Blog 28 September 2022

34 Passive Income Ideas for Students in 2023

Did you know that you can start getting passive income as a student? This Scholaroo blog gives 34 different passive income ideas for students to venture into.

Over the last few years, the idea of ‘passive income’ has become very popular. It is a great way to make money and build financial security through alternative investment opportunities. But did you know that you can start earning passive income as a student too?

You don’t have to wait until you have money to start exploring different ways to make money. You can start getting passive income even with very little money. Which is great news for college students!

What is Passive Income?

Passive income is a type of income that is acquired with minimal labor or without working for an employer. It may require some initial effort to set up but then generates income automatically without much involvement. People usually combine it with another source of income to make some extra money.

34 Passive Income Ideas For Students

This Scholaroo blog gives 34 different passive income ideas for college students and teens. You could get into these ideas, to help yourself get a steady flow of cash while in college. Some of these ideas may require an initial investment in time and money. But your investment will pay off because these are the best passive income ideas for students.

Rental Property Passive Income Ideas

There are many ventures you can explore when it comes to passive income from real estate. | Image by Freepik

Investment real estate is one of the most promising passive income investments you can make. The initial investment is quite high when it comes to property. So as a college student or teen, you may not think this is the best option for you. But there are a few ways that you can start gaining this passive income as a student.

#1 Renting out a room, cottage, or garage space

One of the easiest ways to gain income from a rental property is to rent out space in your home. As a student, you most likely do not have an extra room, space, or even property to rent out. If you do then get started with this passive income idea ASAP! Alternatively, you could get started by renting out your room through air BnB. Whenever you are out of town for a few days, you can rent out your private accommodation and make money off it.

Opportunity: renting out vacant space in your home is a great passive income opportunity because you can start getting money almost immediately.

Risk: the biggest risk with this opportunity is loss or damage to your own space or property.

#2 Buying and renting out property

Another way in which you can make more money through real estate investments is to invest in new properties and hire a management company to monitor the property, manage tenants and collect rent. If you have enough money or financing, you can buy an apartment, or single-family home and rent it out, to gain rental income. However, this may not be feasible for all college students.

Opportunity: although there is no quick way to make money from investment property, it is one of the most viable passive income opportunities. Plus there are various ways for you to get money through this.

Risk: there is considerable financial risk with investing in property. From taking a private loan to getting a property. And risk in buying and selling property.

#3 Using real estate investing apps/crowdfunded real estate

Crowdfunded real estate property is a new way of investing in real estate. And it is perfect for college students! With this method, an experienced investing team picks out real estate, and then you can decide how much to invest. This method helps you avoid any of the work of finding a property, getting assessments on the property, or even handling tenants and property maintenance. You will pay an annual management fee to the real estate platform.

Opportunity: you get to gain passive income from property investment with very little risk involved.

Risk: financial risk by joining a crowd funding.

Using your car for passive income

College students can use their car to earn passive income and make some money| Image by Freepik

Your property is not the only thing that you can use to earn passive income as a student. With services like Turo, Carvertise, and Wrapify you can also earn money from your car if you have one. Whether it is a car you use often, or one that is idle and nobody uses. You should note that the risk is higher with your car because it is not a value-appreciating asset like property.

#4 Rent out your car 

Whether you own a reliable sedan, a sports car, or even a busted-up van there is always someone looking to rent a vehicle. You can rent out your car to Uber or Lyft drivers that need a vehicle. You can also rent out your van to people who need help moving furniture or any heavy packages.

Opportunity: you could make money from an asset you already have.

Risk: the risk is damage and loss to your property. Because it is also a depreciating asset, another risk is the wear and tear on the asset too.

#5 Advertise on your car

Advertising on your car is a way to earn passive income while you drive around and go about your daily routine. All you need to do is to contact a specialty advertising agency that can match you with appropriate advertisers in your area. They will wrap your car in a magnetic or vinyl decal and you can begin earning money. Agencies will either pay per trip, or a mile and they may provide other benefits such as a gas card, or a stipend for gas.

