For college students, money is hard to come by. Balancing time for work, academics, socialization, and personal hobbies is a challenge for most. It seems like a no-brainer that the ability to combine two or more of these activities could be a huge factor in living a more fulfilling and productive life — especially when you’re making money doing it!
Here at Coupons.com, we interviewed business-savvy students to ask how they worked to turn their personal interests into lucrative business ventures. The range of responses we received — from chopping wood in the wilderness of Montana to playing video games in the comfort of a dorm room — just goes to show that any skill or hobby can be made into money with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit.
Are you a student or parent looking for more ways to save? Check out our list of more than 90 stores that offer student discounts (Apple made the list!), plus our $5,000 Coupons.com Scholarship!
12 Business Ideas for College Students
Strategy #1: Be creative…literally
If you’ve got a knack for the fine arts, you’re probably already utilizing your talents to some degree. Maybe you draw caricatures of your friends at parties or write songs at night to unwind. Perhaps you sew all of your own clothes or paint Baroque-style portraits of pets (and if you do, please call us!).
Exercising your creativity is a unique and rewarding process, and it’s very likely there’s an audience out there who would be willing to shell out cash for your skill set. Here are some tips from students for mining your creative juices for a little side cash. Go, right-brains!
Makeup, clothes, and electronics. If your bank account is dropping dangerously low thanks to these items, check out our tips for saving money on makeup, how to save money on clothes, and ways to get the best deals on your electronics.
Get involved in events. “One thing I do is play the harp for parties and events. I usually get $100 for a cocktail party, so one weekend can get me much closer to my computer!”
Take on odd jobs. “I’ve discovered a clever way to make money is to sell my services. I currently run a photography business called ‘My Story, My Photography’ and I get booked for events such as TEDx Talks and prom photos. By having a photo-shoot here and there, I get some money on the side just in case of an emergency.
Another way is doing odd jobs. I also do graphic design, so I will often be asked to create designs for people. For example, I just designed a playbill program for my high-school’s drama department amongst designing the graphic for their poster and shirts.”
Network. “I have loved to bead since I was five. My skills have developed a lot since I was five, and have gone from fruit loop necklaces to woven bead cuffs. Regardless, I still love to bead as a pastime.
One of the ways I have been able to make money while in school has been to sell bracelets. It doesn’t feel like a job because it is something I genuinely enjoy doing. It has also given me a lot of good contacts in my local community by reaching out to local store owners to find venues to sell my finished jewelry.”
Work on commission. “A way I have discovered to make money whilst dealing with my crazy school schedule is to use my artistic talents. I work on-and-off (depending on how difficult school is at a given time) as a freelance commission artist. I advertise my art on my Instagram account (@binzminz) and will pretty much illustrate anything for anyone, but I especially enjoy portraits. I can earn anywhere from $20 to $200 with a commission.”
Strategy #2: Turn hobbies into money
On the topic of things you already do but don’t get paid for, [insert any hobby here]. Really! You might be surprised at what interests spin well into profitable businesses. These respondents turned what they love to do in their spare time into a way to earn an income, making for a truly win-win scenario.
Need a little help turning that spending into saving? Check out our guide on how to trick yourself into saving more than $700 each month!
Utilize your skills. “I love playing video games. There is a video game in particular that I am very skilled at and have played actively for roughly 10 years! By playing the game on new accounts, I can rank up really fast and then eventually sell it for real life money. This is a side job for me as I currently have an actual job.”
Start a class. “I’ve been learning hip-hop dance for about 7 years now and, this past semester, I decided to use the skills I had to teach the basics to other students looking to have some fun and get in a good workout.
There are several dance companies around Columbia that offer beginner classes, but they are at least a subway ride from campus and they cost upwards of $20 for each hour long class. I got permission from the building manager of my dorm to hold a class in the basement lounge every Thursday night from 9-10 p.m., charging students just $5 to take the class.
Unsuspectingly, the class was a big hit and I got 20 students to come on just the first day. That number has steadily risen since my first class three months ago, and I now get about 35 people to come each time, making on average $175 each class.”
Find sponsorship. “I have a YouTube channel and blog in which I explore areas that are of interest to me. Some topics that I cover include haute horlogerie (fine watchmaking), long distance running, and contemporary legal issues.
I’ve discovered ways to monetize these endeavors of self-expression through the use of advertising. The program Google Ads allows blogs, YouTube channels, and other Google branches to insert advertising in return for payment on a pay-per-view and a pay-per-click basis. Since my blogs have sufficient literary and social merit, I have been approved for Google Ads.
This is the upside to modern day targeted advertising. Advertisers pay higher rates now than they ever have due to the fact that their messages are now received in their full potency and few are wasted on audiences to which they don’t apply. Ironically, while I struggle to keep from handing my savings over to advertisers through unnecessary purchases, in this instance, advertisers actually increase my savings.”
Work smarter, not harder. “I discovered a niche market in my community — dog running. I run regardless to train for cross country, and after doing some research online and seeing that there’s no shortage of dog owners willing to pay 30 dollars to have a fit young man take their dog for an hour run, I never turned back. (In New York City, some businesses charge $35 for a half hour.)
So far, I’ve only been running dogs for my friends and family friends, but this summer I’d like to expand my customer base since I won’t have to go to practice for most of my runs. I make money at three times the rate of my friends who work for minimum wage and I get to play with dogs. Once again, when it comes to money, working smarter instead of harder is usually the way to go.”
Strategy #3: Identify needs to be filled
One way to break onto the entrepreneurial scene is to be on the lookout for opportunities. If you boil business down to a simple relationship between supply and demand, there are really only two parts to the problem: what do people need and how can you fill that need for them? Entrepreneurs are pros at putting in the work to solve this problem in unique ways. Case-in-point, this perceptive bunch of students:
Do things other people don’t have time to do. “I run garage sales for other people and take a percentage of the profit. It started with just family and friends but has expanded into a couple of weekends each month.”
Decide on a target audience. “At the Culinary Institute of Charleston where I attend, I developed a small business sharpening knives professionally for students and faculty. This provides some additional income and saves me money because, through the skills and tools I’ve gained for this business, I can sharpen my own knives for free.”
Fix what’s broken. “One way I’ve found to make money while in college is fixing people’s electronics. Many of us, if not all college students, have some form of electronic device that has broken at one point, so that’s why I am here.
A big thing that I have ran into is fixing iPhone screens. For some reason, those seem to break a lot and that’s where most of my money comes from.
I also make a lot of money cleaning people’s computers. What I mean by this is a lot of people have slow computers from malware so they bring it to me and I clean it for them so it will run faster.
Another clever way I’ve found to make money is Bitcoin mining. Basically, what this is, is a device that solves long algorithmic equations for people and companies. Once the device figures out the algorithmic equation you get paid a couple cents. But over time this money adds up and eventually you can cash out.”
Put in the work. “My parents have instilled in me an extremely strong work ethic. Because of that, there isn’t much I won’t do for work. This past summer, I ran my own crew and cut down trees, split the wood, and sold it to individuals that heat their homes with wood.
Being only 17 and handling a chainsaw in the wilderness of Montana is very labor intensive and isn’t for everyone. However, I enjoy being outside and was able to make money at the same time. I also work for area contractors doing jobs they don’t want to do. For example I have torn down old decks and hauled them away or cleaned out abandoned homes, etc.”
Starting a small business isn’t easy. It takes grit, gumption and plain old hard work to identify your objective and tackle it head on, but, if you can manage it, it’s also so very rewarding. Now roll up those sleeves and get ready to rake in some dough with your own business ideas!