How To Start an Online Business as a Student (3 Business Ideas For Students in 2024)

October 19, 2023

How to start an online business as a student in 2023:

  • Plan out a business idea
  • Research about your product or niche
  • Identify your target market or audience
  • Develop your brand
  • Establish an online presence
  • Invest in customer service

You can start an online business as a student. Any aspiring entrepreneur or business owner can have their own successful online business, thanks to digital tools and resources on the internet available at their disposal. However, it might seem like a daunting task because this low barrier to entry creates more competition.

These are 3 of the best online business for students you can start with no money:

  • Social media management
  • Dropshipping
  • Freelancing

Not only are these online business ideas profitable, they're also very easy to set up since they do not require any upfront fees or payments.

If you’re looking to save up money and potentially start an online business that could help you generate passive income at a young age, you might wanna check out local lead generation.

Local lead generation is the process of generating online leads for small businesses in a certain area or locality. All you have to do is create a website that generates free traffic using SEO practices that satisfy Google’s algorithm. Once your website is ranked, you can now start allowing local companies and businesses to generate leads through your website and make money for each converted sale. Local lead generation also requires little to no maintenance, which makes it a significant source of passive income in the long run.

6 Steps in Starting an Online Business as a Student

1. Plan Out a Business or Startup Idea

Planning out your small business idea is the first step and most essential element in starting a business. The best way to go about this is to identify a problem or a need.

For instance, you might notice that none of the businesses in your community have ads in place, nor do any of them have an online presence. From there, starting a local advertising agency or offering social media management services may be a good business idea for you.

Another online business idea would be to capitalize on a skill that you may have such as becoming a freelance writer focused on email marketing, starting a career in video editing, or picking up graphic designing and looking for clients online.

At the end of the day, planning out a business idea depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to put, which is why it’s advisable to select an idea or niche that you’re passionate about.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when planning out a business strategy:

  • Why do I want to start this business?
  • Am I passionate about this business?
  • Will this business become profitable in the long run if I put in the work?
  • Am I ready to invest a lot of time, effort, or even money in making this business successful?
  • What problems or issues am I addressing with this business?
  • What needs am I satisfying with this business?

You can even go the extra mile and take a business course to help you accelerate your online learning regarding launching a business. However, be sure to find an online course that will give you the best value instead of jumping the gun on the first one you see.

2. Research About Your Product or Niche

Researching about your product or niche is essential before you even start selling or offering services. Not only does this allow you to identify your strengths, it also helps you pinpoint your weaknesses and how you can further improve and get ahead of the competition.

For instance, offering online tutoring services will inevitably appeal to people who are struggling academically. However, you must take into consideration several factors that could negatively affect your business such as internet connectivity issues, hardware failure, and many others.

There might also be issues on your students’ end such as unavoidable distractions, lack of focus, technology-related problems, and many others that could be detrimental to the success of your online tutoring business.

Here are a some steps you can take when researching about your product or niche:

  • Define what you want your product or service to be: Identify what features you want to include, what pricing plans you want to set up, what variants you want to provide, and everything else that needs to be determined regarding your product.
  • Gather and analyze consumer data: See if you can gather any data concerning your product such as buying patterns, consumer trends, product insights, client feedback, and many others. 
  • Use gathered data for product development: Once you've identified consumer patterns and insights, use the data you've gathered to further refine your product and let it dictate product development decisions moving forward.
  • Calculate costs and revenue: Determine how much you will have to spend in development, production, and marketing. Not only will this allow you to devise a pricing scheme, it will also help you estimate revenue and profit for each product sold.

More often than not, a successful business does not focus solely on highlighting its strengths, but also finds ways to overcome its weaknesses.

3. Identify Your Target Market or Audience

Identifying your target market and conducting the appropriate market research before launching your business puts you in a position to sell more efficiently because it allows you to connect with your potential customer base.

It also saves you time by helping you distinguish those who are interested in your product or service from those who are not. You wouldn’t want to sell to someone that is obviously not interested in your product, right?

