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12 Sources of Income for 18-Year-Olds to Earn Money

How can 18-year-olds make money? Let me show you 12 different sources of income for 18-year-olds to earn money.

How can an 18-year-old make money? In so, so, soooo many ways.

young adult mentoring 18 year old in position as paid apprenticeship, text overlay "12 sources of income for 18-year-olds"

Eighteen is a magical number in the United States, where you’re suddenly considered an adult and you have a huge new crop of job and cash-earning opportunities you didn’t have just a short while ago.

Still, 18-year-olds lack experience.

Which means – while there are tons of new opportunities for 18-year-olds to make money, some of the ones I list below are going to take some time to break into.

Sources of income for 18-year-olds include:

  • Full-time job (remote work)
  • Part-time job
  • Gig work
  • Seasonal work
  • Paid apprenticeship
  • Paid internship
  • Online cash earning opportunities
  • Tips and Commission-Based Work
  • Starting a side business (reselling)
  • Work-study program
  • Work exchange program
  • Working for your parent’s business

Let’s dive in with the specifics.

Sources of Income for 18-Year-Olds

Buckle up – you’re about to travel down the long line of sources of income for 18-year-olds.

1. Full-Time Work

You should know that most of the Child Labor Laws no longer apply to you, since you’re 18. However, if you’re still in school, your state may have regulations limited work hours to certain times of the school day, and to a certain number of hours per week.

While most full-time work positions are for at least 40 hours per week, the IRS formally defines full-time work as a person who works at least 30 hours per week.

Full-time work can be paid either by hours worked (hourly), or a fixed wage (salary).

One major area to look into? Are small businesses. Whether they be online, or brick-and-mortar. Some of these places have established hiring protocols, while others are growing so rapidly and are owned by just a few people that they might just need a person to reach out and ask for opportunities.

For example, in college I had a paid internship with a local nonprofit which was trying to grow a small business organization, too. They did not post a job during the year that I did this for them, but I knew that they had a need for one (since I was working with them for 12 hours/week). So, I asked them outright if I could be of service in a full-time capacity. They had me write my job description and submit it for approval. I essentially wrote a $40,000 salaried + benefits, full-time position into being!

2. Part-Time Work

If you’re looking for full-time work (or, at least for full-time pay), then you might not think part-time work is attractive right now.

But I want to change your perspective. Especially if you’re stuck in a tight job market and finding those full-time positions are difficult to get.

Part-time work can:

  • Be stacked with another part-time job, so that you earn enough
  • Give you a chance to try on several types of jobs (sometimes, at the same time) without fully committing with a company or organization
  • Lead to a full-time job

A great source to start finding a job is SnagAJob.

3. Gig Work

The gig economy has absolutely exploded with possibility in the last 5 years. And as an 18-year-old? You can take advantage of this.

A gig worker accepts one-time projects or tasks, and is paid upon completing it. There’s no long-term commitment between you and the company.

That means maybe you try out one of these gigs in-between graduating high school and figuring out what you want to do next.

Or if you can’t find a full-time job – you can do these gigs in-between interviews.

They can also turn into a part-time or full-time summer/seasonal work opportunity.

Hint: I did this one summer while in college. I taxied around Amish people – yes, the Amish can ride in cars, just not drive them – and made over $3,000.

Here’s a list of options:

4. Seasonal Work Sources of Income

You’ll find seasonal work opportunities can fit in nicely with your school schedule (summers off, winter breaks, etc.). They’re also a great way to bide your time and earn money before a big life transition, such as snagging a 3-month job in the months leading up to you taking a Gap Year abroad.

For example, I had a summer job that turned out to be perfect in college because it not only was seasonal, but it was the type of job that I could take when I had the time (like over Christmas break, or over Spring break), and not work at when I didn’t.

It was a substitute teacher assistant for special needs students position with the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Once I got through the interview process and was in their system, I simply called a phone number to see what classrooms needed a substitute for their teacher assistants, whenever I had a day, a week, or a month to dedicate to it. And the pay was great, too!

