In 2003, a Harvard University student sat down at his desk with an idea in mind; to change the way we think of interacting with friends and meeting new people. He put in the hours to turn his idea into reality and now that reality has made him the 5th richest person in the world (at the time I’m writing this).
Okay, maybe I’m not gonna give you ideas on how to become the next Mark Zuckerberg (if I had one I probably wouldn’t be sharing it, no offense). But there are still plenty of dorm room businesses that you can start today, for free, with knowledge you probably already have. And there are plenty of other success stories, big and small, that come directly from dorm room businesses:
- Rick Rubin began his path to starting Def Jam records from his NYU residence hall.
- Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy came up with the idea for Snapchat from their dorm room at Stanford.
- Seth Berkowitz started Insomnia Cookies while attending the Univeristy of Pennsylvania (this hits home because I have plenty of late night run in’s with Insomnia Cookies when I’m back at school).
If you add up all the time when you’re sitting in your dorm room, saying that you’re bored, and instead spend all that time working on a side-project, right from your laptop, on your free campus wifi, your savings funds could go from looking like this:
To looking like this:
Not to mention you probably won’t be saying you’re “bored” anymore. Let’s get into it.
Freelancing is the most simple and most practical thing I can think of, and that’s why we’re starting with it. Sometime in your past, whether it be a hobby, a job, a class you took or a book you read, you’ve learned a skill that people will pay you money for. You might be a great writer, super skilled in Photoshop, or made a website for a local business once, etc. It can be anything. If you’re thinking “I don’t have any skills that somebody would pay for,” you’re not thinking hard enough. And if you need to brush up on something you feel like you only kinda know, take a week and learn it all over again.
It really is simple, don’t overthink it. Figure out what you’re good at, brush up on the skills, and then post on Facebook telling family and friends you’re doing x skill for $x as a side-project to earn a bit of money to put towards your student loans (what kind of family or friend wouldn’t wanna help out with that). Then, after a few jobs, learn how to sell, and start contacting local businesses, you’ll even have a portfolio and testimonials to show them that you’re experienced.
On top of money, freelancing allows you to gain experience in something you otherwise wouldn’t be able to until after you graduate. Especially if it’s in a field you’re considering after graduation. Hey, you might even realize you love freelance work and have a 4 year head start on the guy who’s just realizing it after getting his degree.
There’s a whole guide on freelancing ideas and info here.
Right now, I’m doing photo and video freelance work and still have plenty of time for school and a social life, not to mention an ambitious project like The College Guyde.
This is where I’m gonna start veering off of the things you can find any other article telling you to do to make some side cash in college (I just couldn’t skip out on freelancing because everyone should be doing it). I’m not gonna tell you to type people’s notes, or sell study guides, we’re focused on longer-term, higher reward, more ambitious projects here.
Dropshipping is a more involved side-business to get off the ground, and you might wanna have a good grip on online marketing before you decide to tackle it, but the payoff can be insane. To put it simple (although Shopify goes well into depth here) dropshipping is when you set up and online store-front and sell a product, but the order is fulfilled through a partner company you’ve made an agreement with. So you never actually see the product, you never have to load up on inventory, and you don’t have to worry about any packaging/shipping/fulfillment. This is perfect for a college student with a laptop and a small dorm room, everything can be done right there.
Most of those cheap online websites selling cell phone accessories, or the big one for 2017…fidget spinners, are most likely dropshipping their products. The key here is coming up with a unique product to dropship that doesn’t already have too many players in the game. You can even dropship through Amazon.
While I’ve had some dropshipping product ideas in the past, I’ve never actually gone through with any because I’ve put my time and dedication into other projects. For someone who has nothing else on their plate right now, a solid dropshipping site can be a goldmine.
3. Start a Niche Instagram Page
Instagram, to me, as it stands right now, is just a ridiculous amount of opportunity, packaged into an app. Let’s start with the stats:
- Instagram has 700+ million active users around the world
- 400+ million of these are DAILY users
- In the US alone, there are 77.6 million active users
- A report done by Forrester Research found that Instagram users were 58 times more likely to like, comment on or share a brand’s post than were Facebook users, and 120 times more likely than were Twitter users.
Remember that opportunity I was saying?
There are lots of options here, but all of them revolve around finding a niche. That niche can be you, travel photos, sports, memes, really anything that can generate a following. Here’s a little guide to get you started.
Once you have one of these accounts and it’s getting a lot of attention, you can start to charge for posts. If you’re the niche your page is focused around (sometimes referred to as being an “influencer”), companies might send you products and have you sneak them into your posts with some copy in the caption. Otherwise, other accounts may pay to have you shout them out or promote their page or business. There are people our age out there right now charging up to $100,000 for a sponsored post on their page.
Foundr Magazine went from 0 to 110k followers in just 5 months posting niche content, and now they’re over a million.
Instagram is only gonna keep growing as far as I can tell from right now, the sooner you get started, the better.
4. Social Media Consulting
Being savvy college students (you found this online magazine probably through social media or directly on Medium, pretty savvy) most of us understand social media way more than older generations. Not only do we understand it more fundamentally, but we also understand that it plays a huge role in where we spend our money and time.
You’re way more likely to try that pizza place down the street if your friend recommends it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram than if you see a flyer half-taped to a telephone pole on the corner. Unfortunately, a lot of small businesses don’t know this yet, and that’s where you come in.
You live in a college town whose businesses rely on income from college-aged students to survive. Start going into stores or restaurants and asking for the manager and explaining how you can help them reach way more students through social media. Instagram and Facebook are the ones I’d recommend starting with. You charge a small fee for your services, and the businesses make dividends on their investment. Just make sure you know what you’re doing before you start charging (refer to those links).
Next time that you say you’re “bored” or have “nothing to do,” there’s no reason not to get started with one (or all, I told you we’re ambitious) of these ideas. Not only will you cure your boredom, but your pockets will start to fill up, and you’ll fall in love with the challenge and adventure.