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5 Online Business Ideas for College Students

by Kevin Mercadante

With the cost of a college education now hovering well out into the stratosphere, many college students are looking for income sources to not only help pay for their education, but also to minimize the amount of debt they will carry after graduation. While a part-time job is usually the preferred source of income for students, there may be better opportunity found in online business ideas.

Keyboard

Writing can be a great freelance opportunity for college students!

Unlike a part-time job, an online business does not require you to “keep hours” at a remote location, and there’s no limit on the amount of money that you can earn. In addition, an often underappreciated benefit to an online business is that it can provide a source of income even after you graduate. If the business is particularly profitable, it may even end up becoming your future career.

Here are five of the more promising online business ideas. Not only are they ideas that you may be able to make a money from, but they also require very little cash up front, if any at all.

1. Start freelance writing.

As a freelance writer myself, this one actually takes the top spot. If you have any writing ability at all, and a specific interest in one or more common topic areas, freelance writing on the web can be your niche. There are many thousands of blogs and websites, and all of them need content. You can earn some quick money by providing relevant articles for the sites. And over time, you can convert some of the sites to ongoing clients.

There are content sites that will pay you for your articles, and then distribute them to various websites. While this is one way to get started, it typically does not pay very well. You may be writing articles for $5 or less for a very long time.

A better way to freelance and earn more money doing it is to build your own client base. You can do this by writing guest posts on sites that you read on a regular basis. You won’t get paid for guest posts, but it will give you an opportunity to build a portfolio of published articles. You can then use that portfolio to market your writing services to other sites for paid work. And sometimes, the site you guest post on will want to keep you on as a paid staff writer.

2. Provide support for websites and blogs.

Some college students are veritable wizards when it comes to websites and blogs. If this describes you, you may be able to build a business providing services to site owners.

Many websites and blogs are started by the owners, either using their own skills, or paying a comprehensive service to do the job for them. But there are many specialties that go into a successful website or blog, and a site owner may run out of either time or money or both, and need to subcontract out certain functions.

This is where your skills could fit the bill. A site owner may need services for graphics, site management, search engine optimization, and even social media management. If you have any of those skills, you may be able to sell them to website owners. How much money you can make doing this will depend upon your own skills and abilities. If you have the talent, this can be a way to make money quickly and on a steady basis.

3. Create and sell an e-book.

Nearly everyone on the web has an e-book that they are trying to sell so the market is pretty thick here. But if you have an idea for an e-book that is based on a particularly relevant service or idea, there will always be room for one more.

Pick an e-book that is based on a topic where you have an above average level of knowledge or skill. You don’t need to write a 500-page book. On the web people are looking for useful and readily applicable information, and that can often be accomplished in as little as 50 pages. All you need to do is introduce a few good ideas, and you’ll have the basis for a viable e-book.

Marketing is the big key when it comes to e-books. You can set up your own website to sell the book, but it can take a very long time to build that site up to the point of getting the kind of traffic that will sell a large number of books. A better approach may be to offer affiliate arrangements with established websites, where you offer the site owners a percentage of the sale of each e-book. This can bring in some quick money since those sites have built-in markets.

4. Offer online tutoring.

If you have the ability to teach, and you’re particularly good at a certain academic subject, you may be able to offer online tutoring. On a face-to-face basis, tutors can earn anywhere from $30 per hour up to $75 or more. If you can offer the same service online at a substantial discount below these rates, you may be able to attract customers.

You can advertise your services through local newspapers, through Craigslist, and also to local schools. You might be able to market your services as a lower-priced alternative to face-to-face tutors.

5. Sell a product.

If there is a product out there that you feel strongly about – as in strong enough to make you feel that you might be able to sell it – this presents an income opportunity.

Many companies are looking for outlets and people to sell their products. They may offer you a commission of anywhere from 10% to 50% of the gross sale price in order to do it. If it is a product that you truly believe in, it will be a lot easier for you to sell it.

You can find products by contacting merchants directly or by going to affiliate broker sites, such as Commission Junction. (Personally, I’d go the direct route, since affiliate broker sites tend to have complications that you may not feel like dealing with.)

You can offer your product(s) for sale through online sources such as eBay and Craigslist (which is free to advertise on), or you could even build a dedicated website. The website will take a while to build – you’ll have to stock it with content and market it heavily – but it will be the most profitable of all once you get the site humming along.

Have you tried any of these ideas to make money online? Leave a comment and tell us your story!

Photo Credit: Solo


Published or updated June 2, 2013.
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