10 Ways You Can Earn A Side Income As A Student

This year heralded a new start for many Malaysians and it represented an exciting beginning for many. However, Malaysians were shocked by several news articles in leading online news portals that an increasing number of students, especially in public universities were starving themselves due to a lack of funds. One news portal even claimed that a student starved herself until she ended up with perforated and bleeding intestines. Other horror stories began to emerge of students who were so poor they could only afford one meal of instant noodles a day. Others admitted to the media that they went for days without food and only ate bread once every few days.

This ignited a storm of controversies on social media, with members of the public pointing fingers trying to play the blame game. Some were quick to blame the students themselves for being poor at managing their finances and yet others blamed the government and universities for not coming to the aid of these students sooner. Even students themselves were divided on who was responsible for the matter. University authorities were quick to deny these reports, stating that the situation has been misreported and sensationalized to make it look much worse than it actually was. At the end of the argument however, there was a ray of light when it was revealed that an increasing number of private charitable organizations were going into campuses offering solid solutions to the problem of student hunger. They did this by offering free meals that students could take away with them easily. Some campuses started having what was called ‘suspended meals’ where students who were financially better off could buy a meal coupon that poorer students could later redeem.

Many factors were cited as the cause of why such a large number of students faced financial difficulties. One of which was the fact that certain students sent a portion of their PTPTN loans or scholarships home to help their financially struggling families. Others cited the sudden increase in the price of goods due to the GST, making many everyday necessities unaffordable. There are also those who insisted that poor financial management and inadequate financial knowledge was the cause of the students’ own ruin. Suffice to say, despite all the debate, that this problem is real and it exists. This is why it is of utmost importance for students themselves to stand up and find plausible solutions to their financial woes. They can do this in two ways, one is by working during the semester breaks and another is to make an income throughout the year, even when the semester is running.

Some parties have raised concerns that working part time will jeopardize the academic performance of a student. The reality is that part time work can interfere with campus life. Therefore it is of utmost importance to be disciplined and extremely diligent in your time management. As a student working part time, you should also be willing to sacrifice certain things like your social life with friends. As they often say, no pain, no gain. If you are a cash strapped student, or just want to supplement your income to lighten your parents’ burden, here are some useful suggestions on the type of work available.

1. Use Your Skills

“I’ve got my stationery and coffee, time to make some money.”

Online micro job boards are on the rise with several internationally acclaimed websites available including places like Freelancer.com and Upwork where employers look for both short term projects or long term commitments. The good thing here is that many employers are from overseas and they offer payment rates in currencies that trade higher than the Ringgit. So if you have specialized skills like web design, writing, research, data entry, graphic design and more, head on over to these sites and fill up the required information. Usually you get jobs by ‘bidding’ with other potential employees for a certain project and if your portfolio profile is interesting and qualified enough, you’ll get the job. One important thing to note here is that you will require either a Paypal account or a valid credit card in order to get paid. You don’t have to worry about the legitimacy of employers here as they are all screened and approved by the website’s administrators. On home ground, try advertising your skills on sites like Kaodim and Mudah.my, you’ll be surprised how these sites can actually draw in clients to you.

2. Sell Products Online

“Can someone buy this cute miniature cart for an equivalent of my tuition fees”

You can start humble and small by selling your own second hand items that are not needed anymore, especially things like textbooks, stationery or clothes. Online sites where you can begin to sell stuff include Lelong, Mudah and Lowyat. Otherwise you can set up a Facebook page to increase your sale exposure. Apart from selling second hand items, there is a demand for hand crafted items like artisanal soap, toiletries, gift packs especially as door gifts for certain events. You could also look into the corporate gift sector where you produce small items to promote a certain company like printed T-shirts, pens or umbrellas. Of course this requires you to spend some time procuring producers for these products but once you’re done, the rest of the business does not take up much time. In order to sell your items at a higher price, why not go to international portals like Ebay or Amazon? Not only will your target audience be wider, you’ll get premium prices for your products too!

3. Work Part Time In Restaurants Or Shops

“Note to self, do not break any of these bottles”

If you’re able to travel, you may want to consider working part time in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s or KFC, or even as a pizza delivery person for Pizza restaurants. These jobs pay anywhere from RM4 to RM8 an hour. The pay may be considered rather low for some but it can be used to supplement an income generated from other work or an online business. The shifts you work can be at night and on weekends. The downside is that you may have to give up your social life and relaxation time. On the plus side, you’ll be exposed to the food and beverage industry, which will look extremely good on your resume after you graduate. In addition to the fast food industry, try local cafes and restaurants, or even shops like twenty four hour convenience stores (think KK Mart or 7-11), stationery shops and the like. You can always try negotiating with your employer so that your shifts don’t coincide with classes.