Opportunity: you get passive income for driving around and going about your daily routine.

Risk: increased mileage on your car, may make it difficult to resell at a later stage.

Design and Creativity Passive Income Ideas

Creative passive income ideas for students| Image by Freepik

If you have a great fashion sense and the design skills to match, you could turn your creativity into a money-making opportunity around campus. Apps like CafePress and Zazzle allow you to sell T-shirts, hats, and mugs that you have designed to customers easily. You can also use your photography or writing to make money using your skill and creativity.

#6 Design T-shirts and sweatshirts

T-shirts and sweatshirts are popular clothing items, especially on campus. Since many people are looking for high quality and unique clothing, you can start selling online, from your dorm or even near campus. With even just a little inventory, you could start getting additional cash from your T-shirts.

To get started: Start designing, print a few, and start selling. Then you can see what kind of designs your market is interested in. Then set up an online store through apps such as Shopify or use Facebook and Instagram Marketplace to market and sell your merchandise.

Opportunity: you get to use your creativity to make money and sell directly to other teens or campus students.

Risk: you would have to put up some money to start printing t-shirts. So there is a financial risk that you may not make a profit.

#7 Create a print-on-demand store

A print-on-demand store is a profitable passive income stream, instead of trying to sell your inventory, you sell on a per-order basis. You could print things such as T-shirts, posters, backpacks, books, mugs, etc. but similar to dropshipping, you would only do this after you sell it in your store. This is a great way to monetize your creativity without sitting on inventory that cannot be sold.

To get started you just need to print a few items that you would like to sell, then create an online store and start taking orders. Once you have received orders begin printing and shipping to customers.

Opportunity: you get to make money using your design skills but with little risk involved.

Risk: a print-on-demand store has a very little financial risk because you wait on orders before placing an order.

#8 Create an app

We all use cell phone apps and google plug-ins on our phones and computers all the time. But did you know that you can actually earn passive income by creating your own app? If you have an app idea that you think might be useful, or would just like to share your content then consider this passive income idea.

Opportunity: You can get a software developer to help you create an app, or google plug-in. Which can cost as little as $1,200, since every app is different then the cost will vary depending on the app.

Risk: The major risk is that approximately only 0,5% of apps are successful, so you may throw thousands of dollars into creating the app and never make the money back. It is also difficult to sell an app.

#9 Create an online course

This passive income idea is like tutoring, but you do not have to create an online course that is school or subject-specific. If you have any hobbies such as decorating, design, photography, drawing, or painting then you can create an online course teaching others how to do this. You can also create a course teaching other students study skills, or organization skills to help them succeed in school.

Opportunity: There are plenty of people who are interested in learning a new skill, or figuring out a new and fun hobby. It is also easy to promote your online course with the number of apps available such as Udemy, Alison, and even Skillshare.

Risk: Creating an online course requires quite a bit of preparation and effort initially, but you will have to make your course affordable to get more people interested. You may also need to update the content frequently to keep it up to date.

#10 Sell stock photos online

Photography is a service-based business, which would typically require more of your time. It is more like a side job, but it can be a way of earning passive income if you sell stock photos online.

Stock photo sites like Pexels, Shutterstock, and the like, will pay for high-quality photos and videos. A great way to get into this is to start taking more random high-quality photos of things and places to upload on stock photo sites. Once you have uploaded the photos, the sites will do all the marketing and selling work for you. You will start earning passive income from your photos.

Opportunity: you can make money easily over time by selling stock photos online because you only get money as your photography sells online.

Risk: you would need to use your own camera equipment, but a cell phone with a good camera can work just as well. You would also use some of your time taking pictures.

#11 Sell stock video

Much like selling stock photos, you can also sell stock videos to make money. There is a major market for videos that social media marketers can use online for advertising and promotions. People are interested in purchasing videos on sports, animals, nature, family videos, food videos, etc. but you can build interest from any footage you take. Some of these can be used in commercials and ads.

Opportunity: There is a growing interest in such video content, and there are plenty of apps offering a platform for you to sell stock videos.

