How students can earn some cash with just a phone and a laptop

This image shows graphic illustrations of a printer, clothes, and lips with money signs in the background to show ways to make money.
Illustration by Agasha Kankunda

Being a university student during a pandemic comes with a lot of restrictions when it comes to making ends meet. Even with social distancing guidelines and Toronto’s mask policy, working students can still be exposed to COVID-19. 

However, if you have access to a stable internet connection, a phone and laptop, you can make some money online without putting yourself at risk.

Here are some ways you can put some extra coins in your pocket without being vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Write for freelance websites

Second-year journalism student Alex Baumgartner is a paid contributor for Fansided, a network that features news on sports, lifestyle, and entertainment.

Baumgartner writes about the NHL for Puck Prose, a subdivision of Fansided, but there are many other opportunities for students to write for the network as it hosts three hundred other websites. 

For every thousand views his article gets, he is paid one U.S. dollar.

“You don’t need anything other than a laptop. You don’t need a journalism degree, it’s freelancing. As long as the editors take you, they’ll let you write,” said Baumgartner.

Listverse is another website that pays contributors  $100 for a list-style article on any topic of their choosing. 

All you need is a laptop and a PayPal account. You can send in your list to their website and wait for their response.

According to their website, Listverse mostly commissions  lists that are “looking at something normal in an unexpected way” such as “unsolved mysteries, hidden knowledge, misconceptions, and just really astonishing general knowledge about anything.”

One thing to note is that they don’t publish lists about “sports, self-help, personal stories, gaming” and anything based on personal opinion.

If you’re not into sticking to one style of writing, you can sign up with Medium’s partner program where you can get paid when readers engage with stories you publish on Medium.

Sell your stuff

Thrifting and buying second-hand items have become more popular among students as it’s sustainable and offers cheaper prices than brand new items from retail stores. Along with everything else, thrifting has also moved online.

With online reseller platforms such as Poshmark and Depop, it’s become easier to sell items you don’t need to people that might be interested in them. You can also upload your items to Facebook Marketplace or make an Instagram account where you can promote your items to friends and family.

If you’re the crafty type, selling your work online is also a great way to make money.

Anya Johnson, a second-year fashion communication student, sells custom art pieces on her Instagram such as stickers, cards, and larger prints.

Sticker sheet designed by Anya Johnson via Instagram

She makes art on paper and digitally, and manages her small business with just her phone.

Johnson said her business of selling her art has become easier now; not only because everything can be run online, but also because she has more time to stay at home and time in between classes to make more art. 

Johnson used to work at a warehouse during the summer, but once she discovered that she’s able to make profit from her art pieces, she said she won’t be going back to “manual labour.”

“Seeing that I can make money from making things that I’m actually interested in and can add stuff to my portfolio makes me not want to return to that stuff anyway,” said Johnson.

Etsy is a website for independent artists to sell handmade goods, digital art, and prints. You don’t need a business license b to sell on Etsy, you would just need an Etsy account and shop. 

If you have a laptop or an iPad, you can make custom art for your clients and set your own commission prices as well. 

Make sure to outline all of your store’s policies in terms of shipping, returns, exchanges, and payments. Determine what method of payment you prefer and be consistent. 

Lastly, have fun with your branding and setting up your online business. This is an extension of who you are, and your first customers will most likely  be people you know. Become a trusted seller and build your reputation, and the followers and views will come naturally then. 

Profit off of your personality

Are you still being funny for FREE? You can make money from that now. With TikTok’s introduction of the TikTok Creator Fund, you can get paid for the app’s users engaging with your videos. 

TikTok announced this initiative earlier this year to “reward the care and dedication [TikTok creators] put into connecting with an audience that’s inspired by their ideas.”

To be eligible for this partnership, you must be 18 years or older, have a minimum of 10,000 followers, and have at least 10,000 views on your videos in the last 30 days before you apply, according to Wired.

TikTok offers a space for any type of person with any type of interest. Their algorithm lets users curate their own “For You Page” and which allows them to endlessly scroll through videos that might be of their interest.

You can make TikTok videos on just about anything. From baking recipes, to outfit lookbooks, there’s probably a community of people that could be interested in your content. 

Including keywords and specific phrases that relate to your content will help you reach a more targeted audience. The TikTok algorithm can get confusing, so don’t be afraid to promote your videos on different social media platforms that offer specific spaces for different communities.

For example, if you produce videos about tips on how to use Procreate, a digital illustration app,  you can create a post on a Procreate discussion thread on Reddit to reach an audience that you know would be interested. 

Whatever type of content that you have to offer to your followers is important, but first, you have to know how to reach them. 

Dante DiDomenico, a first-year professional communications student, helps his clients grow an “organic” audience on Instagram and monetize whatever product or service they’re selling.

He teaches his clients “how to grow organically, get those followers, get those likes, but not just focusing on the vanity metrics.”

“At the end of the day, how many people out of those followers are actually going to invest in your product and service?” DiDomenico said. 

He also creates Youtube videos about productivity, social media growth, and lifestyle all done through his phone.

“A lot of people think that you need a professional camera and really good lighting, but you really don’t,” DiDomenico said. “I literally use my window. Natural lighting is best, and I use my phone to film all my videos.”

Dante DiDomenico via Instagram

There are many opportunities for students to make money on the side, but it’s also important to note that they shouldn’t feel pressured to stay busy and constantly work.

Whether or not there’s a global pandemic, students are people first, and they shouldn’t be overworked by school or side-gigs. 

When we feel the need to take some things off our plate, we should always pursue that option and take the time to think about managing our priorities. If you want to simply do nothing and take a complete break, that’s fine too.