If you are looking to make money, I suggest you read my previous article The 5 Best Ways to Earn Money in College. If you want to learn how not to make money, then you are in the right place. This list debunks some of the tired and overly-trendy sources for making money quickly. As college students, we cannot afford to waste time searching for cash in the wrong places— let’s save that for after graduation.
1. Medical experiments
A few months ago I was drawn to a headline that read, “NASA Will Pay You $5,000 A Month To Stay In Bed.” According to Medical Daily, NASA was seeking participants in a 70-day study to see the effects of not moving on the human body, which I would guess involves being fed and washed by other people. Imagine what you would look like after a semester of never leaving your bed. It’d be like the Freshmen 15 only you will fail all your classes and probably gain a lot more than 15 pounds. While this is an extreme example, it is not uncommon for people to suggest their jobless friends seek extra income as a participant in some sort of study. I think the only study should students should worry about is studying for class, so don’t sign those medical waivers and keep the words “test subject” off your resume. Let those nerds invest in some lab rats.
2. Selling body fluids
On any Internet list about making money fast, you’ll inevitably scroll past the advice for you to sell your blood or plasma. Be warned. If it involves a needle, it is probably not a healthy option for a struggling college student. It does not stop with blood and plasma. My old college newspaper always had a half-page advertisement for a local cryobank where they store sperm. The ad promised donors they could make up to $1,000 a month with regular donations. I, of course, as a broke college guy, went to the website to see if I was eligible (there is nothing wrong with curiosity). The cryobank requires donors to have a bachelor’s degree. That is totally reasonable. I get that people want smart babies, but why advertise in a college newspaper when the target audience is guaranteed to not have a degree? Why get our hopes up for nothing?
That same newspaper frequently had ads for egg donors. I do not have a uterus and I am a little uncomfortable talking about this, but here is my opinion just the same. After you endure the blood test, ultrasound and psychological screening to verify your eligibility, which they generously pay for, that is when you will undergo the process of hormone injections and actually have your eggs extracted. I am guessing this isn’t a fun process. I’m also guessing you’ll have to be celibate while most of this is going on. Maybe this could be your summer project or one of those “alternative spring breaks.”
I respect people who make the conscious decision to help struggling couples have a baby. I only take issue with these processes being marketed to college students as viable money-making options.
3. Getting weird on Craigslist
Craigslist has become the unofficial channel for porn directors to find new talent. Again, I’m not judging, but it’s just not an option for most people. If you are looking under the “jobs” section and the categories like TV, film, video or show business catch your eye, ignore them because those jobs are mostly porn. You might find a listing from an artist or photographer who needs a model, but nine out of ten times they’re looking for a nude model. And don’t get excited by the jobs that let you keep your clothes on because they’re probably not real. As a writer and a full-time student, I’m intimately familiar with searching for freelance and stay-at-home jobs. All the listings I find seem too good to be true. That is usually a red flag. If there were people out there who paid college kids to work in their pajamas, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article . . . and I probably wouldn’t have written it.
Melanie Matos, a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, told me she once read an advertisement on Craigslist from a man seeking the services of a (specifically) non-certified therapist. If that does not raise a red flag, the guy was looking for a certain kind of non-certified therapist. He wanted a non-certified therapist who would not mind “naked sessions.” I do not know what problems this guy was dealing with, but I am guessing it would take a whole team of non-certified therapists to help him work through those issues.
There was one job posting that intrigued me last summer. A man who was travelling cross-country by car, from Baltimore to San Francisco, was seeking a freelance writer to work as his companion and document the trip. If I wasn’t so sure the guy was planning to murder said companion, I would have done it in a heartbeat. You are probably thinking— What is your life that you could just drop everything for an impromptu road trip? There is this place that some young people discover between extreme desperation and delusion. When you are in this place, you make decisions a rational human being would not make. Lucky for me I deal with generalized anxiety. So, I am still here. Alive and broke.
4. Blogging for nickels and dimes
I’ve always fantasized about earning money from the content I’ve created. My first blog was on Blogger, now owned by Google, and it was a space I devoted for poetry, short fiction, and advice for budding writers. I had a lot of fun with it, until I decided to monetize. I signed up for AdSense, Google’s “content-targeted advertising program.” This allowed my blog to feature advertisements that were tailored to complement the content of my blog. The money I made was determined by the number of clicks on my ads. It was exciting, at first, but it took a considerable amount of time to establish my blog and find readers. Google also withholds payments until you reach a threshold of $100. Generally each ad click earns less than a dollar. This source of revenue isn’t practical for students who need money quickly. In the time it takes you to create the content that gets you views, apply for the AdSense program, get clicks on your ads, and receive that first check in the mail, you’ll be kicked out of your apartment and couch surfing in your ex-best friend’s living room.
5. Freelance writing
This does not mean what you might think it means. Good writers have plenty of options when it comes to making money doing freelance work. There are plenty of magazines that accept submissions for creative and nonfiction work. The “freelance writing” jobs that you will find advertised on the Internet are perhaps the most annoying (mis)representations of easy money that I’ve included on this list. Like blogging or making videos on YouTube, the idea of getting paid for screwing around on the Internet is appealing to everyone. There are scores of websites out there that claim to pay for online tasks such as copyediting, creating content, or search engine optimization. Don’t bother with any of it. You will spend most of your time weeding through legitimate sites and dealing with ridiculous application processes. In my experience as an English major, all the freelance websites I visited gave me the runaround until I closed my laptop and crawled into bed to squeeze in a quick crying session before class. As with many things on the Internet that seem too good to be true, freelance work is likely to dash your high expectations long before you will ever see a penny for all of your efforts.
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