Risk: if you already have camera equipment and a computer to edit and animate, then there is very little risk, but if you still have to acquire this equipment you may make a loss with this initial investment.

#12 Sell music

Did you know that you can become a music creator on Youtube to make some money? With more and more people blogging over youtube, you can start making money by having people use some of the music you created on youtube.

Opportunity: This is a great opportunity to make money from using your talents, and by licensing your music you can earn a little money every time your song is used on Youtube or some other platforms.

Risk: licensing your music is also quite an expensive process and may become a running cost for you.

#13 Writing a book

Whether it is an e-book or a paperback book, writing a book is an opportunity to use your writing skills and hobby as an opportunity to generate passive income. Your book could deliver value to your readers and give good information. Although It takes time to build a following and get support, this is where a publishing company could help you.

Self-publishing is a lot less expensive but will require more time from you. You would have to write, edit, create a cover, and then publish on a platform like Amazon. This may not bring immediate success or instant money, but it could over time with some good marketing.

Opportunity: a great way to earn money, whether it is by selling copies of your books or earning royalties in the next few years.

Risk: this requires both time and financial investment. you will have to put time into writing the book and possibly money to print hard copies or publish the book online.


There are ways for students to start investing while in college to earn passive income. | Image by Freepik
There are ways for students to start investing while in college to earn passive income. | Image by Freepik

The IRS does not consider all income from investments as passive income, so the taxation process on investments is quite different. But investing is popularly regarded as a passive income because you can generate income without trading in your time. There is potential for high returns with the risk of investments. Here are some investment opportunities you should consider as a college student, to get passive income.

 #14 Invest in a business

Becoming a silent partner may be easier than you think. Small businesses like food trucks and local businesses are always looking for private investors. This would be your opportunity to put money into someone else’s business for a return you can negotiate with them. With tools such as Mainvest and Worthy, you can also invest in a business or bond from as little as $10 for bonds or $100 for shares.

As a college student consider investing in some of your friends’ or peers’ businesses, especially if you believe in their business success. But there are many more apps that make it easy for you to start getting passive income from investing, even as a student.

Opportunity: you get to make money from investing in small businesses, without having to put time and effort into the business.

Risk: there is a risk that the business would not be successful at all, and you could lose your whole financial investment.

#15 Micro-investing

With micro-investing you invest small amounts of money overtime instead of one large investment. It is perfect for students and easy to get started once you figure out how. Investing apps can also help you learn a lot about micro-investing. You begin by opening an investment account, and then linking it to your bank account, after this you can begin purchasing a portion of the shares. You only have to purchase a portion/fraction of the shares with micro-investing.

Opportunity: This is an accessible opportunity for students, and introduces you to investing. With micro-investing apps, you also get to enjoy lower fees.

Risk: Because you are investing low amounts of money then there is very little financial risk. But you are exposed to the same financial risk, so you do risk losing some money from changes in the market.

#16 Invest in stocks and shares

Investing in stocks is one of the oldest ways to build your wealth. When you purchase dividend-yielding stocks from a company you get dividends from profits. Dividends are paid per share of stock, so the more shares you own the higher your payout. But buying shares and investing is risky and it is also not easy to get into, especially as a student.

There are ways to invest passively in the stock market through a robot advisor, which is an automated investing technology. Betterment is a type of robo-advisor that can make it easy for you to invest in your future.

Opportunity: you get to secure a passive income for years to come by buying stocks/shares or even using automated investing technology.

Risk: there is a huge financial risk with your investment.

#17 Angel investing

Angel investing is usually for people with a lot of money, they would invest in startups at an early stage. For a student, this may not work, but you could invest in smaller businesses for low stakes. Plenty of people have business ideas, and require very little investment to get started.

Opportunity: Plenty of people have business ideas, and require very little investment to get started. If you can meet some of their requirements then this is a great opportunity for you.

Risk: investing in upcoming businesses or small businesses is very risky and you stand to lose your entire investment if the business fails.

#18 Investing in collectables

This is maybe one of the easiest passive income ideas, you can purchase collector books, vinyl albums, coins, comic books, toys, antiques, and stamps. These types of items can be sold later for money.

