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Alternative Income

Creative Ways to Make Money Without Getting a 'Real Job'

This article is about investing, which loosely means spending money on something with the expectation that it will one day be worth more money than what you put into it, thus creating a profit for you. No two investments are the same. Some investments require very little work while some require much more. However, almost all investments require one thing, capital. There are a few exceptions, but overall if you want to start investing, you are going to need some initial funds to get started. This can be hard to do when you are in college and already trying to balance paying bills with paying for your education.

Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to get a part-time job, or two if you already have one, and simply save your money until you have a decent amount to start investing. This is how I got my initial start-up cash. However, since then I have noticed and thought of some other ways to make money that I wish I had known because they would have saved me some time at the very least. So without further ado, I have compiled a list of some creative ways to earn some extra income in college without working for someone else and require no investment.

Take advantage of referral rewards.

I never really noticed it before, but when you keep an eye out you will be astounded at how many companies and services are willing to give you a reward for bringing them business. You've probably seen it before without noticing, or maybe you have used it before without realizing its full potential. The main place I have noticed it is with apartments. At almost every apartment I visit, I notice a sign by the front office that says “refer a friend, earn 500$” or something to that effect. Other common places include apps and services such as Uber and Lyft. Also, many travel websites and even blogs will give you money if you can bring them traffic. Keep your eyes open and be creative and you will be surprised at how much money you can earn just by letting other people work for you.

Contract Jobs

While this can be seen as working for someone else, contract work differs from traditional employment in that it allows you to set your own hours and be your own boss. These days, there are more and more companies taking advantage of this work trend. Companies such as Uber and Lyft are among the forerunners of this work style. However, there are still a number of other options, such as renting out a room on Airbnb. Take advantage of these opportunities as a great way to earn extra cash without all the stress of a regular job.

Freelance Work

Like contract work, freelance work is great because it allows you to work on your own time. However, freelance work differs in that it usually requires a more specific skill set than contract work. That being said, most of the skills required for being a freelancer are things that can be learned and developed in a relatively short amount of time. Freelance work can range from creative writing to computer programming to graphic design. Basically, if you have any sort of specialized skill, you can use it to make extra money, sometimes quite a lot. The other great thing is that freelance work can all be done online if that's what you want. There are a number of high volume websites out there that connect freelancers with people who need work done, such as Freelancer, Upwork, and Toptal.

Get a credit card.

This advice may seem contrary to the advice you have probably gotten in the past, but a credit card can be a great asset if you know how to use it properly and responsibly. The only time a credit card becomes a problem is if you have poor self-control or if you are uninformed about how they work. If you are a meticulous person and make sure to pay off your balance every month, you can actually benefit greatly from credit card rewards. Make sure to do your research and make sure you get a credit card with a low or no annual fee. Also, choose which rewards program works best for you. The most widely attractive program would probably be the cash back rewards. However, the card I currently have is an air miles card and I used it after only six months to book a plane ticket to Italy for only $100 out of my pocket. Also, as long as you make your payments on time, a credit card will help you build credit, which will be incredibly important to your long-term investing game.

Take surveys online.

As young adults, there is an entire population of companies that target us as their main consumer. Take advantage of this by offering feedback. There are a number of websites that offer to pay you in return for taking surveys online. To be honest, the amount of money that you can make from doing this will be trivial at best, but if you devote just 30 minutes a day to take two or three surveys, it can add up to equal a pretty good amount over time. Some websites are better than others, but a few good ones are Surveyjunkie and Swagbucks.

Develop your own skills.

There is no better investment than an investment in yourself. And there is no more rewarding work than work you enjoy doing. Therefore, one of the overall best ways to make money can be to develop your own skills and talents into something that can make you money. The trick is to start with what you like doing, and what you are good at. Are you good at math? Then advertise yourself in your math building as a math tutor. Are you a classically trained pianist? Advertise in your local upper-class neighborhood to teach kids piano. Do you like to paint? Find a niche and sell your paintings on Etsy (or a number of other websites). The possibilities are literally endless and dependent on what you want to do.

Help companies advertise.

You would be surprised at how much local businesses would be willing to pay in order to attract more business. Start by going around to the businesses in close vicinity and sell yourself as a socialite who can bring in all of your friends to their business. Your best bet would be to start with companies that cater only and directly to college students (such as student bookstores) but you can also go to restaurants and retail stores. For example, I know someone who got paid $200 by a donut shop just to dress up in a giant donut suit and dance around on the campus green with a box of the company's donuts. He made $200 for 20 minutes work and also got some free donuts in the process. It can be intimidating or awkward to randomly approach a business and propose such a thing, but if you are smart and persistent then you will eventually make some money. 

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