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19 ways to make money for Sri Lankan undergraduates

I don’t think I’ll have to explain why you need more money while studying because isn’t that obvious? More money means great food (not Rs.30 Kottu), great clothes, more trips and most of all, more parties.

I remember walking for more than 2km every day just to save a couple of rupees. That’s how much desperate I was for money. I don’t recall ever taking a Tuk Tuk back then because I felt that it was a waste of money! My poor legs!

Times are even tougher for Sri Lankan undergraduates now. The living expenses are higher. The pressure to follow “professional” exams is higher. If you’re attending a private university, the course fees are going to increase day by day (why aren’t the prices ever decreasing?).

So if you’re not blessed with a rich dad/mom who spends money unconditionally, you’re in trouble.

If you’re that struggling student, here’s a solution for you.

Starting something on your own or doing part-time gigs is a great way to make money while you’re an undergraduate. This is also not just for management students. Anyone can do it. In fact, there are so many students who are already engaged in various activities to make money.

Starting a side hustle or working part-time can help you in numerous ways. While making money on the side, you will start to get a sense of how the world works. It will help you to skill up in everyday skills like communication, negotiation, managing money and most of all, selling. You may even meet your future employers. If you pull this off right, you wouldn’t have to work under anyone. You can continue your side gig as a full-fledged business.

Now, I can’t tell you exactly how to do what. That’s not the way the world works. You need to figure out certain things too. That’s the whole point of starting something. Think of this post as inspiration to do something. Have the confidence that you’ll figure things out as they come. If you really hit the ceiling, you can always contact someone who knows better. That’s how everybody does it. Nobody knows exactly what to do when they start. They pick things up as they go along. It applies to you too.

Ground rules

Before heading into the actual ideas, there are some ground rules. These are some advice that will help you to put things in perspective. If you consider these ground rules, there is a higher chance that you will succeed while having fun.

Don’t be afraid to fail

Your first side gig may not be a million rupee hit. So relax. Don’t put yourself through too much pressure. Your priority is to graduate with flying colors. Your side gig is going to help you make some money. That’s it. So even if one fails, you can try something else. Your business idea doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. You don’t have to invent next Facebook. Doing something simple is better than mulling over ideas forever. So start doing.

Anything can be learnable

After reading this post you may be thinking to yourself. I don’t have any “skills” so what am I going to do? If you really want to learn something, you have all the resources you need to learn it. If you know nothing about anything, please go ahead and educate yourself without being a crybaby. Anything can be learnable. Almost everything.

Don’t be afraid to sell 

Most of us hate selling. Asking someone to pay for something you have created can be daunting. Most think that a “salesman” is a con artist who is always trying to scam you. I have seen many of my “engineer” friends describing sales as something very degrading. They think they are “overqualified” for selling! That’s because they don’t have a clue of what selling really means.

make money sri lankan undergraduate

I see selling as something completely human. Imagine if no one sold you anything. There won’t be anything for you to eat. Nothing to wear; no shelter to live. Selling makes the world go around. Try changing your perspective on selling. I used to be so afraid of selling. Then I changed my perspective on selling. Rather than thinking that I’m trying to scam people, I started thinking that I’m helping people with my product. That made it easier to sell.

You don’t have to be an expert

Have you heard of the “imposter syndrome?” That’s the feeling you get when you feel you’re not capable of something or you don’t deserve to become successful. You may feel like you’re not good enough to teach something to someone. You may not feel like you’re not worthy enough to have a side hustle. This is a very common feeling. I still struggle with it. Sometimes I wonder, who am I to write about investing and personal finance? That was holding me back for so many years. But I have shifted my perspective on this.

This is what I think now. If I know at least something more than the other person, I am capable of teaching it to another. If you want to be a teacher of anything, all you need to know is something more than your student. That’s it. Then you can teach it and someone will benefit. You don’t have to become a “professor of something” to teach it. All you need is to know more than the student.

