How College Students Can Build Successful Side Hustles

Young lady talking on cosmetics holding a makeup palette while recording her video.
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You don’t need an economics degree to figure out that college is expensive. Just do a quick Google search about college costs, and you’ll get stampeded by articles about it. The average tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year rose by 1.1% to $10,560 for in-state students at four-year public colleges, CNBC reported last month, citing data from the College Board. For private schools, tuition and fees climbed 2.1% to $37,650.

See: 11 Best Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas: Earn MoreFind: 94 Money-Making Skills You Can Learn in Less Than a Year

To help pay for those costs, many college students are taking on side hustles with an entrepreneurial flair.

Data from British banking company Santander shows that one out of every 10 university students run their own businesses to earn extra cash, the Simply Business website reported last week. And in true Gen Z fashion, many are going the social media or influencer route.

Before pursuing a side hustle of your own, you’ll need to do some organizing. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Write a business plan: First think about how your side hustle can benefit customers, then write out a plan that can serve as a roadmap to finding customers, meeting their needs and building your business.
  • Research the tax laws: Since you’ll be earning money, you’ll be required to pay taxes on the income. Depending on where you live, you might have to pay federal, state and local income taxes, though nine states don’t have a state income tax, according to AARP. As an independent contractor, you’ll be responsible for keeping up with your own income and expenses. You might also have to pay quarterly estimated taxes, depending on how much you earn.
  • Make a budget: This will help you keep track of income and expenses and plan for future growth.
  • Get funding: This only applies if you want to start a side hustle that requires capital, such as launching a moving service that might require you to rent a van and a moving dolly. If you do need some startup capital, consider crowdfunding or applying for grants.
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More: 21 Budgeting Tips for College Students

With that out of the way, now you have to decide what kind of side hustle best suits your needs and abilities. Here are six ideas:

Social Media Influencer

This is a good way to earn some extra cash without even having to leave your dorm room. All you need is a computer and some imagination. Student influencers promote brands on their social media accounts in return for money — but you’ll need to build up a big, engaged following and find the right niche. The key is to post often, at least a few times a week.


This is a popular way for college students to earn money. Simply Business cited data from showing that 20% of students have side gigs tutoring other students. The advantage here is that you have a built-in customer base right on campus, either through first-year students who need help with new material, or other students who could use help in your own academic specialty.

More: 20 Jobs Where You Can Make $60,000 Out of College

House Sitter

This is an ideal side hustle for college students, especially if you grow tired of sharing cramped living quarters and showers. A good way to drum up business early on is to network with the adults on campus, such as faculty and administrators.

YouTube Channel

This is another way to earn some extra bucks with minimal setup. College students can monetize their channels by building a subscriber base and then earning revenue through ads or channel memberships. Popular YouTube trends include travel vlogs, fashion vlogs and makeup tutorials, though you could also build an audience by chatting about college life.

Party Planner

Plenty of college students (and even faculty) need to unwind to deal with the stress of academic life, but not many have time to plan parties or events themselves. If you have good organizational and networking skills, becoming a party or event planner is a great college side hustle. The work itself involves finding the right venue and then organizing food, drinks, music and decorations. Good communication skills are a must, as is the ability to network and build relationships. A good way to get your foot in the door is by joining the Student Union and helping to organize on-campus events.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Learn: 50 Ways To Live the Big Life on a Small BudgetDiscover: 20 Things You Should Know About Saving Money in Your 20s

Dog Walker

Obviously, a love of canines is a must for this side gig. You’ll also need to make yourself available to meet different client schedules, which could extend from the early morning to evenings. But with the right training and contacts — and licenses, if required in your community — this is a good way to earn steady income while also getting exercise.

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Last updated: August 12, 2021


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