Online businesses are gaining immense popularity among students in Pakistan as a means to earn, learn new skills, and get work experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this trend, as more students looked for remote work opportunities.
According to Payoneer’s 2021 Freelance Income Report, Pakistan ranked 4th globally in freelance earnings, with the average per capita revenue of freelancers being $22/hour.
This indicates the strong potential for students to earn significantly by freelancing while studying.
Some key benefits of online businesses for students include:
- Flexibility to work anytime, anywhere and balance studies
- Low startup costs compared to physical businesses
- Skills development in areas like digital marketing, content creation, coding etc.
- Global access to customers beyond just local markets
- Income diversification by taking on multiple projects or clients
Online businesses empower students to earn without compromising on their education. They provide real-world business exposure and also help strengthen resumes. With the rise of digital adoption in Pakistan, there are bright prospects for student entrepreneurs to launch successful online ventures.
Types of Online Businesses in Pakistan for Students
There are various types of online businesses that students in Pakistan can start based on their skills, interests and investment capacity. Some popular models include:
Freelancing involves working independently on a project basis for multiple clients. It is one of the easiest online businesses to start with minimal costs. Some freelancing options include:
- Content Writing: Students with strong writing skills can offer content writing services to companies. This includes writing website content, blog posts, social media posts, SEO articles etc. They can sign up on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer etc to find such freelance gigs.
- Graphic Design: Students with creative design skills like using Photoshop, Canva etc. can provide services like graphic design, logo design, brochure design, social media posts design etc. to a range of clients.
- Data Entry: Doing data entry work like transferring data from PDFs to excel, listings on sites etc can provide part time work opportunities for students.
- Programming: Programming languages like Java, Python, C++ etc are in demand for building apps, software, scripts etc. Students can freelance as programmers.
Benefits of freelancing include flexible work schedule, variety of projects and ability to build a strong portfolio.
Dropshipping involves selling products to customers through an online store, without keeping inventory. The store purchases inventory only when a sale is made, directly from the manufacturer. The main steps are:
- Set up an online store through platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce.
- List products by partnering with dropshipping suppliers and manufacturers.
- Market products on social media, Google ads etc.
- Purchase inventory from suppliers when orders are received, and ship directly to customers.
Benefits include low startup costs, minimal risks and simplicity of operations. Products like home decor, fitness equipment, beauty products have potential for student dropshipping ventures.
Affiliate marketing involves earning commissions by promoting other companies’ products through blogs, videos, social media posts etc.
Students in Pakistan can become affiliates for ecommerce companies, digital tools, apps etc. When readers purchase through the affiliate links, the student earns a commission.
Students good with writing can start blogging on topics like technology, education, lifestyle etc.
Blogs can be monetized through advertisements, sponsored posts, affiliate links, eBooks sales etc.
Blogging helps build domain expertise, online presence and thought leadership for students.
Selling Online Courses
Students proficient in skills like programming, design, academics subjects etc. can create online courses to sell on platforms like Udemy, SkillShare.
Creating tutorials in both text and video format about high demand skills can be financially rewarding for students.
Challenges of Running Online Businesses in Pakistan for Students
While online businesses provide many benefits for students, they also come with some key challenges that must be addressed:
Lack of Experience and Skills
Most students venturing into online businesses will lack prior experience of running a business venture independently. Important skills like financial planning, marketing, project management have to be learned on the go. Students may make mistakes and face setbacks as they figure things out.
Tips to gain skills:
- Take online courses on business basics from platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning.
- Follow established entrepreneurs on blogs and social media to learn from them.
- Start with small projects to get experience and build confidence.
- Attend events, seminars focused on student entrepreneurs.
Managing Time with Studies
For students, the key priority remains academics and attending classes. With online business added to the mix, managing time between studies and entrepreneurship can be challenging.
Time management tips:
- Prepare a routine allocating fixed hours for studies, business and other activities.
- Block off extra hours during holidays and weekends for business tasks.