Opportunity: People are interested in niche things such as stamps and coins, and there are plenty of platforms for you to sell your collectibles and meet people who are interested in buying.

Risk: One of the risks is that you may spend a lot of money buying collectibles and people are not interested in purchasing when you need the money. So it may take a while before you start earning income from the products.

#19 Robo-Investing

With robo investing you make use of an online investing platform that uses softwares to manage your investment portfolios. You can participate in rob-investing either through your bank or by signing up on investment apps such as Betterment, Wealthfront, M1 Finance, and Empower amongst others. You do not need to invest a large sum of money with some of these apps, instead, you can opt to make a smaller investment if you do not have much money.

Opportunity: You get to learn about investing and understand the ins and outs through a robo advisor but you can also interact with a real financial advisor.

Risk: With robo-investing you are exposed to the same financial risk, so you do risk losing money from changes in the market.

#20 Cryptocurrency

By investing in several cryptocurrencies or ‘staking crypto’ you can earn a passive income of anywhere from 5% to 10%. This is great news for college students because you do not need a lot of money to get into crypto.

Staking crypto is like earning interest on your savings, but getting higher returns. It is important to educate yourself on cryptocurrencies and what they mean before you get involved. Crypto exchanges such as Kraken or Coinbase are great places to buy crypto and check on them periodically. You can only make good investment decisions with crypto by educating yourself, it has its own sets of risks but can yield a good passive income for you.

Opportunity: it is not a traditional financial investment such as buying stocks and shares, but you get to make money by being involved in digital currency.

Risk: buying crypto requires financial investment into an unpredictable market. You risk losing any money you have used to purchase crypto.

Business idea

Starting a small business is a great passive income option for college students. | Image by Freepik
Starting a small business is a great passive income option for college students. | Image by Freepik

Looking for business ideas that only require upfront investment and not your time is one of the best ways to earn passive income as a student.

#21 Vending machines

Placing a vending machine at a college, hospital, or some secure public space is a great way to get some passive income from selling snacks and soda. You can purchase a vending machine from marketplaces such as Craigslist, eBay, or BizBuySell. It is relatively easy to start and maintain a vending machine, and having multiple vending machines across campus or in your college dorm, is a great way to grow the cash flow from this business.

Opportunity: vending machines around campus and schools can make quite a bit of money.

Risk: you would have to purchase or rent a vending machine. Some other risks are damage to your property.

#22 Start an e-commerce business

E-commerce businesses are still growing in 2023 and you can set up your own to start earning passive income. Most customer exchanges for products and services take place online and you could capitalize on this. Once you have identified your customer base and the product/service you hope to provide, then you can either set up an online shop or use your social media to sell products.

Opportunity: Many e-commerce business owners start their business with a very tight budget. So you could start an e-commerce business for as little as $100. As a student, this would be a great way for you to try getting a lead on a future passive income, as you build your online store to be profitable over time.

Risk: The biggest challenge with this idea is that it requires a lot of time and effort, from the research you need to do to get started, such as searching the products, marketing, and trying to get customers.

#23 Selling home grown produce

If you are a student with a green thumb then selling your homegrown and organic produce is a way that you can make money. You can sell things that are easier to grow such as herbs, edible flowers, plants, and even soil and seeds. There are also people who sell herbal salts and oils too or make tea blends. These are some of the ways that you can make money by selling organic produce.

Opportunity: There is a considerable demand for organic produce, and you may be able to provide more affordable produce for budget-friendly students.

Risk: You may have to compete with the ease and accessibility of products from large food chains. Your product must be superior in taste, and quality but also more affordable which is difficult to do.


Other passive income ideas that students can try. | Image by Freepik
Other passive income ideas that students can try | Image by Freepik

There are various other passive income ideas for students that can help them to earn some income without having to put in a lot of time and effort. Some of such practical options are listed below.

