From one student entrepreneur to another (or an aspiring one), starting a business isn’t easy. Owning a business isn’t easy. It might not even be fun. But you can bet that it’s going to be interesting.
There are so many “business gurus” out there who promote the entrepreneurial life as one of:
- financial freedom
- and always somehow… an opportunity to travel
But here at Cultured Simplicity, we keep things real. Yes, becoming an entrepreneur can bring you all those things. But it’s no guarantee. And as a student entrepreneur, opening a business is a bit more of a risk. Unless you have lots of money, coaches, and business connections.
But for the vast majority of student business owners, we operate as solopreneurs. Meaning that we take care of every single task entirely on our own. I’m talking product development, marketing, website creation, and more.
It’s an enlightening process, no doubt. Which is why I always remind young entrepreneurs that even if their business is a “flop”… the knowledge that they’ve gained definitely isn’t.
Since everyone and their mom are starting a business nowadays, there are always people looking for an entrepreneurial skillset.
So starting a business as a young person can set you up to always have a job later on down the line.
Some of the things I’m going to mention in this article may seem like I’m discouraging students from starting a business. I’m definitely not, though.
If you have a business idea, by all means explore it. You’ll only regret it if you don’t.
Just consider this article a reality check for an aspiring student entrepreneur. Not as a stop sign, but as a caution sign.
What nobody tells you before becoming a student entrepreneur
Here are 10 things your “typical” student business owner should expect.
It’s a wee bit lonely
It’s not exactly a secret that most students don’t own businesses. Most of us are so swamped in our studies and social lives, that we don’t even consider it.
While we, fortunately, live in an age where more young people are pursuing entrepreneurship… it’s still the exception, not the norm.
Unless you actively reach out to fellow student business owners, it’s natural that you’ll experience some loneliness.
As a solopreneur, you don’t have coworkers or a boss. Until you get enough money to hire people, you’ll be working alone.
If you start a business with a partner, that’ll at least somewhat fix the issue of loneliness. But the majority of students don’t.
Even more isolating, businesses are being started online much quicker than physical businesses. Chances are, you’re planning on your business being run through an online platform. Be it a shop, blog, YouTube channel, etc. Both the business operations and trying to find people who understand the struggle can be lonely.
You can lessen any feeling of loneliness by:
- working in a cafe, library, or public park
- joining online groups
- joining in-person entrepreneurial groups
- networking alot
Learn to appreciate the flexibility and freedom of working independently. That’ll easily combat any loneliness.
And remember that as long as you keep working hard, one day you’ll be able to expand your team.
If you’re looking to add a bit of magic to your work routine, check out 10 tools that I’ll instantly upgrade your daily work routine.
You’ll have feelings of inadequacy
It’s perfectly normal for a student entrepreneur to think:
- “I’m not smart enough”
- “I’m not experienced enough”
- “I don’t have enough connections”
- “I have no idea what I’m doing”
The fact of the matter is… none of those things are true. Who defines what “enough” is? You do. If you think that you have “enough” to reach your goals, then you do.
There isn’t any benchmark that you have to reach to be smart enough to run a business. You don’t need any more experience than what life and school has taught you. Everybody who has ever started a business had to become an entrepreneur for the first time. And “for the first time” automatically indicates a lack of experience. Every single first-time entrepreneur is inexperienced.
So that is by no means an excuse.
You don’t need connections to run a successful business.
You don’t need to “always feel in control” to run a successful business. It’s okay to feel lost sometimes. But you do know what you’re doing. You’re actively working to reach a goal that you’ve set for yourself.
You’re actively working to manifest the entrepreneurial life you’ve envisioned for yourself.
Pep talk aside, you will have those feels of incompetency. Beginners always do. You’re a “youngin” in a field of seasoned professionals. You’re still in school whereas your competition has master’s degrees.
Realistically, you’re not on the same expertise level as middle age business owners.
And that’s okay. No degree, profession, or age guarantees anyone more success than the next person.
A good business idea is a good business idea and that’s what you’re offering.
Ignore what the stats say. Ignore the Debbie downers. And do your thing.
You’ll need to get used to working on weekends
It’s true. As a student entrepreneur, your most valuable “time asset” is the weekend. During the week, you’ve got classes. You should be studying.
And you shouldn’t have to compromise the quality of your schoolwork for the sake of your business.
Consequently, the weekend should be your grind time. And ideally, you should devote at least a few hours to your work.
This may require a bit of “rewiring your brain”. If you’re used to chilling all weekend, it’s time to realize that you’re fully capable of putting in a few more hours of work. Although the weekend may have always been your downtime, realize that tons of people work on the weekends. And if they’re not right now… then they were at some point.
Always bear in mind that your entrepreneurial work is your passion. That’ll help to make it feel less like something you’re being forced to do.
