Short on Cash? Start a Business in College

While I was working on my B.A., I had five on campus jobs—sometimes all at once!—to offset the high cost of college. But while I was tutoring, filling all my work study hours in the library or the public affairs office and working as a resident assistant and a student driver, there were other college students savvy enough to start a business in college.

If you’re trying to find a way to make money in college to pay for your books, or your tuition, and you’re tired of holding down a bunch of part time positions (like I was!), you might want to look into self-starter options you can use to make money without interfering with your academic career.

Use your expertise online

I worked for the on campus Tutoring and Writing Center (which was actually a great gig), but if on-campus hours and in-person tutoring don’t work for you, there are online tutoring services where you can register to become a tutor remotely. There are a bunch of services out there, so be sure when you’re looking into these options that you only sign up for opportunities where the companies actually treat their tutors well and pay in a timely fashion!

Other options for sharing your expertise online:

  • It’s not quite the market niche that it used to be, but with crowdfunding options like Patreon, if you have something to say and can reach your audience, people will pay you to say it.
  • Grab a friend with whom you have great chemistry and figure out something you can talk about that people will want to listen to. Like blogging, finding a niche can be hard, and you will have to invest time and effort to turn a profit.
  • YouTube personality or Social Media influencer. If you have a following, brands will pay you to promote their products through your social media channels.
  • Social Media manager. If you’re better behind the scenes than in front of the audience and you’re a whiz with social media, you can offer your services to companies to manage their social media accounts. (And your parents told you all that time you spent on Facebook and Twitter was a waste!)
  • Stock photographer. If you take quality pictures, you may be able to sell them to one of the many stock photography websites online.

Business of selling stuff

There are some pretty clever recommendations on selling stuff—both online and in person—as a college student on various “make money in college” tip articles. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Have a lot of paperback books lying around (you know, the fantasy novels you thought you’d have time to read)? Your friends probably do, too. Collect used books in your dorm, especially the ones people are just giving away, and list them online through one of the online used booksellers.
  • If your college offers students first dibs on sporting event tickets, get them at the student rate and resell them at a slightly higher price to non-university friends and family.
  • Figure out if there’s a market for something in your dorm. If your dorm doesn’t have a convenient vending machine, where do your dormmates go at 11 p.m. to buy a can of soda? If you have a car and can keep soda and chips from the local big box in stock in your closet, charge dormmates $1 a can and you’ll turn a profit.
  • One college student’s junk is another’s treasure, and if you’re savvy with CraigsList or eBay, you can take that junk and list it.

In-person gigs

Odd jobs never go out of style, and there may be opportunities for you to babysit for a prof’s kids (or dog sit for your academic advisor when she’s out of town for a weekend) if you keep an eye out for them. Use your connections with student life and faculty to find opportunities to housesit, walk dogs, mow lawns, or plant a garden. You can start a business in college specializing in this type of odd job—and you might even be able to hire your friends if you get enough gigs. This type of work not only gives you a needed brain-break from your studies, it gives you a money-earning reason to be off campus.

How have you offset the cost of college? Tell us in the comments.

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