You’ve learned it the hard way: college is your wallet’s biggest nightmare.
You juggle student loans, housing payments, meal plans, textbooks, and all of the expenses that go along with the college experience. How can you possibly stake any money into that brilliant venture you’ve always wanted to launch?
Unless you have one of those legendary rich uncles, you’ll need some of your own cash to get things moving.
Nowadays you don’t need a huge investment. You want to be as resourceful and lean as possible, but any money that you add to the cause will definitely help. Here are a few great ways for you to add some extra cash to your idea:
1.) Enter Business Plan Competitions
Business plan competitions give you an opportunity to earn prize money and access countless nonfinancial rewards. The whole process ensures you fine-tune your pitch, gain professional feedback, network with people who can help you, and open yourself up to any number of serendipitous opportunities.
If your school doesn’t have an annual or semi-annual competition, check out events in nearby cities. Search the web for competitions or look at http://www.bizplancompetitions.com.
2.) Find a Part Time Campus Job
Taking on a campus job or an internship might be the perfect option for you. The key is to find a position that doesn’t totally kill your schedule. Try to set up hours that fit with most of your current routine. There’s a good chance you can squeeze some work between classes or during nights/ mornings when you’re free.
3.) Use Your Skills to Service
Everybody has some talent or ability to offer—think consulting, marketing, design, software development, social media, or even something as simple as a student laundry service. Get creative: go to local businesses and community organizations that might benefit from your assistance. If you opt to raise cash this way, you might potentially start a freelancing or service business in the process.
4.) Sell Creative Apparel
College campuses are excellent markets for clothing and accessories like T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, hats, sunglasses, and wristbands. Build a design, estimate your sales forecast, and use your favorite custom apparel website for the order.
Tip: Watch out for copyrighted or trademarked material—law enforcement and university officials occasionally sack these operations because of legal issues. You also want to be careful about where you sell your apparel; if you don’t have your school’s permission, you may run into problems. Social media sites and scheduled pick-ups can eliminate this problem.
5.) Crowdfund Your Idea
Crowdfunding is best suited for physical products, but there are some platforms out there that support service-oriented businesses too. This can be an excellent option if you have a functional prototype and a sound plan of attack. Crowdfunding has great perks including built-in marketing and early adoption, but it also carries added responsibility. When you meet your pledge goal, you’re immediately accountable to your backers—so make sure you are prepared before you begin the campaign.
6.) Tutor a Student
You might still think Calculus is an alien language, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably mastered the basics of elementary and middle school. Every community has a younger generation of kids who can benefit from an extra push in academics. Become a private tutor for a local student and make a difference in somebody’s life. You’ll earn money for your business and leave a real impact.
7.) Make Cash Online
The Internet is loaded with opportunities to make money, from selling your belongings on ecommerce sites to completing low-wage projects with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Think about what you like to do, and see if there’s a way you can earn a few bucks doing it. Blogging, running ads on your web page or YouTube channel, writing, design, and photography are a few ideas. Explore your talents or search for a marketplace that fits you.
8.) Sell Your Textbooks
Students are well accustomed to the crazy prices of textbooks. Luckily, print editions retain a good chunk of value in second hand sales. If you have any old books lying around, you can sell them online to make a nice reward. Many schools also support book buy back programs. If you join one of these organizations, you can earn a fixed amount plus commission by purchasing other students’ used books for the program.
9.) Get Domestic
You may never have considered it, but teachers and administrators are people with needs too. If you ask around, you can probably find some faculty members who need a babysitter, dog sitter, or occasional extra help. Successfully land one of these gigs, do a great job, and you might build a reputation among the community as the go-to aide.
10.) Become the Instructor
Wherever your interests lie, you can probably bestow some of that knowledge upon the next generation. Identify one of your major hobbies and try to get paid helping local kids develop that skill. If you’re an athlete, consider coaching. If you like art or dance, try getting involved at a local studio. This is a very rewarding alternative that can add a lot of money to your startup plans.
It’s easy to say that you’re “looking for investors” as a reason to delay your project. The truth is, your fate is in your own hands. You need to make the initial investment with time, sweat, and a little bit of sacrifice.
Mike Darche is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. His mission is to inspire and encourage other like-minded young entrepreneurs.
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