5,000. The venue will likely claim the bar as they want to generate income also out of the deal. All in and paid you can clear €4,000. That’s good money for a student to be earning each week. Even once a month if the audience isn’t that large. Many people make this their entire career and it’s easy to see why when you look at the revenue it can create. I know a couple people who have the student contracts for large venues. 1300 students twice a week at €7 a go(€18,200 a week! For 26 weeks a year – minus expenses of course) is nice money for what is effectively overseeing marketing teams and overseeing the operational element of the night. This is a lot like sales and you will have to produce results or face getting the boot but it is very rewarding when you see effective marketing come together with a great concept and fill a venue (and your wallet).


So there are a few ideas for how to earn some money during college. Some are simple, some require skill and some can develop into complete careers that make you very financially successful.

There is money out there – you just have to be willing to work to get it. I will develop the ideas mentioned above in future individual posts.

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