Side hustles for students: Passive income ideas for international students

best passive income ideas
Earning a passive income while studying can enhance your study abroad experience. Source: Alain Jocard/AFP

“Am I too young to build a passive income?”

If you’re a student, you might think there’s just not enough time to build a side income. From academic commitments to extra-curricular activities, your schedule can get packed up real quick. 

But the concept of a passive income — especially a profitable one — has gained popularity. 

With technology, it’s easier to generate a passive income. Think about taking up freelance gigs, offering tuition or online classes, starting a blog and creating a YouTube channel.

The best part? You don’t have to wait until you graduate to explore different ways of making an income. Even with limited financial resources, you can begin earning a passive income. 

This is great news, especially for international students who pay more tuition. In 2021-22, annual tuition fees for international undergraduate students in the UK started at 11,400 pounds (14,130 US dollars) and rose to as much as £32,081 (US$39,770).

What is passive income?

Before diving into the best passive income ideas for international students, let’s define passive income.

It refers to a form of income obtained with minimal effort or without being directly employed by someone. This is different from working a side hustle, as you don’t have to put in constant effort.

It is an opportunity to generate income without committing eight hours of your day to a conventional job.
While initially, you would need to put in some time and effort to establish your side hustle, eventually, it will require less involvement.

best passive income ideas

Though beneficial, the best passive income ideas could also lead to high levels of stress if time is not managed well. Source: Jack Guez/AFP

Can side hustle affect your studies?

Working on a side hustle can potentially affect your studies, as it introduces additional responsibilities and demands on your time and energy.

Balancing your side hustle with your studies requires effective time management skills. It may be necessary to allocate specific time slots for both academic work and your side hustle to ensure neither suffers.

According to the National College Health Assessment, 80% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed. Overcommitting yourself by juggling too many responsibilities can lead to burnout.

Before you decide to start a side hustle, it is important to consider the workload, time commitments, and potential impact on your overall well-being. 

Prioritising self-care, setting realistic goals, and maintaining a healthy work-life-study balance is essential for success.

Why it’s great to build a passive income as students

The concept of passive income is highly beneficial for students since it allows you the freedom to manage your responsibilities while enjoying your student life.

That means you don’t have to worry about stinging on food or attending parties.

With over $1.6 trillion in student debt in the US, having a passive income not only helps cover expenses but also prevents you from accumulating more debt.

While initially, most of the best passive income ideas for students demand considerable time and effort, eventually, they require less involvement. Once the ball starts rolling, you can take a step back and enjoy the steady flow of income. 

As one income stream consistently generates money and requires less attention, you can even venture into creating additional streams to expand your income further.

best passive income ideas

If you have a knack for photography, selling your photographs is one of the best passive income ideas. Source: Alexander Nemenov/AFP

10 best passive income ideas for international students

1. Sell stock photography

To all aspiring photographers, here’s a great passive income idea: try selling your photos as stock photos.

Companies can use them for a fixed price. Alternatively, upload them to websites where you earn a percentage each time someone purchases the rights to use your images.

Businesses and brands require visual content for their websites, social media platforms, and other marketing materials. They often rely on stock photo websites to acquire these images.

Several online platforms, such as Fiver, Upwork and Shutterstock, offer commissions on each photograph sold.

So, upload your photographs to these stock photography sites and earn passive income as a student. If you possess photography skills and can capture good photos and videos, you can sell them on these platforms.

The best part? You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get started. All you need is a basic camera and some editing skills.

best passive income ideas

Who would have thought gaming would be one of the best passive income ideas? Source: Marco Bello/AFP

2. Professional gamer

Imagine if you could game all the time and earn money from it.

That’s no longer a dream — it’s a reality.

You can make money by playing video games and even participating in gaming tournaments worldwide and earn extra from the prize money.

Aside from that, you can live-stream your gaming videos on several social platforms and build an online following for yourself.

Watching people play video games has become a popular form of entertainment for people worldwide. Some video game streamers have even made enough to quit their nine-to-five jobs and stream full-time.

3. Start a Youtube channel

Like starting a blog, setting up a YouTube channel is a pretty easy process.

You have the freedom to share any content that you like, such as tips for managing student life away from home, documenting your recent travels, showcasing helpful gadgets for students, and many more.

