Start a Business

Twelve ideas for starting a business in college

Students start a business in college for three main reasons. They need to earn money to stay in school or provide extra spending money. They plan to study business and this provides helpful experience. They have something they love doing and don’t care if they earn that much. The last one applies mainly to musicians who love playing together and are happy to get a little extra spending money from doing something they enjoy.

The student in the picture has started his own on-campus business and it turned out to be quite profitable. He now has a little extra money to spend. He should, of course, never  put his cash so carelessly in his pocket. In fact, he should take it to the bank until he needs it.

Begin by listing all the skills you have that you might use to earn money. Can you repair computers? Can you fix broken jewelry? Are you an excellent photographer? As you go through these ideas, you may think of similar ideas that might match your skills and interests.

Be careful to consider any expenses like buying equipment or paying for business cards or newspaper ads. Think carefully about your prices. Charge prices low enough that people will be interested, but high enough that you can make a reasonable about of money. You really need to make at least minimum wages, but should aim much higher, perhaps twice that, depending of your skills and on how much these skills are in demand. You might ask friends the going rate for babysitting or what they would pay for ….whatever it is you are offering.

1.  If you have excellent computer skills and believe you could help students with problems, you might offer to help them for a price. Set your prices. Put up posters in dorms, Put ads in the school newspaper. For Telephone help, you might charge $5 for the first five minutes and then 50 cents a minute after that. Tell them there is NO CHARGE if you can’t help them. For visiting their room on campus, you might charge  $10 for the first 10 minutes and 50 cents a minute after that.  It isn’t worth your time going to another dorm for less than $10.

You might also advertise tutoring in computer skills for $20 an hour for individual tutoring, or $10 an hour each for a small group. This probably won’t work well if the school holds similar workshops for free.

2. If your word processing skills are excellent, you have a printer,  and you type quickly, you might advertise that you will type papers for those who don’t have a computer or those with poor skills. “Don’t waste time with “Hunt and Peck” methods. Papers typed and spell-checked for $3 a page. For five pages or more the price is 2.50 a page. Corrections for any errors I make will be free.   Be sure to  check  how many pages you can type in an hour. This only makes sense if you can get at least 5-6 pages done in an hour. You will also need time to proofread a page.  You could charge an extra dollar a page if you correct their spelling and grammar. You need to be good enough at proofreading to do this. If most students on campus have a computer and excellent computer skills, this may not be profitable.

3. You brought an iron and ironing board and you love ironing and do it well. Advertise Ironing for a certain price per shirt. Make sure you can make a reasonable amount of money this way. Compare what they would pay at a cleaners. Your advantage is that you can iron a wrinkled shirt quickly so they can wear it that evening.If everyone wears tee-shirts all the time, you might not find anyone interested.

4. You might sew on buttons raise and lengthen hems, and if you are really good at this and you have a sewing machine, make alterations.

5. You have read the page on Organizing Space and you organized your dorm room so well that friends are impressed. You could offer your skills as a room organizer. For the really incompetent or busy or rich, you might even shop for them to get the closet organizer, book shelves, decor, desk lamp, etc. Make sure they pay you by the hour.

6. You are studying this page. Once you get your finances straight, you can offer help in creating budgets… Some students would pay for this.

7. You really want to keep your car. You might organize Saturday Shopping Trips. Drive people to Wal-Mart, to a nearby mall, etc. You might have a sign-up sheet in your dorm… with spaces for the number of people your car will hold in addition to you. You could take one group at 9 AM  others at 10, 10:30 10:30, etc. They would need to sigh up for leaving time and returning time. You might need to add a few extra return trips for those with a lot of shopping to do.  Check to see what it would cost students to take a taxi or other means of transportation. Your trips should cost a little less. Calculate what this will cost for gas. Be sure it is worth time and expenses.

This works especially well in colleges in rural areas with no public transportation available. If the school provides regular bus transportation for shopping, forget the idea.  If you car holds 3 other people, estimate what you could make with 2 people a trip. You might actually find some students who want to sign up in advance for a regular space once a week or once every two weeks.

7. Babysitting. You might print up business  cards with your information: phone number and prices  – and hand them out to every professor on campus. They will put your card in their wallet. With men, suggest that they give the card to their wife when they get home. If they don’t have children that need baby sitting, you could ask them to give the card to someone they know who does have small children. And the best thing about babysitting is that you can usually spend at least part of the time studying.  If you have several friends who’d like to do this, you could include all the information on a single card. Then, if one person is busy that night, another could fill in.

8. Are you good at yard work? You might put ads in the local paper for raking leaves in the fall, shoveling snow in the winter, and general yard work and odd jobs, the rest of the year. BUT, to do this, you will need transportation and tools,,, snow shovel or snow blower, rake, maybe a leaf blower, wheelbarrow, clippers, and more. If you live at home and can use your family’s equipment – you might make some money.

9. Check out what other students are doing to make money. At many schools there is a group of students who will paint your house, inside and out. If you have plenty of experience in this area, ask if they can use another painter.

10.  Are there students offering local moving service? You might get several strong friends to join you. It helps to have a truck but you might rent a moving truck for the job. Put ads in the town paper and make business cards to distribute to local real estate offices. Business cards could also be put on bulletin boards in apartment buildings where people are likely to move more often.

You might, however, need to learn how to pack breakable items safely. You might also know where to buy packing boxes and supplies at a reasonable cost.  Another possibility is to work with a local moving company, looking for work on local moves only.

11. Are you a talented singer or musician. You might offer singing birthday greetings or greetings on other special occasions. You might offer a “serenade” for that special someone, perhaps at a meal or picnic. If you have a small band, you could play for parties.  You could offer to play at restaurants for a small fee plus tips  Be sure, however, that everyone in the group can make a reasonable amount of money. This is a hard way to make money. There are other bands that play at restaurants and bars mainly for the fun of it and to get better known.

12. Alone or with a group, you might offer help with party preparation and clean-up. You might help cook. Do you have any specialities? What about extra special desserts? What about appetizers?  You might help set and arrange decor for the table. You could help serve. You could certainly help remove plates and wash dishes or load the dishwasher.

You could collect photos of special items you can cook or pictures of  tables where you arranged the decor. Take simple cards or flyers around to homes in town or deliver to all the professors.

Several of these jobs will keep you busy on Friday and Saturday nights so you might need to plan time for dating at other times of the week.

NOTE:  You don’t need a business license for baby sitting and very small jobs. You might check the local regulations before advertising anything bigger. For some jobs, you might need a license, you might need to charge tax, and you might need to report income and pay income taxes.

Whatever you do, Use a small notebook and keep a detailed record of all your expenses, the time spent, and the money earned. This will help you evaluate whether or not you want to continue this business next year.

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