These Side Gigs Can Help You Make Money While You Work an Unpaid Internship

Summer jobs for college students
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder
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I had my fair share of internships back in the day (er, like, two years ago).

One was unpaid. Another was paid — but only after I worked 12 hours a week.

The final one paid minimum wage. That’s when I felt like I’d made it.

Each of these internships offered invaluable experiences, and I wouldn’t trade them — or the people I met and places I explored — for anything.

But it was darn difficult (impossible, actually) to make ends meet.

I know my experience isn’t unique. So I’ve come up with a few creative summer jobs for college students struggling to get by as unpaid (or low-paid) interns. Because hindsight is 20/20, right?

Do note these won’t supplement a normal, stable income, but they can help.

1. Drive People Around

Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people?

Try driving with Lyft!

Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can drive days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Because it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up with Uber.

As a driver partner with Uber, you are an independent contractor. You create your own schedule and work as much or as little as you want.

If you want to give Uber a try here are a few of the things to keep in mind: You must be at least 21 years old, have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (three years if you are under 23 years old), have a valid US driver’s license and pass a background check.

Also, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by insurance.

Here’s a link to sign up to use the Uber app.

And if you aren’t sure which is better for you? Here’s our guide to Lyft versus Uber.

2. Not So Into People? Deliver Food Instead

Ahhh, the sweet smell of takeout stinking up your car.

OK, it might not be the most appealing thing in the world — you might want to crack a few windows, depending on the type of cuisine you’re delivering — but Uber Eats offers flexible food-delivery opportunities.

Here are more details:

  • Locations: Uber Eats is all over the U.S. — and the world, really. For a full list, go to its location page.
  • Pay: Drivers are paid a pick-up fee, for the distance traveled and a drop-off fee. Uber takes a service fee. Delivery partners can cash out up to five times a day with instant pay.
  • Schedule: You set it.
  • Requirements include (may vary by location): You must…
    • Be at least 19 years old if delivering by car.
    • Delivery options via car (must be a 1997 or newer with at least two doors), bike, scooter or foot depending on your area.
    • Pass a background check.
    • Have a valid driver’s license and insurance (if you deliver by car or scooter).

How to sign up: For all the information you need, head over to the Uber Eats sign-up page.

3. Earn Money Back Each Time You Go Out

You’re in college. You’re young. You probably enjoy an adult refreshment every now and then. I know that wasn’t just me…

If you’re meeting friends for happy hour — or even grabbing an after-work brew with your co-workers — be sure to take advantage of rebate apps like Ibotta.

For example, right now, when you scan your bar tab on Ibotta, you can earn $3 back on any appetizer. Anywhere.

If you want to forget the food, you can get $3 back on a pitcher or bucket of Bud Light. Again, anywhere.

Or order a New Belgium — any variety, anywhere — and score $1 back.

You can also pair Ibotta with other rebate apps like Swagbucks Local. This app rewards you in points for eating or drinking at certain restaurants, cafes or bars. Those points, in turn, can be exchanged for an Amazon gift card. 

It’ll all add up quickly and will make you feel a little less guilty for having somewhat of a social life.

4. Sell Your Stray Belongings

I had to pack up and move for one of my internships. I was determined not to rent a truck, so I packed only the essentials in my small SUV.

The rest? I could have sold it, honestly. That’s what you should consider, too.

For clothes, try an online platform or app like Letgo. You can market your belongings to people in your area, so it’ll be easy to purge — with no shipping costs

For books, find the best going rate on BookScouter. Type in the book’s ISBN, and the site will tell you where you can get the best resale price.

For electronics, try Decluttr. You can sell the company your CDs, DVDs, games, phones, tablets, consoles… you name it. Shipping is free, and you’ll get cash directly deposited into your bank account.

5. Try Mystery Shopping or Survey Sites

Mystery shopping isn’t going to add stacks of money to your bank account, but it’ll get you out and about — plus it offers pretty flexible hours.

If you want to give it a go, try QuickThoughts. This survey app tracks where you are and sends you on “secret missions.”

It’ll ask you to answer questions about places you’ve been recently: Was the bathroom in CVS clean? How was that McDonald’s location you stopped at for lunch?

If you want to learn more about QuickThoughts and all its paid opportunities, check it out here.

6. Do 10-Minute Car Inspections

Not too long ago, loyal Penny Hoarder Maryellen Honkomp contacted us about one of her favorite side gigs: performing car inspections through OnSource.

She says she can make up to $40 in less than 20 minutes. And no, you don’t need to have any prior knowledge about cars. You just need a phone that’ll take photos

Learn more about Honkomp’s experience with OnSource and see if the gig is available in your area.

7. Set Up a Passive Income Stream

I always thought passive income was a somewhat intimidating term — like, oh, I need a ton of money for whatever that is.

But that’s not true.

Passive income can be a great way to make money without giving up your time. Sure, you’ll put in some upfront time and effort — maybe even a little money — but, if you do it right, it’ll pay off in the long run.

Here are 14 super easy ways to establish passive income.

Some perfect ones for busy interns? Selling photos, creating greeting cards, designing T-shirts, posting YouTube videos or earning cash back on credit cards.

8. Sell Your Gift Cards

Did Grandma get you another Starbucks gift card for your birthday this year?

Sure, it was very thoughtful, but $10 doesn’t go far at that coffee chain. Plus, you’d probably rather put that money toward, say, a giant bag of coffee that’ll last you a few weeks.

You can sell that gift card online — Grandma will never know. Try using one of these five sites to trade that piece of plastic for cash.

9. Watch Your Neighbors’ Kids or Pets

Petsitting helped me get through my first unpaid internship.

I’d stop by my professor’s house on the way to my internship and let her dogs out. I’d hang out with them for 30 minutes, catch up on some class reading, give them hugs and head out.

It was an easy — if not enjoyable — way to pocket an extra $36 a week.

Nowadays, finding these types of gigs is a lot easier than posting flyers around the neighborhood. Try using a free app like DogVacay or Wag!

Or, if you’re more interested in babysitting, ask around — or consider making a account.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d love to hear some other creative ways unpaid interns are making money on the side!