When you are a high school or college student, you generally have huge batches of free time. There's no better way to spend them than becoming a student entrepreneur...
In the past decade, the world has seen many incredible businesses being started by college students (Facebook, just to name one).
Is it Possible to Start a Business While Being a Student?
There are no legal, financial, or knowledge reasons that prevent a school, college or university student from starting their own side hustles.
The internet has democratized access to information and financing, which has removed the biggest barriers that used to exist in the formation of a new business.
Now, should a student start a business while he is studying?
School and university demand many of your hours, but if you stay organized and make the best use of your hours, you will find vast of time to both study and run your startup.
In fact, it could even help you with your studies, by allowing you to find other logics and uses for what you are taught in college.
Best Business Ideas for Students
Here's a list of 36 unique startup ideas for students, along with a description of each, how much investment they require, how difficult they are, and some resources for your to set up such an idea.
1) Sell Used Books
Description: You finished your academic year, congratulations! Now check your desk… you have a pile of used books, right? In many cases, they end up in your house’s trash bins. However, there’s something better to do with them: sell them to younger students at a cheaper price than what a new copy is.
You'll probably, at least, make enough money to purchase the books needed for your next semester. The best of this idea is that it doesn’t require either any investment nor much time.
Resources: Here’s an article on the 6 best places to re-sell old books and some tips on how to do it.
2) Flip Websites
Description: You buy websites that are exiting for a low price, grow them in 6 months to 2 years, and sell them at a much higher price for a profit. There are people who work full time on this and make millions per year with their sites.
The key here is to buy a high-quality website at a low price. There’s a ton of information on what you should consider and check when doing it. At the same time, there are all kinds of free digital marketing courses that you will find useful if growing one of these websites.
Description: There’s an ethical unresolved issue around re-selling sneakers, tickets, or whatever, but I’ve personally seen many people make loads of money buying items at a low price and selling them at a higher one. Re-selling works the best with limited items (such as the mentioned tickets and some exclusive sneakers), as those who haven’t been able to purchase them, are willing to pay more than their original price to have them, once the item is out of stock.
The key when re-selling is understanding the market and anticipating which items will people be more willing to pay for once they run out. Note that it can be pretty risky; I know of a guy who bought 10 tickets for a concert and couldn’t re-sell them. He ended up inviting all of his friends for free with a huge loss.
Resources: This is a really inspirational article on how to re-sell sneakers and make a profit.
4) Writing Services
Description: Start a website that offers all kinds of writing services to students or businesses. It could be anything from sales & marketing copy, SEO content, essay writing, academic papers, or even simple proofreading.
There are already many trustworthy services online and before starting out your own writing service it is a good idea to work as a professional essay writer for a top website. After you have gained some valuable experience doing this, you can move on to creating your own essay writing service. You could charge per hour or project.
+1 if the website invites other fellow students to offer such writing services and you charge a fee ;)
Resources: This article will help you decide whether you should or should not start freelance writing. If yes, make sure to check this one, which teaches you how to do it.
5) Play Cupid
Description: Set up a website or an app, exclusively for your campus or local area, to let the singles meet. This will be much appreciated by the community and, with a small fee, the app could kick-off and be the Tinder of your campus or neighbourhood.
The app could, instead, be focused around networking. People could use it to meet other people and make new friends.
Alternatively, the app could also be focused around professional networking.
Description: Motivational apps have a broad scope range. They could be for anything from academics to mental health.
Consider academics. The app could show events, seminars, or lectures and let the user log the attendance to these, getting award points in exchange. Such apps encourage to improve productivity among students in a positive and fun way. These rewards could be in the form of vouchers, coupons, or deals of any local services. For the sponsors, this would be a worthwhile advertisement option among the clientele too.
Similar apps could be designed for fitness, gym attendance, and other activities too.
The easiest way to monetize such an idea would be through ads.
Resources: There are many tools out there to build apps cheaply and fastly (even without coding). Check our Tools page.
Description: There will always be demand for babysitters and nannies. With both parents working and maternity and paternity leave shrinking in length, the market for this is only widening. If you have a knack with babies and have a pleasing personality, you are already good to go.
