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16 Business Ideas for College Students and Recent Grads

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

16 Business Ideas for College Students and Recent Grads

As a college student, you’re no doubt tight on money but full of energy. You could work at the local campus bookstore or a restaurant, but maybe you’d rather start a business you can work on between classes and studying. 

You wouldn’t be alone, as many college students are starting side hustles, sometimes as a gateway to full-time entrepreneurship. Well, you’ve come to the right place, as this guide lists 16 great business ideas for college students that can put you on the road to serious success. 

1. Freelance Writing

How to start a freelance writing business

Skilled writers can earn $25 to $40 per hour or more, and businesses often hire freelancers for projects like website content, marketing copy, and white papers. College students can start by building a portfolio through online writing and then find clients and gigs on platforms like Upwork.

The flexibility of freelance writing makes it an ideal choice for students. They can choose projects that align with their interests and fit their schedule, ensuring they can balance their academic commitments. By engaging in freelance writing, college students can earn money, build their portfolio, and develop valuable skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

2. Proofreading

How to Start a Proofreading Business

With a wide range of materials requiring proofreading, such as books, business plans, and web content, the demand for proficient proofreaders is constant and diverse. Platforms like Upwork provide abundant job opportunities, allowing students to start earning right away, typically at rates of $15 to $20 per hour.

Building a strong online presence and continuously improving skills are crucial for success in the proofreading business. Creating a professional website or online portfolio, networking with potential clients, and staying updated with industry standards can help attract clients and establish a solid reputation.

3. Virtual Assistant

How to start a virtual assistant business

Becoming a virtual assistant is an excellent business idea for college students due to the high demand for tasks like appointment scheduling, email management, and travel booking. The virtual assistant industry is projected to see a stunning 22% annual growth through 2028, providing ample opportunities. College students can earn $20 to $25 per hour and enjoy the flexibility of working from their dorm room or apartment.

To start as a virtual assistant, college students can market their services online, create a professional website or portfolio, and network with professionals in various industries. The ability to work remotely and set their own schedule allows students to balance their academic commitments while earning income.

4. Search Engine Optimization

seo consulting business idea

Countless small businesses outsource their SEO needs, recognizing its vital role in their success. With hourly rates ranging from $50 to $150, depending on experience, and an industry worth over $80 billion, it’s a side hustle that can blossom into a full-time business.

To start, college students can leverage their skills by offering SEO services to small businesses. Building a strong online presence, networking with local businesses, and staying updated with the search engine algorithms are crucial steps.

5. Dropshipping

dropshipping business idea

With no need to purchase inventory upfront, students can sell a wide range of products. Dropshipping allows online businesses to place orders with suppliers only after receiving orders from customers, eliminating the need for inventory management and reducing financial risks.

The logistics and shipping process in dropshipping are simplified as the goods are shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. The most important aspects include: deciding a niche – what you want to sell, finding a reliable partner and setting up your online store. When it comes to marketing, the focus should be on SEO and promoting your products via social media.

6. Pet Sitting

How to start a pet sitting business

As a pet sitter, your responsibilities typically involve visiting the client’s home to feed and spend time with the pet, with some clients even requiring overnight stays. It’s a flexible way to earn extra money in your spare time while indulging in your love for animals.

To start a pet sitting business, college students can promote their services through various channels such as word-of-mouth, local advertisements, and online platforms dedicated to pet services. Building a reputation for reliability and excellent care is crucial for attracting clients and securing repeat business.

7. House Sitting

House Sitting

When homeowners go on vacation, they often hire house sitters to ensure the security and maintenance of their properties. House sitters typically stay in the house, preventing theft or damage and attending to tasks like watering plants. With an average daily rate of around $50, college students can earn income while managing their academic commitments.

To start a house sitting business, college students can rely on word-of-mouth referrals from friends, family, and neighbors to build their reputation. They can also create profiles on house sitting websites or join local community groups to connect with homeowners in need of their services. Demonstrating reliability, trustworthiness, and attentiveness to homeowner needs are key factors for success in this industry.

8. Social Media Marketing

social media management

Businesses often outsource their social media marketing needs, presenting an opportunity for students to help companies establish and grow their online presence. Social media marketers typically earn a minimum of $50 per hour, with potential for higher rates depending on the extent of the work.

To establish a social media marketing company, college students can create a strong online presence through a professional website or portfolio, showcasing their services, expertise, and testimonials from successful clients. Networking with local businesses and professionals, as well as staying updated with social media trends and best practices, are crucial for success in this industry.

