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5 side hustle ideas for students: A step-by-step guide

First Uploaded: 08/09/22

Are you looking to make some extra money while studying? Have you ever wondered how to start a side hustle as a student? If so, you’re in the right place! When it comes to being a student, we know that money isn’t far from your mind. As student insurance specialists, we’ve spent over 65 years trying to protect students like you financially with student-friendly insurance options. So it’s fair to say we know our stuff about students and their finances.

We’re going to show you how you can use skills that you have (plus skills you may not know you have!) to begin your very own student side hustle and start earning a little extra money with our top five side hustle ideas for students*.

*Remember that these are just tips, and it’s always sensible to do lots of research before starting work.

What we’re going to cover:

1.How to customise trainers
2.How to create art prints
3.How to buy and sell vintage clothing
4.How to get involved with drop shipping
5.How to start freelancing


Selling customised trainers

Creating customised trainers is a great way to make something unique and personal to your own style, or your customer’s style. Customising trainers and other items can become a fun and profitable side-hustle. However, it’s not as simple as grabbing some paint, brushes and creating the perfect custom piece – following these steps will help you create a high-quality product that lasts*.

*You may like to start practicing on cheap trainers until you get the process right!

How to customise trainers

Here we’re going to run you through everything you’ll need to customise trainers – from materials to the actual process.


Before you begin your paint job, ensure you have the right materials to create a high-quality customisation that lasts.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Acetone: The shoe needs to be prepped before customising, acetone will help the paint adhere to the shoe by removing its factory finish. 

• Sandpaper (optional): Sandpaper can be used alongside acetone to remove the factory finish and create a surface that the paint can stick to with ease.

• Paintbrushes: High-quality paintbrushes will allow for your artwork to have a cleaner and more professional look. While low-quality paintbrushes could result in a messy and unfinished look (you can pick up a set of paintbrushes from websites like Angelus Direct).

• Leather paint: High-quality leather paint is important to create durable custom artwork (a popular choice seems to be Angelus Direct).

• Heat gun or hairdryer (optional): A heat gun can help paint layers set quickly.

• Top coat sealer/acrylic finisher:A good finisher will help protect your paintwork from damage and increase resilience of the paint (a popular choice seems to be Liquid Kicks or Angelus Direct Finisher).

• Airbrush (optional):An airbrush can help you create new details, features and effects in your artwork that are different to those of the standard paintbrush process.


Before painting the shoe, you’ll need to make sure it’s prepped properly.

You can start off by applying acetone to a cloth or cotton pads to wipe down the surface area of the shoe that you will be painting onto. This will remove the factory finish of the shoe to ensure the leather paint sticks to the surface properly.


Once your shoe is prepped, you can move onto the fun part!

Use high-quality leather paint (a popular choice seems to be Angelus Direct) as this will avoid peeling and chipping of the paint. It helps with the paint sticking to the trainer and being more durable and resistant.

Now, let your creative skills go wild! Whether that means painting flowers, animals, celebrities and cartoons, or simply changing the colour scheme of the trainers. Anything is possible, just choose what suits you!

Tip: If you make a small mistake, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect. Just find a cotton bud and rub the area with acetone until it’s gone! Alternatively, cover the area with the appropriate colour of paint and start fresh!

Sealing the paint

Once you’ve finished your custom paint job, ensure the paint is fully dry (you can use a heat gun or hairdryer if necessary). Then you can move on to sealing the paint.

You’ll likely need to apply two to three thin coats of finisher to act as a protective coat and shield the paint from scratches. Popular choices seem to be Angelus Direct or Liquid Kicks finisher. This can also help provide a matte, glossy or satin clean finish depending on which finisher you choose.


Finally, once you‘ve finished customising, it’s time to get your work seen and hopefully draw in some customers.

Here are some tips on how to sell customised trainers by promoting your work:

• Post on socials (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Behance)

This will make it easy for people to notice, share and talk about your artwork 

• Establish your identity

When posting on social, ensure you establish your identity and look – this will allow your followers to associate your style and content with your work as well as draw in new followers through the consistent theme.  Tip: you can do this by using certain colour palettes and styles of images that you post!

• Use hashtags strategically

Ensure all hashtags are related to what you’re posting so that you target the right people to your posts. 

