Start a Side Business While Looking for a Job

The following article is a post in a two-week series on “Graduating From College During a Recession” presented by the members of the College Money Network. You can get all of the posts in this series and more by subscribing to the College Money Network RSS feed.

There are two routes on getting side income: finding a part-time job to supplement your income and freelancing your skills and talents.


I wrote about a few places with flexible part-time jobs a while back. I wrote a bit about how people focus on one side of the personal finance equation:

Many people think that cutting expense is the only way to build savings and reduce debt. That’s not true. One of the basic principles of personal finance is to spend less than you earn. Most people focus on the former because it can be easier to look at ways to reduce your bills.

The great thing about that principle is that there’s another part: earning more money. If you’re expenses are low and you’re looking to set aside some money; consider getting a part-time job. Some people feel that their schedule doesn’t allow another income.

This post is focusing on the second method of increasing your income: freelancing. 

Face your fears about freelancing and entrepreneurship.

If you’re a new college graduate and you don’t have a job lined up or your job  is basically to pay for your bills, then seriously consider freelancing. It can build your skills, network, and your income. You may be afraid to try to have a side job in this economy since it’s hard for some graduates (and others) to find a decent payin office job. See this as an oppurtunity to build another income source. 

Assess one service that you can offer with your current skill set.

You can always build up your side job, so start off small and focused. If you’re a business graduate, for example,  offer your accounting skills to local small businesses with bookkeeping. If you’re a web designer, try approaching business with websites already that could use an update to help bring in more business. 

Check with SCORE to get advice on taxes, legal, and accounting information.

SCORE is a wonderful free resource that allows you to connect with experts in the business field with years of practical experience. 

Get your own website up, email ready, and Paypal account open. 

Use your website to build some credibility. You DO NOT have to spend a ton of money. I got my first website for less than $20. I use Nearly Free Speech for hosting and use WordPress as my blog platform. You can use your hosting service for email services or use Gmail, which has a free option a well. 

Your websites should include your contact information, portfolio, and a pitch about why your services are needed. 


Scour online and in your local area for clients. 

Freelance Switch has some wonder tips on how and where to find clients (check the link to 101 tips). I’m listing a few that are free or low cost ways for when you just get started:

  • Send out an email to everyone in your address book, announcing what you do, where you are and what you can offer
  • Ask your satisfied clients for referrals
  • Do some pro-bono work for a charitable organization with industry links
  • Contact people you used to work with and ask them to send you any run-off work they might have
  • Practice an elevator speech about what you do and have it ready to go wherever you are
  • Participate on online forums (using the forum signature line)
  • Comment on blogs to draw people back to your freelance site
  • Keep an eye on online job boards
  • Check out Craigs List for your city

What to Do With Side Income

If you’re a graduate looking for a job, then by all means, use the money to help pay your bills. After you find a job that can cover your bills, use your side income to:

Additional Resources for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs:

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Graduating From College During a Recession Series

Photo Credit: Risager and dbking

This articl was editor’s choice for the Carnival of Cashflow Consciousness #2.

19 Responses to Start a Side Business While Looking for a Job

  1. I agree that it’s worth while to start a side business early on in life because your growth potential is pretty high. If you become really good at what you do there is no telling how much money you will make when things get better.

  2. Starting a business today is so cheap that even if that’s not necessarily your goal, you should do one anyways. Something like a blog even just as a hobby can help you get the skills and experience of what its like to own a small business. Those skills can be a big resume booster than could even lead to a real job.

    • Great points Craig. Not everyone wants to own a business, but having some side income based on talents and skills you already have can increase your value for your 9-5 job.

  3. Excellent topic. I’m taking some time off from College and while I feel lucky to have a job I mostly took it for the learning experience (read: It doesn’t pay all that well). I did my best to cut costs, but life got a lot better when I started tutoring Math and Physics for high school students in my area. It’s a lot more lucrative and it keeps my academics sharp! I slightly disagree with what to do with side income though. I know my 9-5 paycheck is pretty steady so I use it to cover recurring costs and put the rest in savings/investment. I try to only spend money from my tutoring, because that gives me an immediate incentive to put more effort into tutoring (of course not at the expense of my 9-5)!

    • If your ‘side’ job is doing that well, I can see why you choose to try and live off if it. Tutoring can be a great option for some who need some flexibility with their other job. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I am trying to start a B&M (brick and mortar) business as we speak.

    Not as cool sounding as an e-venture… but meh, I see an opportunity 😉

    I agree that the first 10 years out of college is the best time to fail… you can bounce back a lot quicker.

  5. Being almost 3 years out of college now, I ry and try to get little initiatives off the ground here and there, but my work schedule does nto give me the time. I daydream all the time about if I was a college student in this crazy economy and the possibilities to make money while in college are endless.

    When I was in college I was too lazy and caught up in the “college life” that I did not see opportunity knocking at my door. I also did not start reading blogs until after college. Ahhhh but hindsight is ironically always so crystal clear! All we can do now is pass on what we know to those in the situations we wish we were in and convince them that oppotunity is about to kick in the door.

    • I hope your work schedule can lighten a little so you can try some extra work on the side.

      I wish I started earlier with side income, but I was absorbed with classes and my job.

  6. Good advice. Getting a part-time job can be a great way to network for the job your looking for as well.

  7. This is good advice, really using the power of small- not only does the side job pay the bills but it builds your network. Every person you come in touch with could be your next employer or coworker. And it helps you avoid gaps on your resume!

  8. “…seriously consider freelancing. It can build your skills, network, and your income…”

    – I can’t disagree.

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