Try your hardest to find joy in your work. And remember that this isn’t a forever thing.
One day, if you so please, you won’t have to work on the weekends. You’ll have enough time in the week to make the profit that you want.
…and maybe even holidays
As a student entrepreneur, you really have to seize the days that you have off from schoolwork. So yes, holidays aren’t just fair game… but prime game.
Of course, don’t deny yourself time with your family or social outings. But take advantage of the down time most of us inevitably have on the holidays. Particularly on the ones that don’t typically include group gatherings.
We all like a day off from time to time. And I’m not telling you to restrict that of yourself.
However, it’s better to space your work out, than cram in on certain days and ignore it on others.
On school days, you already know that you’re going to be busy with schoolwork. Schoolwork that can be very tiring and draining. You don’t need to add your side hustle on top of that when you could allocate it to a day that you have off from academics.
It’s all about balance my friend.
Working adults don’t ever have to work on holidays because they have plenty of time to work during the week. As a student entrepreneur, you don’t. You have school.
And I don’t care what anyone says, you shouldn’t sacrifice your ability to truly grasp what you’re learning in favor of your entrepreneurial pursuit.
A solid education (and degree) is a much more stable way to ensure financial security than entrepreneurship. It’s the unfortunate truth.
Entrepreneurship is a risk. Becoming an educated professional is a safety net.
And if it means working on holidays to build that net for yourself… well, then you know what you have to do.
…and when your peers are chilling
I’m assuming you’re in college or high school. With very little familial obligations, most of your peers have plenty of time to party, socialize, and watch Netflix.
But you– you’re a student entrepreneur. Even your downtime is your go time.
I’m well aware that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a terrifying thing. But… from a business standpoint… so is missing out on getting started building something for yourself in your young, energetic, years.
Between (most likely) not having any kids, a spouse, or a house of your own, you actually have a lot of free time. (I know, shocker)
So instead of splurging all that extra time on TV, social media, YouTube, or other passive activities… invest your time.
One of the major “unwritten rules” of entrepreneurship is that you either have to invest your money or invest your time. Because fact of the matter is, a-lot of us don’t have a-lot of both. And most students have a heck of a lot more time than money.
You’ll have to make up for that deficit in budget with a surplus of time.
So while I’m not telling you to skip out on that Friday night party… maybe skip on that TV show binge.
If it’s something that you won’t regret not doing, then skip out on it.
Make memories AND make time to get your entrepreneurial work done.
Although most student entrepreneurs may suspect it, you need to recognize the modification to your priorities.
Which should look something like:
- Entrepreneur work
And a few other things like family and/or religion thrown in there.
Once again it’s all about balance. Don’t burn out. Know your limits. Work smart.
You’ll get a nice dose of self-independence
On a more positive note than some (most) of the others, you’ll gain some self independence.
Ideally this’ll be in the form of greater financial freedom, but it’ll also be in the form of:
- Greater confidence in your business skillset
- An impressive resume
- Networking on your own
- Less reliance on external employers
- Greater freedom to quit jobs you don’t enjoy and/or demand more as a freelancer/contractor
- More money to make some of those memories you’ve been wanting to make
Whereas other students are living pay check to paycheck through their fast food job… you’ll be growing something that could skyrocket down the line.
There are few greater feelings than building an income stream with potential for serious growth. Which is something that most tra
It’s likely that you’ll want to keep your entrepreneurial endeavors a secret initially
I don’t exactly know why this is the case but most entrepreneurs (at least those in their youth) prefer to keep their endeavors hidden initially.
This is especially true of online business owners since it’s notably harder to keep a physical business hidden from those in your area.
Student entrepreneurs already know that starting a business is a risk.
The idea that it could “flop” is terrifying, but it is a possibility. Telling people that you know about your business means that you have people both cheering you on and judging you.
Operating in peace is a lot more appealing than operating under scrutiny. There’s no shame in wanting to conceal yourself from possible future embarrassment if your business doesn’t do as well as you’d like.
With that in mind, you may find yourself making up fibs when people ask you if you can hang out.
You may find yourself saying you’ll be doing homework when you’ll actually be working on product development.
It’s hard for people who aren’t entrepreneurs to understand why you’re putting so much time into something intangible. Into something without guaranteed success. It’s okay to not feel like explaining yourself.
It’ll probably feel strange keeping such a big piece of yourself hidden from others. But chances are, you’ll eventually outgrow any discomfort. And actively share your business links with friends and family.
In the meantime, you don’t have to rush it. Let it come naturally.
You’ll have times when you’ll want to quit in favor of a more stable job
Most teenagers and young adults are working in retail or at restaurants. Or maybe even work-study programs.