• Run a giveaway or contest

This can encourage follows, tags and shares which could in turn increase your reach, engagement and sales. 

• Ensure your photography is high-quality

This will make your profile look more aesthetic, professional and trustworthy.    Tip: You don’t necessarily need a professional photographer or camera, most smartphones have high-quality cameras which can produce just as good content with the right set-up.     *There are many other ways to get your work seen, these are just some suggestions!


Create and sell art prints:

Creating and selling art prints can be a fun and creative way to make money at university with a relatively low start-up investment. Art prints allow customers to buy art that they admire at an affordable price, plus you can sell the same piece of art multiple times, making the process scalable.

How to make art prints to sell

Here we’re going to run you through the process of creating your own artwork and selling it.

Creating original artwork and photographing for prints

If you create original artwork by hand, you can sell your work in the form of art prints by photographing it and producing high-quality prints which can then be sold to multiple customers.

Tips for photographing your artwork

• Photograph your work in natural light
• If photographing indoors, use natural spectrum light bulbs
• Avoid photographing your artwork in direct sunlight or using flash
• Line up your artwork with the camera
• Take several photos, you can compare later

Creating digital artwork for prints

If you prefer working digitally, you can create prints using apps such as Illustrator, Photoshop and Procreate.

Many people’s top pick for creating digital art for prints is Procreate. This is because it’s a great all-round app that has everything you need to create sketches, paintings and illustrations. It also has a variety of digital tools that replicate the real-life experience of using traditional art supplies.

Here are some tips for setting up your canvas on Procreate:

• Colour format

Ensure you change the RGB colour profile to CMYK. This is because real-world printing uses this colour setting.

• Dimensions

Make sure you know the dimensions needed for printing your artwork before getting started. This will help you create your design on the right-sized canvas.

• Resolution

Set a minimum 300dpi to ensure your artwork has a high-quality resolution when printing.

Printing your artwork

After you’ve created a digital image, there are a few options available for printing your artwork.

Here are some printing options:

• Print at home – Invest in an ink printer and print your artwork from home.

• Local printing – Outsource your printing to a local printing company.

• Print on demand – Outsource your printing to a print on demand company and sell your artwork on canvas, prints, phone cases and more.

Selling your art prints

Once you’ve printed your artwork and are ready to start selling, there are a range of avenues you can sell through. Here are some examples:

• Build a website

Take things into your own hands and build your own website to start selling your art prints online. 

To make life easier, you can choose an all-in-one platform for building your website (like Shopify) that comes equipped with tools and features to help you start, run and grow your business.

• Etsy

If you’re not keen on running your own website, or you want to sell your work on multiple platforms, you can create an Etsy shop quickly and easily. Etsy is a third-party site created for artists to sell handmade products.

• Print-on-demand

Print-on-demand services bring many benefits to entrepreneurs. Some allow you to upload your work on a third-party website, then they do the hard work for you. Others allow integration from your own website once someone makes a purchase. Here are some examples below:

FineArtAmerica allows you to sell original artwork in unique ways. Customers can transform your art into different products such as cards, t-shirts, canvasses and more.

Society6 is a print-on-demand company with a large collection of products that customers can explore your art through such as furniture, home décor, wall art, clothing and more.

Printful is a print-on-demand company that helps you turn your ideas into brands and products. Printful allows you to create your own online brand, create personalised products and print onto a range of items. Printful will automatically receive an order from your own website, fulfil and ship it for you.


Sell vintage clothing online:

Vintage clothing is becoming more and more popular as it allows people to express their personality and style through unique, original and made-to-last clothing. Not only this, but vintage clothing also appeals to those who care about the environment and are embracing more sustainable alternatives. Here we’re going to talk about how to start selling vintage clothes!

How to sell vintage clothing online

There are lots of places to both source vintage clothing and sell it online. Here are some ideas!

Where to source vintage clothing

• Vintage wholesalers

• Thrift stores

• eBay

• Vintage kilo sales

How to photograph your vintage clothing

To give your vintage clothing the best chance of being sold, you need to try and capture it in a way that shows the quality of the item. A vintage purchase is an investment, so it’s important to show your buyers what they’ll be receiving. Photography could include a range of high-quality flat lay photos, or using a model (maybe one of your flat mates!) to show the piece off in all its glory.

