Student loans are an investment in your future. When you agree to receive a student loan you are making an “investment” in your future self by trading the student loan money for an education and the hope of increased future earning potential. However, as we all know, this perfect scenario does not always play out as expected.
College costs continue to rise, so the amount of student loans you are forced to borrow increases. You cannot complete your degree in 4 years so you are forced to pay for a fifth unplanned year. Your job prospects are not what you thought they would be so you are forced into a job below your earning potential. You enter the job market when it is saturated with middle level managers who are recently unemployed and sapping up all of the entry level positions. All of these scenarios are very real, and very scary when you look at the impacts they have on your student loan debt.
Have I painted a bleak enough picture? I hope so, because student loan debt can be a cancer that stunt your financial growth and stability for years.
The good news however, is that with some hard work, determination, and a little internet savvy, there are simple ways to generate additional income to assist you in paying down your student loan debt and getting on with your life.
Whether you have $5,000, $50,000 or over $100,000 in student loan debt, any (or all!!) of the below tactics can be used to earn additional income and pay off your student loans. Best of all, they all have very low barriers to entry and zero or minimal cash investment.
Retail Arbitrage On Amazon
Buy low, sell high. Sounds simple right?
This age old philosophy translated to the world’s largest marketplace has created a huge opportunity for profit, with low barriers to entry. The basic concept is that you will find products to sell by “sourcing” them from local inventory. You’ll visit stores like Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, Publix, ACE Hardware, and many others.
You download an Amazon Seller app to your phone and scan inventory in the store. You are looking for items that sell for more on Amazon than what you can buy them for in the store. Amazon takes a cut of your profit, but the app will show you net proceeds. Find an item with a positive profit margin, and you have found your opportunity.
You’ll also want to pay attention to BSR or Best Seller Rank. This is the number which represents how frequently the item is selling. Good rule of thumb is to stay under 100,000 in any category and that product will sell within 1-2 months.
Other tips are to buy smaller items so you can save on shipping, don’t buy perishable or meltable goods, nothing breakable or fragile, and avoid seasonal items as you are starting out. The best part of this business is that by selling through Amazon’s FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) service once you ship the item into Amazon your work is done. They handle all of the fulfillment, customer service and potential returns, so all you do is collect a paycheck!
Run Facebook Ads For Affiliate Products
Getting paid a commission for selling someone else’s product, or affiliate marketing, is an income stream with very low barriers to entry and potentially unlimited earning potential. Because of the low barriers of entry there is fierce competition, and plenty of spammy “get rich quick” schemes to watch out for. But that should not diminish the fact that this is a legitimate way to earn real money selling reputable and helpful products.
One of the easiest ways to get started with affiliate marketing is to sell products listed on one of the most popular affiliate ad networks.
Clickbank is one of the largest services in the affiliate marketing space and their platform is simple to use. You simply create an account, find a product you are interested in promoting, get your unique affiliate link and you are ready to market! Most Clickbank products offer above a 50% commission, so there is real earning potential.
Facebook is the easiest place to begin your affiliate marketing journey because of the ability to target ads to a virtually unlimited supply of potential buyers. Selling a potty training course? You can target Moms and Dads of toddlers who have joined Potty Training Help groups on Facebook. You’ll need a Facebook ad account, and a valid payment method and you are ready to publish your first ad.
Sell Social Media Consulting Services to Local Businesses
Know your way around Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram? You may take these skills for granted, but when you translate these skills to small business marketing you could easily sell your consulting services to local small businesses.
Many small businesses are either too busy to worry with social media, or don’t want to take the time to learn. They would much rather pay a “professional” to handle this for them. That is where you come in.
You can charge a one-time consulting fee to setup the accounts for the small business or you can chase recurring monthly revenue by charging a monthly maintenance fee to manage the channel for the business. You can offer packages to bundle your services and you can increase your prices based on the number of channels you manage for the business. Pro tip: Focus on mastering one channel and position yourself as a subject matter expert. You may use all of the popular social media channels as a casual user, but if you can deep dive into Pinterest for example, you can charge much more as the “Pinterest Guru”.
Want more examples of businesses you can sell? Here are 50 more ways that you can start a business.
Start a Niche Site for Amazon Affiliate Products
Another more slightly advance method of affiliate marketing is to become an affiliate for Amazon products. The concept is the same, you refer buyers to Amazon products in exchange for a commission. The catch with Amazon is that there commissions are MUCH lower than ClickBank.
You will start at 4% and only slightly increase based on your referral sales volume. The upside is that everybody knows Amazon. Rather than selling a private “potty training guide” you could become an affiliate through Amazon for name brands and refer your readers to physical products on Amazon. This gives you a built-in trust factor and legitimacy to your audience.
This method of affiliate marketing works best if you already have some form of an audience through a blog, website, newsletter, or email list. However, if you are savvy with web design and SEO, you could easily create niche sites to drive traffic to your Amazon Affiliate links.
Pro tip: Take advantage of the seasonality of Amazon. 4th Quarter and Christmas sales make up the bulk of the traffic year-round on Amazon. Be sure that your content is ready to market by the beginning of November and maximize the holiday season referrals!
Write an eBook and Sell Online
Fancy yourself a writer? This could be your opportunity to write the next great American novel and get paid at the same time. eBooks can be written on virtually any topic and can be sold through existing marketplaces like Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Nook, and many others.
You can also create your own website to market your eBook and setup a content delivery software to manage the digital fulfillment for you. A great recommendation to begin with is e-junkie. The beauty of digital content is that you can sell it in multiple platforms, and it is passive income! You write the book once and then after your initial marketing efforts, the book may sell for months and years to come on auto-pilot.
Related: 14 Ways to Get Paid to Write
Become a Brand Ambassador
The last idea for generating a side hustle income to pay down your student loan debt is to become a part-time brand ambassador. These are the people you see peddling products at trade shows, grocery stores, alcohol stores, bars, festivals, and many major retailers. With no prior selling experience you can get paid to hand out free samples and be a “brand evangelist”. Depending on what brand you are representing, you can get paid from an hourly wage of $15 – $100. This also varies widely based on your location, and the type of event you will be attending.
Many of these gigs are advertised on Craigslist, and once you get one paid gig through a promoter, you can get on the list for future paid jobs. Most of these jobs are during the night and weekend hours so it would be an easy side hustle!
What kind of side hustles have you done to accelerate your student loan payoff?
DJ works in financial services at a large public university. He lives in the Southeast with his wife and young daughter.