Starting a business can be very rewarding. You get to be your own boss, skip the 9-to-5 grind, bring a business solution to fruition, and have career security. This has never been so relevant considering the current COVID pandemic’s impact on businesses.
Imagine having the ability to maximize the amount of money you make, without worrying about getting your shifts dropped, or completely laid off when economic uncertainty happens. You can’t start a full on business while studying, so instead, you should consider a side hustle. But what side hustles are worth considering?
The good news is that there are a ton of viable ideas for students. And with not much risk, since most businesses are operating remotely, which will keep overhead to a minimum for your future startup.
From becoming a social media influencer, to running an ecommerce website, the opportunities are endless. Let’s take a closer look at a few possible ventures while we grind through next year.
Social Media Influencer
This may seem like a fantasy for the budding college student entrepreneur, since most influencers on social media appear to have millions of followers. But the truth is, you can make serious money as a social media influencer with only a few thousand followers.
Brands like MAC Cosmetics, IKEA, Dove, and Dyson are all seeking influencers with small followings. For instance, nano-influencers are social media influencers with less than 5,000 followers. And brands want to work with them because they have very loyal fans.
Why? Engagement. The amount of followers you have no longer matters to brands. Brands now want to see powerful engagement rates before hiring influencers. Nano-influencers have the highest engagement rates among all influencers.
Ecommerce Store Entrepreneur
Ecommerce is hot right now, because physically going out to get products in-store is proving difficult during the current COVID pandemic.
But COVID aside, ecommerce was already a massive industry. Online retail sales are expected to hit over $6.5 trillion in sales by 2023. This estimate could be even higher now due to the need for more ecommerce during the pandemic.
It is actually pretty easy to create an ecommerce store with website building platforms. You can easily source products online and start selling them via your own ecommerce store within a week. And growth is definitely possible for ecommerce store entrepreneurs.
Freelance Writer for Hire
Freelance work is a powerful asset, especially during these times of professional uncertainty. Freelance writing is one of the top careers that you can easily start from home as a college student.
In university, you have gone through grueling editing and proofreading stages with your professors. Chances are, you have honed your skills as a writer and not even known it. This can prove useful for a profitable business idea.
First, get some of your writing out there. Just be sure your articles are optimized for online consumption. You may need to learn a bit about search engine optimization (SEO) designed for writers before getting your first paid gig.
Once you have a few writing examples ready, set up an UpWork and Fiverr account to land clients. You may even find setting up your own blog and website useful for landing clients, generating leads, and showcasing your work.
Being college students, we’ve (hopefully) already learned a bit about a subject that we might wish to pursue in the future. Why wait? You can begin consulting from home now. Especially if you have skills like computer science, literature, marketing, or business development.
How do you start your home consulting business? Begin with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for consultants. This is because you have access to business owners and company leadership.
You will want to opt-in for the paid LinkedIn membership in order to get full potential out of your efforts. Having a website and some real world examples can also serve useful before landing your first consulting client.
Social media can be impactful when starting a consulting business too. For instance, you can post actionable best practices that business leaders will find useful, and they be more than willing to contact you to learn more.
Consulting is actually pretty simple. “A consultant’s job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less,” according to Entrepreneur Magazine. “It’s that simple. There’s no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant more successful than another one.”
Online Tutor for Kids
Remote learning is not going away anytime soon, thanks to the COVID pandemic. Even if schools open back up, many parents may be reluctant to send their children back to the classroom. This opens up an opportunity for a profitable side hustle for college students.
As an online tutor for kids, you can connect with students from anywhere in the U.S. via computer. And kids are now used to learning via the computer, since in-school learning had previously shut down once before.
All you need is a computer and a bit of marketing savvy to land a few students. How do you find students? Start in your community first. You can put tutor ads on craigslist in your city, as well as set up an Upwork account and list your tutoring prowess in Math, Science, Literature, and more.
The above profitable side hustle ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other ways to start a business from home during, or after, university. The above are among the easiest to get going. What does your future home business look like?
In the early noughties, we saw two wealthy socialites leave their lives of luxury and trudge through the drudgery of the common folk in their designer heels. Paris Hilton undoubtedly became the original influencer as millions of viewers tuned in to the reality show The Simple Life. Starting fads before the term ‘influencer’ was even coined, Hilton made it trendy to say ‘that’s hot’, wear pink velour sweatsuits, and carry a diamond-collared chihuahua in a handbag.
The rise of Hilton as a pop culture ring leader paved the way for many others to use the power of the paparazzi to propel themselves into the limelight. One of these is her former assistant, Kim Kardashian, who followed in the footsteps of Hilton and has herself risen into the ranks of celebrity. These celebrity influencers, who are said to be famous for being famous, generate media hype by building attention around their personal brand and cult of personality.
So Hot Right Now
A social media influencer is someone who garners a loyal following through the content that they create on social media platforms. Through generating conversations, sharing their opinions, and driving engagement, influencers hold considerable sway over the buying habits of their captive audience. According to reports, the influencer marketing industry is estimated to be worth about 13.8 billion dollars in 2021.