For instance, if you’re planning to set up an online store that dropships baby food, the most cost-effective approach would be to target young adults and between the age of 25 to 39 since it is more likely that people within that age range have babies.

Here are some guidelines to help you identify your target market or audience:

  • Customer demographics: Collect and gather information regarding your potential customer base such as age, gender, educational attainment, and many others.
  • Customer psychographics: While this segment isn't as common as other market identifiers due to it's complexity and difficulty to gather, having this kind of information will largely boost your market research since it help you understand the values, interests, and behaviors of your potential customer base.
  • Customer personas: Customer personas are representations or imaginary versions of your potential customers. These are extremely helpful in understanding your potential customers and how they plan to use your product or service.

Here are other market segments to consider when identifying your target audience:

  • Geographic location
  • Income level
  • Marital status
  • Race & ethnicity

There are very few products and services that appeal to everyone in the world, which is why identifying your target market is a vital aspect of launching a business. It would be a waste of time and money to try and target absolutely everyone.

4. Build Your Brand

Your brand will serve as the face of your business, which is why it is important to spend a significant amount of time building and developing your brand identity.

Take for example the branding of McDonald’s. Whenever we see those golden arches, we instantly associate it with the fast food chain because we know that it belongs to them and no one else. Their branding is so powerful that almost anyone can easily spot and recognize their logo from a mile away.

Your branding is what will serve as a bridge between you and your customers. If your branding does not appeal to your potential clients, how do you expect them to even purchase your product or avail of your service?

Here are some branding elements to keep in mind when developing your brand identity:

  • Your logo: Arguably the most important aspect of your brand identity. Think of your logo as your face. Your face is what people will remember whenever they meet you for the first time. People know you by your face, not by the color of your shirt or the tone of your voice.
  • Typography: The fonts and typefaces you use will inevitably set the tone and mood of your brand. For example, if you’re going for a more serene vibe, it would make more sense to use a font that is light and relaxed instead a font that is heavy and bold.
  • Colors: The colors you choose will serve as the “personality” of your branding. If you want your brand to be loud and expressive, you could use bright colors such as red, orange, or yellow. If you want a color that is calm and peaceful, examples of appropriate colors would be green, blue, and purple.

These elements should all be working in harmony to create a brand identity that appeals to your customer base and resonates with them.

5. Establish an Online Presence

Establishing an online presence is extremely important because without it, how else is your online business going to exist? This typically includes creating a website with an ADHD friendly profile, setting up accounts and/or pages on social media, and many others.

Your website should be professional and easy to navigate, with clear information about your products or services. Your social media accounts, on the other hand, should be active and engaging, with regular updates and interaction with your followers. Creating high-quality content, such as blog posts, videos, or infographics, can also help establish your business as an authority in your niche and attract more customers.

Your online presence will also be largely supplemented by your marketing and advertising campaigns. You can do this through the use of:

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, is the process of growing or ranking your website in order to gain organic traffic. SEO can be accomplished through the use of a variety of methods such as:

  • Keyword research: Keyword research is the process of finding out the best keywords and search terms to include in your website content in order to drive organic traffic. Typically, this can be accomplished using SEO tools such as Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, and many others.
  • Internal linking of a related article or webpage: Internal linking is the process of creating hyperlinks from one page on your website to another webpage that’s also located on your website. This is important because it allows Google to discover other pages of your website faster once it reaches one of your webpages. It also increases the chances of users choosing to navigate within your webpage instead of leaving.

Keep in mind that even though SEO is completely free, it will take some time before you see results.

Paid ads

Paid ads are a type of advertising where you pay in order to be seen. Unlike SEO that typically takes weeks, or even months, before gaining traction, paid ads almost instantly pushes your website to the top of Google’s results pages.

