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17 Small Business Ideas for College Students

March 14, 2023

cartoon of a giant light bulb over studying students

You've enrolled in post-secondary education.

Brava and congratulations.

College students know very well that education comes with a price tag.

Rising tuition fees-textbooks-living expenses-the list of costs associated with college is never-ending.

Add to the mix the realization that you are going to be saddled with ludicrous student loans and your cortisol levels may go into overdrive.

Only the promise of landing your dream job that pays six figures a year keeps your financial fears at bay.

But what if there was a way for you to minimize your financial strain now?

What if you could utilize a business concept and earn money while you study?

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates pulled it off so why not you?

We have compiled a list of small business ideas for college students that not only allow you to continue with your studies but offer financial security while you complete your degree.

Business ideas sure to procure monetary compensation and minimize financial pressures.

Before we get going let me give you the low down on my story.


Hey, I'm Ippei!

Hi, my name is Ippei.

After college, I landed a corporate gig and thought I was all set.

It didn't take me long to tire of the 9-5 grind, ridiculous commute, and the realization that I was making money for everybody but myself.

I found this course in 2014.

Quit my job and am now a self-made entrepreneur with a sweet pad in San Francisco.

This business model gave me the tools I needed to work from home. 

Designing and ranking websites on Google that generate leads for small business owners.

That tree service site above has been making me $2000 per month for the last six years.

IMO this biz model is one of the best opportunities on the internet, and I'm going to show you why.

Social Media Guru

cartoon of social media icons

Millennial's own social media.

How to leverage multiple platforms is your wheelhouse.

The potential cash you can make from social media-especially if you have an extensive audience-is enormous.

Wrap your head around this:

The social media market is worth $52.7 billion and will see a 16.8% growth in 2021.

8 out of 10 Americans use at least one social media platform.

And 77% of small businesses utilize them to promote their brand.

If you influence any social media platform, you have something small business owners want.

An audience.

Companies are willing to cough up serious coin to access that audience.

Some of the hot trends being promoted on social media in 2021 are:




Fitness Brands




Pet Supplies & Accessories

This article lists successful brands and a more detailed description of how and why they are profitable.

By promoting a businesses products or events, you are essentially doing what you do every day.

Posting on social media.

The only difference now is that you have a marketing strategy and an expectation to get eyes on goods and services you are promoting.

If this small business idea for college students interests you and fits your personality and lifestyle, you stand to earn a hefty compensation for your efforts.

Check out this article on how to leverage and make money with social media like Instagram and YouTube.

Virtual Products

cartoon of a man with a megaphone and digital products coming out

Virtual products don't require storage space.

Because they are entirely online, they are non-tangible entities that you can sell individually, as a bundle or subscription model.

Think things like memberships, digital downloads, services, etc.

Virtual product is a broad-brushed phrase for anything and everything digital.

Determine what you want to sell and set it up so that your system runs by itself-creating a passive income stream.

With so many alternatives, consider top trending virtual and digital products for 2021 like:

  • VR/AR & Educational Products 
  • Mobile Shopping Apps

  • Entertainment & Social apps

  • Mobile Gaming & Virtual Parties

  • Online Fitness subscriptions & Live Streaming Subscriptions

Figure out where your strengths lie and how much time you're willing to invest without compromising your studies.

If you're a writer-think e-books, courses, manuals, etc.

Fitness geek-consider online subscriptions, live streaming, etc.

Master coder-get in on the app development scene.

This article offers some great tips  and sellable strategies to help you create a virtual business and start making money.

Website Development & Design

cartoon of a man with a magnifying glass checking web sites

Full-stack-white hat-design-development.

Websites are the digital storefront for business owners.

An opportunity to not only build their brand but establish a client base and promote sales.

The website design services industry is worth $40 billion in the USA and growing at an annual rate of 4.4% in 2021.

There are two ways you could profit from this concept.

Both are dependent on your skill set.

Web design is the 'artsy' bit of building an online presence.

Think content-graphic design-user friendly sites that are functional and look pretty.

Web development is a little more complicated.

We're talking about the back end of sites in addition to the good-looking pages.

Coding skills, an understanding of SEO and the tricks of the trade required to leverage Google and rank sites at the top of the search engines.

If you can master that you are looking at an extremely profitable business venture.

No matter what angle you choose, there is money in website design and development.

The key is niche specialization.

Offer something the competition doesn't.

Niche Specialization Ideas
  • Social Media Integration & Marketing Services 

  • Website Management & Hosting

  • Graphic Design &SEO/SEM 

  • SaaS Hosting Options & Blogging Strategies

This post offers some highlights on how to generate clients and establish yourself in web design and development.