Resources: Here is a detailed article on how to properly set up your babysitting business and make the most of it.
8) Babysitting Network
Description: You can create a sort of marketplace for babysitting. Other prospective babysitters could sign up to it and offer their babysitting services. Parents could select between the available babysitters and hire them through the platform. You could keep a commission.
Even if you are not able to do the babysitting job due to lack of time, you'll still make a commission from the fellow babysitters who have signed up on the program.
Resources: Here is a long article on how to build and grow a nanny app.
9) Pet Sitting
Description: What’s better than babysitting? Pet sitting! Who doesn’t want to spend the whole day playing with dogs? There are busy workers and family taking holidays who need someone to take care of their loved pets.
There are two main ways to face this business idea. The most common one is to take pets for a one/two-hour walk every day/every two days. The second one would be to take care of pets of people taking holidays, for one to four weeks.
Resources: The Balance Careers has a huge series of resources for pet sitters.
10) Local Reviewer
Description: Every time we want to buy a product, the first thing we do is to look online for product reviews. Sure enough, all big cities have their own dedicated websites for such reviews from multiple sources. But what about small places or even the campuses? There’s a huge opportunity there.
Start a website that reviews the local accommodations. You can make this exclusive for the campus itself or other accommodations in the area that students could rent out. This would work as a credible source rather than just word of mouth. There could also be options added to include listings and discussion forums. You can monetize this through advertising.
Resources: WPBeginner has a long article on how to build a review site using Wordpress, which would probably be the cheapest and fastest way to do it.
11) Swap Website
Description: Swap websites are used to swap, sell, and borrow goods and services. For example, if a person needs something but only for a single-use, it is best to rent it out rather than buying one.
On campus, there is more than one person who is willing to do that, but it is lacking a way to find that person. Such a website would simplify this while enabling people to save a few bucks.
Call it a new age barter system; especially on campus, there would be a lot of demand for this. Start this locally and then expand it later. There are loads to borrow and exchange from academic services, bikes, books, and even clothes. You can monetize it through advertising.
Resources: Here’s a list of 36 bartering and swapping websites to get some inspiration. We’ve also interviewed the founder of a shutdown swapping site who shared all the mistakes he made through his journey.
12) Design Services
Description: All kinds of businesses have design tasks. Then, you can create a site that offers different types of design services, such as logos, flyers, packaging, or even websites, and niche down to local businesses or even other students starting their own startups. You could charge per hour or per project.
When you are a student, it can be hard to get businesses to trust you. There are many ways to achieve it, such as showing them previous high-quality work, offering one free project, and connecting them with your previous clients.
Resources: You may be asking how to build a portfolio if you’re just starting and have never had clients, right? Here’s a tool that generates fake client briefs for you to design and showcase in your site.
Description: Digital marketing has grown a lot in the last decade, with the emergence of eCommerces and online businesses. The businesses that don’t digitalize themself and ignore working on their internet profile and presence are missing a huge percentage of clients.
There probably are many local businesses looking for help on their digital marketing strategies. You can reach their owners and provide them with a free consultation to show you know about the subject. You could help them with the local SEO, social media management, and Google Ads/Facebook Ads campaigns, among other strategies.
Resources: Make sure to check out Acadium, a tool connecting businesses looking for digital marketing work to be done, and students who are willing to learn and do that work. They provide great free digital marketing courses on different topics.
14) Development Services
Description: Having a website is a must for any kind of business, and most local ones tend not to have one. There’s a huge opportunity there.
Learning to code is super accessible for everyone. There are thousands of free development courses, books, articles, and videos, so “I don’t know how to code” is definitely no longer an excuse. And if you don’t want to learn, you can even build a website without coding. This site was built with Webflow, a powerful visual web design tool.
Resources: Google “free web development course” and you will get 3.2B results… I think that’s enough ;) You should also check this complete guide on web development freelancing.
15) Cleaning Services
Description: Publish an online ad offering cleaning services in your neighborhood. Do a great cleaning job and build trust with your clients. Ask your clients for a referral and you will soon be cleaning the houses of all your neighbors.
