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10 Best Business Ideas for College Students

10 Best Business Ideas for College Students

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10 Best Business Ideas for College Students

Best Business Ideas for College Students

Everyone knows how expensive college can be, and while there’s always a plethora of part-time jobs to be found around college towns, you’d much rather start your own business.

And who can blame you? 

After all, while most of the vacancies you’ve found may bring in the money, they’re not exactly aligned with your post-graduation career plans, nor do they offer the kind of flexibility that comes with being your own boss. 

If that sounds familiar, this guide to the ten best business ideas for students is for you. 

Below, you’ll learn not only which type of student business may be best for you but also how much you can make and how to get started. 

1. Drive for Ride Sharing Apps

Ride-sharing apps are immensely popular in college towns, with students, faculty, and local residents alike taking advantage of them for hassle-free journeys to the abundance of sports, entertainment, and leisure attractions typically found in such towns. 

Still, that’s far from the only reason why driving for the likes of Lyft and Uber is such a popular side hustle.

Whether you’re driving your fellow university students to and from the big game or making food deliveries to their dorms via Uber Eats, it’s a gig that allows you to earn extra money on your own schedule, making it easy to fit around lectures, studying, and other commitments. 

What Do I Need to Get Started?

All you need to get started driving for a ride-sharing app is a driver’s license and insurance. 

You don’t even necessarily need your own car, as Lyft offers a unique rental service that allows you to hire a car for as little as $189 per week plus a non-refundable deposit. 

You can use this car to drive for Lyft, other ride-sharing and delivery apps, or simply for personal use, with your Lyft earnings covering the rental charges. 

Whether you go down that route or use your own vehicle, all you need to do is download your preferred ride-sharing app, apply with your license and insurance, and wait until you’re approved. 

You can then log in, schedule a shift, and hit the road. 

How Much Can I Make? 

The national average earnings for Lyft and Uber drivers is around $18 per hour.

Uber salary

(source: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Uber-Driver-Salary)

However, this varies from location to location, with major cities and college towns boasting higher earning potential thanks to the high demand. 

Your earnings will also depend on the time of day you work and how long you drive for. Evenings and weekends are typically bigger earnings, though there’s still money to be made if you want to do a few Uber gigs in between lectures during the day. 

2. Start a Tutoring Business

Starting a tutoring business is a great way to leverage your skills, knowledge, and passion for a particular subject into creating a profitable venture. 

This could be as simple as helping students in the year below gain a better understanding of the subject you’re currently studying or offering tutoring services for standardized tests such as SAT, GRE, and GMAT.

Not that academic subjects are all you can teach. You could, for example, also consider teaching people how to play a musical instrument or learn a foreign language.

Related: How to start a tutoring business

What Do I Need To Get Started?

To start a tutoring business, you’ll naturally need a deep understanding of whatever you plan to teach, not to mention strong communication skills that will help you explain concepts effectively to your students. 

As for how to find clients, you have multiple options here. 

If you’re planning to help your fellow students, flyers and a solid online presence.

College Business Idea Tutoring

Alternatively (or perhaps even additionally), you can consider expanding your reach by offering virtual tutoring services via platforms such as: 

How Much Can I Make? 

$18 per hour is the national average pay for online tutors, though the more experienced and sought-after you become, the higher you can set your rates.

College Tutor Earnings

(source – https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Online-Tutor-Salary-per-Hour

If you decide to teach online, you’ll find that some top tutoring sites pay as much as $25 per hour or more, though you should expect a commission fee to be deducted from your earnings. 

3. Take Care of Other People’s Pets

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll find few ways to fund your college journey more rewarding than starting your own business offering pet-sitting and/or dog walking services. 

Not only is this a great way to make extra income by hanging around with your favorite furry creatures, but it also provides an ideal opportunity to keep active, something which may be important if the constant grind of studying and working leaves you with little time to get any exercise.

Related: How to start a dog walking business

What Do I Need To Get Started?

Beyond a genuine love for animals and the stamina to keep up with them, pet-sitting and dog walking require very little to get started, making them among the best small business ideas for students with little to invest. 

You can find potential customers using traditional marketing methods, such as putting up flyers around town.

You can also use sites like Rover, which pair pet owners with pet care service providers. However, this does come with a $35 profile review fee. 

Whether you use Rover, a website, or simply advertise on your social media accounts, using high-quality photos and videos of you with animals and of your home or the locations where you’d take dogs for a walk will all help you stand out and win clients.

How Much Can I Make?

Rover pays an average of $20 – $28, depending on the service you offer. 

Rover Earnings

If you choose to run your business without using that platform, expect to earn between $15 – $20 per walk for dog-walking or between $25 – $50 for pet-sitting services. 

4. Run Speed Dating Events

Are you a social butterfly who enjoys bringing people together and creating connections? Running speed dating events on your college campus can be a fun and profitable small business idea.

