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5 Ideas for a Summer Business Instead of a Summer Job

5 Ideas for a Summer Business Instead of a Summer Job
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Summer vacation is in full swing, but for a lot of students, that means four months of under-employment or sometimes even unemployment. It seems funny to think that so many students expect to graduate and land their dream job, and yet in the summers preceding it they toil away at minimum wage jobs and illegal internships.

If you’re unhappy with your current summer job, check out these five summer start-ups that you can create by yourself, with minimal time or money invested. Starting a business is a great way to get hands-on experience, make some cash and build up your resume. Future employers and grad school admissions committees are sure to be impressed by your hustle and problem-solving skills.  

Related: From College Startup to $100 Million

1. Resell video games.

PCs might be dominating the gaming scene, but console games still pack a punch for the casual gamer. There’s currently a strong secret market for old system games on college campuses across North America. Students are always looking for ways to take a break from school and are more than willing to dish out a few bucks for nostalgic games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

In order to be successful, you’ll need to know your customer and which channels are best for reaching them. You can start your inventory by buying old games from friends, classifieds sites, flea markets and marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. The more passionate you are about gaming, the better you’ll be at spotting potential deals and cashing in on rare collectibles. You can promote your new business for free on social media or by putting up posters around your school. You can even sell through Facebook. Once you’ve earned a bit of money, you can reinvest profits in bulk orders of high-margin video game accessories from sites like Alibaba.

2. Design and sell custom T-shirts.

If you’ve never run a business before, selling T-shirts is a great place to start. They’re relatively easy to create and sell, even with no technical or design knowledge. Plus, everyone wears tees, so there’s a huge potential market.

It’s important to remember that your customers are buying a graphic tee because they want to make a statement or support an ideology. Hop on social media and find the memes with the most shares. Once you’ve picked a niche for yourself, it’s time to get deeply engrossed in a subculture that you find interesting, or that’s popular on your campus. You can even check out Google Trends to see what’s buzzworthy and will resonate best with a wider audience. is the perfect platform for launching a t-shirt business. It lets anyone launch an online store for free, and has tons of useful tools like a Refund Policy generator. You can even combine GoSpaces with a print on demand service like Printful so that you never have to worry about keeping inventory in your apartment or dorm room.

3. Build a following on Etsy.

Are you crafty and creative? Do you spend your free time editing photos for Instagram, or painting custom mugs for your friends? Make your art work for you by setting up a profile on a creative platform like Etsy.

Related: This Teen Paid for College by Selling on Etsy. Here Are 5 Ways She Did It.

One particularly high margin option is selling prints or photographs. They’re cheap to produce and to ship, so you can potentially start making money very quickly if you have a strong portfolio of work. Jewelry, clothing and crafts are also popular, but just be sure to calculate shipping and exchange rates before setting your prices.

Etsy is a community-driven platform, so in order to be successful it’s ideal to connect with other vendors and to join the forums. There are also Etsy-specific groups you can join online to help you navigate your journey as a first time seller. Once you’ve developed a solid following, you may want to graduate to a site of your own instead of renting space from Etsy. Look into setting up your own online store through a platform like Shopify which will allow you to be more in control of your brand and overall business.

4. Write an ebook.

Are you an English lit or creative writing major? Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is a fantastic outlet for aspiring writers and those hoping to establish themselves before college ends. Typically the price of an ebook is low, but the potential exposure is massive. Some writers have even secured deals from well-known publishing houses after publishing their material online.

This business idea isn’t an easy one, but if you’re passionate about writing, it could be the right direction for you. You’ll need to draft, redraft, edit and submit your book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Promote your work on Facebook and Twitter, and consider becoming a part of the Wattpad community of writers. Think about what material you’ve already written that you could leverage. Perhaps you can transform a past school project on the history of rock and roll or pre-natal nutrition into a best selling ebook.   

5. Start a student-friendly cleaning service.

Let’s face it -- most college apartments and houses aren’t as clean as they should be. Everyone wants to live in a pristine home, but it’s hard to make that a reality when you’re sharing a space with multiple roommates and juggling a bunch of conflicting responsibilities.

It’s surprisingly easy to start your own campus cleaning company. Just create a quick landing page to advertise your services and start posting the link across Facebook groups, forums and campus bulletin boards. If you offer a few free or discounted cleans in exchange for reviews, you’ll quickly be able to kickstart your new business. You could even start with dorm rooms -- you won’t make a ton of money, but they’re relatively quick and easy to clean. 

Related: How to Make Money With Social Media

Entrepreneurship isn’t a nine to five job, so all of these ideas will take more time and emotional investment than your average summer gig. That said, they’re potential paths to self sufficiency that are sure to be paved with fantastic learning opportunities -- and it will look better on a resume than serving or bartending. Plus, students are in a prime position to be taking risks and testing their entrepreneurial ideas. After all, if your business idea doesn’t work out, you’ll be heading back to the books in September.