How To Make $100k in College: These Students Prove Making Good Money in College Is Possible!

make money in college

Have you heard this before: College students don’t invest because they don’t have any money!

A reader called me out and said that my story about working and investing while in college was rare, and that most college students earn next to nothing.  I call B.S.  In fact, I think most college students CAN earn decent money, even “good” money.

So, I reached out to The College Investor network and found a couple of college student that are making $100,000 per year – while still going to school!

I wanted to share their stories and prove, once and for all, that college students can earn good money while in school.  Their stories all highlight one of my core tenants: you have to have hustle.  These guys hustle, they make money, AND they invest.

 

Nic Mayne, The Master’s College

Nic MayneNic Mayne is currently a student at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA, where’s he’s studying political science.  Besides that, he also the owner of Mayne Marketing, a company where he makes over $100,000 per year before taxes.   Don’t think it’s possible?  Let me share with you Nic’s story:

Tell Everyone About Yourself and How You Got Started

Nic: I am a junior at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, a small liberal arts school. I am working on my B.A. in Political Studies with an emphasis in constitutional law. I’ve always planned on some type of pre-law curriculum, and the Political Studies program at Master’s fit well.

I started a marketing company just after my freshman year. I had been studying abroad in Spain and afterwards went back to Canada to work for the summer. A family friend had offered me an HR position, and I didn’t really know where I wanted to go next, so I took it hoping to develop some valuable business skills, while figuring out where I was going to go for my Bachelor’s.  While working in the HR position, the company had some marketing needs (a new website, updated pamphlet and poster designs, community networking, etc.) and I offered to spend some of my time during the day working on it so that they could save money.

I had dabbled in web and graphic design throughout high school as a hobby, so I knew at the very least I would be able to self-teach what they needed done. The website was actually a fairly big project, as it had to be made accessible for hearing impaired and visually impaired users. I had to think outside the box and figure out how I was going to go about doing it, and learned a lot about marketing to broad audiences in the process.

After I completed that first site (can be seen here: http://www.rwgcommunity.com), I was very interested in potentially doing some similar work on the side to supplement my income, and started looking into some freelance work to develop my skills further. A lot of the initial contracts I took were web content writing, and I was able to learn a fair bit about search engine optimization by working with the marketing directors of companies that I was doing freelance work for. I initially targeted attorneys, because I knew I wanted to go into law, and figured it would be helpful to gain some insight into the industry through my work.

I did a lot of freelance contracts for the first few months and eventually built up my client roster to a point where I was working full-time on steady contracts. The year after starting is kind of a blur, there were weeks when I was putting in 50+ hours worth of work between content writing, SEO and link building, web design, and graphic design. I eventually started sub contracting some of my work out, so that I am able to focus on a few of my bigger clients and act more as an editor/administrator for smaller projects. Currently, I still specialize in legal marketing and work with a few law firms, but also work steadily with some resorts, oil companies, etc. really a vast variety of clients. In the past year I have had clients in 7 US states and 4 countries.

Wow!  That’s Intense!  How did you find the time to balance both school and your freelance/business work?

Nic: It is difficult to find the time!  It has definitely tested my time management skills.

I’ve developed some great working relationships with contractors who do some of my more time consuming work for me, it has allowed me to cut down to 20-30 hours per week. The key has been to really know my schedule and get a good grasp on how long my “must-do” work is going to take me.

When I have a lot due in classes and it can get crazy, I’ll find myself starting work at midnight or 1 am, but I try to get ahead in the slower weeks so that I am able to keep up. A typical day for me starts around 9 am with my first class, usually I try to cram all my classes in before noon or 1 pm for sure. During lunch I usually look over what I need to get done for work, reply to emails, set a bit of a mental schedule. After lunch is usually when I am working, I would say 1-5 pm every day I try to be working fairly solid.

This past semester I had to cram LSAT studying into that period as well, so those hours are sometimes extended. A couple nights a week I usually have a night class.  Sometimes I have to get a bit of work done during class, emails and editing and such. If I’m not busy after class, I usually get as much as I can done from 9 or 10 pm until midnight or one when I go to bed.

I try to plan ahead so that I don’t have as much to do at night, usually I have an hour or so to watch some TV and relax. Saturday mornings I typically do all my catchup work, anything I wasn’t able to schedule in during the week. I try to have as much of a schedule as possible, but I often end up just having to cram extra work into my free time after I finish up with class and assignments.

That’s a Great Work Ethic! But, honestly, do you still have a life?

Nic: I’m very busy, but I definitely think I still have a life. I’ve maintained a 3.97 GPA and still have time to hang out with friends, go out with my girlfriend, play in a competitive adult hockey league once a week, attend some on-campus stuff, go to church, etc.

There have, for sure, been times when I have over-done it, but I’m always trying to learn how to manage it better – usually during finals week and those busier times I just have to tell clients I’m not available and then catch up over breaks. My winter/spring/summer breaks are my busiest times for work, I guess that is the one thing I have had to sacrifice.

Did you know you always wanted to start a business, or was this a way to just make money?