What’s more, It’s a perfect fit for college campuses, where a hectic academic schedule can leave students with little time for romance or meaningful connections. 

As an event organizer, you’ll be organizing, hosting, and promoting each event, earning your money from registration fees paid by your attendees.

How Do I Get Started?

Your first task is to choose a suitable venue on or near campus and book it for your event. 

Many locations may require a booking deposit, though you may luck out and find a venue that’s willing to reduce it or waive it altogether for students). 

Set a date, decide on a format (e.g., one-on-one, group speed dating, themed events), and set your fees.

You can use services such as EventBrite to handle registrations and payments, while a combination of both traditional and digital marketing strategies will be essential for attracting sign-ups. 

On the day of the event, set up the venue with tables, chairs, and name tags. 

Ensure a welcoming and friendly atmosphere to put participants at ease and stay on top of facilitating each session. 

How Much Can I Make? 

Many speed dating events charge between $25 – $50 per person, though you’ll benefit from keeping your prices on the low side if you want to attract college students. 

You can also bring in extra revenue by partnering with local businesses to sponsor your event or offering premium features like personalized matching or post-event networking opportunities.

5. Sell Photography Services

Starting a photography business in college provides a fantastic entry into the world of entrepreneurship, providing opportunities to make not just money but also useful connections and a stellar portfolio that can serve you well for your future career. 

Related: How to start a photography business

What You’ll Need to Get Started 

Depending on your current set-up, your photography business may require some startup costs as you’ll need quality cameras and essential equipment like lenses, a tripod, lighting, and editing software. 

Sure, you don’t need the most expensive gear to start, but having reliable equipment is crucial.

Photographer Earnings

With your equipment at the ready, use services such as Portfolio Box to build a portfolio of your best work that you can use to showcase your skills. 

From there, it’s all about advertising and marketing. Use visual-based social media apps like Instagram to promote your services and search for low-cost advertising opportunities in publications, websites, and events relating to your niche. 

How Much Can I Make? 

The average hourly pay for freelance photographers is around $21 per hour, though certain niches, such as wedding and commercial photography, tend to be more profitable. 

6. Offer Virtual Assistant Services

Starting a virtual assistant business means providing a range of marketing, administrative, and other tasks for businesses, making it an ideal way to channel many of the skills that are probably already getting you through your college degree into a lucrative money maker. 

The great thing about this one is the flexibility, not just in terms of working hours that suit you, but in terms of the variety of work you could possibly do. 

It may be that you put your marketing degree to work providing virtual social media management or similar services to small businesses, or perhaps you help your fellow student entrepreneurs with bookkeeping, accounting, or data entry. 

Related: How to start a virtual assistant business

What Do I Need to Get Started?

A virtual assistant business is a great no-money side hustle idea, as you can start building a client base without investing a cent.

First, you’ll need a presence on freelancer marketplace sites such as Fiverr and Upwork

College Business Idea Virtual Assistant

Create a free profile, and you can use it to create and advertise a package of services (known as “projects” on Upwork and “gigs” on Fiverr), or search and apply for existing jobs posted by clients looking for virtual assistants. 

If you’re serious about growing your college business, you might want to consider reinvesting some of your earnings into building a website and investing in search engine optimization (SEO) to build your business away from those platforms.

How Much Can I Make?

The going rate for virtual assistant services on Fiverr and Upwork averages between $10 – $20 per hour, though this is before those sites take a percentage of your earnings as a commission. 

Fiverr Earnings

Fiverr, for example, takes 20% of your earnings. So if you earned $100, you’d take home $80, with the remaining $20 going to Fiverr. Meanwhile, Upwork takes just 10%, meaning you’d take home $90 for the same job on that platform. 

To earn more, you may find that a better approach is to reach out to local businesses and work with them directly, giving you more flexibility when it comes to setting your own rates and ensuring you keep 100% of your earnings. 

7. Sell Your Skills as a Freelancer

The same freelancer marketplaces used by virtual assistants can also be put to work in selling any number of different skills and services. 

Again, there’s plenty of scope here to tie your freelance work into your studies, leading to a profitable business idea that you could transition into a full-time business post-graduation. 

If you’re on a graphic design course, for example, you’ll find an abundance of paying clients looking for help with everything from logos and marketing materials to full-blown branding campaigns, while the journalism and creative writing students among you will find a market for your talent as a freelance writer. 

What Do I Need to Get Started?

If you’re looking to start a freelancing business with no initial investment, the best way to do that is to use marketplace sites that match freelancers with paying clients looking to hire them. 

College Business Ideas Freelancer

Along with Fiverr and Upwork, other options you may want to consider include: 

  • People Per Hour – General freelance marketplace, popular for web design, SEO services, and content writing
  • Dribble – Graphic design and visual arts 
  • Contently – Writing and content creation
  • DesignCrowd – Web and graphic design
  • Toptal  – Software and app developers.

