Setting up your own business and working for yourself is a great way to earn some extra cash at uni without being tied down to shift work – but finding a great idea can be quite tricky!
These business ideas should get your entrepreneurial juices flowing and set you off on your merry way to small-business success.
How to come up with a business idea
Do some research: what do people need or want? Think of an everyday obstacle – how can it be overcome?
If you could provide or invent something that would make life easier, better, safer, fairer or cheaper – what would it be?
What are you really good at or love doing? Perhaps start with that!
Think about what business ventures might support your future or education.
53 startup business ideas
If you’re big on social media, make money (and get freebies) by advertising products for brands. See our guide to making money from social media
Start a website. Pick a subject you’re passionate about, get blogging and start earning. We’ve identified 20 ways to monetise your website
Earn money from YouTube videos by sharing a slice of the ad revenue. Pick any topic that interests you (games, comedy and music do particularly well) and put together simple guides or reviews
Become a pet sitter or dog walker! Busy people with 9-5 jobs are often willing to pay someone to look after their beloved pets – plus you get to hang out with animals
Buy second-hand in-demand textbooks at the end of term and sell them on to new students at the start of the new term (simple supply and demand)
Cash in on your creativity by selling designs, music and even recipes on sites like Fiverr and Gumroad
Start a magazine (or blog) about your degree subject and get other students, tutors and experts to contribute. You could then place adverts – but aside from the money such a project will look great on your CV
Sell your unwanted clothes on Depop – or snap up gems in charity shops for bargain prices and sell them on for a profit
Set yourself an unusual goal and blog or write a book about it – just like student Ken Ilgunas who self-published a book about living in a van
Hunt around in charity shops, and on sites like Gumtree and Freecycle, for stuff you can upcycle and sell on for a profit
Run a delivery service. Evenings and weekends could see you delivering McDonald’s/beer combos, while early mornings could be coffees, newspapers or train tickets
Create an alternative yearbook using a print-on-demand publisher and sell copies and advertising space
Start a film screening club
‘I queue for you’: stand in-line or hang on the phone so someone else doesn’t have to
Convert someone’s entire CD catalogue into MP3 files they can play on their phone. It’s easy enough to do using software like iTunes but can take hours… which is where you come in!
Start an accommodation reviews website for your campus or town
Set up a Skype language course or conversational practice for learners around the world
Buy packets of seeds cheaply and sell pot plants or fresh fruit/veg. You can grow lots of things without tons of equipment – some veg will even thrive in old wellies or grown indoors. Just keep it legal!
Sell original work on Etsy – think greetings cards, stickers, badges and illustrations
Make and sell audio or e-book versions of out-of-copyright set texts, particularly if they’re hard to find (think medieval literature or 18th-century science tomes)
Be the go-to finder for folk who’ve lost something irreplaceable or want to buy something hard to find. Use the web as well as local contacts and retail knowledge to track down the impossible… for a commission
Freelance: Whether it’s related to your current course or your dream career, offer your skills to people who need web design, illustration, writing or admin support. You’ll also get CV-pimping experience to boot
Create food hampers that parents can order and have delivered to their kids – think student essentials in long-life eats or healthy stuff they’re probably not getting enough of
Run a couple of matchmaker events for your campus and charge a small joining fee
Make bespoke photo albums: use a site like Lulu.com to produce professionally printed books or magazines and add hand-crafted touches or notes to make each one unique
Offer a transcription service that types up lecture recordings, or use your graphic design skills to produce handouts for tutors
Create a swaps site that matches owners with borrowers: think clothes, services, bikes or books – or maybe one that matches students who want to see the UK with those who live in other towns
If you’re good with kids, offer your services as a babysitter. Parents always need someone to watch their brood when they go out in the evening
Organise student event trips to other cities or to visit festivals – get a good deal on a coach and double your money on the tickets
Help friends and family with matched betting and take a cut of their profits
Offer to sit for stock photographers or source models for them. Or just grab a camera and have a go at shooting and selling your own snaps. Try newcomer Picfair, which allows you set your own prices
Produce a campus e-newsletter and take paid advertising from local businesses, or do deals to offer readers discounts and competitions
Start an annual gift or card service where you post out cards and presents to subscribers so they never forget important birthdays or anniversaries
Be a market research consultant and sell your services to local or national businesses who want to know what students think about their stuff
Pay a flat rate to a freelance graphic designer to create popular web graphics or icons, and sell them on a marketplace like GraphicRiver for recurring income
If there’s one thing we all seem to have lurking in a spare bedroom, it’s unused home gym equipment and a pile of good intentions. Buy or beg the kit at bargain rates to re-sell or re-home with local schools, gyms, offices or personal trainers
Offer to collect or wait for deliveries for a fee (saving someone else the time or cost of rearranging a missed package)
Create a portfolio website that bands and musicians can use to connect with local events or businesses
Start a home-made smoothie or sandwich business for local firms: they phone you their orders in the morning and you deliver on the dot at lunchtime
Turn your best photos or artwork into posters (good sellers at the start of term as students move into new homes)
Start an essay or thesis proofreading business
Create a local guide – think magazine, website or app – that helps freshers make the most of their new town: the best cafés, cheapest deals, or hidden gems. You can sell these on and even ask businesses to pay a small fee to be included
Start your own travel exchange: put together packages of budget flights, accommodation and events and co-ordinate it between a uni abroad and your own
Sell a uni essentials welcome package – stationery, kitchen kit, discount vouchers – that can be delivered to freshers’ rooms ahead of their first day. See our what to take to university checklist
Start a tutoring service for school students struggling with the subjects you’re acing at. Offer online courses or webinars to reach more folk
If you have an unused parking space outside your house, see if you can rent it out for some extra cash (but always check with your landlord first)
Be a sports coach for local or uni teams
Collect other students dirty laundry and take it to the launderette for a markup
Design a motivational app that logs lecture/seminar/gym attendance and awards points, vouchers or gifts for achievements or penalties for slacking
Start an outdoor fitness trail on MeetUp.com, leading groups of people to different/unusual locations to work out without equipment while seeing the sights
Offer a CV design or review service. Check out our guide to CV writing for a bit of inspiration
Design cases that disguise gadgets and make them less attractive to thieves. Think phone covers that look like pencil cases, or a laptop case that looks like a ring-binder. Recycled materials get you bonus points!
Run your own subscription service where customers get a study survival kit delivered to them at their homes or libraries during high stress periods – think Berocca, teabags, de-stress scented candles, cans of redbull, etc.
Golden rules for starting a business
Keep your best start-up business ideas on track with some common sense:
Don’t do anything illegal
Don’t compromise anyone’s safety to make a buck
Don’t skimp on your studies in favour of making some cash
Check any rules your uni or insurance provider might have about running a business
You’ll need to complete a self-assessment tax return each year
Make sure you sound-out any rules about plagiarism if you intend to sell your notes or essays
Check whether you need a licence, insurance or qualification to put any of your ideas into action before you move forward
Don’t just think in terms of the money – going for ideas that help your community or local charities can do just as much for your CV or personal satisfaction.
Whether you want to grow your skills, get picked up by an employer who needs your specific knowledge, earn more qualifications for your CV, or some combination of the three, the My Need to Live community is here to support you.
The My Need to Live Support Directory is a resource created by us to help 16 – 24 year olds find the help, support, organisation or practitioner you need to help them with their wellbeing when they need it.