Nic: I never knew I wanted to start this business, but I always envisioned eventually working for myself. My business came about after I was blessed with an awesome job opportunity which allowed me to develop some marketing skills, and I just kind of ran with it after that. I never saw it taking off like it has over the past year and a half – I thought maybe it would pay part of my tuition. I just thought I would do a little freelance work until I realized how huge the demand was.

What do you see yourself doing after graduation?

Nic: I love my work, but my goal has always been to go to law school and I would never forgive myself if I gave up on that. After graduation, I hope I can go to a top law school, obviously Stanford, Harvard, and Yale are at the top of my list. I might build to sell and try to pay for my education with my business, but hopefully will be able to continue to work, scale back a bit further, perhaps hire some full time help.

You mentioned that you invest your money – what are you doing with it right now?

Nic: I try to be smart with my money, I invest quite a bit, usually in stocks. I like to buy a few higher risk plays with smaller amounts and put larger amounts in some high-yield dividend paying stocks. Obviously you win some and lose some with stocks, but I’ve been able to grow my income a bit by putting most of what I don’t spend on tuition into investment accounts.

What advice would you have for college students who think of themselves as the “poor college student” stereotype?

Nic: My advice to poor college students would be to stop labeling yourself as a poor college student. I think this is difficult for students who never have had jobs before, but you really just need to realize that you have the ability to be part of the working population and there are a lot of jobs out there for those who want them.

If you label yourself a poor college student, at best you are going to get the type of job normally reserved for poor college students, just because that is how potential employers will see you. View yourself as more than that, don’t limit your potential to “poor college student” status. I think almost anyone could be doing what I’m doing – sure you have to work hard and commit yourself to it, but at the end of the day, there is a lot of work out there for people who are willing to develop skills and dedicate the necessary time.

I got my first job when I was about 14 years old and have worked ever since – I think that’s helped my mindset. It really bothers me to see friends who haven’t ever had a real job and don’t even know how to write a resume – I really think those are skills you should learn at least by high school graduation.

The will to work just isn’t there though, I’ve tried to hire friends before and often they will put in 10-20 hours of work and ask to be paid and never want to work again. I understand wanting to enjoy college but I don’t think working has to be unenjoyable, and you’re going to enjoy your years right after graduating a lot more if you don’t have a bunch of debt to worry about.

 

Jonathan Weber, East Stroudsburg University

College Student Jonathan WeberJonathan Weber is a senior at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, where he’s currently studying computer science and cyber-security.  He also makes over $100,000 per year at the company he founded, Marathon Studios Inc., a web startup that develops and manages web media properties with over 2.5 million monthly users.  His company is headquartered in his college’s business accelerator.

Let’s check out Jonathan’s story…

Thanks for volunteering your story!  Tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Jonathan: My name is Jonathan Weber. I’m a senior studying cyber-security at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.    My original career plans were to get a job in the cyber security field, likely as an employee of a government agency. My plans have shifted since my sophomore year, when I founded my web startup Marathon Studios Inc. My company develop and manages websites and apps with over 2.5 million monthly users, mostly free and supported by advertising revenue.

That’s awesome that you started an internet company while in school.  How did that come about?

Jonathan: I first learned how to program in high school, and quickly realized the potential the Internet has for flexible entrepreneurship.  As a high school junior, I started offering my services online as a freelance graphic designer and web developer. Over the next year or so, I developed my skills while working for a wide variety of clients all over the country, most of whom had no idea I was a high school kid on a laptop in his parent’s house. One of my biggest breaks was when I got a contract to redesign the official website and PR materials for a Hollywood actor. With that on my portfolio, I had as much work as I could handle.

In my freshman year of college, I tried something I had been thinking about since the beginning - launching my own website, and monetizing it with advertising. At the time, I was running varsity cross country and working two minimum wage jobs in addition to my freelance work, so I would sketch out ideas for websites on the back of study guides during lectures, and squeeze in an hour or two of coding after my last shift at the local grocery store, which ended at midnight.

My ideas mostly came in the form of websites I wished existed when I was trying to solve a particular problem or find difficult-to-locate information. I spent a few days sketching out the idea, then researched and built the websites over several weeks. I launched two sites over the course of a semester, and gradually forgot about them as everything else on my schedule took priority.

In January of the following year, as I prepared to move to New Zealand for a semester abroad, I made an incredible discovery. Over the past months, my forgotten websites had started generating more revenue per week then I was currently making at both of my minimum wage jobs combined!

This was a key moment for me. When I quit my jobs and got on the flight to New Zealand, I decided to focus all of my energy on developing websites and media properties for my own business. Several months later, I informed my last clients that I was no longer in the freelance coding business, and Marathon Studios was born.

In the two years since, much has changed. When I returned to the States and transferred to my current university, I pitched my business plan in a statewide competition and won first place. In addition to $10,000 in startup funding, I also made key connections in my university’s economic development office who were able to help me transform what I was already doing into a real business.

What started as a single-guy sole proprietorship run out of the laptop in my backpack, is now a profitable corporation with servers across the country, an office, payroll, and several employees.

