Top small business ideas for students

Here, we look at just a few of the ways a student can make extra income by setting up a business while studying.

As a student, the thought of running your own business may appear like a distraction from ‘the point’ of going to school or university – that is, achieving an employable qualification. But why wait until graduation? As a student, there are a lot of excellent ways to create your own profitable side gig. Many have come before you and achieved great success by combining their interests, know-how and a desire to work for themselves, making it more encouraging than ever to join the fray and set up your own business. These are just a few of the ways a student can make extra income, by setting up a business while studying.

Blogging and online content

Some may think blogging is dead, but it’s just not true: success stories continue to appear, and this is an excellent way to channel any interests and expertise you might have from your studies. Ashley Qualls is a great example, who started her website at the tender age of 14. She now makes over $70,000 a month, and the business does not take a lot to maintain, other than useful content. If you fancy yourself knowledgeable on any subject, this is a low-overhead example of a perfect business for students.

Read more about some of the most successful student bloggers and be inspired. Many draw from their degree subject, write relatable content and have therefore gained a solid following. And, if you don’t want to run your own blog, you can always offer your services to others – every website and blog needs content, after all, and plenty of people don’t have the time or skill to create this content themselves. By offering this service, you have a business that ultimately requires a lot of self-discipline and an engaging writing style, but is relatively simple, quick and cheap to get started.

Running an online store

If you have any crafty skills, it’s time to put them to use. Sites like Etsy exist as a fantastic platform for setting up an online store. This makes it easy to follow the steps and start your own shop, and perhaps you might find yourself as successful as 19 year old Leilei Secor. She’s been reported on many times as the teen who paid for university using her profits, making jewellery and selling it online at

If you’d rather create your own platform to sell your wares, this will involve more initial work, but can be very profitable (and you won’t lose a cut of the profits to the platform provider). Take Ollie Forsyth as an example, a British teen who started Ollie’s Shop and UniBell to help students buy and sell university-related goods. It just goes to show that an online store can be started with close to nothing, and still achieve great success.

Running a tutoring or homework help service

As a student, you will possess insight into certain subjects that most people won’t have – or, at least, much more than high school or primary school students will have. You can advertise using online services to help get you started, before registering a domain or a business name and setting up something more official.

For the truly entrepreneurial, you might even rope in friends with the skills you don’t have, and take a cut for each referred student. This is a great business for students because it is flexible, and there are always people out there who need help, whether it’s with their math homework or writing an essay, studying a language or succeeding at tests. Use your experience to your benefit and establish your own tutoring practice.

Create a gardening, cleaning or handyman service

If you’ve got any practical know-how behind you, offering your services to those who either don’t or don’t have the time is perfect in today’s busy world. After all, one of the great benefits of being a student is that time is more flexible – you can offer to complete handyman or gardening tasks at times that might be more amenable to full time workers.

It’s as simple as setting up your own website, advertising locally, and either getting ready to do some hard (physical) work, or getting together a few friends to help. In this way, any home or garden tasks are doable – for a fee.

Organise events

Whether it’s student trips to new parts of towns, other cities, organising swap meets or a party-planning service, there is a lot of scope for creativity surrounding events planning. Platforms like MeetUp can be a great way to start this, offering people certain kinds of trips for a fee. It’s an easy way to get some online traction before branching out into your own business.

It certainly helps if you can prove that you are particularly clued in to social media or other marketing promotion techniques, but ultimately the quality you most need for a business like this one is organisation. Let’s face it: most people don’t want to worry about the details. That’s where you can come in and offer the service to them, organising all the ins and outs of an event on their behalf. If you are particularly savvy with social media in particular, event promotion may be a subset of this idea that can also work as a great standalone business service.

Starting your own business can be tough, but it does mean that you are limited only by your own creativity and determination. These sorts of skills (and the tenacious qualities you have to possess to be successful as your own boss!) will serve you will, and can be great thing to add to a CV. Read even more success stories, such as those of Chris Rea and Charleh Dickinson, here.

Of course, if setting up a business seems like going too far, there are still many ways to make money on the side of your studies, without getting too involved in the admin or technicalities of a business set up. Regardless of whether your business succeeds, it will be an invaluable experience that may lead you to all kinds of pursuits in the future.

Further reading on business ideas

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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