That’s actually what Kisten Hadeed did and the origins of Student Maid, a really successful cleaning company in Florida. You can charge per hour and keep initial investment really low by asking clients to supply you with the needed equipment.
Resources: This article from Entrepreneur.com teaches how to get started in this industry.
16) Pool Cleaning Services
Description: Cleaning pools is an alternative to the already mentioned cleaning neighbor’s houses business idea. It’s definitely not as easy, as it requires to be educated on what you’re doing. You might even need legal permissions to work on it, depending on where you are based. On the side, it requires some investment in equipment and products to be able to carry out the job.
Both the difficulty and investment issues come with a big chance of making great money. You can easily get paid $40-60/hour. Note that the business would mainly run during summer seasons.
Resources: This article provides detailed information on how to set up and grow a pool cleaning business.
17) Moving Service
Description: Both neighbors and students need moving services eventually, whether it's because the academic year has finished and the student is moving back to their homes, or because a neighbor has rented a new house. You can make money (at least $200/moving) if you find it easy to pack items and move boxes.
Resources: Here’s a long article on how to start a moving company, some tips for growing it, and the recommended price you might want to charge.
18) Transcription Services
Description: Transcription services are needed in all kinds of fields, such as law, medicine, and businesses. It also doesn’t require either fixed hours nor many skills. On the side, there are many forms of transcription, including video podcasts and recorded lectures, so you will probably be able to select the niche that interests you.
No formal training is needed in order to be able to do transcription services. Good listening abilities, great knowledge of English grammar rules, and fast typing skills would be a perfect combination to get high-quality work done fast.
Resources: Here’s a motivational story on how Benjamin Walker grew a transcription business to +$1M/year.
19) Translation Services
Description: Offering translation services isn’t as easy as offering transcription ones. You will need to be bilingual in both languages and know the grammar rules of the two of them. Businesses may not be really willing to offer advanced translation work to students, but they might be if it is basic and unimportant translations.
You could start by translating lectures, books, and articles for professors. There’s a ton of high-quality content in other languages - professors might want to share it with their students but they can’t as it isn’t in the student’s native language. That’s where you can help and charge per word translated.
Resources: Here’s a whole content site dedicated to the business of translation.
20) Photography Services
Description: If you love taking photographs, you can take your hobby and talent into a photography freelancing businesses. Both students and local businesses may need your services whether because they want to update their Tinder profiles or because they are looking to promote their recently-launched products.
In the beginning, you can start offering all kinds of services, but as you grow the business, you will probably realize there’s a ton of competition and you will need to niche and focus on one segment or one specific photography service in order to be different than the rest. The biggest issue for this kind of business is the cost of the photography equipment, which, if you’re moving from one place to another, can break and make it even more expensive.
Resources: Make sure to check this guide from Bplans on how to start a successful photography business.
21) Photography Portfolios
Description: Good photography skills need to be appreciated before they get lost in that Instagram page. Any campus will have a few fellows with exceptional skills in photography and videography. It would be easy to make a database of students who are interested in and create a platform to sell their work to others.
The platform could charge a fee to either the photographer or the customer. On the side, it could also work hand in hand with a photography club giving more chances and connections to both sellers and buyers by offering more exposure.
Resources: Here’s a no-code template to build such an app.
22) Food Delivery Services
Description: Create a platform to deliver quick eatables, like sandwiches and smoothies, made by local businesses. Start by targeting firms with employees in younger age groups, who often go out to grab a meal during lunch breaks. This is a gold mine, with food deliveries for simple items that don't break their wallet, the business would be exponential. With options to schedule deliveries made earlier to arrive at lunchtime, this could actually be a problem solver for the firms.
Take a step further and make these homemade too. This way, it is not necessary to rely on multiple third-party services. The food will be authentic, tasty, and have a personal touch to the service.
Resources: Steven Long was the founder of Chowdy, a Toronto-based food delivery startup making $110k/month which had to shut down due to some legal issues. Ali Jiwani is the founder of MealSurfers, a Canadian food startup that made an exit when it was making $7k/month. Make sure to check those two stories and learn from both the wins and mistakes of each.
23) Deliver Food Hampers
Description: How often have you thought about that mac and cheese your mom makes so deliciously. Or even wondered when you are finally going to eat something healthy?
