As a college students or recent grad, you may forgo selling yourself to the hiring manager – and instead decide to start selling your ideas. Starting a business is a difficult challenge at any stage, especially when you feel the pressure of heading out into the “real world.” However, you can plan, launch, and carefully build your business with some determination and daily action.
Here are 10 tips that will help you get there.
1. Love what you’re planning to do.
Nothing will consume more of your time than planning and launching a business. And it will continue to consume your life for a long time after launch. In the beginning you will have to adjust your priorities, say good-bye to a bustling social life for a while, lose some sleep and focus your brain on little else but your business. Be prepared, and be absolutely certain that you want to be an entrepreneur more than anything else in the world right now.
2. Prepare a short-list of business ideas.
The beauty of living as a young adult today is that, even if you don’t have the perfect “aha” business idea right now, you don’t have to be deterred from starting a business. There are plenty of budget-friendly business ideas out there. Explore the possibilities, see what grabs your interest, and go for it. Your first business does not have to be your ultimate business, but it will give you necessary experience.
3. Start building your support system.
You don’t have to have a co-founder, but you do need a support system. Whether that system is made up of family members, like-minded friends, or other small business owners, you need to surround yourself with people that will support your goals. Find supporters, even fellow alumni, who are in your corner. Who knows they may even become your business bestie.
4. Get personal finances in order.
A majority of businesses fail because the owner runs out of money. If you have savings or financial support from family members, you are in a better position. Some graduates take part-time jobs; others try to find a job that is full-time, but not demanding and begin their businesses on the side while they accumulate savings. As a rule of thumb it is good to plan on saving 6-12 months of personal expenses over and above any business expenses you will have.
5. Review the legal aspects.
Before you launch, review your state and local laws and regulations regarding your industry. Make sure state laws are met; set yourself up with the IRS; get advice on insurance if applicable, etc. You won’t have all of the answers, so doing the proper research beforehand will save you time and money down the road.
6. Create a business plan.
You don’t need a fancy business plan, but you do need to get your ideas down on paper. It will force clarity and the research will help you understand the feasibility of your ideas. In developing that plan, you will learn a lot, including:
Which expenses you’ll need for startup and daily operations.
Your financial metrics.
How long it will take to break even.
How much competition is out there .
Determine your unique value proposition.
What the market needs are and how you can meet them.
Which pricing strategy to test.
7. Tap into alumni resources.
Many graduates begin planning their businesses while they were still enrolled at a university. Planning and starting a business while in college gives you access to a campus full of resources, both peers and professors, who can provide a wealth of free help and advice. If you’ve recently graduated, don’t be afraid to tap into that network.
8. Start marketing with your customer in mind.
Study and learn where your target market hangs out . Then develop a marketing plan with them in mind. “A successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you (Marketing Donut).”
9. Create a unique customer experience.
A lot of new entrepreneurs fail to consider how they’ll connect and build relationships with customers. It’s important to have a plan in place to proactively meet customer needs. This can take many forms by way of an online help desk, live chat, a comprehensive FAQ page on your website, a toll-free support number, email marketing automation and more. Failure to respond quickly to customers can kill your brand reputation. Create a communications plan early and tweak it as you go.
10. Keep the books straight from day one.
Get and keep business finances in order. Make accounting hassle-free and start with a simple cloud-based accounting tool and keep it up to date. You need to know if you are on track to meet your financial goals and you will need to keep the IRS happy too. Most inexpensive tools will have an entire system in place that allows you to create invoices, track payments, enter expenses and receivables with just a click or two, and pretty much automate the process for you.
Obviously, there are many more considerations and things to do and learn when you decide to become an entrepreneur. However, if you start with these, you will have a plan and the major pieces in place by the time you launch.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kerry Creaswood is a young and ambitious freelance writer from Savannah, GA. She is fond of various forms of art and thinks that everything we can imagine is real. Connect with @kerrycreas on Twitter.
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