How to (#2): Building a side hustle as a student

It's no secret that being a student is insanely time consuming. No matter where you are in your educational journey, finding ways to make some extra money on the side can be of great benefit. In this blogpost, I'll share my experience with starting a side hustle compared to having a part-time job, and some tips and ideas to get you started.

How I started a clothing business in high school

At the start of grade 10, I became interested in ethical and sustainable fashion which led me to develop a habit of thrifting a lot of my clothes. This was also at the time when thrifting was gaining a lot of popularity, and thrift stores started to become more mainstream. That was great news for me! I had access to a few thrift stores in my area and would spend my weekends sifting through bins in search of new clothes.

At about 3 months of thrifting consistently, I started to notice (1) that a lot of the clothing that got donate to thrift stores often had minor tears or missing buttons, and would often get left behind as a result and (2) a lot of what I liked at the thrift store wasn't in my size. Ultimately, these two things were what prompted me with the idea of starting a consignment clothing business where I would rework items from the thrift store into new pieces. This also allowed me to sell clothing of different sizes, which built me a larger audience.

In terms of how I actually did this, I started an instagram, depop, and poshmark account that I would sell through. I wrote out a few cards and got wrapping paper from the dollar store to package the clothing in. Being in grade 10, I didn't have a license and would either meet my customers at school or have them pick-up their pieces at my house. Effectively, this meant that I could run this business out of my bedroom and avoid many overhead expenses.

I also had a part-time job during highschool and I'll share some of my insights on the differences between the two. A part-time job will give you a more stable income, while a side-hustle is quite unpredictable. However, 9 times out of 10 you will enjoy running your side-hustle over working at your part-time job. Side-hustles also have the advantage of giving you flexibility to work wherever and whenever you want, while this is rarely the case with a part-time job.

Ideas for student side-hustles

  1. Freelancing! If you have a special talent such as video-editing, photography, or art this could be a great option for you. Freelancing also gives you the option to work on your own time and take on as many projects as you want.
  2. Lawn mowing, car washing, or snow shoveling. These services are not to be looked down upon and can generate massive amounts of revenue. If you live in a large neighborhood, this can be a great option and also limits the commute that you have.
  3. Open an etsy shop. Etsy has become extremely popular in recent years and allows you the option to sell virtually anything. Really interested in 3D printing? Choose a niche and sell your creations on etsy. It's a great idea to start on platforms like this that will take care of much of the logistics (like shipping) behind the scenes.
  4. Sell food at local farmer's markets. If you're lucky enough to know how to cook well, this can be a great option. Many cities have local farmer's markets on the weekends where you can sell your savory or sweet treats.
  5. Tutor students in your subject area. If you're passionate about education, this is a great idea and one that we have both tried out. Try to stick to one or two students at a time, or devote your energy to hosting review sessions. This is also a great option as it allows you to constantly be reviewing concepts that you learned in previous years.
  6. Give music lessons. If you've played an instrument for a while, and are relatively good at it - this can be a great option! Giving music lessons is also convenient since it's a minimal time commitment and you can have your clients come to your house.

Tips for those getting started

My biggest tip for those getting started with a side hustle - no matter what it is - is to try and limit the amount of overhead expenses. In practice, this means doing things like working out of your house to avoid commercial rent. It also means using free online platforms with a wide-reach such as instagram and facebook, instead of paying to develop a website.

My second tip is to time-block as much as possible. For me, this meant that I would dedicate a day every so often where I would go to multiple thrift stores, wash everything, decide what I needed to rework, take photos, and draft item descriptions. Effectively, this meant that I had an arsenal that I could pull from and schedule my content.

My third tip is to start a small-business account with Canada Post or other suppliers. You need very little paperwork to make this happen and this can save you a lot of money. I personally really benefitted from this as it allowed me to ship clothing internationally at a relatively low cost.

Keep track of everything! Even though it may seem tedious to set up, keeping track of all of your purchases and sales using something like an excel sheet will keep you organized and allow you to find strategies for optimization. If you are starting a side-hustle where you are selling absolutely anything, keeping track of your expenses and sales is a non-negotiable.

Do something that you're passionate about. When it comes to running a side-hustle, passion trumps everything. That's also the whole point of starting a side-hustle instead of getting a part-time job. It'll make it a lot easier to devote your free-time to it.

Overall, starting a side-hustle as a student has the potential to be incredibly rewarding. It can also translate into employment opportunities down the line and give you experience running a business. We hope that you came out of reading this feeling inspired and ready to start your own!