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The Fab Five of Student Jobs – A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Extra Money in College

By Melissa Johnson |

College life is undoubtedly hectic! Between coursework, major projects, and exams — not to mention the fun stuff — it can feel like there’s scarcely a free moment. But it’s not uncommon for college students to end up needing a little bit of extra cash.

The good news is, when you need some spare cash quickly, you don’t need to pick up extra shifts waiting tables! More jobs than ever are available that allow students to work from home (or dorm) on their own terms. This allows you to earn money when you need it, and build up your resume and portfolio even before you graduate!

Let’s take a look at 5 great ways to supplement your income while you’re still in college:

1. Freelancing

Freelancing can often sound like something only mid-level professionals do, but the fact is, it’s a great way to college students and recent college grads to get their feet wet!

There were some 15.5 million self-employed individuals in the U.S. in May 2015 — an increase of about 1 million over May 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s estimated that 40% of the US workforce (some 60 million people) will be freelancers, contractors, or temporary employees by 2020.

Freelancing allows you to choose your own clients and pursue any opportunities that interest you. Web design, graphic design, writing are common freelance jobs, but you’ll also find clients in need of virtual assistants, research assistants, sales and marketing support, customer service, medical transcription, coding and programming, online data entry, 3-D modeling, musical composition — even voiceover work!

Online platforms can connect you with clients all over the world and ensure you get paid for the effort you’ve put in! One of the biggest websites for freelancers is Upwork, with more than 12 million contractors from around the world. You can seek out clients, but they can also explore your profile and invite you to projects. Upwork lets you set your own hours and workload — take on as many or as few projects as your schedule allows!


To start out on Upwork, you’ll create a profile to highlight your skills and accomplishments, then upload portfolio pieces and take tests to highlight your skills.

Your profile is kind of your home page. It’s where you’ll outline your job history, educational background, and your skills, as well as any qualifications, certifications, or professional memberships. Upwork has some great sample profiles for you to check out here.

You can also upload any portfolio pieces, which is a great way to showcase your skills if you don’t have much actual work experience under your belt. This can include writing and design projects, as well as website links.

Upwork’s system relies on Connects — think of them as a virtual currency that allows you to apply for jobs. You have a specified amount to use each month, but don’t worry — you can apply to plenty of jobs! If you find yourself going through a lot of Connects, you can upgrade to Upwork’s Pro plan for $10/month to get extra Connects, plus the option to purchase more as needed.

Beyond that, the application process is pretty similar to traditional hiring. Once you apply for the job (Upwork calls it “submitting proposals”), the client can decide whether to begin an interview process. You’ll schedule a time to talk with client, discuss the project requirements and your skills, and hammer out any details. Then, the client can make an offer, which you’ll need to accept before you can get working!

One of the nicest things about Upwork is that as long as you use the time-tracking app, you are guaranteed payment. You can also do fixed-price jobs with milestones, with the funds held in escrow. In traditional freelancing, it’s up to you to handle the invoicing and ensuring your clients pay — but Upwork eliminates that trouble!

Some clients may want to issue you a small trial job before they start the larger project. However, don’t ever let yourself fall into the trap of giving away free work. Upwork’s terms of service prohibit unpaid trials.

That’s the basics of using Upwork. However, there are many other platforms you can choose to work! These include Textbroker (for writing only),, and Each works a bit differently, and it’ll be up to you to figure out which one you prefer!

2. User-Testing

Fun fact: Businesses want to know whether a website or new app will appeal to users before they launch it. Another fun fact: They will pay to find out!

Enter This platform allows major clients to get feedback on their apps and websites by contracting out to people seeking some quick cash. Once you’ve created your account, you can log in and pick up a project. All you have to do is visit a website or app and complete a series of tasks. asks you to talk outloud while you perform the series of tasks. You’ll need a microphone, and you must download the site’s screen recording software.

During the application you’ll complete a sample test and provide some basic demographic information. Then, will send you alerts when new tests are available.

Just 20 minutes of your time will earn you $10 — meaning you could earn up to $30/hour this way. The site pays its testers via PayPal, so you’ll have to have a PayPal account.

3. Social Media Marketing

Do you live on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? It’s sad to say, but plenty of businesses still have very little idea how social media works. That’s problematic given that social media isn’t just about posting updates — Facebook pages and twitter feeds are becoming a hub for sales as well as customer service.

Social Media Examiner found in its own survey that 96% of small businesses used social media, and 92% agree that it is important to their business.

Despite that, though, most of the people using social media to market their business don’t know if their efforts are working. Part of this may be a lack of understanding of the platform or how to measure metrics. That’s where you come in!

Businesses need to get a better handle on how to manage all of their social channels. And they’re willing to pay qualified experts to handle social media for them! Whether you find a local business willing to hire you on part time, or go the freelance route, this is a great way to enhance your resume and establish some very real successes.

The good news is the social media doesn’t have to be a full-time job, even in a world that is always connected. Social scheduling tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite give you the flexibility to create posts ahead of time, so it looks like you’re online even when you aren’t, so you can create a schedule that works for your needs, and your clients’. You can even manage social media on the go!

Looking to up your social media game? Consider getting Hootsuite certified as a way to show your clients you understand how to really use this platform and know the best practices for social media.

4. Online Tutoring

Tutoring is actually an old standby for college students looking to make some extra cash. Your university probably has a tutoring program in place, and if you check out the bulletin boards on campus or at your favorite coffee shop, you’ll undoubtedly find people offering tutoring services for a wide range of subjects.

But this is the digital age, and you don’t need to rely on the old-fashioned way. Online tutoring through companies such as Chegg and are just as viable, and best of all you can still set your own hours. You may find yourself tutoring middle school or high school students, or even college underclassmen or professionals looking to expand their skills!

The most popular subjects are science and math, but plenty of people need help with foreign languages and essay writing as well! You may also find a demand for other more specialized subjects depending on how you go about the process.

Kaplan Testing also hires tutors to prepare people for standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, and GRE — if you have the scores and qualifications, it can be a great option.

5. Gig/Shared Economy Jobs

You’ve probably heard about this line of work even if the words “Gig” or “Shared Economy” before — it’s the same model that services such as Uber and Lyft use. This on-demand workforce — the “gig” economy, consists of about 600,000 people. That’s an admittedly small number compared to the overall workforce (just 0.5%) but it’s also growing.

And while you can certainly try ride-sharing as a way to pick up some extra cash, you can also put all sorts of other skills to work using sites such as TaskRabbit and GigWalk.

Instead of hourly work, these sorts of projects generally pay per-gig, and you can choose projects that take just a few minutes or several hours. TaskRabbit is more for errands, cleaning, delivery, and repair services, while GigWalk focuses more on helping retail companies (anything from staffing to checking stock levels in a store).

There are even specialized sites for pet owners who are looking for someone to look after their pets, such as Rover and DogVacay.


There’s no question that that the job market is changing! People are working in fundamentally different ways — ways that give them more freedom and flexibility than ever before. As a college student, it’s important to have flexibility in your schedule. Whether you choose freelancing, tutoring, or even just running errands for other people, any of these quick cash-earners allows you to make money on your own terms while still enjoying the college experience to the fullest.

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