One of the main concerns for anyone going on a gap year is how to actually afford it. The promises of volunteer work and beach life are all well and good, but how will you afford your hostel for the night, or a bus to the next town, or postcard home to the suckers that stayed?
You don’t actually have to save up all the money you’re going to need before you go, there are many ways to make money on your gap year to make up the shortfall. Here are 19, but I can guarantee there are hundreds more, gap year money-making schemes. Just let your imagination, creativity and entrepreneurialism be your guide…
1. Picking fruit
This is always a popular one in Australia. Do it for long enough and you can stay for an extended time on your working visa – those visa crew know how to get the best out of foreigners, don’t they?! This is one of the best ways to make friends, get a tan and lose some weight, if you fancy. Pick enough watermelons and you’ll earn a bit of cash on your gap year too.
2. Teach English
Teaching English on your gap year is an excellent opportunity to improve your social, community and English skills for your future career. You’ll learn the difference between a verb and a noun, a past and present participle and what exactly an idiom is. Don’t pretend you already know, because I definitely didn’t (and I love words).
3. Online freelance jobs
There are a few sites out there such as gumtree.com, elance.com and odesk.com where you can pick up work in web design, programming, illustration, writing and marketing, if you have the skills. Some jobs are worth more than others, but when you’re living the gap year dream in Thailand even a tenner can pay for another day in luxury.
4. Resort work
Working on sun or ski resorts is a great way to earn some proper cash as you’ll usually have your accommodation and food paid for while you’re there too. Get work in Canada or the USA and you can shovel away some fat tips too. Jobs on resorts include maintenance, childcare, kitchen work, chalet duties and cheffing work.
If you’re a bit nifty with a pair of scissors set yourself up as a mobile hairdresser. You can ask around at the local hostels if you can put a sign up advertising your Edward Scissorhands-like skills and get started. Maybe do one for free during peak time to generate some interest and the gappers will soon crowd to see what’s happening. You could also do the same with massages – although be careful not to rub the locals up the wrong way. Always check with the hostel owners first as you don’t want to take local business away.
6. Camp counselor
Life at summer camp is cheap and very cheerful. This is another way to make money on your gap year as from the moment you step foot on camp everything is already paid for. I worked at camp and made some great tips in the process. Top gapper Rebecca Root reveals what really happens at summer camp, it’s not all pledging your allegiance around the flagpole and smores. Just work hard, play hard and be the best camp counselor the kids have ever seen and you’ll be raking the dollars in come changeover day.
7. Actor or model
Plenty of gappers come back from their gap year time in India with reports of having starred in Bollywood films . You can earn a few quid doing this and have a great story to tell at the end of it too.
You can easily set up a blog about anything, but to actually make money from it takes a huge amount of time and passion. If you’re travelling and love it then this could be the perfect chance to make a few quid from telling the world about your adventures. Keep in mind though that it could take a few months before you can even think about making money from it. Start by getting to know travel bloggers’ work and think about whether you could offer that much commitment.
9. Selling stuff online
Chances are that on your gap year you’re finding loads of new and cool stuff around the world you could sell for a lot more in the UK. Cut a deal with the seller, buy in bulk and go into business on eBay or etsy. This will teach you a huge amount about business, supply and demand, and listening to your customers. Just do your research properly before you commit.
10. Hostel work
Offer your skills at the hostel when you check in. You just never know when they might be looking for a cleaner, receptionist, bar staff, chef or driver. Leave them your phone number to get in touch if they hear anything and keep asking as much as you feel you can.
11. Teach your skill
Whether you can play chopsticks on the piano or a bit of Megadeth of the guitar you can market these skills and get your fellow gappers up to scratch. Just like the beauty point, put up signs in hostels and other popular public places to get interest. You can also do this with language skills, dance classes or even yoga. Most hostels will be happy to rent out the space (if they have it) just to be able to show off the fact they have a range of activities. Otherwise, just set up shop on the beach and get your mates to do some PR.
12. Be an au pair
Anything that has food and accommodation included is a great bet for making money on your gap year. It’s amazing just how much mum and dad have had to pay all these years, trust me. If you work as an au pair during your year out you get to act like a kid and get paid for it. There are opportunities all over the world, you just need to look for them. Work for a super rich family and you might even get to go on their holidays with them and take the kids on super cool activities. This is a great option that will give you plenty of life skills too – the practice will make perfect when it comes to popping out your own sprogs.
13. Edit English menus
This is a great little freelance job you can turn your hand to whenever you see an opportunity. I know this piece is about making money on your gap year, but to get by you could always offer to do this in return for your meal if you prefer. Whenever you see a menu filled with errors trying to attract English speakers just mention that you’re a professional menu editor and you’d like to offer your services, they’ll love it.
Whether your talent is juggling, dancing, singing, fire eating or poi, you can earn some good money on your gap year showing off to the city crowds. Dress up, have a gimmick and go for it and you never know how much people will end up chucking in your hat by the end of the day. Just check the legalities of this one in each country before you make your business plan though.
15. Extreme sports instructor
Surfing, skiing, scuba diving – all the cool kids train to be an instructor in one of these extreme sports and then travel the world showing gappers how it’s done. Get certified and earn loads of money while having a brilliant time doing it. Also, means you get to do it for free, sweet!
If you’re a bit nifty behind a camera lens get out there and start selling your images. There are plenty of stock libraries online looking for images to sell and you get a cut of the cash. Check out Getty, iStockPhotos and SmugMug for some money making opportunities. You could also set yourself up as an official nightlife or beach photographer. Buy yourself a mobile printer and take top snaps of people and sell them back to them. To do this you’ll have to be awesome and unique, and target places where people might not have wanted to take their camera, like the beach.
17. Media in the Middle East
If you plan on carving a career out in the media there are loads of opportunities in the Middle East. There’s a whole media city in Dubai where you can go and get experience in your chosen field and earn bucket loads of cash in the process – no taxes to pay over there!
18. Work on a cruise ship
Check out this article from crew member and gapper Sandra Bow about working on a cruise ship. It really is a great way to see the world, get away from it all and get paid for it. It’s also another one of those gap year jobs where you’ll get your bed and board paid for, and there really isn’t much to spend your money on so you can save while you work. You can work in the entertainment department, services or clean up – there are hundreds of opportunities out there to choose from.
19. Be creative!
Before you go on your gap year write down every talent and skill you have and think about how you can make money from it. If you’re good at talking to strangers, think about the PR opportunities worldwide. If you’re more quiet and studious work out how you can make money online. Think yourself beautiful? Find some modelling work. You definitely have at least 5 skills to capitalise on, work them out and you could be making more money on your gap year than you know what to do with.