How To Start A Small Business While In College

Ideas to get started making money by starting your own business while still in school.

College offers great opportunities for learning, meeting new people, and experiencing independence for the first time. There is a downside, however, as some college students find themselves financially strapped and unable to participate in many of the activities that are available. Money can be a real source of stress for the college student, and many are forced to do some kind of work while they in school. Most colleges and universities have jobs available for students on campus. Other students find part-time retail or fast food jobs. While these jobs put a little cash in their pockets, they serve little other purpose in a student's long term career plan.

There is another alternative, and that is starting up a business of one's own. The advantages of this are numerous. Besides providing a source of income, students who start their own business may have an edge when it comes to finding a permanent position once they have finished their education. In a tight job market where hundreds of college graduates are applying for every available job, being able to list self-employment on a resume can make the difference between getting a job and being passed over. If an employer has a choice between two recent graduates, certainly, the one with his or her own business on a resume will have an advantage. This indicates initiative, creativity, and other qualities that an employer is always looking for.

Before starting a business, check your university's policy regarding this activity. Generally, small businesses can exist on campus as long as the entrepreneur does not trample the rights of others. You shouldn't try to run a business that will necessitate infringing on your roommate's space. Additionally, you need to keep your priorities in order - school first, business second.



If you are considering starting a business, begin by doing an inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, interests, hobbies, and educational direction. Ask the question, "What do I really like to do?" and "What is it that I do best?" Second, consider your environment. What do people need? What resources are available? Talk to your classmates, and ask what services they would like to have available and go from there. You may be surprised to find that your business can be something as simple as helping someone organize his or her closet!

There are so many types of services that can be the foundation of a student business. Here are some ideas to consider.

Laundry Service

One of the biggest adjustments most students face is keeping their clothes clean. Many students arrive at college never having done laundry in their lives. This is an area that is ripe for a student business and one that can be very profitable and relatively simple to accomplish. Start out by putting up a sign in your dorm, advertising your service. Be sure to include a means by which your potential customers can contact you. Once you have generated an interest, meet with each client to discuss his or her needs, pricing and to set up a schedule. A good rule of thumb is to charge double the actual cost of doing a load. If you are able to get to a full-sized Laundromat, you can do several different clients' wash at a time. Plus, you can study while you are working!

Writing Services

If you are a good writer, your skills can be the foundation of a student business. One word of caution, though - DO NOT try to make money writing papers for people. All colleges and universities have strict regulations regarding plagiarism, and you and your customer may find yourselves in serious trouble. What you can do is work as a proofreader, editor, or typist. You might even consider writing resumes for people. You won't get rich doing this, but, by doing good quality work, you will develop a reputation and may have more work than you can handle. For proofreading and editing, charge by the page ($1.00 is a good starting point). For typing, charge an hourly fee, especially if you are working from handwritten copy. Customize your rates to your customers.

Handmade Items

If you enjoy knitting or crocheting, use this skill to make money. Hats, scarves, shawls, and ponchos are hot fashion items, and can be worked up quickly. Make up a few samples and wear them! Bring your work to local craft fairs and fundraisers. Wear your creations as a walking advertisement. Choose a pattern that is quick and easy, and put up posters. Students who have put off holiday shopping can be your biggest customers. Shop for yarn at discount stores and select basic colors. You can also advertise custom work for people who want specific colors or yarns. For pricing custom work, a good rule of thumb is to double the price of materials. Avoid time-consuming projects such as intricate sweaters, as you will not be able to recoup the time spent financially.

Online Auctions

Set up a consignment business, selling students' items online. All you need is a digital camera, computer, and access to a post office. Charge a commission (15 to 20 percent is standard) and go for volume. Your customers can bring their items to you or vice versa. Additionally, make money for yourself by constantly being on the lookout for discarded textbooks and other items. The end of each semester can be a windfall, as students leave school and find themselves short on space in their cars. People tend to throw things away in a panic, and you can be the beneficiary! This endeavor can be very lucrative. For incentive, consider that, in 2002, a student at the University of Maryland made $500,000 selling used textbooks on eBay.

Service Businesses

There are any number of types of services that can be the foundation of a business. Babysitting, pet-walking, landscaping, housekeeping, tutoring, snow removal, and house-sitting, are just some of the many ideas to consider. To get started, talk to people who already know you and who would feel comfortable trusting you in their home. You can expand from there. Be sure to consider local ordinances, though, and, if you are high profile enough, you may need to actually register your business.

Once you have determined what type of business you want to start, you need to be able to promote yourself. Get some business cards - they don't have to be expensive and there are plenty of "free business card" offers on the web. All you have to pay is shipping costs and you will have a card to distribute offering your services. Talk to people and take advantage of every opportunity to promote yourself and your business. Be persistent and remember that you are taking an important first step in the business world. Who knows, the business you start in college might be the foundation for the rest of your career. After all, that is how Apple Computers got started!

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