9. Mobile DJ

How to start a mobile dj business

As an alternative to bands, mobile DJ services are increasingly popular for various events. Whether you have prior DJ experience or not, starting a mobile DJ business allows you to make money while enjoying yourself. With potential earnings of up to $1,000 per event, it presents an attractive income potential.

To get started, invest in essential DJ equipment and build a diverse music library. Promote your services through social media, local event directories, and word-of-mouth referrals. Networking with event planners and industry professionals can also lead to additional opportunities. Providing an exceptional and memorable experience for event attendees will help you build a solid reputation and secure repeat business. As your business grows, consider expanding your services or partnering with other event service providers to further enhance your offerings.

10. Blog

blog business idea

By leveraging your writing skills and choosing a subject you’re passionate about, you can attract a following and monetize your blog. Income can be generated through ads or affiliate marketing, where you earn commissions from companies when readers make purchases through your blog’s links.

To start, select a niche that interests you and resonates with your target audience. Consistently produce valuable content to engage and retain readers. You should learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, like Google and Bing. However, you should write for your audience, not search engines.

Promote your blog through social media and networking with other bloggers. As your blog gains traction, explore advertising options like Google AdSense or collaborate with brands for sponsored content.

11. Vending Machines

How to start a vending machine business

With minimal effort, maintaining and restocking the machines can bring in a monthly income of around $300 to $400 per machine. By strategically placing vending machines in high-traffic locations like college campuses, hospitals, airports, or office buildings, students can establish a reliable income stream.

To start, research suitable locations and acquire vending machines stocked with popular products. Building relationships with property owners or businesses for machine placement is crucial. Regular inventory checks and prompt restocking are necessary to ensure customer satisfaction and maximize profits. Providing excellent customer service and promptly addressing any issues or malfunctions contribute to the success of the business.

12. House Painting

How to start a painting business

Exterior house painting is a lucrative weekend business idea for college students. With the potential to earn thousands of dollars per job, it offers a profitable income stream. Basic equipment such as a ladder, a vehicle, and painting supplies are all that’s needed to get started. While expertise in painting is beneficial, there are ample online resources, including YouTube tutorials, that can help students learn the necessary techniques.

To attract clients, you can create a professional website or online portfolio to showcase their previous work and customer testimonials. Promoting services through social media platforms and local advertising (getting listed on Google Business and Yelp) will help reach homeowners in the area. Offering competitive pricing and exceptional customer service will set you apart from the competition.

13. Software Development

Management Software

The US software market has seen substantial revenue growth over the past decade, presenting a lucrative opportunity for students to enter a thriving industry and make significant earnings before graduation. You know the famous start up companies that began in college, like Facebook and Google, but there are many others.

To begin, you should identify a market need or problem (use our lean canvas generator) that can be addressed through innovative software solutions. By leveraging technical skills, you can develop software tailored to specific industries or customer demands. Starting a software company requires a solid business plan, securing necessary resources such as funding and talent, and building a strong brand and online presence. Actively networking within the industry, collaborating with businesses, and seeking mentorship can further improve growth prospects and open doors to new opportunities.

14. Tutoring

How to start a tutoring business

By leveraging the expertise in specific subjects or an area that you have experience with, you can offer valuable tutoring services to other students, kids or even professionals. The convenience of online platforms like Zoom or Google Meet allows for flexible and accessible tutoring sessions.

To start, you can create a professional online presence through websites or tutoring platforms. Effective marketing strategies such as social media promotion and word-of-mouth referrals can help attract clients and build a solid client base. Offering flexible scheduling and competitive pricing makes tutoring services appealing to students seeking academic assistance.

15. Jewelry Making

jewelry business idea

Whether selling online or locally, you have the opportunity to express your artistic vision through appealing designs of bracelets, rings, necklaces, and more.

To begin, focus on developing a collection of jewelry pieces that align with your artistic vision and cater to your target market’s preferences. Experiment with different materials, techniques, and styles to create designs that set your brand apart.

Selling your jewelry online can be done through e-commerce platforms, social media, or online marketplaces. Utilize captivating product photography, engaging product descriptions, and responsive customer service to create a positive shopping experience. Additionally, consider selling your jewelry locally through pop-up shops, craft fairs, or collaborations with local boutiques.

16. YouTuber

How to start a youtube business

While the competition is fierce, innovative content creators have the opportunity to build popular Youtube channels and earn significant income through ad revenue.

To succeed, you should find a unique niche or angle that sets their content apart, delivering high-quality videos consistently and engaging with their audience authentically. Utilizing creative storytelling and showcasing their own personality can help foster a strong connection with viewers. Building a strong online presence beyond YouTube and exploring alternative income streams like brand partnerships or merchandise sales can further enhance their success.


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16 Business Ideas for College Students and Recent Grads