Student businesses you can run from anywhere

TransferWise content team
4 minute read

If you’re after an income but love your freedom, you need a more flexible boss – you. Ruth reveals the biz ideas that can get you earning, wherever you are.

When you work digitally – relying on the internet to find clients and gigs – you’re not tied to (or excluded from) the local job scene. Your office is wherever you lay your laptop. You set your own hours and if you want to work in PJs, no one’s stopping you. So, how do you get started as a digital nomad?

Kit-wise, doing your own thing won’t weigh you down. You can run all the business ideas below from a laptop – some can even be run using nothing more than a mobile phone and some internet juice.

The other thing you’ll need is a product or service you can sell for cold, hard cash. There’s inspiration below to get you going, plus tons more business models right here for you to make your own.

Heads-up: if you plan on earning money, whether you’re home or away, get to grips with tax before you go.


Go freelance

Freelancing means you pick when you work, what you do and how much you get paid, so it’s a great choice if you’re travelling or studying abroad.
Demand for creative and digital services is particularly hot right now, with gigs for writers, developers, designers and social media gurus. Too hipster for you? There’s also demand for admin support, translation and even voice overs.
Try or – they’re freelance marketplaces where you can advertise your skills or browse and pitch for remote jobs. The downside: rates can vary massively. Size up how much it costs you in overheads and work out your basic hourly rate before jumping at the first thing you see!


Go it alone

If you’ve got any of the freelance-friendly skills above, chances are you can monetise them for yourself – meaning potential income that isn’t reliant on constantly finding clients.
Content-based models work particularly well as you can publish something once, but sell or earn on it several times over.
If you really want to make decent bucks, you’ll have to devote a bit more time to it. Even if you don’t, you can still earn dollops of cash for years to come, for no extra work.


Start a blog

This one’s perfect if you’re living or working abroad, as you’ve got a ready-made topic! Hosting adverts or affiliate marketing – where you link to products for sale on other sites – can all bring in some income. Lots of retailers run their own affiliate programmes, but third-party sites (try Affiliate Window) can streamline the process.
Create a YouTube channel about your travels, hobbies, how-tos, reviews, or anything else! You can monetise your videos with advertising right from within YouTube, plus there are a growing number of options for charging for subscriptions and rentals.
You just need a decent idea, a word processing programme, and a (free) publishing platform to sell your own novel, short stories, journals or magazines: take a look at Amazon’s KDP or CreateSpace, Apple’s iBook Author or Smashwords.
Well-known stock libraries (Stockimo and Dreamstime) are getting in on the mobile action, which means you can sell photos straight from your phone. App-only Foap and Clashot are also worth a look.


Go expert

Teaching – sharing your expert or specialist knowledge with folk – is a plum business idea. The brilliant thing about this is, everyone has something they can teach:

  • Language skills, accents or conversation practice
  • Music (instruments, singing, theory)
  • Any hobby ever invented
  • Your freelance skills or your degree subject
  • DIY, fixing, sewing, recycling or anything else hands-on
  • Beauty, cookery
  • Advice e.g. coping with rejection.

Loads of ‘how-to’ ideas are perfect for monetising through blogs, videos, apps or books. If you prefer your teaching face-to-face, hosting lessons through messaging apps on your ‘puter or phone is as simple as it gets. Building up a regular bank of clients can take time, but try fivesquid or fiverr for starters.


Go local

Finding employment can be a tough ask when you’re away from home – but there are ways to pick up pocket money in your local area.
Reckon you could provide cookery lessons, cook a meal for strangers, or lead a culinary tour of local markets and restaurants? Vizeat matches tourists with local hosts (i.e., you!). You can set your own price for events, although Vizeat slice a commission off the top.
Nimber, meanwhile, matches deliveries that need to be made with folk going that way. The app claims it’s a way to make extra cash on any journeys, whether you’re commuting or trekking the world – although you may find demand varies by location!


Running a business doesn’t have to involve inventing things or pitching for cash on Dragon’s Den. A lot of the time, it’s just about plugging your skills into an existing marketplace and not quitting till you make your mark, or make some cash.

Good luck!

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