It’s not going to be easy

Starting something on the side is not going to be easy. And that’s ok. Who said things have to be easy in life? Most self-fulfilling achievements are won by hard battles. So prepare for a bumpy ride.

Don’t be afraid to market yourself

You can’t just open shop and ‘wait till customers come to you. You need to spread the message that you’re open for business. So whatever you decide to do, you need to know how to promote yourself and your business. Start talking about your business/side gig with your friends. Go to various events and network with people. Create a Facebook page. Print some flyers and post them inside the university. You can even create a website if you must. Somehow try to spread the message. That’s your job. Not anyone else’s.

Don’t spend too much

A common notion among many is that “you need money to start a business.” I have heard this misconception so much now that just writing it made me puke on my laptop. Yes, you may need some money to start a business. But you can start something without any money too. So don’t overthink about “funding.” Here’s further reading to validate my point.

Time is worth more than money

Life in the university has been the most gratifying and fun period of my life. That’s because of the time I spent with my friends. Chasing after girls and gossiping about who’s dating who was way better than anything else we did. So while starting something on your own, don’t forget to spend your time with friends as well. You will never be free again like you’re feeling right now. So make the best use of it.

19 money making ideas for Sri Lankan undergraduates

Freelance writer

If you’re great at writing (it doesn’t have to be just English), you can find some freelance gigs. There are so many websites and publishing houses that are looking for great content writers. Create some samples and start emailing them. If they don’t respond, try and meet them. If no one bothers to read your stuff, start a blog and start publishing. If your work is great, someone will start to notice.

Dog Walker

I didn’t even know this was a thing until I met a couple of guys who do it. In case you were under a rock for all this time, there are so many rich families who have no time to walk their dogs. If you’re great with dogs and if your evenings are free, why don’t you become a dog walker? All you have to do is find a rich neighborhood and put some fliers in their mailboxes.

Website designing and developing

Creating websites has never been easier. There are so many platforms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace that you can use easily to create a website without any technical knowledge. I created this website using WordPress with no prior technical knowledge. Do a simple Google search and you will have all the info you need at your fingertips.

But how do you find potential clients? Talk to local shops and convince them to have their own websites. Most people do business using Facebook pages. Reach out to them and market yourself. Show them some sample websites that you have done.


This is a no-brainer. Start teaching what you’re learning or anything else (like playing guitar or even chess) to students who are in need.

If you have finished any professional courses like CIMA, CIM or Chartered you can ask your institutes whether you can become a tutor. Most of my friends are doing this as a part-time job. I even have friends who have made tutoring as their career after leaving university.

Cupcakes and anything eatable for that matter

Are you food freak? Then why don’t you start your own food chain? If you got the equipment and necessary ingredients you can start baking and selling your own food. You can talk to the university canteen as a start. Then sell it to local shops. You can even have a stall in Good Market or Food Festivals that are happening around Colombo. You can even start a food blog where you put out your recipes and cooking lessons.

Resume Writing Services

Most students are supposed to work when they are on the 3rd and final years. So obviously they need CVs to send for companies. You can start a CV writing service for students who are in need. Put out some flyers around the university to find your first client. If you do a pretty good job, she will recommend it to her friends. You can charge about Rs.1000 as your starting price. Maybe even less.


This one is particularly for all the accountants out there. Most local entrepreneurs and self-employed people don’t do bookkeeping. You can show them the benefits of bookkeeping and charge a small amount to do their accounts and financials. If it’s going well, you can get a bunch of friends and form a small accounting company.

Freelance designer

This is self-explanatory. If you’re a great designer, you can provide your services to potential clients. You can sell your services to locals or even post your gigs on online sites like Fiverr or Freelancer.

Travel planner

Most students have no time to plan a trip. But if someone planned a trip and sort out the logistics, most would be happy to pay a price and go on a trip. You can do this. Decide on a place. Figure out the transportation. Start marketing your trip. Get money from students and take them on a trip. If you love to travel, you get to travel for free while making some money at the end. This is exactly what my friend Sameera Batagoda did. Now he has a full-fledged business.

