Business ideas for College Students

Starting a small business is an excellent way for college students to earn extra money and learn valuable life and business experience. While setting up your own business can be difficult and time-consuming, as well as taking far more effort than it would get a job, being your boss at 20 can be a valuable and rewarding opportunity.

There are several different ways a college student can make money, some of which depend on a person’s knowledge, experience, and expertise. Some of these business ideas also require start-up funds to get off the ground.

It’s important to network, develop a customer base, and take every opportunity available to grow your own business. If study commitments or time constraints stop you from doing all the work offered, it’s possible to outsource to a fellow student while taking a cut of the fee – it is your own business and your customers, after all.

1. Buying and Selling Cars

In cities with large colleges, there is likely to be a decent supply of older cars. A college student would have that time and patience to find suitable vehicles sold below retail prices and snag them.

With the proper marketing behind you, you can resell those cars to people who need cars (for themselves or for their child who needs one for college) at a higher price. You only need to do this once per month to have an extra $1000 in your pocket, which is a decent amount for extra-curricular activities at school.

For example, you wake up very early every Saturday and scour the local newspaper. You might find a car listed for sale in the local paper for $1,000 of reasonable age and condition that you know under the right circumstances could be sold for double.

You contact the seller at 8 am, arrange to come down and see the car, cash in your pocket. You inspect it and determine it is still a great car in need of some TLC, and after some negotiating, a deal is done. Assume you bought the car for $900.

You need to give the car a good cleaning with soap and water, apply some tire cleaner and some wax to make it shine. Vacuum the inside for a few dollars at the local gas station.

Take some photos of it, post it for sale on eBay, Craigslist, and perhaps even post flyers around campus advertising this car for sale at only $2,200. Maybe it costs you $100 to clean the car and list it for sale in more places.

The $2,200 price gives you a $200 discount you can give the buyer to make them feel good and a solid $1,000 profit on the car’s sale. Rinse and repeat, as they say.

2. Freelancer

Freelancing opportunities are everywhere, but they can be quite competitive. Whether it is graphic design, web design, or content writing, freelancing can be done by anyone with some skill in the field.

It’s the right learning curve for anyone who wants to work in creative fields, but it can take a while to build up contacts and assignments that will earn good money. Once you do set up connections and regular customers, it’s possible to step back from your own business and outsource duties (which you then edit before sending off).

Almost anyone these days has a friend, parent, uncle, friend-of-the-family, or someone in their extended network that needs help with their web site. Start emailing friends and relatives, asking them if they or anyone they know needs help. Since you’re just starting, it doesn’t need to be expensive for them, and you should get a customer pretty easily.

3. Domestic Services

As college students commonly live in built-up areas, it’s safe to say they will be surrounded by people who don’t have the time or inclination to do any number of domestic duties in their home or business. It could be anything from cleaning services to dog walking to garden and grounds care.

Unlike some other business ideas, domestic services need little specialist training, just an ability for hard work, sourcing clients, and finding opportunities.

4. Internet Services

Garage sales, opportunity shops, collection piles, and second-hand dealers will often have bargains that can then be sold via the internet on sites like eBay. It takes some study and some trial and error to figure out the market and determine what is valuable and what doesn’t sell.

As a small business, second-hand reselling involves a lot of figures and data. It’s important to keep track of sales, profits and losses, listings, and postage fees. It also involves time spent on sourcing items. Because of these challenges, it’s an excellent learning tool for a college student wanting to learn more about running a business.

5. Tutor

Most college students will have the skills required for tutoring – it might be school-aged students looking for help with their studies, for instance. College students may also, if experienced enough, provide tutoring for other college students in their areas of study. It depends on the level of expertise the person has that is of potential value.

This opportunity can also have an online component, where you sell video courses online. So if you are confident enough in your math skills, for instance, you can create a series of math training classes (perhaps targeted to a particular course at college, “Acme College, Intro to Statistics 201″).

You can sell these video classes for $99, and enough people will buy them over time to generate a decent income for you. It has the added benefit of being a recurring income. When the next year comes, these same video classes will still apply, and year-after-year can continue to generate revenue. And one bonus.

6. Design

Creative types might also consider submitting designs to stock image sites. The concept is simple: people submit designs, images, and fonts to websites like, joining the stock image market.

The public can purchase them for use on websites, magazines, or promotional items for a fee. While a single sale of a design might not amount to much, a sizable portfolio can produce increasing returns for a designer.

It’s also a good business idea for a budding designer looking to gain experience. Hopefully, you were able to get some good ideas from that list. Let me know if there are more ideas you can think of, and I will add them to this list!

James Scott

Brought to you by James Scott who is a professional marketer and an enthusiastic blogger. He teaches digital marketing and blogging courses.