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Pros And Cons Of 7 Top Online Business Ideas For College Students

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13 minute read

business ideas for college students

Today, we are evaluating several business ideas for college students; university freshmen, high school graduates, and other ecommerce newbies might get interested in these findings, too!

Table Of Contents

For a student, running a self-owned (and a physically existing) venture might seem to be quite a daunting task, given all the challenges of combining full-time studies with entrepreneurial efforts. This is why online business gets considered by this audience so often; still, even this type of moneymaking activity certainly has some limitations.

What are the criteria for picking the best online business ideas for college students?

Obviously, not every kind of online business is suitable for a student or high-schooler. Ideally, the perfect venture should be:

  • Affordable to launch
  • Flexible enough to be run at any time or from any location
  • Not related to crafting, manufacturing, buying, stocking, and shipping physical products

All of these limitations are obvious: it’s not entirely possible to combine your studies with solving the numerous product issues (especially the ones related to actual manufacturing), and it’s not always easy to cope with the timing pressure, to say nothing about getting through overly high startup costs.

So, what are the options of launching a student-friendly online business that requires no inventory?

Knowledge-specific online business ideas for college students

Detailed knowledge of a demanded subject and well-developed academic skills can serve you well if you use them wisely.

#1 Temporary freelance job

Thanks to the platforms like Fiverr, you can offer paid help to the people looking for assistance in the fields of programming, graphic design, video creation, copywriting and translation, and other matters that even include specific business and legal tasks.

Pros: Everyone can sign up on Fiverr and register their account for free, so your startup costs amount to zero.

You can choose the client queries that match your personal skills and interests, and also suit the equipment you currently have (if you don’t own a sophisticated PC, skip the video montaging and graphic design sections – a tablet or even a smartphone will be enough to do proofreading, or to leave paid reviews on social networks, or perform any similar tasks).

Most likely, you will be dealing with short-term project that don’t require much personal emotional engagement or thorough background research. It means that you can take an undemanding project any time you’re free from finals and essays, and complete it without making a long-term commitment.

Cons: Sadly, undemanding jobs are not paid generously. To make a considerable profit from this activity, you need to take lots and lots of small projects, and gradually build up your reputation to be trusted with more fundamental offers. Obviously, it might interfere with your studying schedule.

#2 Online tutoring

Your studies, as well as your hobbies, provide you with unique and valuable knowledge that you might as well share with others – and make money from it.

Pros: Since you already know this particular field pretty well, you don’t need to spend your time on learning it from scratch, which means that you can start working right away.

Plus, since you’re providing a distance learning service, you can set flexible working hours that are convenient for you personally.

What is more, you don’t necessarily have to buy any professional software: basic Skype lessons are a suitable option for the majority of learners.

Cons: If your area of special knowledge is quite narrow, it might be difficult to identify and reach your potential clients, and to promote yourself as an expert in this area. Moreover, even if you won’t develop a full-scale educational course, you will still need to spend some time to prepare for every lesson, and to check your clients’ homework.

Also, it’s crucial to estimate your own soft skills: if you don’t feel you can always be empathic and patient enough with your own students, you might experience a professional burnout really soon.

Entertainment-related business ideas for college students

Strictly speaking, this type of online business still requires you to produce some kind of a product – more specifically, content. But, in this case you’re making an intangible, virtual product, which means that you, at least, are free from the stocking and shipping issues – and you’re anyway making money without creating and keeping an inventory.

#3 Game streaming

Much like professional gamers, streamers make serious money from a seemingly non-serious activity: their income is mostly generated through the paid subscriptions or donations from the viewers who enjoy watching a charismatic or unusually skilled person playing a popular game.

Pros: Basically, you’re just making money from playing a game: instead of an office job or coal mining, you simply so what you like, relax, and get paid for this. You can register on a streaming platform like Twitch for free, and therefore, get a broadcasting channel for your engaging content with zero costs.

Cons: To begin with, online gaming and a higher education is, um, a very tricky mix to manage, so your priorities must be set straight.

Plus, you will have to make some startup investments: this activity requires at least a powerful laptop or PC, headphones and a microphone of a decent quality, and a stable Internet connection, so you must take care about these spendings in advance.

And, most importantly, you need to figure out what’s so distinctive or unusual about your channel, and differentiate yourself from thousands of similar players. If there is nothing special about your gaming technique or personal presentation, the whole venture simply won’t pay off.

#4 Video blogging

From ASMR artists to exotic cat owners, from popularizers of science to astronauts, video bloggers across the globe witness a growing interest towards the product they’re making – and benefit from it heavily.

Pros: For the videos distrubution, you can choose a free and insanely popular platform like YouTube; quite surprisingly, social networks like Facebook and Instagram are also used for this purpose widely and successfully.

