Featured Image

5 Ways to Prepare for Your Life as an Entrepreneur

Considering starting your own business? Entrepreneurship is again rising in prominence as people seek to pave their own way in the world. It's tough road, but one lined with incredible rewards and career satisfaction. Here, one twentysomething entrepreneur shares his top tips for taking the first steps.

Considering starting your own business? Entrepreneurship is again rising in prominence as people seek to pave their own way in the world. It’s tough road, but one lined with incredible rewards and career satisfaction. Here, one twentysomething entrepreneur shares his top tips for taking the first steps.

According to a recent study featured by USA Today, unemployment rates among 18- to 34-year-olds increased 55% from 2006 to 2011. For current and soon-to-be college students, this is yet another sign that the coveted path to gainful employment through higher education is not so reliable. For many young men and women realizing even the most competitive applicant is likely to go unemployed for a while after college, the answer is good old American ingenuity. If you cannot find a job, why not make your own?

Admittedly, life as an entrepreneur is not always glamorous. Until you reach a certain threshold of income and success, you will feel like you are playing a game of Monopoly that never ends—a game that could last for several years. You will not be able to sleep without contemplating your next roll of the dice. When you are trying to develop and strengthen a business in difficult economic times, there will be months with money pouring in and there will be even more months where you will be making less per hour than your grandparents made back in the 1950s. You will make mistakes. You will undoubtedly need to ask for help along the way.

In business, your widget* does not matter. You can be successful whether you are selling vacuum cleaners or your tax-prep services. You do not need a concrete idea to start planning for a successful career as an entrepreneur, but if you already know that your future does not include an ordinary 9-to-5, there are a few ways you can start preparing now:

1. Build and strengthen every relationship you make.

Sure, you should definitely keep in touch with your old crew; you never know where they will end up and how you might be able to help each other down the road. But don’t forget about the relationships in your life either: teachers, school administrators, professors, employers, friends of the family, etc—these are the relationships that often mean the difference between success and failure for a young entrepreneur. Even if you have no intention of returning to your hometown, having many contacts (even hundreds) ready and willing to vouch for you to each of their many contacts throughout the country is priceless. One of the first things you need to learn as an entrepreneur is how to reach potential customers. Having a strong network to call on when your widget is ready to hit the market will put you way ahead of the curb.

2. Build a social media presence, but treat it like your résumé.

This one is for all students, regardless of your future plans. Should you have a Facebook page? Yes. A LinkedIn? Absolutely. A Twitter or a Pinterest? Maybe. One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to social media is forgetting that you will be judged according to what people see. Do not lie to yourself. Potential business partners and customers do not want to work with someone who has a Facebook page consisting of oversharing, angst-ridden status updates, and pictures of your empty liquor bottle collection. For most people in the business world, your social media accounts are weighted as highly as your résumé and college transcript. Why? Because what you post on social media sites directly reflects what you do and say when you think nobody important to your career is watching. It is indicative of the person you really are behind your professional façade. Make sure the person people see online reflects the professional you really are.

3. Build and maintain e-mail lists.

It is a brave new world, in which almost everyone has an e-mail address and compulsively checks it throughout the day. You should treat every email address you come across as a potential rent payment. Do not let a single one disappear. Consider making an investment in an account with YMLP.com or a similar service. This interface allows you to organize and store e-mail addresses into specific lists. You can then do mass broadcasts to those lists. Make a list for your former teachers and professors. Make a list for your theater contacts. Make a list for all of your former sports teammates. Make a list for your family. Try to make each list as focused as possible. And you can break it down by interest too; if you have know 50 people with a strong interest in video games, you should make a list for video games! And do not worry about adding a single contact to multiple lists. Most of these interfaces will automatically prevent double sending to a single contact.

4. Maintain regular, relevant contact with your e-mail lists.

You should not be sending e-mails to your lists on a weekly or even a monthly basis. Let’s face it—you’re in high school or college and there is not necessarily a lot going on to interest your mother’s book club. Keep any e-mail contact relevant and interesting to each contact group. If your Contemporary Lit professor recommends a book you think your mother’s book club would enjoy, send it their way. If you read an interesting article about education you think your high school teachers would find intriguing, forward it. Try to contact everyone on your e-mail lists at least two to three times a year. For most people, your main form of contact will just be to update them on your life and to ask that they update you on theirs.

5. Live frugally and save as much money as you can.

Most students (and their families) need to pay their own way through college, relying on scholarships and/or loans to fund the majority of their college education. You and the financial aid office at your school will calculate the bare minimum you will need to pay for tuition, books, food, and other living expenses. Then, you can almost always budget a certain amount more to make sure you have an adequate financial cushion. If you are going to live the life an entrepreneur, you need to get accustomed to saving every penny you can now. Do not rely on your school’s calculations. Know exactly how much money you need to live on during school. Cut corners where you can. Put the rest into a separate savings account you cannot easily access. Pretend it does not exist. Work a part-time job for your “play” money. Even if you only put away few hundred dollars a semester, you will be surprised how quickly it will add up. Moreover, when your big idea presents itself and it is time to bring it to life, you will be forever thankful you chose to save and invest it in yourself and your future.

*A widget is a placeholder used to stand in for any product or service when discussing business and marketing. For example, if you are a vacuum salesmen, your widget may be a new carpet shampooing attachment. If you are a video game designer, your widget might be a new RPG game.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Jenna

Jenna

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

Trevor

Trevor

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress was able to give me a short summary, background, and helpful tips about Bob Jones University The information given was helpful in allowing me to understand and read about personal experiences while at Bob Jones.

Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.

Wendy Thompson

Wendy Thompson

Owner, Westport Educational Consulting

I just discovered your site and LOVE it—fun, interesting, full of incredible information you can’t find anywhere else, and a godsend for those of us in the college counseling business. I am a fan!

College Matches