Those jobs have fixed incomes and fixed hours. There’s definitely some comfort in that.
But they have little room for growth. Although you may find yourself longing for a stable part-time position at Starbucks, don’t swap it for your entrepreneurial endeavors.
You can add in another part-time job (since you’ll likely need to pay for what it takes to even start a business)… but don’t give up on your self-employed endeavors.
Yes, it may put you out of your comfort zone to go against the status quo. But what good ever came from the comfort zone?
It feels so much better to put in work now that can one day to accumulate to something so much greater. Including a sizable stream of passive income.
While active income definitely allows you make ends meet, it sets you up for living paycheck to paycheck. And while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, it’s just not the best way to live. Your forever “end-goal” should be to focus more on living than making a living.
Entrepreneurship is frustrating and not as prosperous initially. You may even make less than a minimum wage employee. But you need to have patience. Because one day it could become something so much greater and that restaurant job won’t even be a blip on your radar.
It probably won’t pay the bills until AFTER you graduate (if it ever does)
This fact is more true for students in programs less than or equal to 4 years in length.
Building a business takes time. So many entrepreneurs admit that they didn’t start making any real money until about 5 years into the game.
In the first couple of years, you’ll likely be making money but not enough to cover all your expenses. You’ll probably still need another job. (How else are you going to pay off that student debt?)
Of course, this varies from business to business.
If your products cost more, there’s a good chance you’ll make more.
Starting with a budget means you’ll be able to spend more on advertising which will likely lead to higher profit.
If your products are in high demand, you’ll make more.
Online small businesses typically make more than strictly physical small businesses.
You’ll typically make more by offering services over products (at least in the beginning).
Where you “set up shop” plays a huge role. You’ll probably make more money on Amazon than a self-hosted website.
And what kind of business you operate definitely plays a huge role. A drop-shipping business will likely make more initially than an artist business.
So yes, you could be the exception to the norm. But don’t bet on it. Recognize that you’ll need to be in this “entrepreneurial thing” for the long run.
In those first months or even years, your efforts may seem futile. You may make hardly any sales. You may get very few impressions. But as you grow and hone your business skills, all that stuff will get easier.
The longer your business exists, the greater the chance it’ll be discovered for how great it is.
But there’s a good chance that won’t happen until after those 4 years in school.
To stay on track, set realistic goals for you and your business. You can do so using my digital planner designed for business-minded individuals.
And if you really want to get jazzy, you can decorate your planner with these:
- Digital stickers for students
- Digital stickers for working women
- OR these rose-gold motivational stickers (for that extra boost when things get tough)
Be ready to gain about 5 more “professions”
So we’ve already established that you’re a student. And that you’d like to take on this new label as student entrepreneur.
But you’ve probably already got another job title in mind. Like a blogger, YouTuber, salesman, saleswoman, freelancer, virtual assistant, social media marketer, etc.
Sounds pretty cute-sy if you ask me.
The vast majority of entrepreneurs start out as solopreneurs. Which means yuou’ll need to everything by yourself.
You can’t just create a product, webpage, or shop and expect people to trickle in.
You’ll need to:
- market like a heathen
- manage all your social pages
- write all your product/service descriptions
- search engine optimize your online pages
- respond to emails
- monitor customer feedback
- make the plans for reaching your goals
- take and edit photos (maybe)
- And some other things too
It’s natural to feel a bit intimidated by all this. But bear in mind that if you allow it to be, it can be quite exciting.
It’s a lot more interesting to learn how to do those things in action. Experience is the best teacher, after all.
If you need some extra help, check out edX‘s classes for entrepreneurs.
They offer university-led courses in computer programming, data science, business, finance, marketing, and more.
I tell you all of this to make sure you really grasp all the layers of business management. Unless you can pay someone else, you’re no longer just a student. You’re a marketer, copywriter, brand strategist, and more.
If you do a good job, just think about how great your resume will look.
One day you may even be able to become a business coach and help future student entrepreneurs.
Conclusion + Recap on what it takes to become a student entrepreneur
The student entrepreneur life is no walk in the park. But you already know that.
It can definitely be an achievable, enjoyable lifestyle though. As long as you know to approach it with these 10 truths in mind:
- It’s a wee bit lonely
- You’ll have feelings of inadequacy
- You’ll need to get used to working on the weekends
- … and on holidays
- … and when your peers are chilling
- You’ll get a nice dose of self-independence
- It’s likely that you’ll want to keep your entrepreneurial endeavors a secret initially
- You’ll have times when you’ll want to quit in favor of a more stable job
- It probably won’t pay the bills until AFTER you graduate (if it ever does)
- Be ready to gain about 5 new “professions”
Looking for some of the realest entreprenurial advice out there for turning traditional disadvantage (like being a student) into advantage? Then join my email list.