Well, the lack of time or will to go to a grocery store and cook something is in the least probable category. And the parents are well aware of this too. So design an app where parents can make such orders for kids that would be delivered to them. This will have the personal touch and love of a package coming from home itself. You could monetize it by taking a shipping fee.
Resources: Entrepreneur.com has a complete article about food hamper businesses. You should check it out!
Description: Is there anything you really enjoy talking about? Are your friends tired of listening to you talk about it? Then start a blog about that topic, build an audience, and monetize it through ads and premium content. The startup costs of building a blog are super low nowadays (with a domain and hosting would be enough, so less than $50/year) and the information to grow such a site is free all over the internet.
When we started this site, we had 0 knowledge of how to grow it. Nowadays, it receives +90k users every month from all over the world. Note that it took us 3 years to build such an audience. Consistency is key when blogging.
Resources: GrowandConvert is a content marketing agency that has an amazing blogrelated to creating and publishing content on the internet. Backlinko is another blog that publishes content related articles, particularly about the search engine optimization of these.
25) Video Classes
Description: Visual media often makes things easier. That is precisely the reason why we are all so hooked up on Youtube, without having a clue why we are watching a cat playing piano at 3 am. The thought is simple, won’t lecture be so easy to understand with such visuals? With a creative mind and some graphic design skills, it could be put to use for this.
The idea is to make a visual representation of any lectures and offer them to tutors and students. It would make studying so much better and more straightforward. You could monetize it by pricing every video or through a monthly subscription.
Resources: Here’s a great guide on how to make videos look professional without investing much money.
26) Class Notes
Description: We all know those students who are pretty lazy to actually take notes or those others who tend to miss classes under any kind of excuses, right? Those students would be your niche market if you set up a class note business.
There are some people who are really great at taking lecture notes, being able to summarize the information in a nice-looking and concise way. If you are of that kind of person, you should consider re-selling your notes to other students. You could sell them independently per class or in packages of all the notes related to one exam or to one semester.
Resources: Make sure to check this well-known book, in which Sönke Ahrens shares his unique technique to take smart notes that are easy to study and learn from.
Description: Where there are students, there are tutors. If you stand out in one subject, you can probably teach it to someone else who struggles to understand it. A common trouble-maker subject is Maths, but note that there are many math tutors as well.
Schools and professors tend to be helpful with students starting their tutor businesses. Some schools even have a database of tutor students, so make sure to check if there is one in your school. The monetization model would be per hour; you can charge anything between $10-$100, depending on the subject, the concepts taught (how advanced they are), etc.
Resources: This article is super inspiring for anyone starting a tutoring business. The writer shares how he is making $1,000/week as well as lots of recommendations and mistakes you should avoid.
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28) Organize Trips
Description: It is a known fact that most of the group plans for a trip never happens. The WhatsApp groups have seen hundreds of failed plans. It is the time that someone takes responsibility and get things done.
Organize trips to various destinations which could be for events, festivals, or even just weekend trips. You can charge a commission or a fixed amount for an all-inclusive deal.
Resources: Here’s a detailed guide from Bplans on how to start a travel agency.
29) Event Organizer
Description: Lots of students enjoy parties and socializing, so why not capitalize on it? Everyone is willing to spend $10, $30, or even much more on a great party. These can take all forms and shapes, from organizing a small meetup at a night club to running Project X 2.
What will you need? Excellent communication skills to convince everyone they can’t miss such a party (social media are a MUST to promote it!) and advanced organization abilities, to make sure everything is in the right place at the right time.
Resources: Here’s a long article from Capterra explaining how to turn those small parties/events you have maybe carried out in the past, into a profitable business.
30) Campus Newsletter
Description: If your campus doesn't have a newsletter already, it is time to start one. The source of money from this could come from advertisements from local businesses or even other student’s startups.
The newsletter could be sent as emails rather than printed versions, or both. As a third party, a student can even make a deal with the college to create brand awareness among potential students using the letter. It could be used for promotional purposes, branding, and lead generations outside the campus too.
Resources: Here’s an article on 7 tips to create a school newsletter.
