Computer science majors have one advantage over many of the other projected high-paying college majors, and that is that all you need to start working in the field is your knowledge and a computer!
So today, I’m going to show you how you can start using the skills you’re learning at school to make you money way before you even graduate. These are all things I have done successfully, so It’s not like I read some article and now I’m making a video about theoretical ways to make money. I will also give you some tips along the way as to how you can manage to do these things and still keep your grades up.
1) freelance work
The first way to make money as a computer science student is by offering your services as a software developer. I have personally made as much as $250/hour with this method. Now as a disclaimer, high-paying gigs like these are not super common, but it gives you an idea of the amount of money you can make. On the more conservative side, my usual rate is closer to $50 or $60 per hour. As a quick side note, these figures are all US dollars.
But I’m just learning to code. But I don’t know how to build websites. What if I can’t build what they want me to build? I’m a noob. I’m not qualified to do that yet. No one is going to hire a beginner. Why would they choose a beginner over a professional? What if I mess up? What if they don’t like my work?
STOP! You don’t need to be a master programmer to offer your services as a freelance software developer. Don’t believe me? Well, I started building software for people not long after taking my second programming class.
The reality is that you don’t have to be the best programmer to build something for someone, nor do you have to know how to do everything. If you have a solid understanding of the fundamentals you can always learn to do things on the job. A huge part of the things I know are not things I learned from my classes, they are things that I have gone out of my way to learn on my own, and yes, they are also things I have learned from past jobs.
The important part here is to not take on more than you KNOW you can handle. For example, if you know you can’t build a custom e-commerce website with custom payment options and you know that’s way out of your scope, then don’t take that job. Instead, focus on something you do know. Maybe that comes in the form of command-line applications. It’s true that the scope of work will be more limited by not knowing how to do as many things, but trust me, from experience, I know that you can still find work!
Knowing what you can and can’t do will just come with experience. The more work you do for others and the more personal projects you work on, the more your skills will expand, the more confidence you will build, and the more you can know about yourself and your ability to learn new things.
So assuming you are convinced about doing freelance work, how do you actually find clients to work with?
Well, there are popular online freelancing services that you might have heard of before like Fiverr.com and upwork.com, which might work out for you, but I personally have not tried them, so I can’t speak too much about them. Instead, I find my work from a variety of different sources including online forums and marketplaces.
For example, r/forhire is a subreddit, where I have found a good majority of my gigs. In fact, that is where I found that $250/hour paying gig. Another way I found gigs is by browsing the local classified sites like Craigslist, and Kijiji. Going into detail about these freelance work sources will just make this blog longer, but if you want to know more about how I specifically use these sources, leave a comment below, and if it’s requested enough, I might make a video about it.
2) Starting a business
If building software for someone else is not for you, you can make money by using your skills to build software that can in return make money for you. Now I won’t sugarcoat it, starting and building a profitable business is not easy. There are a lot of skills required to build a business especially if you’re doing it on your own. I have several software projects that I have built with the intention to make money from them, but they just never worked out. On the other hand, a decent idea can be very profitable.
A while back I started sellphone.io. Sellphone.io is a buy-back service that allows you to sell your phone (hence the name) and other consumer electronics such as tablets and laptops. And then on the backend, the business resells those devices at a profit to various sources including other businesses, organizations, and just every day people looking to buy a phone.
The sellphone website as well as other internal tools that help run the business is all code written by me - so here you can see how I used my skills to build a profitable business.
Currently, Sellphone is not in business because as a computer science student myself, I realized that it was taking up a lot of my time and therefore not giving me the time to focus on my studies. Today it serves more as a project on my resume that I can show to potential employers. However, during active periods Sellphone has over 2,000 website visitors per month and I took the business from $0 to over $80,000 in revenue, which of course is not the same as profit, but it gives you an idea of how much work I was putting into Sellphone.
The reason I keep bringing up the time aspect is that as a student, I think if you want to go the business route, you should try to build something that gives you the flexibility to keep up your studies while having enough time to scale the business. Now the reason Selllphone required so much of my time was that it’s not just a software business, Sellphone required my time to fulfill orders with all of the shipping I was doing in various forms.
So to anyone else interested in this route, I would suggest building something in the software as a service or SAAS space in which after building and marketing the software, the business can potentially become a lot more passive than something service-related. This will let you have a much more flexible schedule as a student.
Another way to make money as a computer science student is by tutoring other students. This is my main gig now since it gives me the flexibility to work around my school schedule. During the summer I had about 5 students that I would tutor at various levels with various computer science topics. However, once I started classes, I realized that 5 students were really cutting into my study time. So I dropped to a much easier to manage 2.
With that said, I do have two tips to make your work as a tutor easier. The first is to adopt virtual tutoring sessions. All of my tutoring sessions are remote using software like Zoom and Replit to work collaboratively.
By offering virtual sessions, you have the added advantage of quickly switching from your schoolwork to tutoring and back very quickly without the compromise of having to commute anywhere.
As an added bonus. At this time with the whole coronavirus pandemic, this form of lesson is also a lot more accepted, so you’re not adding any friction for your students.
Code python print(“hello world”), for loops, dictionaries camera recording The other tip I have is to focus on the easy stuff. During school sessions, I exclusively tutor introduction classes because as an experienced programmer, the beginner topics are really easy. This makes it so that I don’t have to dedicate a bunch of time to work with students and their classes. Of course, it’s also worth noting that if you decide to tutor more advanced topics, you also have the ability to charge more for your services. But in my opinion, if you’re trying to balance school and work, the easy topics are the way to go.
The last way to make money as a computer science student that I have for you is consulting! Consulting is a nice mix between offering your services as a software developer and tutoring and to be honest, it’s actually pretty easy work if you know what you’re talking about.
The way I have made money as a consultant is by hopping on calls with people and simply sharing my knowledge on a topic with them. I have made as much as $50 for 30 minutes of my time, which considering that the minimum wage where I live is about $15/hour, proves to be a pretty profitable gig.
Finding customers to talk to is not much different from the freelance approach, many of my consulting customers come from forums where people who are non-technical individuals and don’t know what goes into building a technical product need some advice on what they need to do to launch their project.