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Businesses You Can Start While Still in College

Tired of eating ramen and drinking cheap beer because all your money went to tuition? You could get minimum-wage job and spend your time making other people money, or you could start a business and keep all of the profits! But since you just spent your last dollar at the bar and live in a closet-size dorm room that doesn’t exactly have the warehouse space for product, you’re going to need a venture that doesn’t require much startup costs nor storage space. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Stock Photographerphone-945451_640_cc0_pixabay

What you’ll need:
  • a camera or smart phone
  • the ability to follow directions
  • a little creativity

Selling my digital photos enabled me to feed my Starbucks habit throughout college, 25ยข at a time. Hiring a photographer can be expensive, which is why many designers and content creators instead purchase stock photos – generic photos that often have a theme or concept. You know the happy smiling families in photo frames at the store? Stock photos. The stressed-out office worker with unrealistic piles of files on the financial article? Stock photo.

Starting a stock photography business does require a high quality camera, however, many colleges allow students to checkout Digital SLR cameras and other equipment with just their ID; check your art, media, computer science departments or even the library. If you can’t get a camera from your school, chances are you already carry one in your pocket – these days most smart phone cameras meet the minimum requirements set by stock photo companies.

How to get started with stock photography

  1. Learn the basics – You’ll need a few good photos to get approved to sell with a stock photo company, so if you’re photos are dark or blurry, head over to YouTube to learn a thing or two about exposure, focus, and your camera modes.
  2. Create a portfolio – Once you’ve mastered the basics, grab your camera and take a variety of  photos, including a product shot, styled lifestyle, and maybe even a portrait of your roommate.
  3. Apply – Submit a seller application at companies like iStockPhotoDreamstime, and Shutterstock.
  4. Follow the rules – Just because your account is approved, doesn’t mean your photos are. Be sure to read each companies submission rules thoroughly; not only will they have technical requirements for each photo you submit, but most have regulations about what content is or is not allowed, and some subject matters require a signed photo release.
  5. Practice, practice, practice – Take a lot a photos, but only submit the best. Learn from photos that are rejected and head back to YouTube if you need more schooling.
  6. Make money 24/7 – Sit back and watch as you make money while sitting in class.

Dog Walking ServiceYoung man sitting with a dog outside

What you’ll need:
  • Experience with animals
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Post-office level dedication (you walk sun, rain, or snow)

Most people work all day, leaving behind their fur babies for more than eight hours, which is too long for most dogs to go without a bathroom break. Most college students, on the other hand, are not in class all day, making them available to give people’s pets a break.  This is an especially great businesses for the animal-loving college student who had to leave their own best friend at home – you can get your puppy fix and make money at the same time!

How to start a dog walking service

  1. Gather references – Before anyone gives you the keys to their house, they will likely ask for the contact information of people who can confirm you are trustworthy. If you’ve ever done pet sitting, house sitting, or even baby sitting, ask those clients if you can use them as reference; bosses, teachers, and other non-family mentors can also be good references.
  2. Set payment terms – do some research to find out the going rate for pet care services in your area and price accordingly. Think about how and when you’d like to get paid, and make sure your payment terms are clear and agreed upon before starting to work for a client.
  3. Get clients – You can get clients by either finding them or having them find you. Check Craigslist or your local classifieds for people looking to hire dog walkers. Or to have clients come to use, set up a profile on sites like or Rover.

Tech Support CompanyA woman helping another on a computer

What you’ll need:
  • a computer
  • a business email and/or phone number
  • good communication skills (you can’t just fix a problem, you have to be able to explain it)
  • the ability to set up and troubleshoot a variety of technology issues

If you’re the one other students look to when their computer breaks, you could capitilize on your tech skills to make some money. While your fellow students will likely utilize the school’s free help desk, there are lots of small businesses who can’t afford to hire a full-time technician, but have the occasional need for tech support like installing software and upgrading devices. Additionally, lots of people need help setting up new tech purchases such as smart phones and TV systems, but don’t want to pay hundreds to services at big box stores. With a little self-promotion and a lot of patience, you could make money being the tech hero these people need.

How to start a tech support company

  1. Get a business email and/or phone number – you can use free email services like gmail to get an email dedicated to your business, or for a more professional look, register a domain name to get a custom email address like While not a requirement, you may also want a second phone number just for business clients; head over to Google Voice to get a free one that forwards to your existing phone, but has its own voicemail message.
  2. Set payment terms – like with the dog walking service, you’ll want to do some research and decide ahead of time how much you’ll charge and how you’ll get paid. Don’t let your client dictate your pay – your time and skills are valuable, so charge accordingly.
  3. Find clients (anywhere) – there are often tech support gigs listed at craigslist, but you may also want to consider setting up your own website to allow clients to find you. If you don’t have the money for your own domain name or web hosting, you can use a free website builder like Wix to create a site. Social media is also one of the best marketing tools; consider reaching out to people venting about tech issues or posting tips. Don’t limit yourself to locals either, as you can provide a lot of help through email, video calls, and even remotely accessing a client’s device.

Digital Product StoreMan editing a website

What you’ll need:
  • a computer
  • social media accounts
  • an artistic or unique skill

While you may not have the space for physical products, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an online store. Ecommerce platforms like Etsy, Gumroad, and Creative Market enable you to sell digital products. What kind of products can you sell? Anything that can be downloaded, for example: resume templates, illustrations, video tutorials, and even tools like Photoshop brushes. If you spend your class time doodling or your handwriting looks like it belongs on greeting card, put your creative talents to good use and sell your art as design elements like fonts. If you’re not very artistic, but have a unique skill, share your knowledge with others in information products like ebooks or video courses.

How to start an online store

  1. Compare ecommerce platforms – some sites charge you upfront to list items, where as others will only take a percentage of your profits, but may take higher fees overall. Different platforms also support different product types. Check out this list of 10 platforms to consider for your store.
  2. Create a brand – you’ll get more sales if your online store looks professional and your brand appeals to your potential clients. Pick a name, make a logo, even select a few colors – whatever you do, be consistent. You don’t have to get fancy either; simple is often better.
  3. Do some product research – look to see what is already available in the market, both to see what is trendy and to be unique from others. Research average prices for the products you plan on selling so that you can be competitive.
  4. Develop high quality products – create products that you would want to buy. If you make products with spelling errors, bad image quality, or are difficult to use, you’ll get a bad reputation and lose customers.
  5. Share on social media – some platforms make it easy for customers to find you through search, but why not maximize your profits and reach out to people who don’t even know your store exists. Every time you add a product to your store, share on social media accounts you create just for your business, and occasionally cross-post on your personal accounts (just don’t over do it or your friends might unfollow you!).

These are just a few of the businesses that you can start with little to no funding and limited living space. What kind of businesses have you or someone you know started before they even graduated?

You don't need an MBA to start a business - here are four that you can run from your college dorm room.

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