Sports Coach

cartoon of football paraphernalia

Do not underestimate the value of youth sports.

This $19.2 billion market challenges the worth of the NFL.

Parents are committed to enrolling their kids in sports to teach them skills, teamwork, and increase physical activity.

There is nothing quite like a college sports coach.

A role model-inspiration-and a ball of positive energy that can make a difference in the lives of youngsters.

Coaching sports is one of the best small business ideas for college students that are athletically inclined and enjoy giving back to their community.

College athletes are a stone's throw away from being a professional, and parents can appreciate the talent, time, and effort of a great coach.

You can charge by the child-hour-or session to secure substantial pay-outs with little time taken from your studies.

Parents are looking for a coach that has a few distinct qualities, including:

  • Pleasant personality & Effective communicator
  • Patient & Empathetic

  • Ability to develop team-building skills

  • Stellar athlete & Well versed in the sport

  • Organized & Dedicated

Or you could ref sports as per this post.

Provide 1:1 instruction, online/virtual training options, or a combination of any of the above to fully capitalize on this advantageous business idea.


image of hands typing at a computer

You busted your ass.

And you're obviously scholastically inclined if you're making it as a college student.

It may be a tad cliche, but there is some real money to be made in the tutoring industry for college students.

Who better to teach then people that know what it takes to get there?

Valued at over $97 million globally, the tutoring market is predicted to be worth an estimated $177,621 million by 2026 as per this publication.

Again-the key is niche-specific.

Whether you opt to focus on SAT prep, core elementary subjects, or secondary education options, there is money-and competition-with this small business idea for college students.

Determine your ideal target market-get your name out there and build your brand and client base as per this article.

cartoon of a woman teaching students from a computer

Adding to the mix is a new player on the scene.

Online tutoring was already gaining momentum, but with the whole COVID-19 situation, the demand for online tutors has vaulted to astronomical levels.

Currently worth $6333.3 million and growing at a CAGR of 6.2% in 2021, virtual classrooms have become the new normal.

There are benefits to both options such as:

Benefits of Face-to-Face Tutoring

  • Higher rate of pay.

  • More personal-easier to read body language, assess comprehension, etc.

  • Compliments the school learning environment.

Benefits of Online Tutoring

  • Greater flexibility.
  • No travel time.

This article provides additional information for face to face tutoring.

And this post gives the low down on online tutoring.

Choose which option best fits your needs and works around your study schedule.


image of drop shipping on computer keys

Dropshipping is one of the best ways to make money online without the need to hoard inventory, worry about shipping, or the day-to-day logistics of an actual business.

Dropshipping is a fulfillment based method of putting products in the hands of consumers.

You build and rank a website-hook up with reliable and quality wholesale distributors, and sell other people's merchandise.

When the product is sold, the company manufacturing the item is notified and ships it directly to the consumer.

Simple and extremely lucrative, this post is a case study showing how I made some serious money with dropshipping from just one product.

But we all know that anything that makes money requires effort-at least upfront.

You need to build and leverage your website so people interested in purchasing the products you sell can find you.

Check out this article I posted recently, breaking down step-by-step how to be successful with dropshipping.

The challenges with generating consistent profits through dropshipping include:

Dropshipping Challenges
  • Customer service issues & Website ranking 

  • Unreliable wholesale suppliers & distributors

  • Poor networking skills & marketing strategies

  • Potential third party scammers

Facilitated correctly, dropshipping stands to land you hefty profit margins.

But do your homework.

Familiarize yourself with Google Trends and determine what products are hot ticket items.

What is the consumer looking for right now?

Who is your ideal target market and what is their pain point?

How can you solve their problem?

This post gives some insight into how to choose the right products for your dropshipping business.

Put systems in place in the early stages, and you will have a lucrative small business idea for college students that will keep paying long after you earn your diploma.

It's no secret that I made a ton of money with dropshipping.

Get your process ironed out there's no limit to your profitability.

But for me-I got annoyed relying on distributors that weren't always consistent.

The run-around and customer service issues began to tax my patience.

These facts made me doubly glad that I had discovered this program online back in 2014.

I had never seen anything so comprehensive.

Training so straightforward and easy to follow.

Six simple steps and a bit of hustle and you're on your way to financial freedom.

Lead gen model

Lead generation has consistently achieved earnings for me far exceeding my profits with dropshipping.

Offering an opportunity to go into over 400 niches anywhere in the world and create websites that I ranked leveraging Google.

With the strategies outlined in this program I catapulted my annual gross profit margins to heights I had never been able to achieve with dropshipping.

