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16 Business Ideas for College Students

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

16 Business Ideas for College Students

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

If you’re a skilled writer, freelance writing can bring in $25 to $40 an hour or more. Many businesses hire freelance writers for one-time and ongoing projects, including website content, marketing copy, and white papers. Build up your portfolio with some online writing, then find potential clients and gigs on sites like Upwork.  

2. Proofreading

How to Start a Proofreading Business

If you have a great eye for detail and errors, proofreading could be an appealing option. People need proofreaders for books, business plans, and web content – the list is endless. Upwork is a great resource for jobs, and you should make $15 to $20 per hour right away. 

3. Virtual Assistant

How to start a virtual assistant business

Virtual assistants are in great demand for appointment scheduling, email management, travel booking and more. In fact, the virtual assistant industry is set to see stunning 22% annual growth through 2028. You’ll make $20 to $25 per hour, and you can do it all from your dorm room or apartment.

4. Search Engine Optimization

seo consulting business idea

Got SEO experience? Countless small businesses outsource their SEO, which is increasingly vital to business success. SEO work comes with a fantastic hourly rate of $50 to $150 per hour, depending on experience. The SEO industry is worth more than $80 billion and counting, so it’s a side hustle that could blossom into a full-time business.

5. Dropshipping

dropshipping business idea

Dropshipping is an affordable way to get into e-commerce, and you can sell just about any product. Dropshipping is when an online business places orders with its suppliers only after it receives orders from customers. That means no inventory to purchase! The goods are shipped directly from supplier to customer, cutting down on shipping costs as well. 

6. Pet Sitting

How to start a pet sitting business

Americans spend a small fortune on pets each year, some of which goes to pet sitters. As a pet sitter, you generally just have to go to the client’s home twice a day to feed the pet and spend some time with it. Some people even hire pet sitters to keep their pets company overnight. It’s a great way to earn some extra money in your spare time.

7. House Sitting

House Sitting

Sometimes when people go on vacation, they want to make sure their house is taken care of, so they hire a house sitter. The house sitter generally just spends time in the house, making sure it’s not robbed or damaged while watering a few plants. You can charge about $50 per day and still attend your classes. 

8. Social Media Marketing

social media management

If you’re a social media guru, a social media marketing company could bring in a good extra income. Often businesses outsource their social media marketing needs, so you could help all sorts of businesses build their social media presence. Social media marketers usually make a minimum of $50 per hour, sometimes much more depending on the extent of the work. 

9. Mobile DJ

How to start a mobile dj business

Mobile DJ services are becoming increasingly popular for all sorts of events as an alternative to bands. If you have experience as a DJ or even if you don’t, a mobile DJ business could be an opportunity for you to make money and have fun at the same time. You can make up to $1,000 per event!

10. Blog

blog business idea

You can put your writing skills to work by starting a blog, choosing any subject you like. Once your blog gets a following, you can make money from ads or affiliate marketing, which involves making deals with companies to receive a commission when someone makes a purchase after clicking a link on your blog. 

11. Vending Machines

How to start a vending machine business

We see them everywhere, but have you ever considered owning a vending machine business? All you have to do is maintain the machine, keep it stocked, and count your money. Typically, a vending machine in a good location can bring in $300 to $400 per month, so having a few machines adds a nice income stream.

12. House Painting

How to start a painting business

Exterior house painting is a great weekend business that can bring in thousands of dollars per job. All you need is a ladder, a vehicle, and some basic equipment. Exterior house painting requires little expertise – you could probably get the hang of it on YouTube. 

13. Software Development

Management Software

If you’re a tech major, you could get a jumpstart on your career by developing your own software and starting a company. The US software market has more than doubled in revenue in the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down, so you could get in on a booming industry and make some serious dough even before you graduate.

14. Tutoring

How to start a tutoring business

Students today face growing pressure to keep their grades up — and often need extra help to do so. If you have expertise in any subject area, you might be able to run a successful tutoring business. Your market is literally right in your lap! Tutoring can even be offered online via Zoom or Google Meet. 

15. Jewelry Making

jewelry business idea

If you’re crafty, you could make jewelry to sell online, or even around campus. You’ll be able to express your creativity, with appealing designs for bracelets, rings, necklaces and more. You could even create jewelry designs and find a manufacturer to produce them under your own brand name.

16. YouTuber

How to start a youtube business

If you’re a creative entertainer, why not follow the dream of many and become a YouTuber? It’s not easy to gain a following on YouTube, since so many people want to become YouTube stars. But if you’re innovative, you could build a popular channel and bring in good money from ad revenue.