I was fortunate enough to have a funded PhD position from a research council. And for that I am extremely grateful. But I did need to make extra money during my PhD to cover outgoings. I did this in lots of different ways. Especially after my funding ended at the three-year point – and I still had a thesis to finish. I’ve found myself answering questions about managing this through twitter messages and in person. So, I thought I’d share some of the ways to make extra money during a PhD. Specifically, the ways that I have done it!
I should begin by saying that I am UK based. Therefore, not all of these suggestions may be options in other countries. Additionally, some of these suggestions contain invite and referral links. If you choose to click on these I will earn a small referral bonus. In many instances, you’ll also receive a bonus for using the link. You can of course choose to sign up independently if you wish.
Let’s get to details on how to make money during a PhD then shall we?
Online ways to make extra money during a PhD
There are a plethora of websites out there with big claims about earning money from home. Some are legit, some are less so. I’ve had varying rates of success with different options, and each involve slightly different levels or types of input. These are all websites that I have used consistently, can vouch for in terms of legitimacy and would recommend. They are particularly useful if you work from home.
Prolific is a research website. Academics can upload their studies and you can take part in online surveys and experiments, for which you will get paid.
On average, you get paid about £5 for every 60 minutes. So, if you survey takes ten minutes, you’ll get £1 or so. Surveys usually don’t take as long as they say they will, so I find you end up earning slightly more than the suggested ‘per minute’ rate. Your earnings are approved by the researcher (you can message them to chase up approval if it is taking longer than expected).
Once you hit £5, you can cash out via PayPal or bank transfer, and you are not charged fees. You can log in and keep the window open (it automatically refreshes) so that you always see when studies come in. They tend to get full up fast, so this is important if you want to catch studies in time to benefit.
UserTesting is a website that essentially employs people to do tasks for clients who are developing websites or apps. Tasks range from card sorting to navigating a website whilst having your screen and/or microphone being recorded and ‘thinking out loud’.
They pay fairly well (around $10 per test of around 15 minutes), though the inclusion criteria can be pretty strict, so it’s not always easy to be accepted for a task. You can be paid via bank transfer or PayPal. Much like Prolific, you leave the website open and you get a notification whenever a potential study comes in.
The only downside to UserTesting is that it can be hard to find a task that you are suitable for.
This is basically exactly the same as UserTesting and pays a similar rate.
There tends to be more thinking out loud and card sorting tasks than those that involve your webcam, if that is an issue for you. Intellizoom requires you to do a practice task and have this reviewed, which can be a bit of a lengthy process. I had to chase them up. It also takes them around 21 days to pay you once your study can be approved. However, payment is through PayPal (no fees) and I have had genuine success with this website.
The tasks tend to be more inclusive than UserTesting.
StreetBees is an app that requires you to answer surveys and, on some occasions, sets you ‘real life tasks’. These are usually things that you do day to do. For example, if you’re out for lunch, or buying dog food, there might be a survey about it.
StreetBees tend to ask for photos (i.e. of said lunch or dog food), so if you’re not comfortable with that, this is probably a no for you. However, it’s very easy to get signed up and payment is made very promptly.
You don’t have to wait to hit a certain sum, each task is paid individually into PayPal.
Qmee is also primarily a survey site. You can use the website or their app to access surveys.
Sometimes it can be super busy for a few days which is great. But at other times it can be very quiet for a week or so.
The pay isn’t great, but it adds up and you don’t need a minimum sum to withdraw. Again, to PayPal, your bank account or if you are feeling generous – to charity.
Mystery Shopping/Audit tasks to make extra money during a PhD
If you’re happy to venture away from online tasks, you could do mystery shopping and auditing. I’ve had success with a number of different websites and apps. All of those below I am actively using. Some are better than others.
This was my first mystery shopping website and I always return to it. I’ve had a free Greggs, a Pret lunch and some toothpaste.
You get reimbursed for the cost of the product you have to buy, plus a payment for doing the job in the first place. If you’re lucky, you might get more premium tasks with a good record. I once had a one-night hotel stay paid for (with dinner, wine and breakfast). You need to pass a test and each time you complete a shop you are awarded points. The more points you have, the better the mystery shops you are offered.
The reports are thorough (you can view them before accepting the task) so only sign up if you can commit. Payment is made twice a month directly into your bank account and I’ve never had any issues with payment.
Roamler is primarily an auditing platform. You’ll work on behalf of the company and be asked to complete tasks in store (usually).
Sometimes there might be some online involvement (e.g. make a purchase and write an online review). I’ve done tasks that vary from checking stock levels of nappies, to rating how a beer is served. Payment includes any purchase you might have to make and is relatively good.
These are tasks you’d probably want to do if you were in a place, rather than venture too far just to complete them though. Payment can be made at any total; however, you do have to pay a small fee to withdraw your funds.
You can only join Roamler if you are invited with a code from a current member – which we have to earn. Sadly, I do not have any codes BUT a quick shout out/search on twitter was where I found mine! Hopefully I will have codes to offer soon!
Another mystery shopping and auditing app. Again, tasks range but include things like stock checks and presentation of products.
You have to go through a test to become a member, but once you have you get good access to tasks. You earn XP and this gives you benefits like longer time to complete tasks, or first dibs when tasks are released.
Sometimes the details about a task can be a bit unclear, so in those instances I always check with their help team to confirm any issues. If you follow this link, you’ll earn a £1 bonus when you complete your first mission.
