Published on November 13, 2013 | by Livvy Doherty


Funny money – students find new ways to get paid

It’s all about the Elizabeths’, baby: students are going to extreme lengths to earn some extra cash [Photo by flikr nobleinfosys]

It’s all about the Elizabeths’, baby: students are going to extreme lengths to earn some extra cash [flikr: nobleinfosys]

Trying to manage your studies as well as your finances can be a difficult task, especially if your cash just isn’t going as far as it needs to. So what would you do to put some extra money in your pocket?

The average university student in London needs to find £6,071 to cover what their student loan doesn’t, according to recent NUS estimates. If you are living and studying in London, you will know that this figure can be even higher.

A single/studio room in UAL halls now costs between £130-£254 per week. The average maintenance loan for a London university student living away from home is around £6,000 a year. This means that living in some of the cheapest accommodation the city has to offer, your maintenance loan will only just cover your rent with very little to spare even for food.

The NUS calculations include a figure of £1,310 for ‘leisure’ expenses, however once again this can be much higher in the capital. London was named the most expensive city in the world for a night out, so it is not surprising that some students have to turn to inventive and often unconventional ways to make money. 

Medical trials

A popular way for students to make quick cash is through medical trials. The payments vary, but you could make up to £3,000 in as little as three weeks by taking part in trials.

Flucamp is one of many companies to hold clinical trials to develop vaccines for viruses.

Emily Segameglio, 23, a student at LCC, was paid £550 to test the side effects of a new inhaler. “My friends all signed up to flu camp, so I did the same, but I wasn’t able to take part because of my asthma. So I decided to Google other medical trials and found ‘Paraxel’. I just had to switch to a different inhaler and visit the clinic to pick it up and drop it off and they called me once a week for a couple of weeks to see if I had any side effects.”

Segameglio added: “I wasn’t told about the possible side effects, they didn’t really expect there to be any – or so they said – because it was so similar to what I was already using. I wasn’t really nervous, all I was concerned about was the money.”

Get paid to eat

“When you’re hard up you’ll do anything to make money. Such large sums are difficult to resist.” – Emily Segameglio

It is not just students in London who look to every opportunity to make some extra money. Beth Richardson, 20, a student at Sheffield University also took part in a medical trial.

“The trial took place over 12 weeks. I ate a measured amount of cereal, which they gave me wit h a measured amount o f milk every evening, to test when our bodies best absorb nutrients. “At the end of the trial I was given a £50 shopping centre voucher and was reimbursed for the milk.” Richardson continues: “I was also given £5 just for the first blood sample I gave, which everyone was given whether or not they ended up taking part.”

Asked whether she thinks students are willing to put money before their health, Richardson said: “I think there are many types of students, many with varying standards when it comes to getting money quick and easy. Some are willing to put their bodies through a lot and risk a lot just for money, and others prefer to be poor, and not risk their safety. Most of my friends I think would put their health first, however I can think of a few who might get mesmerised by the figure dangled in front of their eyes.”

Segameglio was also asked this question. “Yeah, definitely. I think when you’re pretty hard up you’ll do anything to make money. When they are offering such large sums it’s difficult to resist. I’d happily feel shit for a few weeks i f it meant I’d have £3,000 by the end of it.”

Sex sells

Webcam modelling, stripping and escort work are among some of the quickest ways to make money. Stripper Samantha Bailey, author of Stripped: A Life Of Strip And Tease In Clubland, made almost £250,000-a-year at the height of her career.

One 20-year-old student from London makes extra money stripping but does not think it could support her fully whilst at university. “As a full time job you could really go for it, you can make enough to live comfortably. But I view it as a part time job, for living expenses, really.”

When asked why some students choose jobs like stripping and escort work over more conventional part-time jobs she said: “With stripping I would say it’s a lot of reasons. For myself, I think the hours are a lot better. I’m not a morning person and you do it during the night. You make your own hours. I think it’s the flexibility of it.”

One student who found flexibility to be an issue was 22-yearold student Tino Bruno from London Metropolitan University. He was told he should choose between his part-time retail job at H&M and his degree. “They wouldn’t let me cut my hours at work. Their exact words were ‘you either keep it or leave’.”

Bruno can see the appeal of doing medical trials or why some students choose to work in the sex industry: “You get paid so much more, for such little time and effort.”

‘Gambling to make ends meet’

Some students have resorted to gambling in hopes of winning some money [Nicu Buculei] states that one in five students are now gambling to make ends meet. Students who choose to gamble their loans are not only at risk of losing it, but can also become addicted.

A Leeds Student report proved that gambling had become a problem at the university, with some students “wagering their student loans and just losing it, crying and breaking down completely”. One student interviewed in the report said he had “considered taking his own life” as his addiction had become so bad.

If money troubles are keeping you up at night, remember you are not alone. Whilst trying to make ends meet can be extremely stressful and frustrating, it can also inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Bruno, aside from working part time in retail, uses his experience in fashion buying to make extra money. “I go thrift shopping and around charity shops and look for cheap stuff that I could sell on for profit, then sell it on Ebay or ASOS marketplace. Normally it would be for a 500% profit.”

ALN found some other unconventional ways people are making money:

Selling used underwear

There are now many websites dedicated to selling your used personal items, and a quick scour of the ‘personals’ section of advertisement website Craigslist, which has become popular for romantic requests, will show that women’s and men’s underwear can sell for up to £60 for an unwashed piece.

Selling your whole life

Ian Usher auctioned off his entire life on eBay after his wife left him, making £192,000. Mike Merrill had a similar idea when, according to, he “split himself into 100,000 shares and set an initial public offering price of $1 per share. Shareholders would get voting privileges and decide what Merrill would do on a daily basis and on a grander scale, no questions asked.”

Eating paper on

One user on Fiverr, ‘the world’s largest marketplace for services’, will eat a piece of paper with a customers name on for $5. He has apparently made at least $595 from this simple (and very random) service.

Professional cuddling

Professional Cuddler Kitty Mansfield [Photo: Paul Amos (Guzelian)]

Professional Cuddler Kitty Mansfield [Photo: Paul Amos (Guzelian)]

Former holistic therapist Kitty Mansfield is the UK’s first professional cuddler and charges £45 an hour for a hug, earning up to £360 a day. She insists the service is non-sexual and says underwear must be worn at all times.

Rent yourself as a friend

According to their website, ‘RentAFriend. com is a website that allows you to rent local friends from all over the world. You can rent a local friend to hang out with, go to a movie or restaurant with, or someone to go with you to a party or event. Rent a friend to teach you a new skill or hobby, or to show you around an unfamiliar town.’ These very platonic services start from just $10 an hour.

Cambridge graduates Ed Moyes and Ross Harper paid off their combined student debt of £50,000 in just a year, by having the logos of different brands painted on their faces.

Santa Mail

In 2003 Byron Reese launched Santamail., a service that provides children personalised letters from St Nick himself. The letters start from £4.99 and according to their website are sent to ‘over 2,500 happy children each year.’

Million dollar homepage

21-year-old Alex Tew came up with a million dollar idea when he created a webpage and sold each 10×10 pixel square to advertisers for $1. Eventually companies were bidding up to $152,000 for a spot.


How to get help

If you’ve taken a look at our list of unusual ways to make money and still feel at a loss as to how to better your finances, then maybe you need some free and confidential advice regarding your finances, or just someone to talk about your money worries with. If so, then speak to Student Services, which is located at the entrance of every University of the Arts London college. Student Services can also let you know if you are eligible for certain bursaries and grants and give you the right information on how to apply for them.

Student Services can be contacted on 0207 514 6590, or email:


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