17 of the Top Passive Income Ideas for College Students

Money’s tough to come by when you’re in college, especially if you’ve got a student loan to pay off.

Even if you somehow manage to balance full-time work and studies, there’s only so much money you can make in a day.

And the moment you stop working, the money stops flowing in.

That’s the problem with active income… and why you should think about building up passive income streams. Below, I will discuss the top passive income ideas for college students.

What is passive income?

Basically, passive income is money you make even when you’re not working. It’s a matter of starting up a business, automating everything behind the scenes, and looking after it from time to time as it generates money for you.

Think of it like investing in a stock that pays out dividends. But instead of investing in a stock, you’re investing in your own business.

Why should college students have multiple streams of passive income?

According to Experian, roughly half of millennials in the US have a side hustle to help supplement their primary income.

But whether you’re saving for your own home or paying off debt, the ultimate goal of starting a side hustle and creating passive income is the same across the board:

Financial freedom.

And if you want to get a head start on establishing your financial independence, the earlier you can set up multiple sources of passive income, the sooner you’ll be able to live your dream life without ever having to worry about money.

So to help you get you started generating income passively, I’ve put together this list of 17 simple businesses you can launch to create different passive income streams, even if you don’t have any money.

The Top Passive Income Ideas for College Students

Start a Blog Right Now

One of the quickest ways to start your own business is to launch a blog.

Now, you might not think there’s much money to be made writing online, especially for your own blog. But it turns out full-time bloggers can earn up to $80,000 per year on average, which means you can definitely build up a passive income by maintaining a blog.

The best part about blogging is that it doesn’t require much technical know-how, and it’s literally as easy as publishing on a regular schedule. Once you’re able to steadily produce content, there are several ways you can monetize your blog.

Selling Products Online/ dropshipping

Got something you want to sell? Or are you interested in running your own online store?

Dropshipping might be for you. Or in other words, selling stuff online.

Creating a successful eCommerce business boils down to 4 key questions:

  • Who are you selling to?
  • What do you want them to buy?
  • How will you reach them?
  • How can they buy from you?

Of course, there are lots of other steps involved in running an online store. But focusing on these 4 guiding questions will help you get customers who actually want to buy your product, which means more money in your pockets.

Affiliate Marketing

If there’s a particular product or service that you’re crazy about, you might be able to make a good deal of money by promoting it and recommending it to others on the web.

Let’s say you love Joanne’s pineapple-peach ice cream, and you also happen to keep a blog where you write reviews of different ice cream flavors from around town. Joanne gives you a special link to her store that your readers can use to get discounts on her ice cream and offers to pay you for every purchase that’s made using the discount link.

So the more people you can encourage to buy Joanne’s ice cream, the more money you make. That’s affiliate marketing in a nutshell.

Depending on what types of products you’re a fan of, you can find all sorts of brands that are willing to pay you for sending them, customers.

If you are interested in affiliate marketing and don’t know where to begin, you should check out Fullstaq Marketing’s Business Launch Challenge. The challenge will help you set up your own affiliate marketing business in 2.5 days and is backed by a double your money-back guarantee. For information, see my blog post here.

Online Course-udemy

Courses are a great “set it and forget it” method for generating passive income.

Think of a skill or subject matter that you’d feel comfortable teaching. Build a course around that particular topic with video lessons, and you can sell access to it on e-learning platforms like Udemy and Teachable.


Along with creating a course on a topic that you know a lot about, you can also write, publish, and sell an ebook to earn money passively.

With marketplaces like Amazon’s Kindle Store and Google Play, you can offer your ebook to millions of readers across the web, and even get some of them to buy your course as well.

High-interest savings account

One of the safest and simplest ways to gain passive income is to open a high-interest savings account (HISA) and regularly make deposits.

While not the most lucrative source of income, a HISA requires almost no maintenance and is perhaps the most reliable and stable method on this list for making money on the side.


By now, you’ve probably heard about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and maybe even NFTs.