31) Campus Podcast
Description: Instead of a campus newsletter, you could do a podcast. It could be an interview podcast, talking with students and professors, or more like a solo podcast, talking about the news, events, and things going on in the campus.
The equipment needed is pretty cheap, with the possibility of recording even with your phone. As for monetization, it could be done through sponsorships from local businesses or premium content for those who love the podcast.
I haven’t personally seen this on many campuses, which makes me think this is one of the most innovative business ideas for students on the list.
Resources: Here’s an article on the 5 steps required to start a school podcast.
32) Language Course
Description: Do you excel in any language? Do you enjoy teaching other people? Then you should set up a Skype language course and sell classes to people from anywhere in the world while staying in your home. You could easily charge $20-$60/hour and work part-time on it.
Growing your client base is all about building an online presence and getting referrals from your existing customers. In the beginning, you could boost your initial customers by providing them with a free 1-hour call.
Resources: Here’s a long guide for beginners on how to make $30/hour teaching languages and 6 places to get your first clients.
Description: You don’t need to have a finance degree in order to be able to manage a local business’s bookkeeping records. An online course or even just some Youtube videos would be more than enough to start with. As all businesses require such work to be done, you probably won’t have big issues finding your first customers.
The initial investment costs are super low, as you can ask the business owner to supply you with the needed tools. As for monetization, most bookkeepers charge per hour and the amount depends on the complexity of the tasks ($30-$100 or more).
Resources: Here’s a detailed video on how to start a bookkeeping business in 2021.
34) Jewelry Business
Description: Jewelry making isn’t as hard as it sounds. You can easily learn about it through online courses and Youtube tutorials. You will then need to practice a lot until you start getting great results. Profit margins can be really high when you achieve a nice looking product.
There’s a ton of competition in the jewelry space so you will have to identify a niche. Social media (particularly influencers) are among the most usual strategies carried out by this kind of businesses.
Resources: Shopify has a detailed guide on how to start such businesses. Besides that, a few years ago we interviewed, on this site, the founder of a jewelry business that shut down and then emerged again with a new business model just to start making +10k/month.
35) Baking Business
Description: Selling cakes, cookies, bread or other baked goods can be a funny and profitable business idea. You can easily post an online ad or some leaflets around your campus. Make a client happy, and you will have 3 new ones. The food industry works a lot with word of mouth.
There are two main ways to monetize this. The first would be to prepare the goods based on requests from customers. The second could be to produce 100 cookies, rent a bike, and wander around the campus and neighborhood looking for hungry people. The chosen price for the cookies would be cheaper than if it’s a requested job.
Resources: Here’s a detailed article on how to set up and grow such a business. You should also give a watch to this video from the founder of a “late-night cookie delivery service” in his college city.
Description: Becoming a YouTuber looks like a easy and lucrative career. You make videos on a niche that you enjoy and then make money off them through ads and sponsorships. But the reality is that becoming a well-known YouTuber is not an easy feat.
Behind every famous one, there is a long painful journey of hard work. Start by creating content and keep iterating from there with the help of your audience. It won't be an overnight success, but if you keep going for some time you'll see amazing results.
Resources: Here’s an article about a checklist to become a successful youtuber.
How can a student start a business?
Or in other words, how do you become a student entrepreneur?
The list of business ideas for college students mentioned above is nonsense if you don’t now take action towards the chosen business.
If you are a Business student, you probably have an idea of what are the steps that involve setting up and launching a business. However, all kinds of students read this article, so here are some common steps that entrepreneurs carry out:
1) Decide on the idea
All of the college business ideas on the list are really interesting ways of making money, but you can’t definitely work on them all.
To decide which to focus on, make sure to think about what you enjoy doing in your free time, what you excel in, and what would you be willing to keep doing even if it doesn’t bring money (or it means negative numbers). We have compiled a list of both online business ideas and offline business ideas so you can pick the one that best suit your needs and skills. We hope we came with some innovative business ideas for students that you would have never imagined.
Make sure to also consider your initial investment. Some featured in the list are business ideas for students without investment or little resources, while some others will require a few hundred or thousands to start.
Note that some of the above are business ideas for students in university (or would work better with them) and others are business ideas for students in school (those that don’t require much money and getting physically involved).
