Saturday 7 May 2022

What are the best ways for a college student to make money?

There are so many ways college students can make money. Here are some of the ways that I made money during my college days at IIT Bombay:

Content Writing: I ran a small Content Writing freelancing business while in college. I made upwards of Rs. 30 lakhs with that Business. I used to write articles regarding multiple topics - JEE preparation, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Web Development, Python, MS Excel, etc. I had a team of some 20 odd freelancers and had clients in multiple countries - India, US, Canada, Poland, Singapore, etc.

Here is a screenshot from Upwork. There was a large US client that paid via Upwork and was almost 50% of the earnings.

If you plan to do Content Writing, focus on the foreign clients because you’d be able to earn in dollars. I had some clients pay me as high as $75 per article of 1000 words.

I no longer run this business because I am running my Startup which is doing much better. However, I feel that Content Writing is arguably the easiest way for students to make money. Very few people can write good quality content which is SEO-compliant and easy to read and is grammatically and factually correct. Also, very few people can write well as well as have technical knowledge. So, if you can write good quality content, definitely consider Content writing as an option.

Affiliate Marketing via Blogging: I have a popular blog on JEE preparation which at its peak used to receive over 100k hits per day. In my blog, I shared content related to JEE preparation and how I achieved a top 50 rank in JEE. Many students started asking me for the books that I used for my preparation. People even sent me Amazon links to the books to confirm if the book edition they were about to order was correct.

That’s when it struck me that if I can put affiliate links to books, I will be able to earn money. I made some Rs. 2.75 lakhs via Amazon Affiliate Marketing from my blog.

A snapshot from Amazon Affiliate Payment History:

Selling e-books: From my JEE preparation blog, I sold e-books on JEE preparation. The books were priced quite affordably at Rs. 100 maximum. I sold these via Instamojo Platform. I just checked the console and I can see that I have made just over Rs. 2 lakhs.

Rubrik Internship: I interned at a startup called Rubrik which is in Palo Alto (San Francisco Bay Area). I was getting a stipend of $8000 per month. I made some Rs. 16 lakhs worth of stipend. After my expenses, I ended up saving some Rs. 8.5 lakhs. Here is a copy of my US W-2 form:

Trexquant Internship: I did an internship with a startup called Trexquant. I had to make profitable trading alphas that generated profits. I made some Rs. 2.5 lakhs working with Trexquant for 4 months. Here is a screenshot of one of the monthly payments.

Internship at a Stealth Startup: There was another Stealth mode startup where I interned part-time with college in my fourth year. I made some Rs. 0.6 lakhs in a month. It was a Machine Learning Internship where I worked on building ML models for a Computer Vision problem.

Selling courses online: From another of my Career-related blog, I used to sell online courses on technical domains like Django, Machine Learning, etc. I made some $8.5k worth of lifetime sales leading to an earning of Rs. 3.2 lakhs (50% affiliate margin). I think that by far, blogging is the best way to earn money. If you have a large enough audience reading your content, you can always find a way to monetize it.

TA-ship: I was a Teaching Assistant in multiple courses at IIT Bombay. I made some Rs. 1 lakhs via TA-ship. I did TA-ship for fun and not to make money. I enjoyed speaking with students because it helped me broaden my own perspective and learn.

Solving JEE Questions: There are many Ed-tech startup offices near the IIT Bombay Campus. Many of the founders are themselves Institute Alums. So, in the hostel bulletin boards, one can always find opportunities for freelancing, by working for these startups. I saw a similar opportunity in my second semester when Plancess (a JEE preparation platform) was hiring students who could solve JEE Main 2014 question paper. My friend and I made Rs. 4000 each. It was a small amount, but I think this was my first earning.

Website Development: In my second year of college, I made a website for a startup which helped me earn Rs. 10,000 in a week’s worth of time - not bad for the second year of college.

Solving Questions from Books: I wrote solutions for Computer Science books for a US-based platform and earned some Rs. 1.2 lakhs during my winter vacation of the second year. I used to earn as much as $0.5 per solution. The solutions had to be typed in LaTeX.

Being a techie myself, I always used to try and find ways to use technology to make money. While solving the questions, I found that in one of the books, the solutions were provided at the end. So, I wrote a python script that scraped the solutions from the book and uploaded them on the online portal and I made some Rs. 70k in just 2 days of time - not bad for a winter vacation :)

Taking JEE Coaching Classes: In the first year of college, when I visited my home, my JEE coaching teacher asked me to take a few Physics classes for some of his students. He used to pay me Rs. 500 per class and I took some 10-odd classes and made Rs. 5,000.

Writing answers to JEE Questions in LaTeX: I worked for Toppr during the first year of college and typed solutions to JEE questions in LaTeX and got paid some Rs. 10 - 15 per solution. I remember making as much as Rs. 13k in just 1 month. I guess I worked for some 5 - 6 months and made Rs. 50k in the first year.

If you total this all, you’d find that I made upwards of Rs. 52 lakhs while in college itself. Apart from this, I got a scholarship of Rs. 5 lakhs for getting a top 50 rank in JEE. That totals to Rs. 57 lakhs worth of earnings during the 4 years of college.

More than just the earnings, I think I learned a lot of things that helped me while building Cogno AI into a multi-million dollar business. Coming from a middle-class family I always had an urge to make more money and being from a Marwadi family, entrepreneurship was the most natural choice.

I think students should strike a good balance between studying, skill development, and earning money. Under no circumstances should one compromise one’s learnings and skills at the cost of money-making because the long-term rewards of the learnings of college life could be worth millions of dollars.

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