And while I could write an entire series on why you should invest in crypto before its value skyrockets, I’ll keep it short by saying buying crypto now would be like owning shares of Amazon when it initially sold for $18 per share (it’s now hovering at around $2,500 each).

Even if you’re not interested in making money off crypto, the blockchain technology behind cryptocurrencies is worth looking into.

Buy and sell domain names

Buying and selling website domains might not be the most popular means of making money online. But with many domains costing as little as $5 or even less, it’s certainly one of the most profitable.

Flipping domain names isn’t really all that different from flipping houses or any other type of item for a profit. As long as you’re able to find domains that command a high resale price, there are literally thousands of dollars to be made.

Invest in Stocks

Think stock investing is complicated? Think again.

Lots of people like to make investing in stocks seem delicately risky and like you could lose your money on the flip of a magician’s dime.

The truth is you can in fact make money with stocks without worrying about things like “technical analysis” and doing hours of homework on different companies. Just invest in “Nifty Fifty” stocks — that is, blue-chip companies that are nationally or even internationally recognized and regarded as financially stable. Better yet, put your money into an index fund or ETF that minimizes your risk and yields decent returns in the long run.

Stash App Investment

Speaking of investing, if you’re not big on setting up your portfolio and making trades yourself, you can use services like Stash, which help you automatically set aside money and invest it according to your risk level.

Their Beginner plan starts at $1 per month, which is perfect for any college student’s budget.

Selling Stock Photos

Handy with a camera? You might be able to make decent money with your photos.

Sites like iStock and Shutterstock let you sell others the right to use your photos in their projects.

The better your photos and the more you upload, the bigger your payout.

Selling Stock Music

There are also many ways you can go about selling your music online to be used as stock audio for multimedia projects.

As a musician and composer, an added bonus of licensing your music on stock libraries is you might have the opportunity if have your songs streamed on a Netflix show or listened to by people on Spotify.

Selling Stock Video

Companies and brands are always looking for high-quality stock footage to use for their marketing content.

So if you know a bit about videography and can shoot stock videos like a pro, selling stock footage may be a viable way of building a passive income.

Selling T-Shirt Designs on RedBubble/Printify/Zazzle

Monetize your artistic side by creating and selling t-shirt designs.

Platforms like Printify and Zazzle make it super simple to put your design on all kinds of products that you can sell to customers. If you’re interested in starting up your own online store, this could be one way of making products that sell.

Sell Your Class Notes

Your study habits aren’t just great for earning As in class. They’re also your secret weapon to getting paid for going to school.

Granted, you’re probably going to want to keep your marketing low-key to avoid getting in trouble with the ethics board. But you’d be surprised how many of your classmates are willing to pay top dollar for your notes leading up to mid-terms.

Become a Secret Shopper

Would you like to make money shopping?

That’s basically what you’re doing as a mystery or secret shopper.

By showing up to a store and pretending to be a customer, you’re helping companies perform undercover research on their own employees so they can tweak their customer experiences.

The amount you earn depends on the job you take, and there is a wide range of jobs available, including some tasks that you might actually enjoy doing.

Start a YouTube Channel

If you’re passionate about a certain subject and want to share it with others, you may be able to create a solid stream of passive income by starting a YouTube channel.

Making money on YouTube is no different from earning an income by creating content on any other kind of platform or medium. In this case, it just happens to be in the form of videos.

While many people monetize their YouTube videos through ad revenue, some creators get sponsored by other brands or may even use their channel to sell their own products. In essence, the sky’s the limit with how you can make money on YouTube.

Start Your First Stream of Passive Income

Earning income passively is easy. The hard part is getting started and sticking to it long enough for your work to begin paying off.

Keep in mind there are dozens of other ideas you can use to launch your own business and build up sources of passive income. Whatever you decide to pursue, make sure it’s something you’re interested in and able to commit to.

Take action, embrace failure, and as long as you continue putting in the effort, you will eventually succeed in having multiple streams of income.