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Starting an online business during university can end up not only helping you pay the bills, but also provide you with valuable business experience that translates into future employment and economic opportunities.


There are also a number of online ventures that require, surprisingly, minimal startup funds, and which you can conduct fairly hassle-free from a coffee shop, your dorm room, or anywhere that’s comfortable. Below are some tips and ideas for starting and managing an online business while you are studying.


Drop shipping is a form of business that allows you to sell directly to customers without having to maintain a large (or any) inventory, or needing to coordinate delivery to anyone. This allows you to sell, and keep an online store without taking on any of the risk involved in keeping a warehouse (and paying for storage space). The point of drop shipping is being able to sell without having to warehouse or manufacture anything.

To begin drop shipping items, you work with a company that specializes in this form of selling and warehousing. To do this, you list products for sale, either on your website, or through a platform like Amazon or Etsy. When a visitor to your website or Amazon page decides to make a purchase, you purchase that item from your drop shipper (typically a wholesaler or manufacturer) for a lower price, and the difference is your profit. You can either manually forward an order form to your drop seller, or download software and plugins that complete the process automatically. There are certain qualities that make for a good drop shipping product, including uniqueness, the shipping time of the product from the drop shipper and more.


Affiliate marketing is widely popular because it allows for the possibility of almost 100% passive income. Affiliate marketing involves selling a range of products for different companies, and you are paid on a commission basis. There is no buying and storing products, you don’t handle the packaging or shipping, and, perhaps, best of all, you don’t have to deal with any customer issues.

The start-up costs for an affiliate site include around $10 for web hosting, $10 to purchase a domain name, and $30 for a WordPress webpage theme (if you don’t want to use one of the free ones). People are making anywhere from $50 to $100,000 per month off of affiliate sites, and was recently sold to the New York Times for $30 million USD. Affiliate sites are great for students because they don’t cost much to start up, don’t require a ton of time to run (unless you have the time to create content that is going to optimize you for SEO and increase your chances of more income), and if it doesn’t end up taking off, you only invested $20-$50 at the end of the day.


If you love arts and crafts, or anything vintage, and, more importantly, if you have a particular skill making things that fall into any of these categories, then an Etsy store could be both fulfilling and a money-maker for you. People sell all kinds of handcrafted, personalized items on Etsy. If you are good with wood, handcrafting jewellery, embroidery, drawing or painting designs on things like mugs, pillows, and greeting cards, there are markets out there for all these things, and people are willing to pay top dollar for quality products.

Etsy success stories are abound, with companies like ThreeBirdNest and Bohemian Findings starting from nothing and, over time, becoming businesses with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in revenue. If you are passionate about something, have sold handmade items to people in the past (friends, relatives, even been commissioned by strangers), and you know people like your stuff, you might consider turning your pad into a makeshift studio, workshop, etc. (provided your landlord allows you) and starting up an Etsy business to help with the bills.


Before beginning any venture, even one you don’t have to sink a ton of money into, you should always come at it with a plan of attack. An online business at university is going to take up some of your time, and you want to maximize the chances that your time is not going to be wasted. Knowing who your customers are, how much you are going to charge for something, having an idea of the size of the market, and understanding your advertising and marketing strategies are all important components of a business plan, and could be the difference between success and abject failure.

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