Examples of popular paid ads include:

  • Pay-Per-Click or PPC: PPC is a paid advertising model where the advertiser pays for each time their ad is clicked. Examples of platforms that use PPC include Amazon, Google, and YouTube.
  • Social Media Marketing: Social media marketing is a form of advertising that uses social media platforms to market products and/or services. The most common social media platforms that provide advertising are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing is the process of partnering or collaborating with an influencer or celebrity and asking them to promote your product or service in exchange for free product samples or monetary payments.
  • Ad Retargeting: Ad retargeting is an advertising scheme that allows you to display ads that are targeted towards users that have already seen your product or service but was not converted to a sale.
  • Affiliate Marketing: An advertising method where an advertiser pays a certain amount of money for traffic that is generated by an external affiliate. These can either be websites or just ordinary internet users.

While paid ads might seem like a surefire way to quickly gain traction, you might incur a lot of ad spend and costs could quickly pile up if not managed properly.

6. Provide Excellent Customer Service

Excellent customer service is important for any business because it is the foundation of any successful transaction. It ensures that both the customer and the service provider are satisfied with the outcome of a transaction.

Even after a client sends their payment, a transaction never truly ends because they can become lasting relationships, built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding.

Here are a few reasons you should give importance to providing excellent customer service:

Customer satisfaction and loyalty

Customer satisfaction and loyalty is what will ultimately determine whether your clients will become satisfied repeat customers, or dissatisfied angry ones. Providing excellent customer service is one of the best ways to ensure that your customers are always satisfied, even when your products fail to deliver.

Keep in mind that having a business idea that sells does not guarantee that your clients will keep coming back. Rather, it is excellent customer service that ensures your clients will stick around and continue doing business with you.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty can also lead to clients recommending your business to their family and friends, which inevitably leads to more sales and revenue.

Competitive advantage

Having a competitive advantage is crucial in today’s competitive business environment. Having a product or service that sells simply won’t cut it. Customer service has been a huge difference maker when it comes to running a successful business.

For instance, if company A and company B both sell the same exact product, but only company B offers exceptional customer service, customers are more likely to conduct business with company B since they provide more value for money by taking good care of their clients.

Positive reviews

Positive reviews are incredibly important when running an online business. According to a study by PowerReviews, over 99% of customers take the time to look at reviews before they purchase a product or avail of a service

Reviews can be a make-or-break factor in determining the success of your business. Clients would rather buy from a store that has mixed reviews than a store that doesn’t have any reviews at all.

Moreover, providing excellent customer service can be instrumental in helping you gain positive reviews. Here are a few reasons why positive reviews are extremely crucial when it comes to starting an online business:

  • Increased Credibility: Positive reviews help build credibility for your business. They act as social proof that your products or services are worth buying and that other people have had a good experience with your business.
  • Boost in Sales: Positive reviews can also help boost your sales. When potential customers see positive reviews, they are more likely to make a purchase, as they feel more confident that they will be satisfied with their purchase.
  • Improved Search Engine Rankings: Positive reviews can also help improve your search engine rankings. When people leave positive reviews for your business, it signals to search engines that your business is legitimate and reputable, which can result in higher rankings for relevant search terms.

3 Online Business Ideas You Can Try Out in 2023 as a Student

1. Social Media Management

Social media management is the process of handling the social media profile of a business or company and helping them build a community online, especially on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many others.

Here are some of the tasks that are expected of a social media manager:

  • Devising a social media campaign or marketing strategy that includes daily social media posts, advertising schemes, interactive polls, and many others.
  • Responding to messages, comments, and inquiries.
  • Identifying trends in user engagement and interaction in order to expedite social media growth and development.
  • Neutralizing any potential threats that could disrupt social media presence.

If you’re a student who uses social media regularly, the idea of becoming a social media manager might sound like a good idea. Instead of scrolling mindlessly for hours on end, being a social media manager allows you to become active on your favorite social media platform while making money at the same time.

However, being a social media manager still has its fair share of risks and disadvantages that you need to consider before you begin your social media management journey.


High demand

According to Social Media Examiner, 90% of businesses around the world use social media for their operations and say that social media plays an important role in driving sales and revenue. A study by LinkedIn shows that social media management is the third most in-demand category under the digital marketing space.


