Students head online to earn money


Making calls and new listings between classes, University of Minnesota junior Rachel Eyrich has made quite the business for herself on Craigslist. 

The pre-veterinary medicine student makes roughly $600 a month for her dog grooming services, which she only advertises through the community website.

“It’s nice because I can go take care of the people’s dogs, let them outside and do this and that, and in between, be able to fit studying in,” Eyrich said. “Most of the time the customers I meet are really flexible just because I’m a student.”

Whether its Craigslist, eBay or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where users post tasks for other uses to do for small payments, students are increasingly seeing the benefits of making money and creating their own businesses online.

Seth Lewis, a University journalism professor with a focus on digital cultures, said two factors generally drive students online to make money: a do-it-yourself culture and the technological advances making it easier to communicate.

“It’s gotten to a point where the tools are so cheap, the means are so easy, the opportunities are so available, that virtually anyone with the time, energy and interest in pursuing a project like this can make it happen,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he too posted to the crowdsourcing site Amazon Mechanical Turk. He posted looking for someone to transcribe an audio file, and within a half an hour, the job was completed at the cost of $8.

With the site, essentially anyone with 10 minutes to spare could make a little money.

Taking the services Craigslist offers to the next level, Neil Dumra said he makes anywhere from $200 to $3,000 a month combing through the free lists on the website.

Dumra, with the help of several friends and family members, makes that money through finding valuable items users post for free and reselling them at a higher price. Often it will be books going for up to $300 on Amazon.

“It’s a game of luck,” Dumra said. “I’m competing with other people when I go on the free lists and try to get things.”

Dumra said he uses the money he makes on Craigslist to help grow his green janitor supplies company, DMSI, particularly in the consumer- and mid-markets, such as fraternity houses on campus.

“Business is slow,” Dumra said. “I need to put money into the company. I find this is easier in certain aspects.

“There are definitely opportunities in a down market to make a lot of money,” Dumra added. “You have to be smart about it.”

Eyrich said she has struggled to find work at a veterinary clinic and doesn’t think her schedule would allow for a structured part-time job. But on Craigslist, she creates her own workload and scheduling.

During finals she posts fewer advertisements and takes fewer orders, but otherwise she works as much as she can.

In addition to her dog grooming business, Eyrich said she makes $700 to $800 a month through her cleaning services, also posted online.

Though her heart is more into her pet grooming business, Eyrich said her cleaning service simply pulls in more money.

Students have always had to use ingenuity to pay rent, Lewis said. Now they have greater tools available to reach a larger audience, whereas in the past students would have had to post fliers or spread information by word-of-mouth.

“Digitization enables opportunities that simply didn’t exist before,” Lewis said. “To reach customers and build a business in the community at large would have been too difficult.”