Since YouTube belongs to Google, the videos placed on the platform are indexed and ranked by search engines. This way, you can drive free traffic to your videos through the appropriate SEO efforts, such as writing optimised titles and descriptions, integrating subtitles, etc.

Cons: It takes long hours to plan, film, and edit a video in a way that would be demanded by the viewers.  Also, the startup investments are quite high: you need a wide range of top quality filming equipment (camera, microphone, lighting devices, stands, etc.)

Obviously, much like game streamers, video bloggers can only succeed if their channels have some clearly distinctive features: a unique content relating to an untapped niche, or an exceptionally charismatic and likeable presenter.

#5 Blogging

For many people, a personal blog written in a smart and witty way has turned into a starting point for something much bigger: a column in a popular magazine, a self-published book, or even a self-owned business.

Pros: For the purpose of posting your texts, you can choose any free blogging platform, or even simply create a dedicated Facebook page to share your writings with the wider audience. At the first stages of your blog existence, you can also promote it for free through the relevant traffic channels and well-thought-out SEO strategies.

Don’t forget that writing itself is quite a flexible activity, which means that you can put aside a half-finished article when your studying schedule gets harsh, and return to it later.

Contrary to video blogging and game streaming, text blogging doesn’t necessarily require you to reveal your identity, which is great for your personal safety: unfortunately, the cases of haters stalking and threatening video bloggers are not that uncommon.

Cons: A captivating blog should be dedicated to the topics that are warmly welcomed by the readers’ audience. If you’re writing about the minor issues that are only interesting to a narrow circle of your friends, relatives, or hobby comrades, you have a low chance of succeeding in the blog monetization.

Ecommerce business ideas for college students

When it comes to a full-scale ecommerce business that doesn’t require the owner to manufacture goods or keep product stock, two options are considered most often: affiliate business and drop shipping business.

#6 Affiliate business

We have already covered both the most favorable and the least promising examples of running an affiliate business, so, now it’s time to go through their benefits and disadvantages once again.

Pros: Affiliate programs are free to join, which is why the startup costs in this case amount to zero.

Plus, since you’re not the business owner, you are free from all the managerial problems: all you need to do is comply with the program terms, and provide your PayPal details to receive the earned commissions.

Also, many program owners give the participants an access to the pre-developed promotional materials: if you don’t quite know how to market the program carefully, you can count on the professional guidance.

Finally, for many people, the affiliate business is a some sort of ‘introduction’ into ecommerce in general: after gaining the necessary experience, they move on to more ambitious ventures.

Cons: Since (again) you’re not the business owner, your affiliate income solely depends on the provider’s actions. If the program terms get changed with no prior notification, or if the provider doesn’t approve your promotional methods, you can easily get banned for the ‘non-compliance’.

Plus, in the majority of the affiliate programs, you don’t have an immediate access to money, and you need to wait up to 60 days to finally receive the commissions you’ve earned.

#7 Drop shipping business

History knows enough examples of drop shipping stores transforming into large ecommerce empires; but, before you finally graduate and get the opportunity to devote all your time to such huge projects, it’s a good idea to start with a smaller venture.

Pros: Drop shipping business works best when you’re passionate about the niche you’ve chosen; this way, you literally can make money from the things you love and cherish deeply.

With the carefully picked automated solutions, you can forget about handling the daily management routine manually. In fact, you can comfortably combine your full-time studies with running your very own store; even for a medical student this task turned out to be easily achievable.

Cons: You will have to learn a lot – from the specific features of the market and products you’ve chosen to the most suitable marketing tips. Still, there is good news: there exist enough guides, video manuals, and industry-specific libraries to help you gain the necessary knowledge conveniently.

What else to consider during your search for the best business ideas for college students?

Before you finally commit to a certain online business model, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the real purpose of launching the business? Do you simply want to get a supporting income, or you also wish to gain a future-oriented experience and develop your personal brand?
  • Is it legal for you, as a student, to run the business you’ve chosen? (Even though the listed business types don’t necessarily require you to register officially, it’s still a good idea to play it safe and discuss this matter with your university/college administrators).
  • What is the average amount of time that you can safely dedicate to your newborn business without compromising your studies?
  • What are the startup resources (skills, experience, money, gadgets, etc.) that you currently possess, and what can you easily acquire in addition?

The answers to these questions will help you get your priorities straight, and choose the online business model that totally suits your personality and possibilities. We wish you the best of luck with your venture, whatever direction you choose!

By Olga L.
Olga is a content creator at AliDropship, and she aims to explain the most complicated drop shipping concepts in the simplest terms possible.
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