How Much Can I Make?

How much you can earn as a freelancer depends on your skill set, niche, and the type of work you do. 

Designers, for example, will find scores of $1K+ projects on Dribble, while writers can bring in anywhere from $25 – $50 per hour, depending on experience and the quality of work they do.

8. Flip Second-Hand Clothes on Poshmark

As a student renowned for your unique sense of style and uncanny ability to always pick out the best thrift store finds, you could do far worse than channel that passion for second-hand fashion into becoming a Poshmark seller. 

College Business Idea Poshmark

Poshmark is a thriving online marketplace popular with shoppers looking for vintage and retro clothing, unique, one-of-a-kind fashion pieces, and rare discounts on top brands. 

You can sign up to sell on Poshmark for free, after which you can enjoy hunting thrift stores and vintage clothing outfits, looking for unique finds that you can then flip for a profit on the app. 

What Do I Need to Get Started? 

Other than the Poshmark app itself, all you’ll need is an inventory to sell. 

Although women’s fashion remains Poshmark’s top seller, you’ll also find plenty of eager buyers for everything from men’s and children’s fashion to furniture, home goods, and even electronics.

How Much Can I Make? 

Although it’s free to sell your items on Poshmark, the app does take a flat $2.95 commission on sales under $15 and a 20% cut on sales of $15 or more. 

After that, the sky’s the limit with regard to how much you can make, and, as with any business, the more time you invest, the greater your earning potential. 

9. Start a Textbook Store

If you’re on a college campus, you’ve likely been part of the annual ritual of students hunting down expensive textbooks. 

Herein lies a golden opportunity to turn an academic necessity into a profitable textbook reseller business, sourcing textbooks at the lowest possible prices and selling them at a markup. 

Of course, while making a profit is important here, you’ll certainly benefit by offering highly competitive pricing, making your business the most attractive option for cash-strapped students.

Related: How to start a bookstore

What Do I Need to Start

To begin, you’ll need an inventory of college textbooks. 

Start by collecting used textbooks from graduating students or sourcing them through online platforms such as  CampusBooks, which offers discounts as high as 90% off the publisher’s recommended price. 

You can then begin to promote your business using low-cost marketing strategies such as printing flyers and engaging in social media, or perhaps even consider hosting your own book fair event. 

While your prices should undoubtedly be student-friendly, there are plenty of ways to maximize your earnings, such as: 

  • Offering the option to rent textbooks or purchase on a buyback scheme
  • Selling bundles of related textbooks
  • Expanding to sell study guides and other related educational materials.

How Much Can I Make? 

The amount you can make with your textbook reseller business will vary according to both the quality of your textbooks and the demand for them. 

Pangobooks notes that “like new” textbooks can be priced around 70 – 75% of the original retail price, while “excellent books” are typically priced around 55% of the retail price. 

10. Sell on Etsy

Etsy is an ideal platform for crafty and creative students looking to make extra income from their talents. 

College Business Ideas Etsy Store

Whether you’re a master at handcrafted jewelry, a wizard with a paintbrush, or the king or queen of crochet, the artisan marketplace gives you a huge audience of potential buyers to sell your creations to. 

How Do I Start? 

To start selling on Etsy, all you need is to create a free store and begin listing your items.

Use high-quality photos of your products and compelling titles and descriptions optimized for keywords related to your items. 

Away from the platform, promote your Etsy shop through your Facebook and Instagram page, email marketing, and consider collaborations with social media influencers and bloggers.

To learn more about this, see our guide to becoming an Etsy seller

How Much Can I Make? 

Although Etsy doesn’t have real information about its sellers’ earnings, reports suggest that the median Etsy seller makes around $100 per month, while top sellers working their Etsy store as a full-time job can bring home as much as $65,000 per year. 

You’ll also need to be mindful of Etsy’s fees and charges

The company charges $ 0.20 for each new listing plus a 6.5% transaction fee. 

Etsy Earnings

One way I’ve found to keep more of your Etsy earnings is to opt-in to their Share & Save program. 

This gives you a unique, tracked URL that you can use to drive traffic to your Etsy listings from third-party platforms such as social media, your website, or email. 

When you make a sale via one of these links, Etsy takes 4% of the order total off your bill. 

What are the Best Businesses for Students to Start? Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the best businesses for college students to start are those that combine a genuine passion with low (or preferably zero) start-up costs and an opportunity to gain valuable skills and real-world experience that will benefit you long after you’ve graduated. 

Also see: Best business ideas for teens

If none of the suggestions I’ve shared above tick all those boxes for you, see my guide to money-making hobbies for more ideas and inspiration. 

And if they did? 

Be sure to read these 8 things to consider before starting a side hustle to ensure you stand the best chance of success with your new venture.

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

10 Best Business Ideas for College Students

10 Best Business Ideas for College Students

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