The 11 Best Side Hustles for Paying Off Student Loans

By Mike Brown Updated on May 24, 2022

If you’re in the process of repaying student loans, your monthly payment probably ranks among your largest expenses. By some estimates, most recent graduates pay more than $300 a month, which is no small figure on any budget. Additionally, as they build their careers, millennials typically earn less than the median national income. That can make keeping up with significant payments difficult if they rely on their salaries alone.

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Thankfully, the increasingly popular “gig economy” offers endless opportunities for borrowers to make a little extra cash. Millions of people have already seized the chance to supplement their incomes: A recent study found that nearly a quarter of Americans have used a digital platform to earn additional money. Millennials are leading the way in this trend, with 39% of workers aged 18 to 24 taking on at least one side hustle. For those aged 25 to 44, the rate was even higher.

With a little time and entrepreneurial ambition, you can join this army of part-time earners. If you’re looking for a side hustle that will help you repay your student loans, the booming app economy is bound to include some way for you to employ your skills. But you probably don’t have time to try out dozens of competing possibilities and determine the most lucrative way to sell your labor. That’s where this article comes in. 

In this guide, we’ll recommend the best side hustles for earning extra cash to pay off your student loans. Our list includes 11 part-time possibilities that will let you earn what you need, often on your own schedule. If some extra work will help you leave debt behind, here are your best options.

The top side hustles for paying off student loans

1. Sell stuff you don't want

If an item no longer brings you joy, let it bring you cash instead. Depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated over the years, you could earn short-term income by parting ways with unused goods on platforms like Craigslist or eBay. Mobile app Letgo offers a similar service, and its popularity has skyrocketed in recent months, with more than $20 billion in merchandise sold since 2015.

If you can find local buyers, Craigslist or Letgo could be your best bet: They specialize in exchanges among residents of the same city and don’t charge fees. eBay does charge a sliding scale of fees to facilitate transactions, but their platform is better suited for shipping, giving you access to a wider pool of potential buyers across the world. eBay also handles payments, which you’ll need to figure out with each buyer on the other two platforms.

The Top Ways To Earn Cash By Selling Your Stuff

Craigslist The Top Apps to Earn Cash With Your Car
Letgo Similar to Craigslist, Letgo connects local buyers and sellers in a mobile app.
eBay Offering a broader base of buyers across the world, eBay helps facilitate payment and shipping but charges a fee for doing so.
 

The selling process is a lot like holding a digital yard sale, though, so the added income will end once all your unwanted items are sold. Unless you have a vast supply of goods to unload, your new cash flow could be short-lived.

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2. Make cash from your car

Nearly 4 in 5 millennials have a car, which means you’re likely sitting on an untapped source of potential cash. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are all the rage, but you may not know about ride-renting apps like Turo, which allows you to earn money by letting someone else drive your whip around town. Don’t worry: Turo covers insurance in case someone else gets your car in a scrape.

The Top Apps To Earn Cash With Your Car

Uber Drive riders from one destination to another, working hours that you set yourself.
Lyft Similar to Uber, Lyft offers equally flexible working opportunities for on-demand drivers.
Turo Let someone use your car for a specified amount of time, and they’ll pay you for the privilege. 

 

You’ll love how scalable car-centric platforms can be: Unlike more traditional part-time gigs, you set the terms for when you work. But your ability to make good money will depend on which hours you work and competitive rates in your local area. A recent study found Denver Uber drivers averaged more than $4 more per hour than drivers in Detroit.

3. Try delivery... and not just pizza

A host of new apps allow individuals to deliver a variety of goods on their own schedules, with flexibility much like ride-sharing apps. If you’re not thrilled about the prospect of having passengers in your car, carrying something inanimate from one place to another may be more your speed.

Postmates is among the largest applications of this kind, employing workers in dozens of cities to bring food and other goods directly to consumers. Their site advertises payment up to $25 per hour, and you don’t even need a car to deliver. The app isn’t available in every city, but depending on where you live, there should be a handful of other food delivery services eager for you to join their flexible fleets. Opportunities of this kind are likely to abound in the near future, with some analysts projecting the delivery industry will be worth $76 billion within five years.

Amazon also offers a large-scale delivery platform for packages, but you’ll need to jump through more logistical hoops and have an appropriate vehicle to take part. If you don’t have a van of your own, you could look around for openings at local delivery services that are already transporting Prime packages.

4. Rent your pad to raise cash

Even if your home is relatively modest, someone will likely leap at the chance to call it their own for a weekend – at the right price, of course. If you can arrange to stay elsewhere for a while, (with friends, family or a significant other), you can make a sizeable amount of cash on popular platforms like Airbnb.

According to the company’s numbers, hosts average $924 a month in earnings – not bad for a gig that doesn’t require much “work” in the traditional sense of the word. Of course, your pad’s Airbnb potential hinges on the desirability of your hometown as a destination. California, a state that attracts visitors in droves, saw its hosts earn $1 billion in 2016, but there’s no guarantee your hometown will fetch high nightly prices.

Additionally, many of the nation’s largest cities are attempting to regulate Airbnb and its competitors, and you could run afoul of your landlord’s rules as well. Even if you’re tempted to rent your place under the radar, weigh the possibility of acrimony with your neighbors. When guests get rowdy while you’re away, they’re the ones who’ll know.

5. Get paid for your opinions

Businesses and nonprofit organizations benefit from gauging public sentiment, using data collected from focus groups of individuals just like you. By responding to questions and other prompts honestly, you can turn your impressions into cold hard cash.