Apart from earning money through ads, you can also collaborate with brands for marketing and sponsorships.

While it will require time and effort to grow your viewership, once you establish a dedicated audience, monetising your channel becomes more accessible, similar to the blogging process.

Alternatively, you could even start a vlog channel to film your everyday life.

best passive income ideas

Selling or renting your old textbooks is a great way to earn a passive income. Source: Sam Wasson/AFP

4. Sell old textbooks

There are numerous online platforms, including social media websites, where you have the opportunity to sell various items.

This also includes the option to sell pre-owned items like clothing, electronics, or books. If you have a knack for crafting, you can also sell handmade products.

Towards the end of the semester, it is worth considering selling your used textbooks.

Campus bookstores often offer reduced prices for these books. Consider selling them to fellow students at a price lower than what they would pay at the bookstore but higher than the buyback rate offered by the store.

5. Freelancing

Freelancing has many benefits as a passive income source for international students.

As it is flexible, you can work on it anytime, anywhere. This flexibility is particularly advantageous for international students with varying schedules due to academic commitments.

Freelancing allows students to leverage their skills and expertise in various fields, such as graphic design, writing, programming, or marketing. This not only generates income but also helps to refine skills and gain practical experience.

You will also have the opportunity to work with clients from different countries and cultures, which will expand your professional network.

6. Transcribing

Transcribing is one of the best passive income ideas for students as it utilises your language skills and attention to detail.

International students often have strong language proficiency, making them well-suited for accurately transcribing audio or video content.

Transcribing can be done remotely, providing flexibility regarding location and schedule. This allows you to fit transcription work around your academic commitments.

It provides an opportunity to sharpen your listening and transcription abilities, which can be valuable skills for future endeavours.

The demand for transcription services is increasing with online content, podcasts, and video production.

They would be able to find various opportunities to find transcription work, ensuring a consistent stream of passive income while enhancing their skills.

best passive income ideas

Teaching online is one of the best passive income ideas for students. Source: Andy Lyons/AFP

7. Teach online

Online education has seen significant growth in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the shift towards remote learning.

The increased demand for online tutors and instructors creates opportunities for international students to find students or tutoring platforms seeking their expertise.

If you are good at a particular subject, now is the time to leverage that and teach.

You can teach your juniors or school students without leaving your dorm room.

The best part? You can teach absolutely anything. For instance, if you are good at singing or have a black belt in karate, you can offer online classes to teach this to children.

8. House sitting

Housesitting is one of the best passive income ideas for international students. Not only is it convenient, but it’s also a pretty simple job.

Typically, it involves looking after someone’s home while they are away on vacation or travelling for business. Your responsibilities may include staying overnight, ensuring the house’s safety, performing minor cleaning tasks and caring for their pets.

For students, housesitting is a fantastic opportunity as it allows you to focus on your schoolwork while earning some money.

As you stay at your client’s home, you can also find ample time to work on other assignments or personal projects.

Think of it as getting paid to go on a mini staycation — with minimal chores, of course.

best passive income ideas

If you have your license, you can earn a passive income by driving for a ride-sharing app. Source: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

9. Ride-sharing apps

Driving for ride-sharing apps can be a potential source of income for international students, especially if you are studying in an area where ride-sharing apps are popular. 

If you are studying in the UK, Uber is one of the most well-known and widely used ride-sharing apps there. It operates in many cities across the UK, providing opportunities for students to earn a passive income. 

The hourly rate for Uber drivers in the UK is approximately £15 per hour. 

This is a great job for students as it is flexible, and you can set your schedule to suit your academic calendar. 

If you have classes in the morning, you can do the job for a few hours later in the day. 

What’s more, doing this could also transition into more active income.

To do this job, however, you will first have to get your international driver’s license. 

10. Sleep studies

What could be better than getting paid to sleep?

Sleep studies often provide participants with financial compensation. While the compensation may vary depending on the study and institution, it can be a way for international students to earn additional income to support their living expenses or academic pursuits.

If there are local organisations or businesses conducting sleep research nearby, you might have the chance to grab this opportunity. 

The pay for each sleep study varies, but you can earn big bucks — one woman US$12,000 participating in two studies.