The best ways to make money online for college students

a college student studying from a laptop

Written by Charaf Mrah

Salut! I'm a college student majoring in Software Engineering. I created this website to share whatever I'm learning with you.

July 22, 2020

The number one thing you should be focusing on in college should be your studies. However, making money doesn’t have to interrupt your studying.

Making money online is a 21st-century blessing. You can literally make money from your dorm room’s bed while eating chips.

On top of the extra cash that you can be making, you’ll be able to learn new valuable skills that you might need in the future.

So today I bring to you the best ways to make money that will both add skills to your resume, and money to your bank account.

NOTE: this is not a get money quick guide, each skill I’m going to mention requires practice, your consistency and discipline are what will determine your success.

MY CRITERIA: although there are many ways in which you can make money online, I choose the most relevant ones for college students. These jobs don’t require you to be a full-time employee in order to make good cash and they also provide you with skills that you’ll find helpful even after college.

1 – SOCIAL MEDIA (ESPECIALLY INSTAGRAM):

Usually, when people talk about making money with social media they mean social media marketing. However, this is not the case here.

While Social Media marketing is a great way to make money, what I’m talking about is running your own social media account.

Especially Instagram.

Growing an Instagram account is a skill that takes practice. Long passed the time where you can just post random photos and get followers. 

Running an Instagram can either be all about you (a personal brand) or completely different (for example a memes page, pictures of dogs…etc.).

HOW TO GROW AN INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT?

Growing an Instagram account from zero can be challenging at first. But with practice, you’ll get very good at it.

I personally have grown three different accounts related to technology in the past year alone. Two of these got well over 30k followers and by the end of the year, I’m estimated to get over 100k.

HERE’S THE SECRET SAUCE: pick a very specific niche. My accounts aren’t just about technology in general, it would have been impossible to grow this way.

For example, instead of having your account about technology in general, you can get specific: an Apple technology page. 

Wait! You can get even more specific: an iPhone fan page. 

WAIT! You still can get way more specific about the niche: an iPhone 12 fan page for example.

Having a very specific niche is the secret sauce that I found and used to grow my accounts. There are other ways of course but I don’t think that they can get the same results as mine if you’re starting from zero.

HOW TO MAKE MONEY FROM AN INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT?

You’ve worked hard on your Instagram account, you have tens of thousands of followers loving what you do. Now what? Is Instagram sending the check? Well obviously not!

There are different ways in which you can make money with your Instagram account. The most common one is running ads on your page.

When you get big enough people wanting to advertise their products will start sliding to your DMS for an advertisement. 

However, the ad rates on Instagram are very low in my opinion, unless you’re part of the 1M+ club. We’re talking around $10-30 for a 24 hours post and story ad. 

If you prefer the ads though, I would suggest that you run multiple pages to make it worth the effort.

THE SECRET SAUCE: You don’t have to make your money this way. Be creative and figure out something that you could sell. 

We talk about dropshipping in this post as a way to make money. Mixing your social media pages and your dropshipping business is a very powerful way to make money and a smart business move in my opinion (thank me later).

I have done this myself and now I don’t have to pay for an advertisement for my dropshipping products (in the testing period at least).

HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU MAKE FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?

Not a lot is the short answer. There are always exceptions to the rule of course, but usually, I would say $200-500 is the average

On the other hand, the time you put into it is usually not a lot anyway, especially after you get good at it with practice.

You can prepare all your posts on a weekend night in a couple of minutes or hours (depending on your content) and then start publishing them every day, as well as respond to comments and DMS…etc. Overall it won’t take 15 minutes from your day on average.

IS SOCIAL MEDIA WORTH IT?

I would say that it’s definitely worth it in my opinion.

Not only are you making easy pocket money, but you’re also learning very valuable skills doing what you usually do anyways: scrolling through social media.

Social media marketing is a very valuable skill that you can add to your resume, and learning it by doing the work yourself is both fun and beneficial.

2 – TRANSCRIBING:

Although transcribing is probably the easiest way to make money compared to the other skills in this post, it still needs practice.

Transcribing requires you to be a good (& preferably fast) typist + you also need multitasking abilities.

WHAT IS TRANSCRIBING?

putting (thoughts, speech, or data) into written or printed form.

Uncle Google Search

Transcribing is usually done by listening to an audio clip and writing whatever is spoken in that clip using a keyboard.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU GET PAID FROM TRANSCRIBING?

While the average pay for transcribing one audio hour is $90-180, transcribing one hour of audio takes much longer than an hour

Professionals need about 3 hours in order to transcribe one audio hour. But as a beginner, you’ll definitely need more time. 

HOW TO BECOME A GOOD TRANSCRIBER?

There are two very important skills to become a good transcriber.

First, your typing speed (with accuracy) is very important. The faster you type the more money you’ll be able to make transcribing.

RELATED: You can check my post on “How to Improve your Typing Speed to save time” if you haven’t practiced fast typing yet.

Second, multitasking is a very crucial skill to become a good transcriber. The ability to listen and type at the same time requires some brainpower and you’ll definitely get better at it by practice over time.

WHERE CAN I START WORKING AS A TRANSCRIBER?

There are many different websites specifically made for transcription jobs. These are the best ones from my research:

IS TRANSCRIBING WORTH IT?