4. Give Tuition Classes

“Ok, so now click this and that, let’s consider this tuition class yes?”

This is one of the most common and easiest ways for an undergraduate or Grad student to earn money as it doesn’t require much brawn or physical energy. The upside of giving tuition is that the rates are pretty good, ranging from RM30 to RM60 an hour (and rising because of inflation). If you have a car and can travel, you’ll be able to reach more students and get more clients. In order to start, you can sign up at online home tuition agencies like GradTutors, Tuition Plaza, Tuition Job and My A One Learning. Note that if you go through an agent, you’ll probably have to pay an agent’s fee which is usually 50% to 60% of your first month’s earnings. The current rates for one on one tutoring is at RM20-30 per hour for UPSR level, RM30-40 for PT3, RM40-50 for SPM and RM60 per hour for STPM or A levels. If you’re tutoring University level students, you can negotiate for up to RM80 per hour. Apart from one on one home tutoring, you can watch out for tuition centres that are always keen to hire University students as teachers. The rates are more or less the same as those stated before, except that you’ll just have to handle more students in one class.

5. Become A Mystery Shopper

“Ok cops, don’t arrest me, I’m a mystery shopper not a gang land robber.”

This is one of the most fun jobs you might ever come across. You’ll have a chance to evaluate how businesses perform and how employees in the customer service line behave. Usually you’ll be given a briefing on how to conduct these visits and what to look for. Each visit is paid for in cash or vouchers, or cash back on the money you spend there, based on your receipt. The going rate for one assignment starts from RM30 all the way to RM150 depending on how much you are expected to observe and record for the benefit of the evaluators. In the end, your observations and feedback will be channeled to the marketing executives of these conglomerates, which will help improve customer service, product presentation and overall performance. To begin, you can contact Cardas Research or Popular Bookstores. There are also International mystery shopper agencies like Helion Research which pays you in USD.

6. Join Market Surveys

“So you’re telling me all I have to do is fill up this form and I get paid?”

Another easy way for you to earn some extra income as a student is to sign up as a participant for market surveys. Market research agencies are paid by big brands to gauge the response of potential customers to new products, new marketing strategies, a new TV ad concept or revamping of a company image. For a two hour survey, you can be paid from RM150 to RM200. However, these market research sessions are often very specific in their demographic needs, so you’ll have to fit in to a certain age group, race or gender. In order to keep up with the latest surveys available, follow this blog (cheongsurvey.blogspot.my) or look out for them on job boards like on Lowyat Forums or Part Time Post. Alternatively, you can try online surveys from legitimate sites like Panel Place and iPanel Malaysia, although the earnings from each survey are small, if you persist, you’ll be able to earn a tidy sum.

7. Be A Delivery Person

“My plan is to ride around in this yellow scooter and get paid.”

If you own a car or bike, or even a bicycle, consider starting your own delivery business. Advertise your services the old fashioned way by putting up advertisements in your campus and on campus forums. Be the one that gets things from point A to point B in a timely manner. You can charge standard courier rates for your services, or charge by the distance on how far you travel. Alternatively, join GoGet, a website where you can sign up as delivery person or an errands person. Although the GoGet concept only covers Klang Valley, you can always start your own freelance delivery service wherever you are in Malaysia.

8. Be An Online Personal Assistant

“Ok! I’m fully equipped to be an online personal assistant. I just need someone to hire me now.”

Although this is a relatively new concept, an online personal assistance service is actually a revolutionary idea whereby clients pay a certain sum for you to complete online tasks or errands for them. For example, someone might need you to book a bus or plane ticket, or research the basic requirements to start a business in Malaysia. Others may need you to look for a location for a party, or even type some handwritten documents. Whatever task there is, you can be there providing the necessary support. One such website that allows you to be a virtual assistant is SupaHands where you can earn by doing small online tasks on a daily basis.

9. Be A Personal Driver

“Now that I look like a secret service agent, come along in my rolls.”

This suggestion of course applies to those with cars only, and cars of a certain age and type. If you fulfill this necessary prerequisite, you can apply to be an Uber or Grab driver. Of course this does require some level of commitment, but it is also very rewarding and with consistent work, you can earn up to RM100-RM200 a night. Although this type of work may come with certain risks, you can always take the necessary precautions. Uber and Grab drivers are given the choice whether to accept or decline a ride on a two-way interactive app.

10. Fix Broken Things

“Now all I have to do is learn how to be a Handy-man.”

Do you have a passion for cars? Can you repair computers? Then it’s time to start your own repair business. There’s bound to be defective vehicles, computers or other electrical appliances around campus so start your own mini workshop to offer technical support to fellow students, for an appropriate fee. You have to be prepared to be on-call 24/7 as problems may arise at any time of the day or night and your clients expect you to be there tout suite. Start by advertising in campus and you’ll definitely get calls in no time!

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