2) Decide on a niche
Nowadays, there are businesses of all sizes and shapes. Building one has become so easy that the internet is full of websites, millions of videos are uploaded to Youtube every second, and thousand of LLCs are formed every day.
This means that there’s a lot of competition in any industry. The best solution for students who don’t have enough resources to invest in research and development and build a unique product, or don’t have the capital required to set up a huge factory and win over competitors through economies of scale (= low pricing), is to focus on a niche.
A common niche could be to geographically limit the business so that you just focus on people within your neighborhood or your college campus. Another could be to focus on people with certain interests and likes.
3) Choose a name and a brand style
Here’s a detailed article on how to choose a name for your startup. The key is to brainstorm many, evaluate each option, and ask for feedback from your partners.
As for branding, here’s another article on how to build the brand of a business. There are free tools to do it. Don’t spend much money/time on it, at least at the beginning.
4) Launch the business
It’s now time to push the LIVE button for your business.
This needs to happen as fast as possible so that you quickly validate whether it is worth it to keep pushing towards that business idea or it’s better to move to a new one from the above list of entrepreneurship ideas for students.
There’s a common issue entrepreneurs face when launching new startups that’s called “paralysis by analysis”. They keep improving the product, adding features, changing the design, etc, and spend months and months without launching it.
This is exactly what you need to avoid, especially if this is your first business. 90% of startups fail (I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this), so you need to launch fast, validate early, and move to another business if it didn’t work.
5) Market your business
You pushed the LIVE button and you didn't get any sales, right?
The “build it and they will come” phrase is a completely unreal myth. It will take you blood, sweat, and tears to get your first clients.
Do some advertising, go outside your home and deliver leaflets (there actually are some business ideas for students at home above, in the case you’re too lazy), knock your neighbor’s doors, send cold messages to potential customers that you found on Facebook groups, etc.
6) Make sure your customer is happy
Many of the college business ideas tend to market themselves by word of mouth and referrals. That why it’s essential to make sure that each of your clients is happy with the results.
Interact with your customers, ask them what do they think you could do better next time, provide them with a discount if any parts of the job were done incorrectly… there are so many ways to make your client happy, even if the price of the service is high or the quality of the work wasn’t the best.
If the business is going well, you will soon find yourself with many tasks under your belt and little time to work on them, along with the studies and extracurricular activities.
That’s when you might start considering hiring your first employee. In order to avoid the risks of going into negative numbers during a bad month, you can work on a commission-based wage.
In this stage, the selection of the new team members is essential. Remember that word of mouth can be a key way of promotion and marketing. If you hire someone who has zero knowledge on the tasks they are required, delivers low-quality work, or mistreats clients, you will soon find yourself ceasing operations.
Now it’s your turn!
There is no direct and simple answer to the question of how to start a business in college.
As smooth as the above startup ideas for students may sound, they will all inevitably require a lot of dedication and perseverance.
There is an abundance of resources at your fingertips. From the valuable classes, school technologies to accessibility to the expertise of professors, and above all, to probably some of the best networking opportunities of your life. So make use of them in the best way possible, and the idea still doesn’t seem feasible, lay the groundwork for it.
You would be getting practical knowledge and work experience before finishing the course. Even if it fails. Remember that college is the time to blossom and experiment and it is only the beginning of your life journey.
If you have any questions, have other small business ideas for students you think we’re missing, or want us to help you with your new startup, make sure to reach us to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Which business is best for students?
Here are some of the best businesses: flip websites, re-sell sneakers or tickets, baby or pet sitting, deliver writing, design or development services, start a blog, sell your class notes, become a tutor, organize others’ trips, organize parties, and create a campus newsletter or podcast.
What kind of business can a student start?
Students can start all kinds of businesses, but it’s really common that they start a service-based one, such as house cleaning, pool cleaning, food delivery, content writing, content transcription, graphic design, and website development, among others.
How can a student start a business?
First, decide your business idea and choose the segment of the market that you’ll be serving. Then, choose a business name and design your business’ brand. Once it is launched, market your business in your neighbourhood or campus. Finally, hire employees and scale it!