How To Start A Side Business In College

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College is expensive. From paying for tuition, housing, food, and books, you can look to spend a lot of money. So of course, many college students look to make extra money. Most look for part-time work or have to resort to odd jobs to make ends meet. The problem is, in college towns, part-time jobs are hard to find and odd jobs often don’t pay enough to make it worth t.

Starting your own side business is a great alternative to earn money. You’re able to make your own hours, be your own boss, and earn valuable money. An additional benefit is that you’ll gain important experience in the business world and can be an amazing part of your resume. Many future employers will be very impressed that you created a business while still in school.

Starting With A Good Idea

All successful businesses start with a good idea. This idea encompasses everything you business can become, and centers around your product or service. The best ideas involve: being innovative, fixing a problem other people struggle with, make a cheaper version of an expensive product, and finding a new niche. Before you jump right into business with the first idea that comes to mind, you must do some research and critical thinking.

The first question you have to ask is “Can I actually do this idea?” It’s easy to dream up grandiose ideas from your dorm room, but a dose of reality can save you time and undue stress. A good idea should be realistic, easy to scale, and within your abilities to accomplish.

To start out, plan small. That way, you can give yourself the chance to see if the idea could actually work. If you are thinking of making and selling a specific product, see if you can actually make it, and at a quality level people would buy it. Test out a few different ideas, this way before actually settling on one.

Some of the best business ideas come from your hobbies. If you already enjoy doing something, and you’re able to get paid for it, then you’ll feel less like you’re working and more like you are getting paid during your free time. You’re also more likely to succeed if you love your work.


Potential Ideas To Get You Started

To help you started, here are some ideas, depending on common needs college students have. Some students worry more about having low startup costs, while others are extremely busy and can only spend an hour a day working. You could adopt these ideas to your needs or just used them for inspiration.

If limited funds is your main barrier for starting a business, it is possible, even if you only have a thousand dollars to your name. Here are just a few inexpensive startup ideas.

  • Bicycle Repair
  • Dorm Cleaning
  • Writing and Editing Services
  • Personal Trainer
  • Jewellery Maker
  • Homemade gourmet foods
  • Tutoring
  • Car Washing

The other big challenge for college students is time, but if you have an hour a day, you can run a small business. Here are a few ideas that take minimal time, but can earn you maximum money.

  • Dog Walker
  • Restoring Furniture
  • Social Media Brand Promoter
  • Blogging
  • Buy and Sell Domain Names
  • Music Instructor
  • Teach DIY Courses
  • Vehicle Advertising
  • Making and Selling Crafts


Products vs Services

When deciding on your business, and coming with an idea, you have to choose between selling a product or service. This choice is one of the most important you can make, because there are many differences between these industries, with their own benefits and challenges.

Selling Products

Millions of entrepreneurs make their living by selling their products to the world. They do so by identifying a niche, filling a demand, and selling the product for a competitive price. If your idea involves selling a product, whether one you made or you are acting as a middle man connecting manufacturers with customers, it’s a great place to start in the world of business.

Products can be varied, depending on what you want to do. You could do anything, from selling delicious sandwiches out of your home, crafting bracelets to support a local cause, or taking barrels of honey from local beekeepers and reselling them in small, easy to handle bottles for customers. What’s most important is that there is a demand and you are able to supply it with the correct product.

Pros and Cons

Some major benefits of selling products is that it won’t be too difficult to manage your time. You’re already busy with schoolwork, and unlike being a service provider, you won’t need to manage multiple appointments everyday. You’ll just do your work when you have time. Also, product based businesses are easier to scale if your experience a high demand. All it will require is you producing more product, which means more of your time or hiring an employee.

On the other hand, running a product based business does have it’s own challenges, the biggest being more competition. Thanks to the internet, people are able to send products around the world. Depending on the type of product you sell, you might also have specific certifications to do business. For example, if you sell homemade food products, you’ll need to be approved by the FDA. You’ll also need a place to store your product, which may be difficult for a college student in a cramped dorm room. If you sell your product online, you’ll also have to manage shipping your products, which can take up a lot of time.