Being a social media manager does not require you to sit in an office for 8 hours and clock out once you’re done. Rather, social media management can be done remotely, at any time, which makes it perfect for students who have to spend some time doing schoolwork and other extra curricular activities.

Little to no startup costs

Being a social media manager requires nothing but a computer and a stable internet connection, which are two things that most students have in this day and age. Some social media management tasks can also be done using a smartphone alone.


Intense competition

According to Zippia, there are close to 30,000 social media managers in the United States alone, which gives us reason to believe that there are more than a hundred thousand social media managers scattered across the globe. With this amount of competition, you will have to find a way to make yourself stand out and be noticed.

Constantly evolving technologies

One of the biggest pitfalls of being a social media manager is having to deal with a lot of changes and updates that are constantly being rolled out by social media developers. Whether it be newly-added features or algorithm modifications, being a social media manager means being updated with the latest trends and staying ahead of the curve.

High pressure

As a social media manager, you are literally the first line of defense when it comes to managing the online presence of a business or company, which can cause a lot of pressure and stress. Not only do you represent your client, you are also expected to handle complaints and protect their online reputation on a regular basis.

2. Dropshipping

You can sell anything you want as a student with the help of dropshipping.

Dropshipping is a business model which involves shipping a product directly from a supplier or manufacturer to the customer. Unlike traditional retailing where you have to store your products yourself and ship them out for every order, dropshipping does not require you to hold any inventories.

Instead, you act as a middleman and simply order from a manufacturer every time someone places an order. Not only does the manufacturer manage stock-keeping for you, they also handle shipping and logistics.

There is absolutely no age requirement when it comes to starting an online shop. Anybody can set up their own store online, no matter how young they may be. If you’re a student that’s looking to make money by selling products online, dropshipping might be for you.

However, even though become a dropshipper might sound like a great idea for students who are looking to make extra income while studying, there are also risks and drawbacks that need to be considered before any decisions are made.


Low startup costs

Since you’re not going to be building a warehouse and managing inventory, you’re practically not going to be paying for any infrastructure. You won’t have to purchase and store products since you’re only going to order from your supplier every time a customer places an order.

Shopify also offers a free 90-day trial period that can help you build your own online store and get settled before they begin charging fees.


You can manage a dropshipping business from anywhere in the world, at any given time. You do not need to work 8 hours a day, nor are you required to clock in and out of an office. This can be perfect for students who are busy with school and are looking to run an online business from the comfort of their own room.

Wide range of products

As a dropshipper, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the kind of products you can sell. From the most bizarre products to everyday household items like toiletries and kitchen silverware, there are no rules or guidelines as to what you can offer to your customers.


Oversaturation and competition

Dropshipping in 2023 could still be profitable, but it isn’t as easy as it was a few years ago. As of 2022, there are approximately 100,000 dropshippers around the world, and that number is expected to keep growing in the years to come.

You also have to consider that almost every product known to man has been dropshipped or is being dropshipped already. Unfortunately, the reason why dropshipping is very easy to start is the same exact reason it becomes saturated so quickly - it’s easy to start and there are low barriers to entry.

Little to no control over your products

As convenient as it may be to not store any inventory, the same cannot be said when it comes to making sure your products are properly managed. Since your product will be shipped directly from the manufacturer to your customer, you won’t be able to check the quality of your products, nor will you even be able to ensure that the right product was sent.

As a result, your clients might receive wrong, defective products. You also have absolutely no control over the availability of the products you’re offering, as well as the shipping time from your supplier to your client, which can pose serious risks in the long run.


While you could potentially make good money during the first few months, it will only be a matter of time until your dropshipping business starts taking hits from a variety of issues.

Aside from the ones mentioned above, you also have to think about handling complaints and refunds, building your own brand, or even the possibility of your supplier cutting you off and entering the market themselves to sell products at much lower costs.

At the end of the day, these issues are simply just out of your control and can be overwhelming for anybody.

3. Freelancing

Freelancing is a business model where you provide services for clients and get paid for every task you finish. Instead of being tied to one company and working long hours day after day, being a freelancer allows you to follow your own schedule and work anywhere.