Pro tip: if you do really well at a seasonal or summer job, then ask to come back over your Christmas break from college, or ask to come back next summer. You’ll save yourself the hassle of finding new employment each summer or season, and you could help the employer out, too!

Seasonal Opportunities to Look for:

  • Industries that are in high demand in the summer (such as pool companies), or in the winter (such as water heater companies), and so hiring might uptick
  • Industries in high demand around the holidays (such as businesses who deliver, Christmas tree lots, florists, etc.)
  • Summer camps, summer childcare
  • Political campaigns (local and national)
  • Reality TV production
  • Etc.

5. Paid Apprenticeships

Here’s something really exciting: federally-backed apprenticeship programs for teens.

For example, here’s an art studio with a teen apprenticeship program that pays $15.00/hr. Not only do you get paid for the work, but you get paid for the on-the-job training.

If your teenager completes a program that’s recognized by the government, then they can even get a certificate of completion from the Department of Labor – a great addition to any resume.

Here’s how to find available high school apprenticeship programs near you.

6. Paid Internships

There are paid internships, and unpaid ones. Unpaid internships are certainly more available than paid ones, but you can still find paid ones.

In fact, I had a paid internship in college where I was paid $12/hour at a nonprofit organization.

7. Online Cash Earning Opportunities

You’re in an exciting time to be in the full job market – and one of the reasons is because of the online cash earning opportunities out there.

You’ll definitely want to check out my article on 25 online jobs for teens that pay.

And here’s a list of some of the best resources:

Hint: Many of these types of cash-earning opportunities will pay you by PayPal. You need to be the Age of Majority in your state to open your own PayPal, which in most states is 18.

8. Tips and Commission-Based Work

Another source of income is to get paid directly upon your performance through tips or commissions.

With commission-based work, you earn a percentage or fixed amount of each sale that you make. This can be along with a baseline salary, or without one.

Under this same category, I’ll mention referrals. You can get paid to promote services and products that you use regularly, by earning a commission each time you refer a customer to that service or product.

For example, the following services allow you to earn referral commissions:

  • Rakuten (cash back for online purchases)
  • Fetch App (cash back for scanning receipts)
  • Swagbucks (points earned for searching the internet and taking surveys, redeemable for cash)

You can start using these services, get to know them, and then tell family and friends why you like them (plus share an affiliate link – you need to disclose that your link will earn you a commission, FYI, per FTC guidelines).

With tips, people will pay you based on how well you provided a service (such as waiting on them at a restaurant, tying a Christmas tree on their car, cleaning their home, etc.).

This can be for either part-time or full-time positions. And the pay can vary greatly.  

9. Start a Side Business

There are about as many ways to make money with a side business as there are new books released each year (FYI: that’s between 600,000 and 1,000,000).

So, instead of me listing tons of ideas out here, I’ll simple send you to a few great resources for creating a product, or a service:

10. Work-Study Program

Are you a person with financial need, and you’d like to both work and study at the same time?

You’re reading the blog of someone who did this through the Federal Work-Study Program. I got to work at my college’s library for four years, at $5.15/hour. It was a wonderful job.

The Federal Work-Study Program gives part-time jobs to full or part-time students with financial need.

11. Work Exchange Program

Does working in exchange for food, room, and board somewhere in the U.S. or abroad appeal to you?

Then you might want to check out one of these work exchange programs:

12. Working for Your Parent’s Business

One final source of income for 18-year-olds you should consider – if you have the chance – is your family’s business.

For example, my family owned a dairy farm. There was always work to be done on it. I typically earned side money throughout high school and college in this way.

Does anyone in your family own their own business? This might be a great opportunity to get some experience under your belt while earning some money.

I hope I’ve shown you the many, many available sources of income for 18-year-olds. Getting one of these sources of income is not always easy, so definitely check out these teen first job tips. And no matter what, keep trying until you find that next best income-earner for you. You never know where it might lead!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.

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