Before the grand age of social media, much of brand advertising was accomplished through celebrity endorsement. Famous actors, sports personalities, social figures, and politicians promoted brands and products, lending their star power to add that extra appeal for the spending audience. But, as valuable as celebrity endorsements are to marketing, they have significant limitations as well.
Traditionally, celebrities are viewed as existing on a pedestal, aloof and out of reach. While celebrities may offer massive reach, most of them have public relations staff to manage their social media accounts and often post only generic and impersonal (i.e. boring) content. Audiences these days demand relatable personalities with opinions that they can connect with. Social media influencers fill this gap by focusing exclusively on their followers, building relationships, engagement, and trust.
This interactive approach is not new to marketing. Just as the Tupperware parties of the 1950s relied on personal testimonials and mutual rapport between housewives, influencer marketing relies on the authenticity of the influencer user experience. Despite having an immense following, influencers are still perceived as being ‘real people’. They face the same dilemmas about how to look good, what to wear, and where to go for dinner, and thus present a friendly avenue for followers to turn to for advice.
Under the Influence
Given the low entry barrier and the appeal of fame and fortune, many millennials view becoming a social media influencer as an appealing career choice. Indeed, anyone can be an influencer with nano-influencers commanding small audiences of only one to ten thousand followers. While nano-influencers have vastly less reach than macro-influencers who boast audience numbers between half to one million, they can still be important to brands who want to reach a specific audience.
The first step to becoming a successful influencer is to choose your channel. There are different social media channels to suit various content styles. If you like to publish in-depth videos and commentaries, head to YouTube. If attention-grabbing photography and frequent lifestyle shots are more your thing, then Instagram is the channel for you. Because every channel has its media content strategy, it pays to focus on building an audience through one channel initially instead of trying to grow them all at once.
Once you have chosen a channel, it is time to decide on your niche. Media-savvy audiences can spot a fake a mile away, so make sure that you choose something you are truly passionate about. Once you have decided on a niche, create unique and high-quality content that will grab the attention of your audience. When creating content, always spend time researching your topics and choose ideas that are relevant to your target audience. One way to do this is to create a poll or pose questions to your audience, using their feedback to guide you.
Social media platforms have complicated algorithms that can bury content from new users with few followers. In the early days, you may need to gain a boost by obtaining instant likes and followers that will help to push your content to the top of user feeds. In addition, audiences are often attracted by influence and are more likely to follow your page and engage with your posts if you already have a large number of followers, likes, and comments. After you establish a substantial user base, post relatable and engaging content that will be shared by your audience, spreading your reach.
Finally, with most endeavors of the marketing kind, consistency is key. Stick to a posting schedule, albeit once a week or once a month. Spend time having conversations and discussions with your audience, building relationships with them. Be on the pulse of the latest trends in social media and use trending hashtags such as #tiktokcookoff to get more post views. Remember that your social media content does only half the work, your presence makes up the other half.
Being an influencer is an attractive career and lifestyle choice. However, behind the paid advertising, product sponsorships, and brand collaborations, is hard work and a commitment to great content. We can’t all be as popular as Paris or Kim K., but with a little time and effort, we could carve out our own place in the social media landscape.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been, among other things, a global experiment in remote work. Almost 60% of American workers report having worked from home in the past 12 months, and this is showing no signs of slowing down. In the UK, for example, Deloitte announced this week that its 20,000 employees would be permitted to work from home forever. The future of remote work is here, and with it, an entire ecosystem of new technologies that have been developed to make it easier for remote workers to collaborate.
What’s Old is New
Working from home is not a new concept. In centuries past, paradoxically, this was the default mode of operation for the vast majority of working people. In the 17th century, it started to become more common to work in large factories, but people still largely worked from home when they were clocked off. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, the industrial revolution brought about a more permanent shift in the way people worked. People began working in large, centralized offices. This trend continued steadily, and to this day most people associate work with being in a dedicated office among company colleagues.
But the 21st century has thrown a curveball to this trend. Even before the pandemic, it was becoming increasingly common for people to work from home. At my previous job at a large tech company, I saw this. We had a full-time program specifically aimed at encouraging remote work. The unofficial tagline was “unlimited work from home”, a nod to the fact that some of our competitors had a strict limit on how much time you could spend working from home. It wasn’t uncommon for people to work from home in excess of 50% of the time. As the pandemic hit, this trend accelerated. It was a little unclear what the policy on remote work was at any given point, but everyone’s natural instinct was to work from home as much as possible.
Now, of course, almost every company in America has some kind of work-from-home policy in place, and many big names have declared that WFH arrangements will become a permanent fixture.
Four Day Work Week, Anyone?
Let’s go back to the Deloitte announcement. The company says that they are making this move because it will be good for their employees. They claim that employees will be happier, more productive, and have a lower turnover rate. This claim is backed up by some science.
In a recent study of a large Canadian bank, employees who worked remotely were found to be happier, more productive, and more loyal to the company. They were also found to be less stressed and sick than their co-located counterparts.