This is a newer app for me, but I have had good experiences.
The tasks are relatively straightforward and those who review them aren’t too picky!
There aren’t masses of tasks, and sometimes payment can vary, BUT payment is made fairly quickly. You don’t need a minimum total to withdraw. Tasks range from going to the cinema, answering surveys and checking the presentation of stock.
No, that’s not a typo! I’ve had this app for a little while and it’s definitely one of the quieter ones. Though jobs do tend to crop up more in bigger cities compared to rural areas.
This app has mystery shops and audits – many of them are basically checking that stores have the correct levels of stock on display, and they are presented correctly. There are also some surveys thrown in too.
You request your money whenever you want it and it can be paid to PayPal. You get detailed feedback on every ‘spot’ which is good compared to some of the other platforms.
Cashback Apps/Sites to make extra money during a PhD
There are a number of different cash back apps and sites out there, and I have a select few that I regularly check and use. They all do pretty much the same thing.
You search the offerings of cash back deals and then (if you want to buy it) you purchase the product in store. You keep your receipt then you log your purchase and a photo of the receipt with the app, and they then either add the cash back to your total or pay you directly into your PayPal or bank account.
They all vary, but most enable you to be paid straightaway, with one or two having a minimum withdrawal limit. ALWAYS make sure you check the date the deal ends and submit in time.
This app is owned by QuidCo (a cash back website that allows you to earn cash back for both on and off-line purchases. ClickSnap is specific to supermarkets and includes most of the most common supermarkets and retailers. You can withdraw to your bank account or PayPal.
Tends to have fewer offerings, but they range from cashback for part of the product, but also some ‘try for free’ options. They have almost all of the most popular retailers on there, not just main supermarkets. It can be a little buggy, but overall seems to work.
This is my favourite of them all. Lots of offers ranging from cash back to try for free (lots of the latter). Includes Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and some others. Really easy to use and have not experienced any issues.
The best thing, payment is made as soon as your shop has been approved meaning the money reaches you quickly. There is no minimum withdrawal (or indeed any need to withdraw at all as it’s automatic).
If you use this linkto sign up and download the app, you’ll get a free jar of Nutella!
This is my second favourite – the only downside is you have to reach £1.50 before you can withdraw. It isn’t instant. That said, there are A LOT of offers on here for various supermarkets, and many of them are try for free (or at least very heavily discounted).
You can create a shopping list on this app to ensure you get all your bargains and you can claim using one photo of a receipt rather than have to make multiple claims.
In person ways to make extra money during a PhD
Now we’re into the things you can do in person to earn some money. These are probably going to be a bit more invasive in terms of your time and schedule. But as a result, they pay much better too.
The chances are if you are studying for a PhD you will be linked to an academic department. Get in touch with your director of teaching and learning within your department to ask if there is any teaching assistant work available. This is usually on a casual basis but can me more formal (at least in the UK).
Check that you will be paid (as some universities do not pay). And always ensure that you can commit the time without sacrificing precious PhD time. Though unfortunately, sometimes needs come first and you might need to juggle your time a bit more.
This can also be great experience if you are planning on staying in academia.
If you have experience of babysitting (perhaps younger siblings or cousins) or a more formal qualification, consider offering services locally.
I had great success during my university studies working for a local babysitting agency. I had to provide some references of my having looked after children in the past and get a DBS check to ensure I was safe to work with kids.
The great thing about babysitting is that often, once the children are in bed you can steal away some hours for PhD work, OR completing surveys online, doing marking or teaching prep. Essentially getting paid for doing two jobs at the same time.
If you don’t have an agency you can join childcare websites, or like I did, advertise your services on the university staff notice board. Also ensure that somebody knows where you are when attending a job for the first time.
House sitting is great, but it is important to make sure that it is worthwhile.
If you’re paying rent on a home that you aren’t living in just to make money from housesitting, that might not be a great idea. However, if you share costs at home or have low outgoings – this might be great! Even better (but it takes some managing) is housesitting full time.
You can join websites specifically for housesitting. Pet sitting is a similar gig, however usually more involved in that you have an animal (or animals) to look after. But, it normally pays more than housesitting.
Usually these are organised through word of mouth or the specific websites, but university notice boards (whether physical or online) can be great places to put up flyers.
This is a good one if you like to be active, or you walk your own dog regularly. You can combine the tasks and earn money.
There are websites where you can access jobs, or as before noticeboards can be useful.
One thing about this is consider how far you might be travelling to do the job. If the payment barely covers your fuel, you may want to ask for fuel costs or find another location closer by.
If you’ve got specific knowledge in a specific area (hello, you’re doing a PhD!) you could share that knowledge and get paid for it.
There are some online tutoring websites, however I do not have experience of these.
Like me, you could advertise your services in local cafes or other businesses. You can tutor in person or use Skype – I have had success with both. The great thing about this is flexibility and the ability to choose your own prices.
If you have friends with children of teenagers, you might like to ask them if they know anybody who might be interested in tutoring.
So, there you go! How to make extra money during a PhD. Those are all the ways I have earned extra income both during my PhD and after my PhD funding stopped. Thankfully I now have a job and won’t have to worry too much about supplementing my income, but I am happy to have these options when I needed them the most.
It may seem like many of these options will only earn you a small amount, but over time and by tapping into as many of the platforms as possible, it can really begin to add up!
If you have any other ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. Or you can come and find me over on Twitter!
Until next time 🙂