College is expensive: Tuition, room and board—not to mention the incidentals. The cost of textbooks alone can run several hundred dollars each semester. And you’re going to want to consume non-dining hall food at some point. Starting a side hustle (or several!) is the perfect way for college students to earn some extra cash. It’s Economics 101. With that in mind, check out our list of the best side hustles for college students.
1. Become a Tutor
Tutors are always in demand. If you’re especially well-versed in a particular discipline, or if you aced a course back in your freshman year, other college students may pay you to help teach them one on one. And you’re not limited to your peers. You might find more success (and more potential clients) by tutoring junior high and high school students.
Parents are often looking for tutors to help their children succeed. After all, the end goal is to get them into the best college possible. Along those lines, you can also offer your services in preparing high school students for the all-important standardized tests (SATs and ACTs) that are part of the admissions process. Many parents are willing to pay top dollar for individualized help in preparation for those exams.
Read more in our guide on how to start a tutoring business.
2. Sell Textbooks Online
Let’s be honest: Once you’re done with a class you’re likely never going to look at the textbook again. Instead of holding on to all your old textbooks, you can sell them online. You may have forgotten this as it’s now an ecommerce behemoth, but Amazon actually started off as an online book seller and you can still post used books to the site. Additionally, you can make use of sites and apps like TextbookRush, BookScouter, and BookFinder that compare prices on various websites. Who knows? You might be able to make enough sales to cover all your books for next semester.
3. Start a Translation Service
If you’re bilingual or majoring in another language in college, you can start a small side business offering translation services. Get started by checking out sites like Upwork for translation gigs, or make your own profile on Fiverr. Price points will vary based on the complexity of the job and the language required. If you’re fluent in a less widely spoken language you’ll likely be able to charge more for your services.
4. Drive for Uber or Lyft
Rideshares are wildly popular these days. And around college campuses Uber and Lyft drivers can be in high demand. If you’ve got a valid driver’s license and a four-door car, becoming an Uber or Lyft driver might be the perfect side gig for you.
However for college students, there is a catch: the age requirement. Rideshare drivers are generally required to be at least 21 years of age. If you don’t meet the age requirement just yet, consider making use of your car with a different side hustle, for example food delivery (more on this below).
Learn more in our guide to becoming an Uber driver.
5. Work as a Caterer
Now working as a caterer isn’t exactly as it’s depicted in the Starz cult-favorite “Party Down,” but it is a great way to pick up some extra cash. Caterers typically work weekend events, so it fits perfectly around an academic schedule. Prior experience in the food service industry is definitely a plus for this college side gig.
If you’re willing to sacrifice some of your precious Friday and Saturday nights and you’re good with kids, babysitting is a great side hustle for college students. After all, parents have social lives, too. The nice thing about babysitting is it’s a relatively limited time commitment, and you can pick and choose jobs based on your schedule.
To find potential babysitting opportunities, check the bulletin board at your student union or sign up for websites like SitterCity or Care.com. Once you have one client, you can ask them to recommend you to their friends.
Read more about how to start a babysitting business.
7. Become a Tour Guide
Schools typically offer campus tours, but many prospective students (and their parents) are looking for something a bit more personalized. If you’re outgoing and enjoy making small talk with strangers, offering your services as a tour guide could be a college business idea worth pursuing. After you’ve planned out all your tour stops, you’ll need to set an hourly rate and advertise your services on social media, bulletin boards, and via word of mouth.
8. Start an Etsy Shop
Etsy is the go-to ecommerce site for lovers of all things arts and crafts. If that sounds like you, then selling your wares on Etsy is pretty easy. Before you jump in here are a few things you should know: there’s a $0.20 listing fee, a 5% transaction fee, and a 3% plus $0.25 payment processing fee to sell on Etsy. You also may get hit with a 15% offsite ads fee if your items happen to be featured and you net a sale from a buyer clicking through. So keep all of that in mind when determining your price points.
If you’re a visual arts major, or you make jewelry or crafts for fun, then this college business idea could have your name written embroidered all over it.
Learn more in our guide to opening an Etsy shop.
9. Work for TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit is a solid side hustle for college students because it allows you to manage your time and work when it suits your schedule. Becoming a tasker as a college student also works because the minimum age requirement is only 18. (That’s lower than Uber, if you recall.) If you consider yourself to be handy and you’re willing to do everyday tasks like babyproofing a home, assembling furniture, or even waiting in line for something, then you can likely find a job on TaskRabbit.
The only real startup cost is the $25 application fee. Assuming you have a checking account and a smartphone, you’re pretty much ready to start tasking. TaskRabbit’s biggest selling point is that it allows you, the tasker, to keep 100% of what you charge, plus the tips.
10. Deliver for UberEats or Postmates
If you own a car, a scooter, or even a bike, then you can do this next college side hustle. It’s no secret that college kids can get late-night munchies, so food delivery services near college campuses are in great demand. Enter UberEats or Postmates. Note that the age requirement for delivering food for Postmates or UberEats on a bicycle is just 18 (or 19 on a scooter), so this is an option for college students who are too young to work as rideshare drivers.
Plus, with this option, you can decide to work pretty much whenever you want—although the most lucrative times are likely the aforementioned late-night hours.
11. Work as a Freelance Writer
There’s an abundance of content online. And that content needs to be created. That’s where freelance writers come in. If you’re an English or journalism major, this could be the perfect opportunity for you. The payment for freelance writing jobs can vary greatly, depending on the outlet, the word count, and if expert research is required.
A side benefit of freelance writing is that it allows you to build up your portfolio with some bylines—which already puts you ahead of the game when you graduate and start your job hunt.
12. Walk Dogs or Take Care of Pets
If you have a love for furry animals, consider starting a dog walking or pet sitting business. For animal lovers, this is likely something of a dream gig: you’re literally getting paid to hang out with cuddly critters.
The other great part about these ventures is there are established apps that can help you get started. For dog walking, take a look at Wag!, and if you’re interested in pet sitting, check out Rover. Both allow for schedule flexibility and the opportunity to make a good amount of spending money.
13. Work as a Virtual Assistant
If you’ve ever worked in an administrative capacity—perhaps answering phones at the admissions office, or a summer internship at a corporation—then working as a virtual assistant might be right up your alley. Many small business owners need help on administrative tasks that can be done remotely, so they hire virtual assistants to complete those tasks for them. And you don’t need to limit yourself to administrative tasks. If you possess marketing, social media, or web design skills, you can do those virtually, as well.
Read more in our guide to starting a virtual assistant business.
The gig economy has made finding a side hustle for college students incredibly easy. And the best part is all of these gigs are part time, allowing for the schedule flexibility you need as a student. You’ll still have time to cram for finals and hang out with your friends, even if you have a side job delivering for UberEats or walking pups.
- Ridester.com. “How Old Do You Have to Be to Drive for Uber and Lyft.”
- Etsy.com. “Fees and Payment Policy.”
- Support.Postmates.com. “Is there an age requirement to become a Postmate?”
- Uber.com. “Deliver With Uber.”
Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of JustBusiness and the editorial director at Fundera.
Sally joined Fundera in 2018 and has almost 15 years of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There, she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and ColoradoBiz magazines, as well as Yelp, SmallBizClub, and BizCrat.