The cost of higher education is increasing far faster than the rate of inflation, but that doesn’t mean today’s students have given up on trying to pay their way through school. Just the opposite, in fact: According to CNBC, more than 70 percent of college students work part time while taking classes, up significantly from 25 years ago.
Some even start their own businesses. Miami entrepreneur George Otte did just that, according to a Business.com article by Lucinda Watrous. By graduation day, Otte had built a successful operation with more than 100 clients. Soon after, he parlayed his early success into a multi-city computer repair network, then launched three additional businesses in unrelated fields.
The catch is that most student entrepreneurs, let alone wage-earners, can’t pay their entire tuition bills with their side gigs. College is simply too pricey, and there are too many other expenses competing for students’ attention.
But these six lucrative jobs can make a considerable dent. If you play your cards right, these side gigs can morph into full-time work in the “real world” too—or form the basis for a successful startup.
- Graphic Designer (Freelance)
Talented designers can earn substantial sums on the side, thanks to freelance platforms such as DesignCrowd and 99Designs. For a more predictable income, look for project-based opportunities that offer guaranteed pay, rather than contests that require you to submit designs upfront with no guarantee of monetary reward on the back end.
Translation software is getting better, but it’s not quite there yet. Until it’s as good in real time as the human speech organ, society is going to need human translators. Lots of them.
According to PayScale, those translators are going to be doing just fine. The average translator earns about $20 per hour, and experienced, full-time translators can easily pull down $70,000 to $80,000 per year. If you’re fluent in a less common language, your earning potential (and job security) could be even better.
- Office Manager/Assistant
Most academic departments need multiple office managers and administrative assistants to keep the trains running on time. Start by inquiring with your academic adviser or the department head, then move on to non-academic departments at your school. If you’re struggling to find work on campus, broaden your search to professional offices around town. You won’t get rich doing this—$10 to $15 per hour is all you can realistically expect—but you’ll gain valuable experience.
Tutoring is an entrepreneurial activity. If you approach your tutoring work like a business and pour yourself into your work, you’ll find a host of happy clients. This Get Rich Slowly post is a great primer on building a tutoring mini-business from the ground up. If you’d prefer to avoid the hard work of prospecting and administration, try an online tutoring platform like Chegg — the pay is lower, but the clients come to you.
- Campus Tour Guide
If you enjoy spending time with the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed scholars of the future, this job is made for you. Campus tour guides typically have flexible schedules, though they may be expected to put in longer hours on alumni weekends, welcome weeks, and other periods of peak interest. They also have to be “on” all the time: An outgoing, sunny disposition and a talkative manner are both prerequisites for the gig.
- Following Your Passion
If none of these gigs grabs you, no problem. Take a page from Otte’s playbook and translate your passion into a legit business.
When it comes to starting a business in college, the sky’s the limit. If you’re handy, open up a bike studio and fix your friends’ rides. If you’re fluent in one or more programming languages, build an app to solve a pressing problem and see if you can monetize your solution. Or parlay an occasional freelance gig, like graphic design, into a more formal enterprise.
Just remember to leave enough time for your studies—unless your enterprise turns out to be more successful than you imagined, in which case you’ll need to consult your mentors, parents, and conscience about your options. But that’s a subject for a different day.