College Business Ideas

Entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t discriminate by age — and neither does success. Many high-achieving entrepreneurs start their business in college. Which is why we created this guide of business ideas for college students.

Small Business Ideas for College Students


Someone writing in a notepad

There are a plethora of freelance writing opportunities available to teens. With the ever-growing reach of the internet, companies are publishing more content in an effort to reach audiences worldwide with a variety of perspectives. This is also a great opportunity for anyone considering a writing career to start building a portfolio.

Beyond the cost of your computer, wifi, and advertising the startup and maintenance costs are almost nonexistent. With low costs and great growth potential for those able to find constant or long-term clients, earning potential is good. Established freelance writers can bring in an average of $30,000-$50,000 annually.

Learn how to start a freelance writing business.


A pair of headphones sitting on top of a laptop keyboard

This business is great for teens who need to work around their busy schedule of school and extracurriculars. Most of the work involves transcribing audio or video that has been provided to you. The job is also ideal for those who type fast, have strong attention to detail, and are comfortable using computers and other related software and technology.

Startup costs are low, but the growth potential for a transcription business can vary significantly by industry. Medical transcription, for example, has boomed in the past decade. But, no matter the subject matter, if you provide fast, accurate work you can build a successful transcription business. Your speed and accuracy will also largely determine your earning potential since many transcription projects are billed by the project. The faster you work, the more you can earn.

Learn how to start a transcribing business.


Hands typing on a keyboard

Data entry businesses are great for detail-oriented people who are comfortable using spreadsheet and word processing programs. Since it’s possible to find flexible part-time data entry work, this business can accommodate a student’s busy schedule while providing valuable work experience.

Startup costs are minimal, with little more than your computer required to open your business. A small business with just one or two people will typically take on a handful of clients and establish a relationship with them that lasts for years, making this a great business that can grow as you progress from student to professional.

Learn how to start a data entry business.


Woman reading to a group of children in a classroom or daycare setting

If you enjoy writing, drawing, or telling stories, starting a children’s book business may be right for you. Children’s books have consistently sold more copies than adult books thanks to the amount of reading that children do compared to adults.

Startup costs for an individual that wants to self-publish range from $5,000 to $15,000, but with more flexible and affordable self-publishing resources popping up all the time, it’s easier than ever to publish on a budget. Because of this, the earning potential is very high. Successful children’s book authors make well over $100,000.

Learn how to start a children's book business.


Woman sitting with a child drawing

Babysitting is a $5 billion a year industry, making it an excellent bet for responsible teens who love children. It can be difficult for parents to find trustworthy and reliable childcare options. When they do, they’re likely to hold onto this valuable resource and tell their friends. This business is also extremely flexible and easy to manage no matter your schedule.

Startup and maintenance costs are minimal, which helps to maximize profits. Babysitters charge an average of $13.97 per hour nationally, with a good deal of regional variation. While most businesses will remain small, one-person ventures, it’s also entirely possible to expand your business over time by helping match clients with well-vetted babysitters in their area.

Learn how to start a babysitting business.


A man and woman sitting on a sofa with their arms folded above their heads

Running a house-sitting business is a great opportunity for any responsible teen looking to lend a hand to others while making some money. House-sitters should be comfortable taking care of a variety of pets. The success of your house-sitting business will rely largely on the reputation you’re able to build and subsequent word of mouth recommendations, but the growth potential is good.

Earning potential depends on the number of clients and consistency of work. Starting out, this can be an excellent weekend and holiday business. If you’re able to rely on regular clients across seasons, this can be a very lucrative business.

Learn how to start a house-sitting business.

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Woman playing tug-of-war with her dog using a frisbee

Pet-sitting is an excellent business idea for responsible animal lovers looking to make money doing something they love. Pet-sitters can offer a variety of services like walks, drop by feeding, or in-home care as an alternative to kenneling.

Costs are low as most pet-sitting businesses are run out of the home. Starting out, word of mouth advertising can be very effective. While you’re likely to start small, over time this business has the real potential to grow. With such low costs, the earning potential for pet-sitters is good, with independent business owners earning as much as $57,000 per year when they work full time.

Learn how to start a pet-sitting business.


Small dog with a leash looking up at the person walking them

Next up on our list of small business ideas for teens is a dog-walking business. If you’re an animal lover looking for a flexible job doing something you love, starting a dog-walking business can be an excellent option. Whether your goal is to make some money on the side or build a lasting business, dog walking is a rewarding and dynamic pursuit.

Consistently strong customer service and effective advertising will both be crucial to your success. Pet owners are an enormous market, making the growth and earning potential of your business limited only by the number of dogs you’re able to walk each day. Full-time dog walkers can see impressive profits as high as $80,000 per year.

Learn how to start a dog walking business.


A well organized closet with clothing

If you love to organize or have perfected the minimalist lifestyle, sharing your talent with others as a professional organizer can be a great way to make money. You’ll need to be a compassionate, understanding people-person who others will feel comfortable welcoming into their messy or disorganized homes. While it’s possible to build a flexible schedule that works for you, it’s important that you stick to project deadlines.

