Uni life has a number of defining features. It’s a time of great personal growth when you chart your path in the world and develop new friendships. It’s also a time when most people are just starting out financially and may not have much money behind them.
Starting an entrepreneurial venture during your university studies can earn you a little extra money that will make your experience far more comfortable and offer excitement and valuable real-world experience. Not to mention the invaluable experience in the business!
Here we’ve gathered together 20 of the best small business ideas for students, from the most basic and simple, to some that, if done well, have the potential to change the course of your life.
But, before we offer up the inspiration, let’s first find out why business ideas for students can prove to be so beneficial.
7 benefits of starting a business as a student
Why should you consider starting a business as a student? There are a number of reasons:
Experimentation: Uni is a time for experimentation. Because you are yet to officially begin your professional career, you can try things out and see what you like.
Trade theory for practice: As a student entrepreneur you’ll trade theory-heavy studies for the real world. There’s nothing quite as enlightening as practical experience.
Learn new skills: Starting your own venture will see you develop a wealth of hard skills (sales, accounting, marketing, industry-specific skills) and soft skills (delegation, negotiation, leadership, empathy) that can prove super valuable in your post-uni career.
Build a network: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, or so the saying goes. By starting your own business during uni you’ll begin building a professional network that could open some serious doors after you graduate.
Bulk up your resume: A common issue that students face post-graduation is a desire for experience – the first step into your professional life is often the hardest to take. If you run your own business, however, you can fill out your resume with all the skills and knowledge you’ve built up over the journey.
Work around your studies: A normal 9-5 isn’t an option for most uni students, who have to work around their study schedules. Thankfully as a business owner you can largely choose your own hours!
More money: We’ve saved the most tempting benefit for last. More money means less budgeting, less saying no to fun, a diet less reliant on two-minute noodles. You could even begin to chew through your student debt if you’re savvy!
20 small business ideas for students
What are some examples of business ideas for students? Here are 20 of the most compelling ideas for the university entrepreneur.
Perhaps the most organic of all the entrepreneurial options on this list, tutoring is a natural place for a uni student to start their professional life. If you got good grades for particular subjects, whether in primary, secondary or tertiary education, you can offer help to students who are following your path.
Do you love spending time with kids? Parents always need help with childcare, whether during their work hours, or while they have fun on the weekend Making babysitting and childcare a fun and perfectly flexible earning option for uni students.
3. Pet sitting
Perhaps you find fur babies cuter than the humankind – if that’s the case, pet sitting may well be the job for you! Other pet-centric business ideas include dog walking and pet grooming.
Are you the sort of person who gets joy from transforming a space from dirty to clean? Cleaning, both in the commercial or residential spheres, can be a nice little earner, while also offering uni students the flexibility that they need.
5. Personal shopping
You might presume that personal shopping is a decidedly Hollywood career, but it might be more common than you think! If you have an eye for fashion and a talent for picking outfits for others, this could be the job for you. The biggest challenge is in finding that first client.
6. Lawn mowing
Do you enjoy the outdoors? As a lawnmower and gardener, you get to make backyards beautiful while enjoying regular work (that grass will keep on growing!) The main hurdle is in the fact you need to buy the necessary equipment.
7. Delivery driving
We are now able to buy almost anything online, which means that there is a constant demand for drivers willing to deliver our orders. With the rise of food delivery, you may not even need a car to get started in this business – a bike might do the trick!
If you haven’t heard of dropshipping you can find out more here, but the quick version is that this online retail opportunity carries all the potential of others, but with a lower barrier to entry and far less risk.
Sell anything with a free online store.
Are you a bit of a social media expert? If you’re able to cultivate a large and engaged following, you could monetise your online presence through sponsored content and affiliate marketing!
Fans of the written word will be excited to hear that it’s easier than ever to earn money from writing and editing. Simply create a profile on Upwork and offer your services to all who might need them!
11. Web design
If your talents lie more in the visual space, you can sign up to the same platforms as above, but offer services around graphics, imagery and web design.
12. Vintage fashion trading
Do you love vintage fashion? Are you an op shop regular with an eye for a bargain? Do you appreciate the need for a more circular economy? This particular opportunity is one that can tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
13. Selling handmade goods
Candles, bonsai plants, jewellery, preserves, Christmas decorations, fresh produce, woodworking; the list of market stall ideas is limited only by your imagination. Whatever path you choose, be sure to offer your customers a way to pay with card.
14. Print on demand
This is another one for the designers in the room. If you have designs – or perhaps photos – that you feel would look great on a t-shirt, mug, stubby holder or wall hanging, you can offer these items via print on demand, which removes the need to carry any inventory!
Speaking of photography, this service is in greater demand than it’s ever been before. You could offer to shoot family sessions or products for a business, or you could try to sell your own landscape, sport or wildlife photography.
16. Airbnb management
While you probably don’t have the money to own your own bed and breakfast – yet – you could host Airbnbs for other people who don’t have the time! This can be particularly profitable when done well.
17. Data entry and admin
While it might at first seem a somewhat dull job, freelance administration and data entry can offer you a real insight into the world of business, building your knowledge from the inside out.
18. Manage social media
All businesses know the importance of social media, but few make it a priority. As you’re younger and more tech-savvy than most, you could take on the management of commercial social media accounts!
19. Walking tour guide
Do you love performing? Do you enjoy showing people around your city? Why not start a walking tour business? Your best bet, at least initially, is to make it a tips-only affair so that you can build up your reputation. You might also consider an online booking tool for your customers.
20. Moving business
Students are constantly moving in and out of uni dorms, which represents an opportunity for those who aren’t afraid of physical labour. You might be surprised at how much business is out there if you offer your services as a removalist.
How to start a business as a student
Now that you have your idea, it’s time to put it into action! You can find our comprehensive guide to starting a business here – but the basic steps to establishing your venture can be found below.
Before we get there though, a quick side note for international students who have come to Australia on a student visa (subclass 500): while you are certainly able to start your own business, this visa only allows you to work on it for up to 20 hours per week. If you work on your business more than that, you won’t comply with your visa conditions and may face consequences.
So, how do you start your own business as a student?
Write a business plan: By putting your path to success in print you give yourself direction, while also identifying potential issues early.
Find a location: Where will you operate from? Remotely? From your student dorm? From an online store?
Decide on your business structure: Speak to an expert and decide whether you will become a sole trader, a partnership, a company or a trust.
Choose a name and get compliant: Choose your business name, register it, and fill in all the other necessary legal paperwork associated with tax and regulatory responsibilities.
Work out how you’ll get paid: Find a payment services provider who will allow your customers to pay in the way they want to pay.
Grow and succeed: The rest of the journey will require ambition and motivation. At this point, it’s up to you what your business becomes!