Selling Services

Providing a service can be difficult to start, but if you can stand apart as an expert provider of a specific service, you can easily find success. Service business operate on two separate principles: doing work that other people don’t want to do, and work others aren’t able to do. Make sure your service based business fits into one of those two principles. For example, a lawn mowing business might flourish in an area filled with elderly people who either don’t want to mow their lawn, or are unable to. That same business wouldn’t do well in an area filled with younger people who don’t want to spend money to have somebody do something they can do themselves.

Have you ever had a summer lawn mowing job or got paid to tutor other students? These are just two very basic service businesses students can run, but you can do a lot more, depending on your skills and personality. Are you obsessed with a clean apartment? You could start a cleaning service that focuses on deep cleaning apartments and dorms. Did your father teach you how to be a handyman around the house? Take that experience and help fix some things for the local neighborhoods. It’s all about taking skills you have, finding a need in the area that isn’t being filled properly, and taking care of it.

Pros and Cons

If you have a unique skill set other businesses in the area don’t have, you can charge very competitive rates. That means, in the long run, you can earn a lot of money. Since you are selling your skill set and time, you won’t have to worry about storing product, except what you use in your work. Also, if you provide excellent service, it’s very easy to get returning customers.

With a service industry business, you’ll be less flexibility with your time because you’ll be making appointments with clients and having to work around their schedule. Depending on what you do, you might also run into periods where your services aren’t needed. For example, a landscaping business might see a lot less business during the winter months.


Is There A Demand?

Next, you need to find out if there is a real demand for what you want to sell. That’s right, time to put your high school economics to work. The first major law of business is that of supply and demand. To be successful, you want to meet a demand with a supply of your products. If there is no demand, you have no business.

A big part of this is deciding whether to sell locally or to a larger market online. Selling locally means you’ll probably have less competition, but you’ll affect less people and there might be less of a demand. Selling online means more competition, but the possibility of more buyers and higher demand.

There are a few easy ways to identify demand. The first is to look at potential competitors and see what they are doing. Are they finding success? Does one stick out more than the others? Can you find a similar product in larger, more established companies? You can also interview people who would be in your target market. In depth information could guide you on how to run your business, how much to charge, and if you are on the right track. Also, use tools like Google Trends to look if people are looking for solution you provide.

You also need to try and predict when demand for your business will rise and fall. If you sell something that makes for a lovely gift, you might see a higher demand towards the holidays. If you work as a tutor, the demand for your services might be low at the beginning of the semester but extremely high at the end.


Building A Business Plan

It might seem like more homework, but having a proper business plan will push you to prepare your business for success. A successful business plan should lay out what you are selling, who your target market is, how you are going to attract them, who your competition is, how you will balance your finances and what you’ll sell your product/service for.

This business plan is extremely helpful in guiding how to run your business. Having a plan ahead of time will let you focus on growing your business instead of constantly trying to decide what to do next. It will also be a tool when deciding how to market your business and how to improve your business for the future.

If you ever turn to a bank for a small business loan or somebody wants to invest in your company, they’ll ask to see your business plan. It’s off of this plan that they will evaluate your idea, your business, and you as a business owner. A fully written plan should be about 10-15 pages long, have perfect grammar, and look pleasing from a design point of view. Less like an essay and more like a real book.

Registering Your Business

Once you have prepared to start a business, it’s time to make it official. First, you must decide if you will be doing business under your name or creating a business name. If you do choose to create a business name, make sure it properly reflects what you do or sell.

After that, you’ll need to check whether you’ll have to register with your local government. Registering a business differs state to state, so check with wherever you’ll be doing business. After that, look if you need any other type of certifications or licenses to do business. Again, check with local authorities to know what you need. If you hire any employees or have a partner, you’ll need to register with the IRS for a federal tax ID.

It might be a little overwhelming to try, but with our help and by looking at other resources on how to start a business, you can accomplish it. If you have questions, you can always leave a comment below and we’ll help you out. We want you to succeed, so feel free to reach out to us anytime.


About The Author

Ben Allen


Ben enjoys writing about video games and the impacts they are having on our culture. He also writes about business, leadership, motivation, and the future of education. You can follow him on Twitter @allen24ben

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