Startup costs are low since you’ll need little more than advertising to being. Since this is considered a speciality, luxury service, even starting out you will be able to charge a decent hourly rate. As your reputation grows, this business can easily turn into a lucrative full-time career. Some professional organizers bring in as much as $115,000 per year with very little overhead.

Learn how to start a professional organizing business.


Woman holding a tablet with the eBay app loaded

This job is great for motivated self-starters who are already familiar with eBay. Knowing what sells well, how to best price products, and how to get your listings noticed will promote success in this business. While you’ll need to take care that your items are presented well and you follow up with buyers, this business can absolutely accommodate a busy student’s schedule. It’s also a business you can build around your personal interests and experience, making it both fun and lucrative.

Growth potential is limited only by the time and scope of the seller. Finding a specialty or niche area selling popular products you’re passionate about is a great strategy for success. With low startup and maintenance costs, there is virtually no limit to your earning potential once you get things rolling.

Learn how to start an Ebay business.


Closeup photo of an iPhone with many social media app icons

Next on our list of small business ideas for teens is a social media marketing business. Young people have grown up on social media, making them uniquely skilled at understanding how to use and navigate every major platform. If you are passionate about how social media platforms function and love using them to communicate with large groups of people, social media marketing can be a great business for you.

Starting a social media marketing business doesn’t need to cost a penny. If you have access to a computer or a smartphone, you have the ability to start a social media marketing business. Potential clients can range from individuals to large corporations. High earners in this business make over $100,000 a year.

Learn how to start a social media marketing business.


A tablet being held with the Etsy application loaded

If you love making handmade goods or scoping out unique vintage items in your free time, you may enjoy running an Etsy business. This is an excellent outlet for young artists looking to sell their work or anyone who’s passionate about producing and selling well-crafted goods. Sellers must have the skills required to find or create the products they sell, basic computer skills, and experience with marketing and/or advertising to help promote their products.

These basic skills plus a strong entrepreneurial spirit can convert your hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. While you’ll likely start small, this is a business you can cultivate over time and shape to fit your schedule through school and beyond. Serious sellers are bringing in six figures, so this is a great opportunity to start a business that can grow with you.

Learn how to start an Etsy store.


A man in headphones staring at a screen while playing a video game

For most young gaming enthusiasts, earning money while playing video games is living the dream. With enough enthusiasm and drive, this can become a reality. To do so, gamers should register with a major streaming service, such as Twitch.TV, and be prepared to spend several hours each day streaming their gameplay and working on building followers. Those who acquire enough followers to become partners (500+ on Twitch, for example) will begin earning money for the traffic they generate.

Earning and keeping a sufficient following requires very strong gaming skills. You will also need to be adept at navigating social media to promote yourself, respond to comments, and build a broad online presence. The goal is to get enough followers to become a partner on your streaming site. Those who do so can bring in thousands of dollars each month while doing what they love.

Learn how to start a live-streaming business.


Someone cutting grass with a weed trimmer, in yellow Crocs

If you enjoy working outside and have an entrepreneurial spirit, consider starting a lawn care business. This business is a popular way for teenagers to make some summer money.

Although it can be expensive to purchase your own lawn care equipment, starting out by just using the family lawnmower is a viable option. If you don’t own any equipment, expect to invest about $3000 for the equipment you need to get started. If you eventually expand your business to full-time, you can make up to $50,000 per year. Offering services such as trimming, aerating, and fertilizing can separate you from your competitions.

Learn how to start a lawn care business.


A pair of hands in rubber gloves and a desk full of cleaning supplies

Last on our list of business ideas for teens is a cleaning business. Anyone with an eye for detail and a strong work ethic can excel with a cleaning business. You should also ideally be physically fit and comfortable with a good deal of manual labor each day. You’ll be doing hard work and interacting with a variety of people, so energy and good customer service skill will be quite useful.

The smallest cleaning businesses are run as one-person shops. You can easily start small, working on weekends or after school, and build a solid reputation. Over time, this part-time pursuit has the potential to grow into a full-time career. Larger operations employ staff or hire subcontractors. Some businesses franchise their model and collect franchise fees. As such, earning potential can range anywhere from $50,000 per year into the millions.

Learn how to start a cleaning business.


A plastic robot being printed by a 3d printer

This is an ideal business for an individual with sculpting, carving, or other modeling experience. It is also important to understand the mechanics of a 3D printer and the market for 3D printed products. Many buyers of 3D printed products have specific needs that can only be met by someone that has a deep understanding of the software involved.

Costs to start a 3D printing design business generally begin at around $8,000 and include a printer, software, website, and some early marketing efforts. However, a great way to get started in this field is to design products and have them printed by a third party. In this way, you can build a name for yourself in the business and expand over time when you’re read. Just like any company, earning potential is based entirely on how many contracts and products you are able to make and sell.

Learn how to start a 3D printing business.


Various design tools sitting in front of a computer

Graphic Design is the creation of art for magazines, websites, physical products or more. This business is best for artistically minded people. You can create logos, text, or any other art you or your client imagines.