Here are some photography tips:

• Don’t underestimate the quality of your smartphone camera

Don’t worry, you don’t need to invest in an overly expensive and professional camera, most new cameras on phones will produce high-quality photographs ready for you to post.

• Choose the perfect setting

Your background set-up is key when photographing your vintage stock. Ensure you take photographs in a place with good lighting and a solid colour background that shows off your vintage stock and keeps your theme consistent.

Flat lay photography can be great, but remember that many buyers also want to see what the clothes look like on. So taking a variety photos could increase your chances of a sale.

And remember that you don’t have to haul your vintage collection out to a far-away location to photograph it. Finding good spots in your garden, student accommodation or uni grounds could be enough!

• Invest in a tripod

A tripod can be a useful tool to help you take multiple and consistent photos of your vintage clothing.

Where to sell your vintage clothing

• Your own website

• Depop

• Vinted

• eBay

• Asos Marketplace

• Facebook Marketplace

Marketing your vintage store:

Once you’ve established yourself as a vintage clothing seller (you may have even set yourself up with an online shop!), it’ll be time to list your items via the platforms that you’re using to advertise.

Here are some marketing tips:

• Social media

Post regularly on a variety of social media channels (e.g. Instagram and TikTok) with engaging and on-trend photos, videos, reels and more. These channels will help you promote your products and build up your brand image.

• Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO will improve your organic search engine ranking by optimising your website for certain keywords. Use keywords that your potential shoppers will be searching for to help increase traffic.

• Photography and presentation

Ensure your photography is of high quality to entice customers in and help them gauge the quality of the item they’re thinking about purchasing. You should keep the presentation and background of your clothing consistent to stick with your brand’s theme and create an appealing aesthetic.

• Email marketing/newsletter

Send out regular emails to let people know about offers, upcoming drops, re-stocks, thank you messages and more. Consider regularly sending out a newsletter to build up a following, offer valuable resources and build leads to ultimately increase your sales.

• Vouchers/loyalty cards

Build an audience and increase sales with vouchers and flash sales. You can also entice previous buyers with loyalty cards and discounts to encourage them to return and make a repeat purchase.

• Attend events and markets

Try to attend markets and pop-up opportunities for local businesses. These types of events can help get your brand out there and give you the opportunity to meet other sellers and potential buyers. This can increase your network with sellers and improve your relationship with customers.


Freelance jobs for students

What is freelancing?

A freelancer is a self-employed person who is offering a skill to a wide range of businesses and clients.

Best freelance jobs for students

To start freelancing, you’ll need to choose a skill you’re particularly good at and start researching how to make money from it. Many students don’t realise that one of their hobbies is a skill that they could sell as a service, here are just a few examples of student freelance jobs!

Freelance ideas for students:

• Web design
• Graphic design
• Photography
• Copywriting
• Digital marketing
• Advertising
• Blogging
• Illustration
• Virtual assistant
• Childminding (with the right qualifications)

Creating a freelance portfolio

When you start thinking about freelancing, it’s important that you have portfolio where you can showcase your work to potential clients. It will help clients see what you’re capable of producing by showcasing your personal style, skills, qualities, accomplishments, experience and expertise.

You can use previous examples of your work in your portfolio. However, if you don’t have a lot of previous work, or maybe you’re lacking in variety, you can search for project briefs online to build up your skills and create content to showcase in your portfolio.

A strong portfolio could include:

• Images
• Case studies
• Testimonials
• Work samples
• Mock-ups
• Data-driven results

How to find clients as a freelancer

One of the hardest early parts of being a freelancer is building your client-base. To find potential clients, you need to get yourself out there and get your work seen.

Here are some ways to find new clients:

Freelance job posting platforms (see below for examples)
Use existing connections- e.g. is your friend’s Mum’s business in the market for a graphic designer for their branding?
Networking – Attending networking events or chatting with businesses across social media.
Marketing and advertising – Using social media, email marketing etc. to promote your work.

Here are some freelance platforms where you can advertise your work:

• Upwork
• Fiverr
• Freelancer
• People Per Hour
• 99designs
• Behance

Pricing your service

Pricing your services can be tough initially – especially if you’re new to offering your services professionally! A good place to start is to review other freelancer’s pricing and compare your experience to theirs. Whilst it may seem enticing to charge the same price as fellow competitors, if you have less experience, you’ll probably need to start lower whilst you build experience.

