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17 small business ideas to start at university

Published by on August 30th, 2021.


Running low on cash and inspiration? Have a look at our list of profitable small business ideas you can start from home with just a small investment.

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Setting up your own business and working for yourself is a great way to earn extra money at home without being tied down to shift work – but finding a great idea can be quite tricky!

These small business ideas should get your entrepreneurial juices flowing and set you off on your merry way to startup success.

1. Make money from social media

social media icons on phone

Whether you’re big on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever else, you can make money (and get freebies) by advertising products for brands.

You’ll probably have more luck with companies that are relevant to your brand (so if you’re a food blogger, you may be better off approaching kitchenware companies to promote their gadgets), but it’s not uncommon for influencers to promote all kinds of products.

2. Start a website

As far as small business ideas go, things don’t come much easier than setting up your own website – and the best part is that it can be about anything you like (within the confines of the law, of course).

Just pick a subject you’re passionate about, get blogging and then start earning. To set you on your way, we’ve identified some ways to monetise your website – you’ll be a dot com millionaire in no time.

3. Become a YouTuber

Whether it’s the ads that YouTube places on your videos, or the opportunities for sponsored content that come with having a successful channel, there’s some serious money to be made here.

And you don’t have to reach the levels of PewDiePie or Zoella to earn money from YouTube videos – just pick a topic that interests you (games, comedy and music tend to be popular) and put together simple guides or reviews. As long as you’re offering something different, there’s no reason for you not to do well.

4. Pet sitting

dog sat in office chair

All of these business ideas are worth a go, but honestly, does it get any better than getting paid to hang around with animals?

From busy workers who are out during the daytime, to families going abroad for a couple of weeks, plenty of people are willing to pay someone to look after their beloved pets – even if it’s just to walk the dog for an hour or so each day.

5. Resell textbooks

Although selling your own textbooks is a great place to start, that’s not your only option.

At the end of the semester, offer to buy your classmates’ second-hand textbooks. Chances are they’ll accept a fairly low price as it saves them having to go through the hassle of selling it online themselves.

Then, at the start of the new term (or new year), find the latest students taking that module. Sell the books to them for more than you bought them for – but less than the cost of a new copy – and you’re in the money. Simple supply and demand.

6. Sell on creative marketplaces

Got a creative streak? Then get yourself over to to the likes of Fiverr and GumroadASAP.

These sites are the perfect place to cash in on your talents, whether that be graphic design, composing music or even developing recipes.

7. Publish a magazine or blog

rows magazines on a shelf in a shop

The easiest place to start here would be to focus on your main interests. That way, you’ll know enough potential contributors to start filling out your publication.

If you’re a student, speak to tutors, experts and even your classmates to see if they’d like to chip in. Once you’ve got your writers (and your content), you could then place adverts in your magazine (or blog).

8. Sell clothes on Depop

Extra money in your pocket? Check. Encouraging sustainability? Check. More space in your wardrobe? Check.

It’s hard to think of a downside to selling your old clothes online, and sites like Depop make it all so easy.

And if you want to take things to the next level, why not head to the charity shop, scout out some hidden gems and sell them online for a profit?

9. Upcycle and sell for a profit

Upcycling is a great way to revive your old clothes but, beyond simply saving money, the process can make you money too.

Sites like Gumtree and Freecycle are perfect for selling upcycled goods, and it’s not just clothes that can be transformed, either. There’s a huge market for upcycled furniture, so if you’re in a charity shop and spot a tired old chair that could do with a lick of paint, give it that lick!

Once you’re done, take to the internet and sell your handy work for a profit. Before you know it, you’ll have your own small business.

10. Run a delivery service

person holding parcel in brown paper

Starting your own delivery service is just one of the many ways to make money from walking – although, if you’ve got a bike (or even a car) you should be able to complete each order a lot quicker.

Evenings and weekends are the ideal time to deliver McDonald’s and beer combos (although you’ll have the likes of Deliveroo to compete with in larger towns or cities), while in the mornings you could bring people their coffees, newspapers or train tickets.

11. Buy and sell popular graphics and icons

Assuming you’ve not got the skills to design them yourself (if you do, this one is pure profit for you), pay a flat rate to a freelance graphic designer to create popular web graphics or icons.

Then head to a marketplace, like GraphicRiver, and sell them for a recurring income. You may need to sell a few copies before you break even, but once you do, it’s all profit from there on out.

12. Film screening club

Got access to a church hall, or a bar that could do with a few more punters on a quiet night of the week? How about a lecture hall (a.k.a. a glorified cinema)?

Arrange to show a film on the big screen (bonus points if the venue already has a projector) and sell tickets to your friends, coursemates, family – pretty much anyone who might be interested!

13. Get paid to queue

line of people queueing

It’s often said that we Brits love to queue but, in reality, everybody hates it – we just respect the order and accept that it’s the fairest way to approach things.

So, now that we’ve established that nobody likes queueing, it’s time to offer a solution. Whether it’s queueing outside a venue for tickets or waiting on the phone to finallyget through to a member of staff, you can profit from enduring the misery on somebody else’s behalf.

14. Convert CDs into MP3s

This is more likely to be one you can use on your parents or grandparents rather than people your own age (although don’t rule it out!), but if you find someone willing to pay, don’t let age get in the way.

As long as your computer has a disc drive, you can copy the songs off the CDs and onto your PC (this guide explains how to do it, but it’s actually very simple). Then it’s just a case of dragging and dropping the songs over to whatever device your paying customer would like to listen on. A simple task, if not a little time-consuming.

15. Self-publish a book

Always had an idea for a story? Well nowadays, with the rise and rise of eBooks, there’s nothing to stop you from becoming a published author.

In fact, even if you don’t fancy penning a novel, you can still make some money from writing. Set yourself an unusual goal and either blog or write a book about it – just like student Ken Ilgunas, who self-published a book about living in a van.

16. Start an accommodation reviews website

student housing living income

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, setting up your own website is so easy. But finding somewhere nice to live at uni often isn’t, so do your fellow students a massive favour by starting a review site for accommodation in the area.

17. Set up a Skype language course

Are you bilingual? If so, whether you realise it or not, you could be making some serious cash from something that probably seems completely natural to you.

There are loads of ways to make money from your language skills, but one of the best (and easiest, in terms of the time and effort required to get started) is to offer language classes over Skype. That way, you can sell your services to people all around the world without ever leaving your room!

Anyone can have a weird or wonderful idea, but very few actually turn their dreams into concrete reality.

Whether you’ve got a world-changing concept or just want to make some extra cash, you’ve got to make a start before you can have a startup business!

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