This article I wrote offers a more extensive explanation of the difference between lead generation and dropshipping and why I am now all in with the lead gen business model.


photography photo

Do you have an eye for lighting?

Can you capture candid shots?

You may have a talent for photography.

Sure-anyone can go out and buy the newest camera.

Tote around a giant lens.

But not all photographers are cut from the same cloth.

A decidedly competitive market, the photography industry is worth an estimated $11 billion.

The demand for freelance photographers is driven by higher per capita disposable income and corporate advertisement spending, and there's room for some fresh talent.

Decide what you like to photograph and make that your specialty.

Top contenders in the photography niche for 2021 include:

Head Shots & Family Portraits

Social Media Photography & Dramatic Colors

Events & Functions

This post offers different style trends for 2021 that may be of interest to you.

If you would prefer to have more flexibility, consider selling your photos to stock imagery sites like Envato, Adobe Stock, or Shutterstock.

You could also opt for weekend and evening online tutorials, workshops, lessons, etc. to maximize profitability or as an alternative to this small business idea for college students.

This publication offers some suggestions on how to start a freelance photography business you may find helpful.

Proofreading & Editing 

cartoon of a person with a magnifying glass examining text copy

The environment is ideal.

If you have a keen eye for grammatical errors and an ability to improve the overall quality of written documentation, you have a skill other students may be lacking.

Think about how many students struggle with proofreading and editing their work.

The proofreading and editing market is projected to see an annual growth rate of 6.1% in 2021-much higher for individuals in the throes of campus life.

Hourly rates are sitting at $45+ or by-word options equaling .75-$1.00/word as per this post.

You wouldn't need to take much time away from your studies to generate a steady income with this business idea for students.

You don't even need to go to the trouble of creating a website-unless you want to of course.

Potential clients can be found in places like:


Craigslist & Facebook


LinkedIn & Campus Newspaper


Student Affairs & Professors

College campuses are full of desperate and determined souls who need a hand landing the best grade possible. 

This post provides some excellent strategies for starting and generating substantial profits with a proofreading and editing service.


image of a man and woman in conversation

When you hear the word consultant, most automatically assume that you are referring to business.

But you know what happens when you assume.

Consultants can be found in multiple industries as this $70+ billion market boasts numerous facets and opportunities.

Don't sell yourself short 'just because you're a college student.'

If you possess strength in a particular field and can help people achieve their goals, you have the foundation necessary to act as a consultant.

Consider things like:

  • Social Media
  • College Entrance Prep
  • Technology Consultant
  • Green & Eco-Friendly Consultant
  • Software Consultant

Focus on your strengths.

What you excel in and have a proven level of expertise.

Determine your niche.

Connect with your ideal target market through social media platforms, a website, and current client reviews.

Like any industry-a few bad apples have left a sour taste in the mouths of people burned by consultants historically.

image of people around  giant computer screen

Transparency, fair pricing, and an ability to prove you're worth your salt will go a long way with this business idea for college students.

If you know your stuff, there are a plethora of opportunities to make a substantial profit with consulting.

Check out this post on how to start a consulting firm for more information and practical suggestions.

Product-Based Business

cartoon of two men shaking hands on a computer screen

The beauty of the digital world is that you can connect, market, and sell virtually anything online.

Gone are the days of hitting every mom2mom sale, farmers market, or vendor event to peddle your wares.

Now you can sell your products e-commerce style, launch a resellers business, or consider affiliate marketing.

You and your friends can create and mass produce merchandise or hook up with wholesale distributors or affiliate partners like example-who specialize in PPE equipment.

Determine your target market and what they are looking to buy.

You have a massive conglomerate of potential buyers at your fingertips.

Figure out what your fellow students will pay for and supply it hassle-free.

A few of the top trending ideas for college students in 2021 as per this post are:


Swag & Promotional Products


Hand Sanitizer & Customized Masks


Tech Products

You can incorporate pop-up shops into the mix for even greater outreach.

Decide your selling style.

Determine your product and do the work at the front end to establish a well-oiled wheel that will generate impressive ROIs.

This post offers examples of varying styles and additional information on how to sell products for profit.

Cleaning Service

cartoon of various cleaning supplies

The average college student has never really been away from home.

No more home-cooked meals, laundry benefits, or cleaning service.

The free ride's over.

Not only do college kids have to juggle the stress of multiple classes, heavy course loads, homework, and new social situations.

Now they're expected to scrub their own toilets too.

Their misery can become your cash-cow.

The cleaning industry is one of the most lucrative small business ideas for college students available.

