Career Options

Side hustles for academics and PhD students.

Looking for a side hustle as an academic or PhD student? Discover five profitable side hustles to help supplement your income whilst remaining connected to your research field.

When it comes to academia and student life, it goes without saying that the financial circumstances can be a strain, adds to stress, and may negatively impact your ability to focus and succeed during your academic journey. This problem becomes compounded further during postgraduate study as the need to have more independence, financial freedom and social mobility becomes greater. Exploring side hustles can be a great way to tackle this.

Is a Side Hustle For Me?

Whether you should or shouldn’t embark on a side hustle will vastly depend on your circumstances and what you’re trying to achieve from it. Side hustles generally can be a great way to generate extra income to support you during your academic journey. Equally, they can add a new set of transferable skills to compliment your degree knowledge, which in turn will lead to better opportunities and employability once you graduate.

Despite the benefits, it requires time and energy to do this successfully. As an academic, particularly a post-graduate, you may already know how limited your time is. By now, we should all know that our time is finite and there (unfortunately) is an upper limit on how much you can commit to at a given time.

Weighing this up is important. Side hustles will require time, energy and commitment. In turn, this may detract you from your academic commitments, and you may see this negatively impact your academic contributions or performance. Of course, if this happens you can just stop the side hustle, but it’s a factor to consider if a side hustle is right for you.

Once weighing this up, and you’re still determined to get a side hustle off the ground, here are some ideas to get you started as an academic and earn some extra cash.

1. Freelance Work

Freelance work can be a great way to earn extra income while using your expertise in your field. You can find freelance work on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr or by networking with other professionals in your industry. Some examples of freelance work you can do as an academic or include writing, editing, data analysis, and consulting.

To be successful in freelance work, you need to have a clear understanding of your skills and strengths. You also need to be able to market yourself effectively and manage your time and projects efficiently. It can be a competitive field, but with dedication and hard work, it can be a profitable side hustle.

The great thing about this is you can fit it around your daily schedule as well. Picking up the projects and deliverables as and when it suits you. It can provide great flexibility as a side hustle whilst also still adding to your bank balance. The only caveat is finding and generating clients or possibly navigating the inconsistency of this type of work – some months may be busier than others.

2. Tutoring

If you enjoy teaching and mentoring others, tutoring can be a great side hustle for you. You can offer tutoring services in your field to those looking to apply to university/college, current and existing students, or even offer test prep services and revision guides for standardised exams. Another area of services you could offer is to support and mentor those who are in the process of applying for post-graduate qualifications.

To be successful as a tutor, you need to have a good understanding of your subject and the ability to communicate effectively with students. It’s also important to have a flexible schedule as teaching opportunities are less likely to be flexible or may fall at a certain time each week/month. You can find tutoring opportunities through tutoring companies, online tutoring platforms or by networking with other educators.

If you haven’t explored already, be sure to look into tutoring, teaching or marking opportunities whilst completing your own academic study. As a post-graduate, it’s quite common to teach, lecture, run seminars or even do marking which are paid for by your university. If you have no experience, this might be a great way to get into this side hustle from ground zero.

3. Online Courses

Creating and selling online courses can be another profitable side hustle for academics. You can create courses on platforms like Udemy or Teachable and reach a global audience. Some examples of courses you can create include academic writing, research methods, or data analysis. These can be anything really, the key focus is that you are disseminating your subject matter expertise to others. This way you can add value to those who may need it, justifying the ability for you to charge for that service.

To be successful in creating online courses, you need to have a clear understanding of your topic and the ability to create engaging and informative content. You also need to have strong marketing and branding skills to promote your courses effectively. Unlike the first two side hustles mentioned, this is likely to be significantly more time consuming. Generating ideas, putting these ideas down into something tangible, experimenting with your product and also marketing this to others takes time. If you’re looking for something you can implement in the short term, perhaps this isn’t the best option.

However, if you execute this well and with great precision, you’re likely to have good success with it and start your entrepreneurial journey. Over time, it may even lead to a more solid passive income stream that’s more lucrative.

4. E-Commerce and Online Selling

If you have a passion for creating and selling products, you can start an e-commerce business and sell your products online. You can create products like books, online courses, or physical products related to your research field. With platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon, you can reach a global audience and sell your products from anywhere in the world. Similar to the above ventures, it’s about picking a niche and selling a solution to a problem – this may be related to your subject area, or it may be completely disconnected. Either way, it’s important you hone down on a particular audience.

Like with online courses, you also need to have strong marketing skills and be able to promote your products effectively. This can include building an online presence through social media or creating targeted advertising campaigns. Again, this can be time consuming so really give it some thought. You may have a great idea initially, but are you willing to persist at this for 12 months or even longer?

5. Anything Else!

Another way to approach your side hustle passion is to focus on your skill gaps and build it out that way. Taking on a side hustle is a great way to improve your employability and lead to better chances of success of landing a job post-academia. It might actually mean you take on work or do a few gigs for free or little money to develop your skills. The best investment you can make is in yourself, so finding ways to nurture that will begin to pay you back at a later date.

In conclusion, there are many side hustles for academics post-graduate students to explore. Whether you choose to freelance, tutor, create online courses, start an e-commerce business, or anything else, there are opportunities to supplement your income while staying connected to your field. The key is to find a side hustle that aligns with your strengths and interests and that allows you to manage your time effectively, or possibly one that starts to harbour new skills. With dedication and hard work, a side hustle can be a profitable and fulfilling addition to your academic career.