James F Thompson
With the advent of university top-up fees, student life doesn’t come cheap for today’s overworked undergraduates. But the power of the internet offers up a number of ingenious ways to generate some extra beer money from the comfort of your own home. Here are ten of the best.
1. Social networking
It might seem like nothing more than a pipe dream but making money as you trawl through profiles of friends, prospective and ex boyfriends and girlfriends is actually a reality. Yuwie, an upstart social networking enterprise, offers to pay its users as they increase the page impressions of their public profiles, upload photos to share and refer others to join in the fun. All of this is achieved by a proportionate payment structure that sees around half of the website’s advertising revenue – its chief source of income – distributed directly to its user base.
Admittedly it’s still early days but with around half a million registrations to date and no shortage of testimonials, Yuwie looks like the real deal.
There are two ways to make cash through blogging: either by earning commission from advertising banners placed alongside a blog of your own or by engaging in the (slightly dubious) practice of “sponsored” blogging. An array of third party tools is available in the case of the former option; Google’s AdSense remains one of the more popular solutions. Just establish yourself a decent blog, configure the ads and see what happens. Sponsored blogging on the other hand is an altogether more calculated affair, with specialists such as Blogitive and PayPerPost providing a platform through which companies essentially contract bloggers to post favourable content about their products in exchange for cash. Unethical, granted, though nonetheless undoubtedly fruitful for those subtle enough to get away with it.
3. Message boards
Every message board – both small-time niche operation and gargantuan general interest community alike – relies on posts from its members in order to sustain user interest. Newly-created forums are particularly dependent on regular contributions in order to encourage conversations and attract the registration of new members. This, of course, is where you come in. In exchange for a nominal fee of anywhere between £0.01 and £0.10 per post, message board administrators frequently advertise externally for “ringers” to sign up to their endeavours and get the ball rolling. Popular recruiting grounds include webmaster-talk and Digital Point.
4. Stock photography
If you’ve a keen eye for an impressive frame, or even just some half-decent camera kit at your disposal, selling pictures to any one of the plethora of stock photography agencies scattered across the web represents a sure-fire method of generating an income online. The likes of iStockPhoto and Fotolia offer budding photographers the incentive of earning potentially significant sums for their snaps on a per-download basis in exchange for their other royalty payment rights. Predictably, the most sought-after depictions are of a fairly mundane nature – think three-quarter view angles of pretty women dressed in suits – though equally inevitable is the high demand in some quarters for photographs of an altogether more risqué nature…
As inglorious a means of making money online as you’re ever likely to find, completing market research surveys for cash is time-consuming, invasive and very, very dull. It also happens to be very effective. Opportunities in this field are virtually endless too, with literally thousands of research groups vying for your time and attention. Perhaps the most well known of these is YouGov, whose methodology involves obtaining responses from an invited group of internet users at prices ranging from £0.50 to £2.00 per survey completed. Registration is free and relatively painless, though if you are planning on going down this route, you would do well to create another email account solely for the purpose of survey completion – your personal details are going to be getting bandied around an awful lot.
Believe it or not, it is possible to make money simply by playing computer games. Second Life, one of a range of so-called massively multi-player online games, allows users to both buy in-game currency called Linden dollars (a name derived from its creator, Linden Labs) and later exchange any amount amassed within the game back into real-world funds. Ailin Graef made the headlines in 2006 having claimed that her in-game avatar, Anshe Chung, had generated enough resources to allow her to be classified as a millionaire in reality. Other prospects include Moola, which claims to pay players over five million pounds for the straightforward task of winning thirty of its games in a row. Perhaps tellingly, the grand prize is yet to be claimed.
If you have a talent – be it for writing, graphic design or even programming – online freelancing will allow you to exploit it for a handsome profit. Services such as Elance and oDesk advertise outsourced remote working opportunities on behalf of thousands of companies and allow members to sign up to assignments according to their desired criteria. Naturally, there’s a catch – said services also take a cut of up to 15 per cent of your potential earnings. Depending on your skills and availability though, there is a lot of money to be made in this fashion, with the fastest-growing fields – like document translation – paying the best rates.
Likely the most controversial inclusion in this list, the online poker world is awash with sob stories of empty wallets and broken dreams from people of all walks of life who just didn’t know when to quit. If you feel like having a go at making some big bucks through gambling, extreme caution is urged. Quite apart from the fact that players need a fair degree of skill in the game to get anywhere, starting small is crucial – only bet what you can afford to lose with a smile. If you are skilled – and lucky – the potential rewards are vast, with some players regularly earning in excess of £1,000 per day. But, remember, the pitfalls are even greater. Texas Hold ‘Em is by far the most popular variant of the game – get some free practice via MSN Games.
A method as old as the internet itself, hawking wares through virtual auctions and shops provides a quick income boost for many students, enabling unwanted Christmas to be disposed of with ease. The obvious starting points are eBay and Amazon Marketplace , though classifieds websites such as Ad Trader are proving increasingly popular. Those of you looking to secure revenue on a more long-term basis will need to source in-demand products and be able to sell them at a mark-up on the price that you yourself paid. One example is “vintage” clothing – cheap clothes with retro appeal are available in abundance at charity shops and can easily be sold to other fashionable students online at a higher price.
10. Doing something crazy
Most truly spectacular success stories of making money online don’t involve any of the aforementioned routes at all. Instead, they showcase brazen opportunism that flies in the face of all logic and reason. Take Alex Tew’s MillionDollarHomepage from 2005 for instance – a website set up with the sole intention of selling pixels at one US dollar apiece to advertisers in order to fund its proprietor’s university degree. On paper it was a ludicrous concept – of course it was – but a 21 year-old Tew soon found himself a certified millionaire. So too did the founders of Doggles, an internet business devoted to selling goggles… for dogs. The point is that, just as in the “real” world, originality paired with good business acumen may potentially reap far greater rewards than any supposedly tried-and-true method of generating cash that you might care to mention. So be creative.