Sweeping in revenues in the USA of $5,725 million, you may want to seriously consider a suggestion that only requires a mop, pail, and a bit of muscle.

Startup costs are next to nothing-especially if you request that customers supply all cleaning products for their dorm room or rental pad.

Get the word out about your service on places like:

Social Media

Campus Correspondence

Business Website


You will need a vendor's license and DBA (Doing Business As) registration at a minimum, which you can learn more about here.

But if you can build a client base, you can outsource cleaning gigs to other students looking to make some cash and skim a percentage of their earnings as a finders fee.

This article gives the low-down on how to start a cleaning service.

Delivery Service

cartoon of men with different packages for delivery

Campus life boasts all of the amenities students want and need to be comfortable.

However, some campuses stretch for miles.

Heading out to pick up supplies, food, or that six-pack can quickly become a pain in the ass.

Consider offering an on-campus delivery service for students that are either too busy or too lazy to pick up the stuff they want.

Revenues in the courier and local delivery service market reached $113.5 billion in the USA in 2021.

Sure there are the usual suspects like GrubHub and UberEats.

But think outside the box.

You could offer delivery services for things like:

Books & Supplies 

Booze Runs

Grocery & Pharmacy Delivery

You could even offer to deliver items from one student dorm to others across campus, saving students time and aggro.

All you need is a bike or vehicle, a way to carry items, and a customer base.

Post your services on campus social media platforms, put up flyers in dorms and other high-traffic areas, online, etc. to generate a buzz and build your business.

This post offers suggestions on how to start a delivery service.

If you offer fair pricing and delivery services for articles not serviced on campus, it won't take long to generate substantial profits with this small business idea for college students.

Check out this article for inspiration to get the entrepreneurial juices flowing.

Moving Service

cartoon of people moving

The trend to live in a dorm first year is an opportunity for college students to meet new people, maintain some of the security and comforts of home, and connect with fraternities and sororities.

By second year most students are ready to leap to a more independent lifestyle and secure off-campus accommodation.

The issue is moving their stuff.

Sure some parents will help or hire professional movers.

But what if you and a couple of your friends were to offer an on-campus moving crew?

The moving industry is worth an estimated $18 billion in the United States and has seen a consistent CAGR of 3% since-like forever.

This small business idea for college students wouldn't take a lot of money to get going.

All you really need is a truck and some muscle.

Even if you opted to rent a truck or U-Haul for days that students are looking to move, you could add that into your cost breakdown and still generate profits.

Promote your services and focus on the benefits of hiring movers as outlined in this article which includes:

  • Time-Saver

  • Eliminates The Risk Of Potential Injury

  • Ensures Your Belongings Are Delivered In-Tact

  • Less Labor & Irritation For Students & Extended Family Members

Depending on the number of moves you and your crew can facilitate in a day will determine your profit margins.

Check out this publication for additional suggestions on how to start a moving company.

Online Rental Platform

vector of people shopping online

This small business idea for college students is geared to those tech-savvy individuals with some coding and programming skills.

Consider creating an online rental platform where students can post items for rent.

You take a cut of their profits as a service fee or charge a flat rate to post on your site.

Check out this post on how to build a rental marketplace to generate some serious coin.

Students may not want to sell used textbooks and sports equipment, but they may be inclined to rent gear they're not currently using to make a little extra cash.

Students can post anything and everything, but some of the rental categories might include things like:

  • Sports Equipment & Electronics 

  • Textbooks & Cliff Notes

  • Clothing & Accessories 

Here is an example of a Canadian rental platform to give you an idea of how you could set up your online system to procure serious dosh and help your fellow students make and save money.


vector of hands transcribing on a computer

Students with fast fingers, meticulous attention to detail and superior written communication skills may want to think about starting a transcription business.

Added bonus if you're bilingual.

The transcription industry is worth $19.8 billion in the United States and projected to see annual growth rates of 6.1% between now and 2027.

Technological advancement continues to accelerate by leaps and bounds, but most individuals and businesses prefer the human touch when it comes to the accuracy required to transcribe.

You need to be detail-oriented and able to work under tight deadlines.

But if you have the talent and the time, you could create a website in addition to leveraging social media platforms to sell your services.

Some suggestions for your ideal client include:


Foreign-exchange students

Students who record lecture notes & essays

This article offers concrete steps on how to start a transcription service.

Alternatively, while you are building your client base, you could land some gigs on sites like speakwrite, transcribeme, and 1888typeitup.

Digital Marketing

image a person sitting at a computer generating leads

Understand the exclusive language of backlinks, citations, analytics, conversions, and algorithms?