#24 Affiliate marketing on social media

With affiliate marketing, website and blog owners as well as social media influencers can promote products and services from other businesses on their websites. Affiliate partners such as Amazon, eBay, Awin, and ShareASale are easy partners to have because they only require you to sign up through their websites.

TikTok and Instagram have become huge platforms for those looking to grow a following and promote products. To get passive income from this you will typically get a commission when a buyer uses your link or discount code to purchase a product from one of your affiliate partners or sponsors. So grow your social media, website or blog and you can start earning some money as a college student.

Opportunity: there are plenty of opportunities to make money using social media or a blog. You can make money based on your interests.

Risk: the biggest risk is not getting paid, or being scammed for work you have done.

#25 Record audiobooks

Audiobook narrators get their income from royalties on recordings they have made. This could be you, start learning how to record audiobooks. Once you master the trade, and learn how to narrate, record, and edit audio then you can start auditioning to become a paid audiobook narrator. It is an entire industry and is a bit difficult to get into as other people do this full-time but it is also possible to only keep it as a passive income opportunity.

Opportunity: getting started with this opportunity can actually help you earn passive income for a long time afterward.

Risk: may require investment in money and time that may not pay off in the end.

#26 Licensing music

If you are talented and passionate about making music or performing live, you could license your music to get passive income. When you license your music, people and companies must pay you to use your music in a project. They pay you to use your song/cover for advertisements, corporate videos, film trailers, weddings, film soundtracks, and in YouTube videos.

This is a great way to earn some income even years after you recorded the song. If performing live is not bringing in cash anymore, this is a way to still make some money off of your talents. License fees can cost money and be expensive for students, but you can use music licensing companies or license your music on your own.

Opportunity: getting started with this opportunity can actually help you earn passive income for a long time afterward in the form of royalties.

Risk: may require investment in money and time that may not pay off in the end.

#27 High-yield certificate of deposits

A high-yield certificate of deposits or high-yield CD is a type of savings account that pays higher interest on the money you have deposited. These are available across various financial institutions and are quite easy to get into. Different types of high-yield CDs offer different interests and have different minimum deposit requirements.

You would have the flexibility of deciding how much to deposit and how long you want to keep your money deposited. The longer your money is deposited the higher the interest yielded. The only downside is that you cannot make additional deposits to your high-yield CD after you open the account.

Opportunity: a great way to save money that you can go without for a while.

Risk: very little financial risk with a high-yield CD.

#28 Peer-to-peer lending

With peer-to-peer lending or P2P lending, you lend money to individuals or businesses, then they pay you back with interest.

With sites like Lending Club, you can lend money to reliable people/businesses with a good credit history, and income, they are given an interest rate on the loan and if they accept, you can buy the debt and loan money to them. The borrower makes monthly payments to you, and the principal and interest are paid to you, through the Lending Club investment account.

Opportunity: if you have the money to lend to others then this is a good opportunity for you.

Risk: biggest risk is losing the money you lend others. As well as non-payment from people who borrowed money.

#29 Note taker

If you are a college student, then this passive income opportunity would be great for you. Some of your peers on your campus or even some part-time students you know may need someone to take lecture notes for them. You can become a note-taker to make extra money.

Opportunity:There are plenty of people who may make use of your services and you can also sell your notes online to make money.

Risk: It is quite time-consuming so it is not an ideal passive income opportunity.

#30 Selling textbooks

One idea that many students overlook is selling textbooks to make some money. You can start doing this by sourcing older textbooks for different majors and reselling them to make a profit. One of the easiest ways is just to find students who would like to sell their old textbooks, and sell them for them with your own markup. For example, if the student selling hopes to make $30 from a book they bought for $40, then you can resell the book for them for $37 and keep the $7 difference.

Opportunity: It is pretty easy to get started with this because there are many students who want to sell their textbooks and just as many students who want to buy discounted books. The more textbooks you sell, the more money you make.

Risk: There is very little risk with this passive income idea since you don’t have to put up any money to get started, or put in a lot of time to sell books.