- Avoid distractions like social media, TV during study and work time.
- Wake up early to get time for business before college hours.
Getting First Customers
One of the biggest hurdles for new online businesses in Pakistan is attracting the first set of buyers and building credibility. Students venturing independently may find it hard to convince customers.
Customer acquisition strategies:
- Offer discounts and deals for first-time buyers.
- Focus on small, low-cost gigs at first to build portfolio.
- Ask for referrals from previous clients and personal contacts.
- Actively network online through forums and communities.
- Run contests and giveaways to engage customers.
Legal Registration and Taxes
Students may miss out on critical legal aspects like business registration, tax filing etc. Later, lack of documentation can create issues and penalties.
- Register early as a freelancer or sole proprietorship.
- Maintain invoices, records for all services provided.
- File taxes and declare income from online ventures.
- Consult a lawyer to ensure compliance with regulations.
- Have contracts, agreements in place before taking projects.
Careful planning and mentorship from more experienced entrepreneurs can help students overcome these challenges.
Tips for Students Starting Online Businesses in Pakistan
Launching an online business while still studying can be an exciting yet challenging journey. Here are some useful tips for students to start and grow online ventures:
Start with Low-Investment Options
Online businesses like freelancing, affiliate marketing, blogging require minimal upfront investment to get started.
These allow testing ideas quickly and gaining experience. Ecommerce, course selling require more capital which students may lack.
Starting small also minimizes risk of losses for students. Small successes help build knowledge and confidence to take on bigger projects later.
Learn In-Demand Skills
It is vital for students to spend time upskilling themselves as per current industry needs.
Some skills like content writing, graphic design, web development, digital marketing are widely sought-after.
There are many free online learning resources like YouTube, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning for acquiring new skills.
Certifications can add credibility.
Students can attend virtual workshops and events as well.
Use Discounts and Free Resources
As students, many software tools and services offer discounts or free usage tiers.
For instance, GitHub Student Developer Pack offers free access to tools like Canva, MailChimp, Coursera etc.
Domain registration, web hosting companies also provide student offers. These must be leveraged to minimize costs and maximize value.
Start with Friends and Family
Getting the first few clients can be tough for student entrepreneurs. Friends, relatives and existing contacts can help provide initial business opportunities to get started.
Small projects for known people also allow testing skills and building portfolio for bigger ventures later. The referrals, reviews and testimonials from them also build credibility.
Join Online Communities
There are large online communities, forums dedicated to student entrepreneurs, freelancers, bloggers etc.
Joining these allows connecting with like-minded people, learning from experiences of others and finding mentors.
Popular ones include IndieHackers, Blogging Forums, /r/freelance on Reddit etc. These give guidance on overcoming common student business challenges.
With the right strategic approach, students can successfully juggle their online ventures along with studies and gain valuable business experience early on.
Legal Considerations for Student Online Businesses in Pakistan
While starting online businesses, students must be aware of the legal requirements and regulations involved. Important aspects to consider are:
There are various types of business registration options available for student entrepreneurs:
- Sole Proprietorship: Simplest structure for individuals with full ownership and control. Requires registration for a small fee.
- Partnership Firm: For students starting ventures together with other individuals. Involves registration with local Registrar of Firms.
- One Person Company: Separate legal entity from founder, provides more credibility. Needs registration with SECP.
- Freelancer: Students doing standalone projects can register as freelancers with relevant platforms and authorities.
Registration protects the business name and brings credibility for students with vendors and customers.
Income earned from online businesses will have tax implications for students. Key taxes applicable are:
- Income Tax: Students must file returns declaring earnings from freelancing, blogging etc. Tax slabs depend on income level.
- Sales Tax: Applicable on online businesses selling products and services. Require monthly or quarterly sales tax returns.
- Withholding Tax: Deducted by client on payments to freelancers. Needs to be deposited and adjusted in tax returns.
Proper documentation and filing helps avoid legal issues associated with unpaid dues. Accounting tools simplify managing taxes.