In my opinion, transcription is definitely worth it if you’re already a fast typer and good at multitasking.

If you’re not a fast typist or good at multitasking then this might be a great opportunity for you to hone these skills.

3 – CREATING WEBSITES:

Relax, this has nothing to do with coding. Some people still think that you need programming skills in order to make or design websites.

This might have been true ten years ago, but today thanks to WordPress and other projects it’s not the case anymore.

You can create the website of your dreams without writing a single line of code. And no it won’t look bad nor lack features.

Don’t believe me? Check out my personal website charafmrah.com that I made without writing a single line of code, yet lol.

WHAT SHOULD I LEARN TO MAKE WEBSITES?

There are a lot of ways in which you create a website. However, let’s focus on the most popular and effective.

The most popular and arguably the best way is using WordPress (from WordPress.org). 

WordPress offers a dashboard where you can customize your website as well as publish posts from. All you have to learn is how to use WordPress, that’s it.

But it’s not as easy as I made it look though. WordPress has a huge set of settings and things that you can do. For example, you will need to install different plugins to ensure better security and performance.

Anywho, I think that learning about how to use WordPress is a perfect starting point.

NOTE: DON’T TAKE PAID COURSES TO LEARN ABOUT WORDPRESS, YOUTUBE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH, JUST GOOGLE IT.

HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I MAKE FROM CREATING WEBSITES?

Creating websites can generate a lucrative amount of income if you master it right. The average pay for a developer is approx $30-100 or even more. 

However, in order to get to that level of income, you’ll need to start cheaper ($10 is a good starting point). 

Creating websites isn’t just about choosing the right theme and writing content. There are other skills that you’ll need to learn about later (SEO optimization, web security…etc).

WHEN CAN I START MAKING MONEY FROM CREATING WEBSITES?

This might surprise you, but it’s true: 2 months

Two months are more than enough in order to learn the basics of creating websites, especially if know how to use a mouse and keyboard.

However, don’t take projects that you still don’t know how to do, go with smaller projects.

Start with easy to do websites like a website for your local cafe or restaurant…etc.

WHERE CAN I WORK AS A FREELANCER CREATING WEBSITES?

I would suggest that you start by looking at the businesses around you first. The barber shop or restaurant in your neighborhood for example.

Approach all the businesses (you can go in person or email them) around you that either have no websites, or have a website stuck in 2009.

If you prefer doing it online, there are hundreds of websites created for web freelancers online. However I would recommend that if you pick one stick to it.

The biggest issue that new freelancers face is not having enough or any reviews on their profile. The solution is to stick to just one platform at the beginning and to lower your rates at the beginning to get as many good reviews as you possibly can. You can then later transfer these reviews to other platforms (or your personal website) as well.

My personal top freelancing sites for creating websites are:

  • Fiverr (lowe rates but more chances)
  • Upwork (higher rates but has more professional competition, I would suggest starting with Fiverr first then moving to Upwork)

4 – DROPSHIPPING:

WAIT! Don’t leave yet, I’m not selling you any dropshipping course. 

Dropshipping gets related to online scams which makes the entire business look shady. However, it’s not like that at all if you do it right.

WHAT IS DROPSHIPPING?

Imagine this: your friend makes cookies but doesn’t know how to sell them. So you make a partnership with him, you advertise and sell the cookies then you send the customer’s information to your friend. Your friend then makes the cookies and ships it to the customer. You’re the one responsible for selling the price after getting the cost & and your friend’s profit margin price per cookie from your friend.

This is exactly how dropshipping works, you create an eCommerce website that sells products from other companies so you don’t have to store any of the products or deal with shipping.

HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU MAKE FROM DROPSHIPPING?

This is probably the hardest one to predict out of the list, I don’t have a certain average or number value for you because it all depends on you & your business.

Some people made millions with dropshipping, and many more made zero dollars.

It’s a tricky one because it’s not just a normal job, you’ll need to run it as a business.

WHAT SKILLS DO I NEED FOR DROPSHIPPING?

Just as running any other business, dropshipping requires a wide range of skills. But there are two main skills you ABSOLUTELY need: 

First, creating & designing websites, this is probably the easiest one in my opinion as you can create one using Shopify fairly easily (I recommend Shopify for dropshipping).

Secondly, marketing, marketing, marketing, and marketing.

You can have the best-looking website in the world, but if you don’t know how to drive traffic to it then there’s no point in having it.

There are many different marketing skills for dropshipping such as influencer marketing, Facebook marketing…etc.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO START DROPSHIPPING?

From my experience, I’m gonna say at least $100. This will be a good starting point.

I would suggest that you watch YouTube tutorials so that you minimize the trial and error that you’ll run into. 

NOTE: NEVER BUY A COURSE ABOUT DROPSHIPPING, EVERYTHING IS AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE.

CONCLUSION: 

There are many different ways in which you can make money online as a college student. 

But the ideal ways are the ones where you can both make money without going full times as well as acquire skills that you can add your resume later on.

  • Social Media (doesn’t require a lot of time)
  • Transcription (relatively easy to master)
  • Creating Websites (Could turn into your full-time job as well)
  • Dropshipping (for the business savvy ppl)

Always remember that the number one skill you need is consistency. Without consistency, you can never make money with any of the mentioned top 3 ways, or any other way (unless it’s thievery).

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