When Malia Obama announced in 2017 that she would be taking a gap year before attending Harvard, it challenged many Americans, both parents, and students, to rethink what it means to “take time off” after high school. Gap years are becoming more and more popular because people recognize the benefits of accelerated maturity, improved career opportunities, and gaining a new perspective. Researchers from the American Gap Association found that 73% of survey respondents said a gap year increased their "readiness" for college.
But one of the biggest deterrents for anyone considering taking a gap year is money. Even when you have your parents on board and it seems that everything might just fall into place, you can never shake off the daunting realization that you will have to learn to fend for yourself for 12 months. Welcome to adulthood.
Gap years are not just valuable for taking time out and figuring out what you want to do with your life. When you’re thrown in the deep end and find yourself calculating the real value difference between an 8 pack and a 24 pack of ramen, you’re also learning the basics of adulting - or in other words, how to be savvy with your money.
But how do you make money when you are a student and have no skills to your name? Well, thanks to living in the 21st century, as long as you have a good internet connection, you can make money any time and any place. Here are just a few ways that you can fund your expenses during your gap year:
1. Freelance, freelance, freelance
English lessons, math tutoring, debate coaching - you can teach just about anything online. You can either do this on Skype, which will require you to find your clients yourself, or you can use established platforms such as Fiver, Upwork, TakeLessons, and Clarity, that will automatically match your skills with the right people.
Fiver will pay you $5 to do just about anything. Scroll through their website, and you will find people offering to “ramble for you for 1 to 3 minutes”, “draw silly cartoons” or “write amazing and unique jokes”. So if you’re still feeling insecure about “not having any skills”, look no further. If there is demand, you can supply.
Upwork (previously E-lance) is a website dedicated to freelancers. The demand comes mostly from companies and small businesses looking to outsource tasks such as copywriting, web design and tutoring services.
TakeLessons connects teachers and students. If you have something to teach, you can connect with someone who wants to learn it.
Everyone loves good photos. Everyone. If you’ve got a good camera, put it to use and start offering your services to the people around you. Not only can you sell your time, but you can also sell your images, which is great if you are traveling. iStockPhoto, Getty, and SmugMug all sell images online and give you a percentage of their earnings. Freelance photographers can earn anywhere between $12 and $100 per hour.
3. Sell stuff
It sounds basic and time-consuming, but if you can make it work for you, selling odds and ends can actually be quite lucrative.
Over the years, buying and selling used clothes has become more mainstream. You can take advantage of the growing demand for second-hand clothes by sourcing a good quality supply from friends and family and selling it for a small profit at your local consignment store. Depending on the quality and style of the clothes, a single bag of last year’s trends can fetch you a couple of hundred dollars.
Budgeting for a gap year can seem tricky. If you have decided that this is what you want to do, the first step is to create a savings goal. Think about your potential sources of income well in advance, and track how you spend over the next few months. Establishing this discipline now will do wonders for your student life in the future.
Lastly, if you really want to be strategic about your approach, find money-making opportunities that align with your career ambitions. No matter how small, experience is experience. Whether it’s social media marketing, web design, or selling second-hand shoes, if this is a stepping stone in your area of interest, it will look good on a resume. Nowadays everyone is an entrepreneur in some way, so don’t be afraid to professionalize what you do by giving yourself a name, a logo or even an online portfolio. By the time you finish your gap year, you will have something tangible to show for all the fun you had (and the money you made!).
So, what are you waiting for? Time to think like an entrepreneur!