Copyright and Licensing
For online content creators and coders, adhering to copyright and IP protection laws is necessary. Common aspects include:
- Acquiring licenses for tools, templates, resources used in deliverables.
- Registering original content, codes with relevant government authorities.
- Using copyrighted information, media legally after taking permissions.
- Protecting self work through copyright.
- Citing references appropriately.
This ensures full compliance and protects students’ own IP. Legal counsel can provide guidance here.
Careful adherence with laws and regulations right from the start prevents future hassles for student entrepreneurs allowing them to focus on business growth. Government is also introducing policies to encourage student businesses.
Funding Options for Student Online Businesses in Pakistan
Starting any business requires capital investment. For students, limited personal savings and difficulty in getting external funding makes financing a challenge.
Some options to fund online student ventures include:
Self-Funding Through Savings
The first option for students is to self-fund the initial costs like website, subscriptions, advertising etc. from personal savings from pocket money, stipends, gifts etc. Starting with a bootstrap budget and slowly reinvesting profits allows expanding organically.
However, this limits the growth potential in early stages. Students should track costs diligently. Starting with low-investment online models is recommended.
Support from Friends and Family
Seeking financial support from friends and family to startup is another viable option. These informal investors believe in the student’s capabilities. Starting with small amounts from parents, relatives helps minimise personal risks too.
The right mentoring support often comes bundled together. Setting clear expectations and sharing ownership/returns is advised legally.
Business Loans and Grants
Banks and financial institutions like SMEDA offer small business loans for young entrepreneurs that can be accessed by students as well. These require submitting a solid business plan and meeting eligibility criteria.
Similarly, government agencies and startup accelerators provide grants, stipends to promote student entrepreneurship. Applying for relevant programs like Ignite, Karandaaz etc. can provide funding.
Putting up the business idea and pitch on crowdfunding websites allows students to raise small funds from a large number of investors. The public model increases accountability as well.
Popular general platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo. LinkedIn also provides student-focused crowdfunding.
Business Plan Competitions
Student business competitions like SEED Ventures, SIP hold multiple rounds for evaluating ideas and have large prizes for winners. Besides funding, students benefit from mentoring and guidance.
Leveraging these varied sources as per eligibility allows students to finance their online ventures without financial pressures. Proper budgeting remains key.
- Online businesses provide benefits like flexibility, skills development for students in Pakistan along with income.
- Popular models include freelancing, dropshipping, affiliate marketing, blogging and selling online courses. Each has different ease of starting, risks and income potential.
- Lack of expertise, managing time and finding customers are key challenges students face. Following a structured approach and getting mentoring helps overcome these.
- Starting with freelancing work or blogging is advisable as it requires low investment. Using student discounts and communities provides support.
- Important legal aspects include business registration as sole proprietorship or private limited, tax filing and compliance with copyright laws.
- Funding can be raised through self-savings, family support, loans, crowdfunding and competitions. Proper budgeting is essential.
- Pakistan provides good opportunities in online businesses for students. With some calculated risks, they can turn youthful energy and technology knowhow into successful ventures.
The digital revolution and internet penetration in Pakistan have opened up new exciting opportunities for students to start online businesses along with their studies. Globally proven models like freelancing, blogging, ecommerce ventures can be replicated with strong value proposition for local markets.
However, challenges related to startup capital, developing expertise, finding mentors require strategic planning to navigate successfully. Starting small with bootstrap budget and leveraging online platforms is the way forward. There is also a need for more structured training programs, incubation centers focused on student entrepreneurs.
With the right guidance, there are very high growth prospects for versatile, tech-savvy Pakistani students to become successful digital entrepreneurs. Their energy and familiarity with the online world combined with structured growth frameworks can enable creation of innovative, scalable and even export-oriented online firms in coming years.
Students must consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option and proactively develop the required business skillsets.
Educational institutes also need to build entrepreneurial culture and provide more avenues for students to convert ideas into ventures. This will ultimately boost job creation and economic growth in Pakistan.