However, it’s not all bad! Many businesses may opt for slightly cheaper services (especially if they’ve seen your portfolio!), so this may also help you undercut the market and build your client-base faster.

There are lots of things that can impact the amount that clients will be willing to pay for your services. These can include:

• Competitor pricing
• Experience
• The industry
• Project duration
• Deliverables
• Project complexity
• Client’s geographic location
• Urgency

Tips on pricing your work:

• Research competition
• Calculate expenses
• Consider how long it’ll take you
• Consider demand
• Consider your skills and experience
• Consider complexity
• Consider what you’d be happy to pay
• Choose a pricing strategy (e.g. time, project or value-based)

Creating a freelance proposal

Many freelance roles e.g. graphic designers, will require you to create a project proposal after the client has given you a brief. Sometimes this happens before the client has even hired you, but it’s their way of making sure they have the best freelancer for the job.

A good project proposal could include these features:

• An intro about your skills and expertise.
• Your approach for the project (and why!).
Concepts for the project – a top tip here is to present three concepts in case they instantly dislike one. And to order them smartly within your presentation.
• Plenty of images for visualising specific elements.
A quote** for the project with a timeframe of completion – Make sure you include a breakdown of the quote too.
• A professional and properly-formatted design.

Going beyond expectations

Go beyond expectations and stand out from the crowd to increase clientele, develop a good reputation, gain positive reviews and build a lasting career in the freelancing business.


Drop shipping for students

If you’re looking for something more challenging that requires a little more time and investment, but the potential for high rewards, drop shipping could be a good solution for you.

What is drop shipping?

Drop shipping is a way to sell products online without physically holding the items or having to pay for them upfront. When a customer purchases a product from your online store, the supplier ships it directly to them. You then pay the supplier’s wholesale price and the rest is profit.

However, starting a drop shipping business isn’t easy and it does require some time, hard work and investment. You are responsible for building your website, your brand and marketing the products you want to sell.

How to start drop shipping

Choosing a drop shipping business idea

Take some time to find a good drop shipping business idea. If you want to increase your chances of success, do your research and find a niche.

Some research you could undertake

• What’s trending?
• Are there any gaps in the market?
• Are there any niche products that you don’t see a lot of?

How to find a drop shipping supplier

There are a variety of ways to find a supplier for your drop shipping store, here are some examples:

• Supplier database (e.g. Alibaba or Aliexpress)
• Print-on-demand service (e.g. printify)
• Drop shipping marketplace (e.g. Oberlo)

Creating your e-commerce drop shipping store

In order to sell your items, you’ll need an online store to list them. Here are some tips on creating your own store:

• Create a domain name

Ensure you pick a good domain name that fits with your store and that you are happy with, especially if you are building a long-term brand.

• Sign up for an ecommerce platform

Sign up for an ecommerce platform such as as Shopify. Platforms like this can simplify the process of launching an ecommerce store and have a variety of useful tools that will help when drop shipping.

• Use web integrations to make purchase and shipping easier

Web integrations (e.g. Oberlo) could be useful to connect to your eCommerce store. They allow you to quickly import products from suppliers such as AliExpress.

Managing your drop shipping store

Your chosen ecommerce platform will allow you to manage most parts of your small business, including undertaking lots of useful tasks such as:

• Manage your orders
• Upload products
• Write product descriptions
• Upload images
• Upload prices
• Offer great customer service
• Stay up to date with accounting
• Analyse and refine products
• Market and advertise your store

Marketing your drop shipping store

There are lots of different ways you can try and get your store’s name out there – both for free and with a little bit of budget behind. Here are just a few:

• Organic social media content marketing (e.g. Tik Tok and Instagram) - just posting normally

• Paid ads (Facebook, Instagram and Google) - where you use money to try and reach a specific audience.

• Retargeting ads - where you arrange for ads to display for previous website visitors who didn’t make a purchase.

• Blogging

• Influencer marketing

• Search engine optimisation (SEO) - where you enhance your website to display for certain keywords on Google and other search engines.

• Email marketing

• Public relations (PR) - where you use particular techniques (like media relations) to create brand awareness.

Head over to 25 ways for students to earn extra money for more ideas on how to earn money as a student!

Keen to find out more about your university? What about finding out how to make the most of out of your time while you’re there? Well look no further!

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