Buddy travelers and tour guides

Here’s another option for travel lovers. You can become a guide or a buddy traveler for tourists. This is a great way to tick your bucket list while making some money. You can even meet great people. These part-time jobs are not published in typical job sites. You need to start looking for them. As a start, you can join different travel groups on Facebook. Eventually, you will find opportunities if you keep looking. You can even talk to travel agencies and look for opportunities.

Handcrafts/ Handmade cards/Jewelry or anything creative

If you like creating stuff, this can be a great way to make some money on the side. If you’re a medical student who’s stuck in a lab and no way of putting your creativity out, this can be your outlet. There are so many places like the Good Market and Colombo where you can sell your products.

T-shirt printing

We all need customized t-shirts when we’re in university. That’s just how it is. We want to know which department has the coolest t-shirt. But in our times, all the t-shirt designs sucked; even the materials.

You can start a small t-shirt company. You don’t have to have an “actual” company. All you need is to find some t-shirt manufacturers and get their prices. Then you can start getting orders from students. You can be the middleman.

Doing assignments

If you’re good at your writing skills, you can start doing assignments for other students. Most executives who follow MBAs and Masters don’t have enough time to do their assignments. So they would happily get the “help” of a “professional” who can do their assignments for them. You can be that “professional.”

Finding clients is difficult in the assignment business. Your best bet is to find someone and spread the news that you’re doing assignments for a fee. Once you do your first job, you will get enough word-of-mouth recommendations. (I’m still doing this myself!)

Become a translator

Are you fluent in several languages? Then you can become a translator. Many lawyers and public offices need translators. You can do some research to find few clients and start working with them.

Digital marketing

Digital marketing is the most ‘hip’ thing in town. Whoever I talk to lately is a digital marketer! If you’re good with your social media, email marketing and maybe a little bit of SEO (search engine optimization) you can become a digital marketer too. Even if you have no clue about any of them, a simple Google search can teach you most of the things that experts do.

make money sri lankan undergraduate

Then you can find some local shops and entrepreneurs and provide your services to them. You can start managing their Facebook pages. You can even market your university stuff and create some awareness in case someone wants to see your previous work.

Starting a blog

If you have a passion that you wanna share with the world, a blog can be a great outlet for your work. I think everyone should start a blog and share their writing. I started to share things that I love. I never intended to become a writer.

Once you start writing some great content, you will eventually find ways to monetize your blog. This is a long shot so you need have patience.

Freelance researcher and Data Collector

There are so many research companies who are looking for freelance researchers to do basic research work. If you have plenty of spare time (which we all do when we’re in university!) you can become a researcher. You can get paid well too. You can even ask your lecturers whether they have any work. Most of them are doing their theses so you can be of help to them.

Taxi driving

One night I ordered a Pickme to go home. This was around 11.30 p.m. To my dismay, the driver was wearing a university t-shirt. So I started my usual interrogation process. As the conversation went on, I realized that this student is driving a Tuk Tuk after lectures to make money. I don’t recommend this to everyone but this can be another option. You can even become an Uber driver. Now don’t ask me how you can find a vehicle. That’s up to you.


Are you good with your camera? Then becoming a freelance photographer is not that difficult. There are so many online magazines that are covering various events around the country. You can start providing your services to them. You can even cover events in your university as a beginning. You may not get paid much but you will have a portfolio to showcase your future clients.

Well, that’s about it. I know there are so many other ways of making money while studying. These are some of the more popular ones that I think should work for most of you. If I have missed any great ideas, please add a comment and let me know. I would love to add it to this post.

If this post is helpful, don’t forget to add a comment and let me know. Most of all, if you know anyone who is struggling to make ends meet while studying, share this post with them. You might be doing them a favor.

If you want to start an online business in Sri Lanka, we have a practical workshop for you. It’s called E-Commerce Essentials. To learn more and join the next workshop, click here.

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of He is a Blogger, YouTuber, Coach, Speaker, and Entrepreneur.

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