Five savvy ways to make money as a student

This article was last updated on 15 September 2020.

It’s been a year for thinking outside the box when it comes to making money and you might need a bit of creative thinking to find your uni side-hustle too. If you’re looking for flexible earning opportunities that you can fit round your studies, read on for some inspiration.

Remember, if you're studying in the UK on a visa, or are receiving funding for your course, be sure to check out the Ts and Cs of your work eligibility first.

1. Online selling

From selling items you no longer need, to creating bespoke pieces like jewellery or artwork, online selling can be a great way to boost your income. The great thing is that you’re in the driving seat and can make it work around the needs of your course. You could keep it small, for example selling old textbooks to other students via social media, or you could sow the seed for a whole new business! Check out T’s story of how she started her full-time vintage fashion business from humble beginnings selling online as a student.

Think about what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about. For example, if you love photography, how about selling prints of some of your pictures online? Harness the power of your social platforms and spread the word about your new ventures.

2. Modelling

If you’re looking for something a bit different to the classic customer service job, perhaps student modelling could be the answer. Not sure if it’s the right fit? You could do some trial shoots – university is a great place to look for opportunities to build your portfolio, for example with Fashion students seeking models for their latest projects or Photography students looking for subjects for their pictures.

If you’re hoping to get on an agency’s books, make sure you do your research in advance. Consider what type of modelling you'd like to get into and check out potential agencies' terms and conditions to make sure everything is above board. There are some handy tips from the British Fashion Model Agents Association about how to avoid frauds and scams in the industry.

As the BFMA point out: “Legitimate model agencies will never ask you for money. If an agency does ask for a fee when you sign up with them or even at a later stage, you should be alarmed as it is not common practice.”

3. Market research studies

Get paid to get opinionated! Market research focus groups and surveys can be a quick way to make some extra cash. You could be giving your insight into anything from household products to video games.

Online Surveys: To take part, you simply sign up to research sites and wait for them to email you surveys. Rewards for completing surveys are usually done on a points system, with points being converted into cash or vouchers. You’re probably not going to make mega-bucks, but Money Saving Expert reports some savvy survey-takers earning £200-£800 a year. With surveys lasting anything from under a minute to 45 minutes, it’s something you can easily ramp up or down to suit your availability.

Focus groups: According to Money Magpie's analysis of three UK focus group sites, you can expect to earn anything from £10 to £350 per project. Focus groups pay more per session than online surveys but you’re limited to a few a year. They typically happen in-person and last around one to two hours but, due to the pandemic, some are now happening online or via the phone too.

There is lots of information available online about how to get involved and the dos and don’ts of making it work. As a starting point, you could check out Money Saving Expert’s guides to online surveys and focus groups and Money Magpie’s guides to online surveys and focus groups.

4. Pet sitting

If you’re missing your fur babies, or have always wished you had a pet, getting paid to look after someone else’s could be the perfect set up! There are now a number of organisations specialising in matching up pet owners with sitters, as an alternative to boarding options like catteries and kennels. With different types of pet sitting gigs available – from looking after pets in your own home, to visiting furry friends in their homes – do some research to find the best option for you. Be sure to check any current coronavirus restrictions in your area to make sure this would be a safe side-hustle for you to pursue.

We recommend lining up any pet sitting gigs through official apps or websites so you know that jobs are legitimate and can check out their policies. For example, you want to see whether, if you’re booked through that site, both you and the pet will be insured. It's worth doing your homework so you know you've ticked all the boxes before you get started. Once you’ve created a profile and matched with a potential client, you may be asked to attend an initial meet and greet to make sure it’s a good fit for you, the pet and the owner. For safety, always let a trusted friend know where you’ll be for any sitting jobs.

Earnings will vary, with some sites letting you set your own rates depending on your experience. As a rough guide, sitters on a popular cat-sitters site are currently charging around £8-£20 per day for a drop-in service (visiting the pets at home once or twice a day).

Stay savvy, stay safe, and get snuggling!

5. Transcription

Transcription work is another flexible, at-home option you can fit around your course. Jobs involve listening to audio recordings and converting them into typed reports. Recordings can be from several different sources, such as a lecture, a conference call or a podcast. Typical skills transcription websites are looking for include:

  • Strong command of the English language
  • Excellent grammar and spelling (there, they're and their, anyone?)
  • Listening skills
  • Research skills (to look up words you’re unfamiliar with)
  • IT skills
  • Accurate and fast typing speed

Rates vary depending on the complexity of the recording and how tight the turnaround time is. For example, if the audio has several voices, or is poor quality, the price will be higher. Rates are usually calculated per minute of audio transcribed, so the faster you can type accurately, the more you can earn.

As a rough estimate, transcriptionists disclosing their pay on Indeed report currently earning an average of £9.46 an hour. You can earn more for transcripts requiring specialist knowledge, such as legal or medical insight. So, if you’re studying in those areas, it could be an extra bonus!

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