The trick is finding legitimate and lucrative focus group opportunities when they arise in your local area. Findfocusgroups.com is a solid resource for new listings, with relevant information on the subject matter, location, and potential payment.

If you’d rather get paid for your thoughts from the comfort of your own home, there are many online survey platforms out there for you to explore. Answer questions virtually, and you’ll be rewarded for your responses. The downside of these opportunities, however, is that you’ll need to weed out platforms and specific gigs that won’t be worth your time. For instance, many platforms offer payment in points that you can redeem at specific retailers – but that probably won’t help you make your loan payments each month.

Even on some of the best-established sites that pay in cash, like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, you’ll need to provide a high volume of responses to make good money. A single survey or response-based task typically yields less than a dollar, so plan to do several in an hour to make at least the equivalent of minimum wage.

6. Earn cash for hanging with kids

Babysitting is a classic way to earn extra cash, but a slew of digital tools have made finding a gig easier than ever. Care.com is a leader in the space, facilitating hiring, payment, and scheduling in one streamlined platform. Your free profile can highlight additional skills that will warrant a higher hourly rate, like cooking or tutoring. In a 2017 survey, Care.com found their sitters earned about $14 an hour, on average.

Even if child care isn’t your cup of tea, there are many other domestic gigs available through similar platforms. Housekeeping or caring for the elderly are other services that families hire for frequently. In many cases, however, you’ll need to pass a background check to start working. That could include a record of your driving history, in addition to any criminal charges.

7. Get a pet paycheck

If working with furry friends seems preferable to working with humans, a ton of companies are eager to connect you with pet owners looking for some extra help. Rover has been making a big splash in the doggie-care space of late, connecting users with walkers, sitters, boarders, and other pet-centric service providers.

If you love working with animals, you’ll love the rates of payment as well. According to Rover’s figures, the average part-time worker makes $900 a month for keeping canines company. If you’re more of a cat person, your services are wanted as well. It should come as no surprise, though, that Rover also offers background checks. After all, people are particular about who’s handling their pets.

8. Do crafts for cash

If you have a knack for arts and crafts,or just an eye for finding trinkets others may want, a number of platforms will connect you with willing buyers. Etsy is the primary player in this space, charging relatively low fees to sellers who set up their own “shops” through their platform.

You should know, though, that Etsy can be an intensely competitive marketplace, with 1.7 million active sellers as of 2016. If you’re not gaining traction there, you might consider some alternatives, like MadeItMyself. The site actually offers lower fees than Etsy, but just as the pool of competitors is smaller, so is the number of potential customers.

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9. Make money by writing

In the digital age, every business needs content, whether for marketing, informational, or internal purposes. If you have a talent for the written word, you can contract with organizations for copywriting projects large and small. By creating accounts on sites like Fiverr or Freelancer, you can apply for writing gigs from blog posts to instructional articles and advertising campaign copy.

Because each job varies in size and rate of pay, seek out opportunities that align with your schedule. If you can turn around a post on a tight timeline for cheap, it makes sense to compete for a high volume of gigs. But if your working life requires more flexibility, larger products with more extended timelines could be a better fit, so you can balance progress with your other obligations.

If working for a business doesn’t appeal, there are some ways you can get paid directly by readers for your writing. A successful e-book can yield passive income on an ongoing basis, and some platforms won’t charge you much to publish them. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing lets you retain the right to set the price, and you can earn up to 70% of the revenue from your book sales.

10. Turn design skills into Dollars

If you’re skilled in the use of popular design platforms like Adobe’s Photoshop or Illustrator, individuals and businesses out there are eager for your help. Platforms like Fiverr have made it easier than ever for brands to find cheap design help on a tight timeline, and you can supply the work they need quite simply. These gigs are typically quick tasks for small amounts of cash, but your earnings can pile up if you work quickly.

Upwork and 99Designs are also hubs for short-term design work, with thousands of jobs posted each week. The latter site offers a competitive twist: Many designers perform the work requested, and the client selects the winner. That format can be punishing if you lose out on payment, but it can be a great way to prove yourself, especially if you’ve got skills but little prior experience to attract customers in other ways.

11. Get cash for teaching a class

Online education platforms are constantly adding courses taught by knowledgeable individuals in any field. You don’t need an advanced degree to teach, just subject matter expertise in an area that appeals to eager learners. You earn a cash royalty every time a user downloads your course from a virtual education marketplace, like Udemy. According to some estimates, the average instructor earns a whopping $7,000 from their courses.

If you don’t feel you can teach others about a specific subject or skill, you may be neglecting an obvious asset: your language. Dozens of language-learning platforms offer virtual tutoring opportunities, often without requiring certification. Verbling is one such site, which could connect you with willing individuals hoping to learn English through a virtual relationship with you.

The path to slaying payments

With the sources of cash suggested above, we hope you’ll find it easier to make your student loan payments each month. But if you’re still looking for a means to reduce your monthly costs, there may be more effective ways to reduce your debt burden. From consolidation to refinancing, there are several avenues to lower monthly payments that many borrowers don’t know much about. Consider this guide to refinancing to learn how you can secure a lower interest rate, which can translate to savings both immediately and in the long run.

For any other advice you need on money matters, we are ready to help. Our expert guides can help you eliminate debt and keep growing your savings once you do. From budgeting to building a retirement fund, we’re here to help you hustle.

Published in: Financial Freedom, Paying Off

About the Author
Mike Brown

Mike is responsible for the editorial and marketing direction of Nitro. He has a history of helping people through his educational background—first as a teacher at the Pennsylvania State University and then through 15 years of development and marketing of education programs. Read more by Mike Brown