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So you graduated college. Congratulations! Four years (in some cases a few more than that) and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears later and you are standing at the finish line victorious. Then, the elation starts to fade, people continue living their lives, and you ask yourself that age-old question: Now what?
For many, the next step is sitting down and writing dozens (sometimes hundreds) of cover letters and revising your resume for job applications. Then, once you find a job, you work your butt off for “the man” hoping your big break will come before your retirement.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Have you ever wanted to start your own business? What is that business degree good for if you aren’t going to apply it?
Starting a business can be an exciting, if not daunting, experience. However, starting your own business right out of college is not easy, and your parents may not relish the idea of housing their little entrepreneur rent-free for the next three years. So here are a few tips for ensuring your success right out of the gate.
1. Evaluate yourself
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Even if you have a great idea for a product or service, starting your own business may not be the best option for you if you don’t have the right personality and temperament.
Most start-ups fail within the first year. Though there are many reasons for this, one of the main causes is a lack of self-awareness on the part of would-be entrepreneurs. If you want to start your own business in order to work fewer hours, avoid the corporate rat race, and get rich quick, you should reconsider. Starting a business requires long hours (often alone), and the ability to juggle many responsibilities. You must be focused, diligent, and expect few returns in the beginning.
If this doesn’t sound appealing, entrepreneurship may not be for you. But if this kind of challenge excites and motivates you, you may be on to something.
2. Limit overhead
One of the biggest mistakes young entrepreneurs make is to hire employees too early. You must be prepared to do a lot (i.e. all) of the work yourself in the beginning. Hiring employees and working out of an office (rather than home) are unnecessary overhead costs that can sink your ship before you’ve even set sail. Look for ways to cut costs and limit your overhead so you can focus your energy (and your money) on your business.
3. Get a mentor
Just because you read that book on starting a business doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Particularly for young college grads who have little “real world” experience, it is important to seek the advice of a good mentor. Reach out to other successful entrepreneurs or businessmen who have been down the road of self-employment before. They can give you valuable advice and help you avoid many of the pitfalls new entrepreneurs face.
4. Don’t be afraid of loneliness and hard work
As I mentioned before, starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to work long hours alone. When you are first starting out, you won’t have the budget for a team of employees and you won’t be able to afford working less. This isn’t supposed to scare you (well, maybe a little bit), but rather prepare you to face the long lonely hours of starting your own business.
5. Consider getting “real world” experience first
Although you may be chomping at the bit, ready to take on your big project, sometimes it is worth working for the dreaded “man” for a while to get industry experience. Taking time to work in the field you’re are interested in will not only teach you how to work, but give you valuable insight into the way the industry is run, what kind of competition you would face, and perhaps even inspire new ideas for your business plan. Knowledge is power, and this certainly applies to starting a business. Don’t be afraid of getting a little more information and experience before jumping in head first.
6. Put your degree to work
You spent four years getting that coveted college degree. Why not put it to good use in your business? If you are still looking for your business inspiration, consider how you can use your degree. For example, even if you aren’t a business major, your expertise in English literature may be a great stepping stone for starting a tutoring company, or offering editing services. Or, if your business idea is not directly related to your college career, look for opportunities to apply what you learned and use your skills to improve your business and set yourself apart.