#31 Participate in market research

Market researchers help businesses with information to improve their products and services. As a participant, you will take surveys, test products, write reviews or participate in a focus group. Surveys are the most common market research method and the one you are most likely to do, you can receive between $1 and $3 for surveys. There will also occasionally be opportunities to make more money. With product tests, you will be sent new products and have to track your use/experience of the product using a questionnaire. This can earn you between $10 to $15 but will often vary. You can also write reviews for services or products for a small compensation. Finally, focus groups are becoming less popular now but are still a way you can earn some money.

Opportunity: This passive income idea is a great opportunity for students as more businesses want to test the consumer market’s response to their products or services. It may require some of your time and effort, but it is still possible to manage your time around it.

Risk: This passive income idea is not sustainable in the long haul, because market research is becoming less popular. You also may not make passive income with this job and it becomes more like a side job.

#32 User testing

User testing is a type of market research that involves getting users and customers to test different apps, features, or any prototype to evaluate the usability and performance of the app, website or feature. Becoming a user tester is not that easy, but certainly possible as more and more businesses require the service.

Opportunity: You get to make some money by performing simple tasks that will not take up too much of your time.

Risk: The future opportunity to earn income this way is unclear, because of new AI systems that can be installed to evaluate the usability and efficiency of a website or app for users.

#33 Use cashback websites/apps

Using cashback websites and apps is a great way to save money and make a little money that requires very minimal work. With sites like Swagbucks, Rakuten, and the like you can make a little money by shopping and earning cashback.

Opportunity: This is an easy process of signing up and using the app or website. It requires very little effort.

Risk: There aren’t any risks with this idea, you just may not earn as much money as you would think.

#34 Sponsored advertisements on podcasts

Podcasting is becoming more and more popular. Many people start off just wanting to have fun and get a hobby going, but you can definitely make money from it too. One of the ways to make money is through sponsored advertisements on your podcast. With a podcast, you can cover any topic of interest to you, and one of the best ways to make money is by generating interest in your topic. There are plenty of ways to make money, from opportunities like sponsorships, affiliate marketing, membership programs or creating premium content for purchase. You could also sell merchandise or start getting paid for being a host or speaking at events.

Opportunity: There are plenty of topics that people are interested in, and if you(and your friends) feel like you have something to say or add to the topic, then you can get into this opportunity.

Risk: May require you to purchase equipment to get started, and if your podcast is not a success, then you would lose this investment. Recording will also take up some of your time.

Tips To Make Passive Income As a College Student

How to get started on passive income ideas as a college student | Image by Freepik
How to get started on passive income ideas as a college student | Image by Freepik

The one thing about passive income is that you cannot build your wealth or make money without exchanging some value. The hope is that over time, you will generate income without exchanging the value of your time or money.

To get started with any passive income venture you need to assess the initial investment of your money, time, and effort. You may have to invest more initially to get the most over time. Here are some tips for getting started:

Tip 1: Figure out how much money you need upfront

With bigger projects like real estate, you will need to put more money upfront, the same with any investment discussed above. So you need to figure out how to get the money or finance your passive income venture first. Whether it is from your savings or a loan.

The money you put upfront will be how much you risk losing, so think carefully about this before committing. The amount you can put upfront will also determine what passive income idea you can follow through with.

Tip 2: Figure out how much time you need to put in

Time is another value we do not get back, with some of the passive income ideas, given above, you would need to invest time learning about the opportunity at least. For example, with recording audiobooks, cryptocurrency, writing a book, etc. You need to learn about it first.

Your time investment should be worthwhile, a passive income should not take up time from your studies or other jobs. If you already feel like you do not have enough hours in a day, try choosing a passive income opportunity that requires no time investment such as high-yield CDs.

Tip 3: Figure out how long it will take before you start generating passive income as students

The upfront investment in the form of money, time, and effort does not mean you will start generating a passive income immediately. The hope with any of these ideas is that over time you will start generating a cash flow. For example with high-yield CDs, you will only get your interest after the period stipulated in your agreement. With vending machines, you will pay back the capital and stock up before you start making any profits.

Passive income is additional earnings derived from activities you are not actively involved in, it may take time before you can start seeing the reward.