Studying in the US as a foreign student is expensive; the majority of international students have to supplement their stay with a part-time job. Any student with an F-1 or M-1 visa is expected to prove his or herself in the first year of study and any employment must be within campus or part of a training programme. With competition high for limited campus vacancies, many international students struggle.
Foreign students should be very aware of any legal obligations. In the US, they are taxed in the same way as non-resident aliens. Only earnings from US employers are taxed. Working via talent platforms such as Upwork – a US company – would, therefore, be taxed. As this work would be carried out in the US, it is productive labour. In the first student year, this work is illegal.
By law, you may not create new content with the intention of selling that content to earn an income, you may not revise existing content that was originally written to produce an income, and you may not curate content to generate an income. To write your own blog, you must first complete your initial year of college or university. After that, any earnings must be reported to the IRS.
However, there is a loophole for those who are planning to study in the US in the future. This is to start a blog in your country of residence before arriving in the States. If you do the ‘productive’ work abroad, you are legally entitled to receive the income from this work when studying in the US. Furthermore, if you opt to curate your content only when you go home during the holidays, this is not considered to be US-based productive labour.
A Stable Topic
Thinking of studying in the US and worried the first year might be a financial struggle? Or already own a blogging site and want to make it more successful? You’ll need to start writing. Not just for now, but for your year abroad.
Any topic that is regularly updated – such as celebrity news, recent technology, fashion or product reviews can’t be left to run on its own. No matter how much content you have, old news is damaging news. Finding a topic that interests lots of people and which doesn’t age is vital. Think of nature, history, geography, art appreciation, DIY or gardening, for example. Your blog topic must bridge a year without ever seeming out of date.
As most successful blogs are updated at least three times a week, you need to write an incredible amount of content – and find hundreds (if not thousands) of interesting, engaging images.
If you can’t lay your hands on your blog baby for at least a year, you need to place it in safe hands. This means a reliable server that isn’t going to suddenly disappear and doesn’t suffer from countless bugs and updates, and a reliable hosting solution that you can pay up front. Any transaction you make to support your blog while residing in the US could be seen as an investment in productive labour – this is illegal. Even asking someone else to oversee your blog when abroad is taking a risk. If you want to live within the strict confines of the law, you should not make any payments or adjustments to your blogging site or for its maintenance during this time.
This is why selling online via a blogging site can be a dangerous game, unless you have previously written an ebook and set up a simple digital payment and delivery system.
Tip Three: Scheduling Tools
With all of your content ready for publishing, it’s time to implement a scheduling tool. This will post your blogs at specific times. As you have written the content when not residing in the US, scheduling content via a scheduling tool is lawful. Again, a reliable service is important. Even contacting customer care when a blog fails to appear as scheduled could be seen as productive labour and risk your right to study in the US.
With content, backlinks, Adsense or other advertising PPC plans sorted, you need to generate a healthy income.
For example, if your blog advertises written or photographic content on Etsy, getting yourself noticed on this platform is essential. The Etsy rank checker and its high visibility means your store does well without any input from yourself.
Start as early as you can with slow but steady search engine optimization strategies that introduce your blog to the right audiences. Take advantage of free or paid analytics tools to ensure your marketing methods are efficient; at some time during your year of study, these metrics will change. Keywords might become less popular or mean something completely different over time (look at how ‘corona’ has changed from popular beer to very unpopular virus).
One way to keep up visitor numbers (and keep your blog in the top search engine results pages is to order regular quality cheap site traffic from a professional service. Every month, a few thousand visitors land on your selected page and – whether they convert or not – will help keep your blog visible.
Your First Year, Sorted.
And then it’s time to experience and enjoy everything the US has to offer. And not lay a hand on your website in any way. While at the same time, you earn a useful passive income. And 100% legal, too!