Getting started can cost less than $2,000. You will need a computer and some type of graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator. In the beginning, many graphic designers work with ad agencies or use platforms that connect freelancers with interested parties. If you’re a student, designing logos for your school or local sports teams can help build a quality portfolio. It is normal to charge clients between $25 and $100 an hour.

Learn how to start a graphic design business.


Photo of a married couple displayed on a camera screen

If you enjoy taking pictures and helping people remember life events, starting a photography business may right for you. While you’ll need some training and practice when it comes to technique, formal education is not required. This is a great business venture for teens who can find work photographing school and social events.

Although startup costs can be a bit more expensive (a good camera, lighting equipment, a computer, editing software) there are practically no ongoing costs. Plan to spend $2,000 to $5,000 dollars upfront. As you develop your skills, you can branch out to cover weddings or other special events. When you’ve reached this point, earning potential is exceptionally high.

Learn how to start a professional photography business.


Woman drawing on a design pad, with various photography and design tools on her desk

If you have photography and photo editing experience, starting an online photo editing business can be a great and lucrative pursuit. While many photo editors also work as photographers, this is not a requirement. People with social media savvy can do particularly well by finding a wide variety of clients online.

Startup costs are low and include a computer and photo-editing software. If you include a good website and some advertising, you can still easily start the business for under $5,000. Starting out, you may offer to edit photos for school or local publications to build your portfolio. Over time, if you continue to grow your business, it’s reasonable to make a 5-figure annual salary that has the potential to close in on $100,000 per year.

Learn how to start a photo editing business.


Hands drawing an illustration of a woman in a dress

An illustration business is a great way for talented and artistic teenagers to make money. Some potential jobs include illustrating books, creating cartoon characters, or designing storyboards. Keeping up on digital illustration technologies is also important in this industry.

Startup costs for an illustration business are low, including art supplies and artistic computer software. You may start smart, creating illustrations for school newspapers, local publications, or designing specialty gifts for friends and family. Your earning potential will expand with your growing portfolio and reputation. Professional illustrators make around $55,000 per year on average, but specializing in a particular market can help you get to a six-figure income.

Learn how to start an illustration business.


Makeup artist applying makup to a model with a brush

Anyone who enjoys working with people and has especially good makeup application skills may enjoy running a makeup artist business. Making a name for yourself on social media can be extremely helpful.

Starting out, you can build up your portfolio by doing friends’ makeup for events like prom. This is an excellent business to start as a teenager. If you establish a reputation among your peers early on, your clients will come back for special events throughout their lives. Startup costs are fairly low since most makeup artists work out of their home or travel to their clients. As your business grows, you can make a sizeable profit, with the most successful makeup artists even achieving six-figure incomes.

Learn how to start a makeup artist business.

Learn more about starting a business by visting the U.S. Small Business Administration.


Pair of hands brushing a large amount of orange paint onto a canvas

If you love art and enjoy meeting and working with people, an art lessons business can be a fun and rewarding pursuit. You will need to create structured lessons so your students have a path to follow as they learn an artistic skill.

You don’t need much to start an art lessons business. You can provide your own tools (brushes, pencils, paper) or you can require your students to supply their own. This is a great business for young people because it can be started for free right out of your home. You may even be able to reserve space at your school or library at no cost. Your hourly rates will vary based on your skill level and the nature of your lessons, but most can charge at least $25/hr, making this a great way to start earning and saving money.

Learn how to start an art lessons business.


Child doing homework looking at her tutor

If you have a knack for a particular subject in school, then you may consider creating a home tutoring business. You can create your own lessons or simply help students complete their school assignments while making sure they understand the material. As a student, you’re uniquely placed to find people in need of extra help.

Since you can tutor from your own home or that of your students, startup costs are virtually nothing. You may spend some time and money advertising, but with a captive audience of students in your school or your area, simple fliers can be very effective. Most home tutors charge by the hour and help students with a specific subject. With experience, you can charge $30-$40 an hour, making this a rewarding and lucrative business.

Learn how to start a home tutoring business.


Woman reading a textbook

If you’ve mastered the art of standardized tests and want to share your secret with others, starting a test prep business can be a lucrative pursuit. Specializing in a particular test (like the SAT or ACT) is a good way to find students to teach, and if you’re in high school there will be no shortage of potential clients. Utilizing test prep books and giving general test-taking advice are both ways to help struggling test takers improve.

The startup costs of this business are low, and the only expense you may have is purchasing a test prep book and a website. Offering help to friends and classmates is a great and easy way to get started and build a good reputation. Test prep tutors can usually charge more per hour than regular tutors since doing well on tests is important to most students.

Learn how to start a test prep business.


Closeup of a row of piano keys, with a pair of hands playing them

Giving music lessons can be a great way for a teenage entrepreneur to earn money. If you have a good deal of experience playing your instrument you can easily find students in need of lessons or extra help.

Startup costs for a music lessons business can stay small, especially if you require your students to bring their own instrument. You’ll need to buy some sheet music, but you can easily conduct lessons at your own home, your student’s home, or even at school if possible. As you build your reputation, you’ll be able to increase your rates. Music teachers usually charge between $30 and $60 an hour, so over time this business can be very profitable.

Learn how to start a music lessons business.

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