There have also been studies into the productivity of remote workers, and these have yielded similar results. Generally, productivity is about as good as when working in the office, and in some cases it can even be higher. One study found that remote workers were more productive because they tended to work longer hours, and were more motivated to work when they had to travel to the office.
Finally, some companies have been experimenting with 4-day weeks, and this has also yielded positive results. One study found that “people who worked four eight-hour days did just as much work as those who worked five eight-hour days” and that “the four-day week increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and boosted employee morale.”
The bottom line is that, in most cases, remote work is good for your employees, and it’s good for your company – and this remains the case even as the pandemic is dying down.
Tools of the Trade
One of the biggest effects of this transition has been the ecosystem of tools, services, and products that have been developed to make remote work easier and more productive. Some of these are the obvious ones: Zoom, Slack, Trello, Google Apps, etc. But there are also other, more subtle tools at work that are just as important. Budding entrepreneurs can, for example, rent a virtual business address in several major U.S. cities for a very low fee. This allows them to have a home base for their company without having to actually rent or buy office space.
Other services that have blossomed during the pandemic include home cleaning services, which have become popular for remote workers who don’t want to risk getting sick and going to the doctor. They also help out with laundry, meal preparation, and other things that are necessary for work/life balance but take up too much time to do in the office.
The home office itself is also a changed landscape. In the days of yore, having an office to work from home meant having a dedicated room for it. Now, it’s much less common to have a dedicated office given the popularity of apartment living. Instead, people tend to work in a dedicated section of the kitchen or bedroom.
The Bottom Line
At the risk of sounding clichè, the pandemic has changed the way we work. We are seeing a shift from the age of office-based work to one that more closely resembles the pre-industrial era. This has come with certain tradeoffs – for example, some people find the physical separation from their colleagues to be isolating – but for many it has been a welcome change.
The pandemic has also created a whole new industry of products and services that are designed to make working remotely easier. This is undeniably positive, and one of the best things to come from the pandemic. Let’s make use of it.
It has been both an amazing and amusing experience for me in college to observe how some students are able to find time for everything they like. From flexing muscles in a gym, submitting assignments on time, chasing leather in a football field, to catching up on gossip with friends and even juggling a part time job, they seem to lead an exceptionally organised life. While there are others who still have that eternal question on their mind, where’s the time? Does the clock tick slower on the other side?
Time Management is Life Management
There is a common joke we all might have come across on social media about what life in college is like. A student can never have good grades, have a thriving social life, and get adequate amounts of sleep all at the same time, but can only pick two of them at once. Throughout high school, while we are gearing up for college, we are bombarded with advice from our peers on how to successfully balance studying and work, while also maintaining a social life.
Out of those countless suggestions I had been given, the most important one that I adopted was to focus on building strong organisational skills that would ultimately be a major contributor to my success as a student and in my career. Being organised is not about getting more things done but instead getting the right things done efficiently, making the wisest possible investment of my time. The concept of time table was introduced to us at the onset of our academic life to guide us so that we minimize wastage of time, which has greatly helped me throughout my college life.
I started out my day listing all the tasks I had pending, giving me a bird’s-eye view of my schedule and the time I would need to spend on completing each of them. It has been scientifically proven and amply demonstrated by the lifestyle of top corporate workers that the tone for the day is set by how they spend the first few hours right after waking up. When we are successful in setting the pace of the morning, we are affirming how the rest of the day is going to unfurl. This concept of having a sleek and smart morning routine has been wonderfully encapsulated by Robin Sharma in his iconic book, The 5.00AM Club.
I also segregated the tasks on the basis of how urgent or how important they were, so that I could allocate more time in doing those which required my immediate attention. Since we have limited hours in a day, we must give more emphasis to doing the most critical activities above the simpler ones. Some of them could either be carried forward to the next day, or could be managed digitally through applications or scheduling appointment software, so I don’t have to worry about missing important dates. If you too find yourself swamped with a never ending to-do list, consider ranking them on the basis of their importance, eliminating unnecessary tasks,so they appear less intimidating and are easier to deal with.
FOMO, No More
As we were growing up, the regimented life we lived in school appeared stifling to us and we planned our days based on what we want to do rather than what we need to do. However, in college, I don’t schedule my classes around my spare time; instead, I schedule my social activities around my studies. If I am having a pool day with your roommates on Saturday afternoon, I will take time out at night to finish my essay that’s due at the end of the week instead. It is not a realistic goal to devote all your time studying or working all throughout your time at university.
The crux of organization is basically time management and some innocuous habits that may appear mundane but end up being super time savers. General decluttering of your workspace, preparing meals on your own instead of traveling to eat out at the coolest new cafe at the opposite side of town, or even carrying out the simple act of making the bed early every morning can be such huge help especially if one is an overseas student living on their own and managing all chores alone.
Even though it might feel like constantly walking on a tightrope, finding the balance in a stimulating environment like college can seem unattainable at first and there is no optimum formula for doing so. College life is not about making compromises, but about making the right choices and prioritizing. You may still spend your Friday watching the F.R.I.E.N.D.S reunion, attend a baseball game,or a Sunday brunch with your friends. You need to Simply make the most of your time and take advantage of the opportunities that arise between courses.