If you have a knack for decoding the behind the scenes 'science' that comes with ranking websites and generating more traffic for business owners, your talents could pay your tuition.

Digital marketing is wielding the internet, social media platforms, and additional channels to influence potential customers to purchase a business' goods or services.

Advertising in the digital market alone is worth an estimated $136,000 million in the USA.

If you can provide evidence to support that your systems work, your services will be in high demand in this increasingly competitive industry.

Enlist friends to do the stuff that you don't excel at so you can offer even more services to potential clients.

You can find possible clients on platforms like:

  • Angie's List

  • LinkedIn

  • Yelp

  • Open Directories

  • Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist Ads

Figure out your niche and where your strengths lie.

Pitch your strategies and build a reputation for over-delivering.

This post offers some excellent advice on how to start a digital marketing business.

IMO The Best Small Business Idea for College Students on the Internet

Lead Generation

You have the world at your feet.

Your future looks bright.

The all-nighters, keggers, and cramming will all be worth it when you land your dream job.

Earn your degree and start making money to pay off your mountain of student loans.

But what if there was a different way?

A better way?

A solution that gave you the freedom to continue with your studies, enjoy the social aspect of college life, and acquire your diploma debt-free?

Part of me is a tad jelly of your age and ability to start something this massive so early on in your entrepreneurial quest.

I had graduated and was working full time when I found this course in 2014.

Not that it matters really.

I just got after it.

I mean really doubled down and devoured the comprehensive online training.

Training so detailed that it was simple to follow and apply what I learned.

This program showed me exactly how to produce websites and leverage Google until those sites were sitting at the top of the search engines.

This tree site was one of my first attempts at lead generation and is still making me over $2000/month six years later.

You can go into any industry, in any city, anywhere in the world and build websites that generate leads for small business owners.

This course teaches you how to rank your sites so that the leads come in consistently.

Giving you tangible evidence to use as a negotiation strategy when you start selling those leads to business owners.

You own the websites.

You own the leads.

You sell those leads in any style you want.

Pay-per lead-flat fee-commission-rev-share-arbitrage-up to you.

Iron out the details with your business owner and watch the money come in month after month like clockwork.

If they flake or start taking advantage, you just take your leads and sell them to their competition.

You see-your lead generation sites are digital real estate.

You own them.

They're like online billboards bringing in leads that put you in the driver's seat.

There is nothing that comes even remotely close to this one-of-a-kind online training.

The skills you learn in this program will take your earnings to a new level.

This lead gen business model works so well at providing a steady cash-flow and semi-passive income stream because:

  • Local lead generation doesn't base its success on finding the right trending product week after week, month after month.
  • You don't have to consistently make adjustments to your advertising methods or budgets. In fact, you don't have to run Facebook, Instagram or Google ads at ALL...
  • There's no buying and selling of products. You don't have to worry about profit margins. Or shipping. Or returns. Or any of the other problems associated with selling physical products. EVER!
  • You get FREE organic traffic from Google.
  • If you set it up properly from the start, you can leave your lead gen site for months without having to tweak it.
  • It provides you with a passive income. THAT'S the golden ticket!

What sets this program apart isn't just the exhaustive training, but the ongoing support and continued commitment behind this online masterpiece.

Here's a pic of me and Dan below-he's the secret sauce.

The founder of this course, he's not the type of guy to take your money and say 'see ya.'

Instead, he's on Facetime live twice a week, giving people who have purchased the course continued sales strategies, coaching, and mentoring.

Knowledge-bombs blowing up left and right.

Every week.

For as long as I've been in the group and way before my time.

His passion lights a fire in the members of our Facebook group-and with nearly 6000 of us that is no easy feat.

The live streams are in a league of their own, but members also use the group to ask questions, build business relationships, and share wins.

There are individuals from all walks of life-including college students-that are winning with lead generation.

Transforming their lives and the lives of their families.

The drive to succeed is the force that binds us together and everybody is rooting for each other.

This group is an added bonus to an already kick-ass training program.

There is no limit to how many lead gen sites you can build.

There is no limit to how many business owners you strike a deal with.

There is no limit to your profit potential.

Your future is ripe for the picking.

The decisions you make now will, to some degree, affect the rest of your life.

The choice is up to you.

But if you are interested in lead generation or would just like to learn more about this course and how it all works, click the link below and book a call.

Your college years are some of the best of your life.

Enjoy every minute.

Study hard and do well.

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, I hope that one of these small business ideas for college students resonates with your talents and lifestyle.

Wishing you all the very best.

Hats off to you and good luck.

Follow Me
Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2024, is to build your own lead generation business.

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