Freelancing has been around for quite some time now, but the appeal to be a freelancer has resonated mostly with young individuals. According to a study conducted by, 50% of freelancers in the US are mostly aged 18 to 22.

Here are examples of the most common freelancing services being offered around the world:

  • Writing or content marketing
  • Graphic design
  • Video editing
  • Marketing (Running Google ad/s, drafting a business plan, creating marketing campaigns, etc.)
  • Translation
  • Web design
  • Virtual assistant services

Working as a freelancer might be the most popular business idea for students in this day and age. However, just like any other business or profession, freelancing has its own set of pros and cons.



Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of freelancing as a student. You can work whenever you want as long as you have access to the internet. Students who have other commitments, such as classes, studying, or extracurricular activities, may largely benefit from this. You can work when you want to and at your own pace when you freelance.

More clients, more money

The opportunity to make extra money is one of the biggest selling points of freelancing. Unlike traditional full time employees, freelancers can work for multiple clients at once, making more money in the process. You can also set your own rates and demand higher pay once you gain enough experience.

Skill development

You can acquire a wide range of skills through freelance work that can be useful in any career. Project management, client communication, and multitasking are just a few examples of the skills you can obtain once you begin freelancing. You can use these skills to stand out in the job market and apply for a wide range of jobs.


No guarantee of work or income

Being a freelancer means not having a stable source of income since you won’t be working full time for a company that pays you a monthly salary. It's possible that you won't always be able to get customers and that you won't always be able to make as much money as you need to pay your bills. Students living on a limited budget might find this challenging.

Difficulty in building your reputation

Becoming highly motivated to find your first freelancing job isn’t guaranteed to help you land your first client. Instead, you will have to build a reputation and skillset that will help you stand out from thousands of other freelancers across the globe. Unfortunately, this means taking low-paying jobs at the start of your freelancing career.

Lack of benefits

As a freelancer, you will have to be in charge of taking care of your own benefits, such as retirement savings, health insurance, and many others. Unlike full-time employees where benefits are typically provided by their employer, freelance clients will not offer benefits to you.

You will need to ensure that you are planning for your retirement and taking care of your own healthcare as a freelancer.

If you're not yet decided what online business you will start, Startup Society is the best course to cater to that need. 

Conclusion: Is It Worth It to Start an Online Business as a Student?

Starting an online business as a student is a great way to jumpstart your journey to independence and financial freedom. Not only will you be able to develop skills and knowledge that will prepare you for the real world, you will also be able to earn and save money even at a young age.

However, the desire to make money and attain financial stability early should not be a hindrance to your academic performance. One could argue that a college degree is not a guarantee that you will be successful, but that doesn’t mean you should start skipping school, especially if you live in a country where a degree is required in almost every job.

You should also be careful not to be enticed by success stories of high school dropouts attaining financial stability and freedom. Their success may have been laid out by a handful of factors and circumstances that simply do not apply to everyone. What happened to them may not necessarily happen to you.

Moreover, starting an online business as a student should serve as preparation for your future career, not a reason to forego college and let go of your academics altogether.

Why Local Lead Generation Might Be the Best Online Business Out There

If you’re looking to save up some money and start an online business with your hard-earned cash, check out our local lead generation program that’s designed to help you generate significant passive income, even at a young age.

With local lead generation, all you have to do is build a website that ranks in accordance to Google’s algorithm. You can do this by applying best SEO practices that will help your website generate organic traffic.

Once your website is ranked, you can start allowing local businesses and companies to generate leads through your website. All you have to do is sit back and watch as the money comes in for each converted sale.

Local lead generation also requires little to no maintenance at all. I have websites from 2014 that are still generating over $2000 for me every month, and I don’t even have to touch them. This is especially perfect for students who are looking to make money passively while studying.

Local lead generation

If you’re a student that’s looking to generate income while still being able to focus on things that really matter, local lead generation might be the best business idea you never knew you needed.

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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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