Did you know you always wanted to start a business, or was this a way to just make money?

Jonathan: I’ve always been driven toward the idea of owning a business. When I was eight years old, I ran a little shop selling pencils and erasers to my elementary school classmates. I love the idea of building something from nothing and there’s incredible excitement in seeing people using something you created. If anything, the money is a secondary motivator for me.

How do you find the time to run a company and do everything you need to do at school?  What does a typical schedule look like for you?

Jonathan: It’s very difficult. Despite a number of people, including venture capitalists, urging me to drop out, I am determined to complete my degree this year. My normal school/work day consists of me hopping back and forth between classes and my office (which is luckily located in the business accelerator on campus). Whenever possible, I try to combine class projects with my work – for example, developing a database backend for my latest landing page as the final project for a course on databases. My professors have been very accommodating in this area!

Sometimes I stay in my office late after class, and every so often I pull an all-nighter when a product or site launch is coming up. Luckily, I have a couch and a stocked mini fridge next to my desk! My employees and interns, most of whom are also students, come in between or after classes.

There’s been some controversy lately about the rise of business accelerators at schools.  Did you find the accelerator experience to be beneficial?

Jonathan: I can’t say enough about how beneficial the business accelerator program has been for me and Marathon Studios. My office is located in the East Stroudsburg University Innovation Center, our campus business accelerator, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

A good business accelerator can serve as a bridge between students and the sometimes intimidating world of entrepreneurship. The staff at my accelerator helped me incorporate, make connections with great local entrepreneurs, and even secure grant funding to hire more students.

Would you say you still have a “life”?

Jonathan: First, running a business is definitely a huge undertaking. Unlike a regular nine to five, you are responsible for the life or death of your enterprise – so, at the very least, your business will always be in the back of your mind. I work hard when I’m in the office, but a good work life balance is also important.  I have been particularly fortunate because my business is run almost entirely from the cloud – I can access my servers from anywhere in the world. This gives me much more work flexibility than many traditional entrepreneurs.

I love to travel, and every year I take about a month to drop off the grid and recharge. I’ve traveled to twenty-nine countries so far across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In fact, I’m answering these questions from a hostel common room in Shanghai! I travel light and cheap, with nothing more then a few changes of clothes, a tablet, and a toothbrush. Many of my ideas have come to me while traveling, and and no matter where my career takes me I intend to always make time to go abroad, see new places, and meet new people.

What do you see yourself doing after graduation?

Jonathan: Because of the success of my business, I won’t be getting a traditional job after college like most of my classmates. Instead, I will be investing additional time into my ventures – I incorporated my third company in December 2013. With the ability to focus on my businesses, I intend to expand my operations, hire more programmers, and finally start working on many of the projects I haven’t had time to pursue due to time constraints. Finally, the extra free time will give me more time to travel and see the world. I can’t wait to get started!

What advice would you have for college students who think of themselves as the “poor college student” stereotype?

Jonathan: The best time in your life to start a business is in college. When else do you have summer and winter breaks, freedom from most daily obligations besides class, and access to a huge network of professors, alumni, and faculty who would all love to help you succeed?

If you have an idea for a business, reach out to your university’s business accelerator program or business department. Enter a business plan competition. Take a class in entrepreneurship. Never before in human history has a student had so much power to turn an idea into reality. The first step is scary, but everyone is here to help, and if entrepreneurship is your calling you will never, ever, look back.

I would be happy to help you out if you are interested in starting a business or learning more about entrepreneurship. Reach out to me through the contact form on marathon-studios.com.

 

My Thoughts on Making $100,000 in College

Let’s be honest – not every college student can make $100,000 while still in school.  But, you know what?  Every college student can earn good money while they’re in school – maybe $20,000 to $30,000 easy.  Like both Nic and Jonathan said, it just takes effort – or as I call it, hustle.

Agree or disagree?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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  • http://www.saveandconquer.com/ Bryce@saveandconquer.com

    When I was in college, I earned $6,000 over 4 years. It was from working in the Math tutorial center. The two people you highlighted are the exception to the normal college student. I was a Mechanical Engineering major and barely had time to work in the Math center and get all my homework completed. I had the old GI Bill from the 70s and was proud that I graduated in 4 years with no debt. Of course, I now make well over $100k per year as a Senior Mechanical Engineer.

    • http://thecollegeinvestor.com/ Robert Farrington

      Hi Bryce, I was an engineering student as well (for two years), and I still worked full time as a supervisor at a local big box retail store. It is possible, and while making $100k is an exception, I don’t think $20k-$30k is.

  • http://www.wallstcollege.com/ Frank Alvarez

    20-30k is an extremely easy attainable sum. While going to college I was working 30hrs a week as a restaurant server making a little over 40k a year, plus whatever I made investing in the stock market.

    Obviously all my lazy friends were wondering how did I get all that money, that is what inspired me to create Wall Street College. To teach everybody that it is possible to make your money work for you even though you are not at the 100k range.

    • http://thecollegeinvestor.com/ Robert Farrington

      Thanks for sharing your story Frank! I’m glad to see that there are others hustling in school!