7 Tips to Help You Start A Small Business While Attending College
From keeping a close eye on syllabi to cramming in study time for final exams, attending college can feel like a full-time job.
Add in a possible part-time job and a desire to launch a new business — and time management suffers.
But that doesn’t mean that starting a small business while in college isn’t possible. It just means you’ll have to be a little more strategic with your time and choices.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven things you can do to successfully start a small business while you’re still in school.
1. Create a business plan
Before starting a business, you’ll need to have a business plan in place that will guide you along the way.
A business plan is a document that outlines your vision and goals.
In your business plan, you’ll need to include:
- What products or services you’re going to offer
- How you’re going to price your products and services (hint: take a pricing course if you’re unsure)
- How you’re going to accept payment
- How you’re going to provide your products and services (i.e., product shipping process)
- What kind of client and vendor contracts you’ll need to use
- What kind of employee roles, vendors, or virtual assistants you’ll need
- An operations plan describing how your business will function and what responsibilities everyone will have
- A competitor analysis and how you plan to beat the competition
- A marketing analysis that describes your target market, along with a marketing plan
- A financial plan including business loan possibilities, initial business costs, and fixed business expenses
- Projected income statements and balance sheets for the next two to three years
- Short-term and long-term business goals
You’ll also need to consider what business type and legal structure would best suit your business model. If you’re not sure which type to choose, consider meeting with a business consultant.
At the meeting, the business consultant will take a look at your personal and business assets, your liabilities, and your tax obligations. They will then recommend a structure that best fits your overall business.
Another rule of thumb is ensuring all contracts are legal and binding. Consider hiring a lawyer or paying a small monthly fee to a law group. Your lawyer will comb through your vendor and client contracts to ensure they’re legally binding and accurate.
2. Commit to being a lifelong learner
Assuming you know everything about business prevents you from being open to learning new skills and business practices.
Instead, commit to being a lifelong learner.
Committing to being a lifelong learner helps you stay ahead of market trends, business strategies, and sales operations. Sometimes just one new idea or concept can transform your business for the better.
Take the movie rental conglomerate Blockbuster, for example. Had Blockbuster kept an eye on market trends and new technologies — and taken them seriously — they might still be around today. Instead, they decided to stick to their in-person video rental model, which was soon made obsolete by online movie streaming company Netflix.
Being a lifelong learner helps you anticipate major market trends like these that can negatively impact your business. Or worse, cause it to fail.
It also helps you continue to refine your business processes, systems, and daily operations so your business operates as efficiently as possible.
From using open education resources like StuDocu to signing up for monthly newsletters from business and marketing experts, it’s vital to take ongoing learning seriously.
To help yourself stay committed to learning, dedicate a couple of hours each week to learning something new about technology, business, marketing, and sales. These four pillars are key to staying ahead of the competition.
3. Know when to delegate
Hiring employees to help you with tedious and time-consuming tasks is crucial to managing your time as efficiently as possible.
Although employees are an additional business expense, they free you up from monotonous tasks that can take you away from more important ones — like growing your business.
As a business owner and college student, your time is everything. Knowing what to delegate and when will ensure you’re dedicating ample time to marketing projects, partnership opportunities, and business expansion.
When considering what to delegate, ask yourself:
- Does this task support my growth plan?
- Is this task vital to my marketing and sales success?
- Can I do this task faster and better than someone else?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it might be time to hire someone to do the task for you.
Whether it’s hiring a full-time in-person assistant or hiring a part-time virtual assistant, having a second hand to help you with repetitive tasks frees you up for more vital operations.
4. Build up your business credit
You may consider funding your business using credit cards, but this can be tricky.
To build your business credit, start by taking out a business credit card and allotting simple expenses to it, such as your monthly website and marketing fees.
Every month, make your payments on time but don’t pay the credit card off every month. To build business credit, creditors want to see that you’re actively using credit and making your monthly payments on time. If you find that you’re managing your credit health well, start increasing the amount of money you spend on the credit card each month.
If you don’t qualify for a business credit card yet, ask your bank if you can open a secured business credit card. With a secured credit card, you’ll give the bank a set amount of funds that they’ll keep as collateral if you stop making payments.
After managing a secured card for a year, ask your bank if it’s an appropriate time to apply for a regular credit card. If you end up qualifying, you can close your secured line and get your money back. Or, you can leave it open and have two credit lines.
If you choose the latter, don’t let your secured card sit without activity. Consider using the secured card for smaller expenses and the regular card for larger ones.
You’ll also need to open a business bank account to separate your business expenses and profits from personal accounts.
To get customized banking and credit advice for your business, meet with an experienced banker or an accountant.
You can also meet with an accountant to formulate a get-out-of-debt plan. Almost every college student leaves school in massive debt. The faster you start managing it, the better it will be for your life as a budding entrepreneur.
From paying off student loans to settling old, charged-off credit cards, this will free up your monthly expenses so you can focus on the business.
5. Automate as many tasks as possible
To streamline operations and save time, automate as many business processes as you can.
For your business to run without a massive time investment on your end, consider automating business workflows to streamline operations.
Think of automating online forms, emails, invoices, social media posts, and any other recurring tasks you have.
Business automation comes with associated risks like security and data vulnerabilities, especially when using the internet and cloud technology. Consider protecting your data online by investing in VPN services.
6. Create a schedule and stick to it
Creating a set schedule is the only way to work on your business consistently — and keep your clients happy. It’s also the only way to make sure you’re not sacrificing class, exam, and study time for the sake of your business.
When creating your schedule, start by taking a look at your college schedule. Outline all classes, lab times, study halls, and exam dates. Include the time and location for each, so you can keep tabs on how long each time commitment takes.
Next, pencil in any additional time you may need to work on assignments like homework and take-home projects.
After that, add in any other time commitments, such as wellness appointments, coffee runs, and gym time, for example.
You’ll also need to list a set wake time and a set sleep time for each day.
Next, add in mealtimes and any personal time commitments, such as going on dates, spending time with friends, and having personal downtime.
At this point, you should have a clear picture of your school and personal schedule.
From there, pencil in time blocks dedicated to operating your business.
Unless your family runs a business, you’re most likely going to start learning how to build one from scratch. Consider checking out book summary apps to help you decide which materials you should dedicate your time to learning this aspect.
Your schedule is complete when you have a clear time-management plan for school, personal, and business commitments.
7. Fall in love with marketing
Strategic marketing is the lifeblood of business. From bringing in new clients to retaining existing ones, a solid marketing plan is essential to your business’s success.
Since you’ll still be busy keeping up with classes, choose one or two marketing channels to start with. Be sure to do market research before choosing which channels to focus on. This way, you can concentrate your efforts on channels that your target audience frequents most.
To market efficiently, batch your content and campaigns. Choose one day a week to plan your marketing campaigns and then automate them, so you don’t have to think about them until the following week.
You’ll also need to dedicate time each week to engage with followers, respond to comments, and build online relationships with customers.
Falling in love with marketing is the best way to ensure that your audience reach is consistent and engaging.
Attending college can feel like a full-time job. Add in other obligations and a desire to start a small business, and you have a recipe for a time-management disaster.
But with a set schedule and a plan, you can start your dream business while still attending school.
Feeling overwhelmed? Start with one tip at a time and work your way up from there.
Ioana is a freelance content writer and SEO strategist for B2B and B2C brands specializing in Business, Marketing, Tech, and Mental Health. Born in Transylvania, raised in Texas, and transplanted to Barcelona, Ioana’s next move is taking her to sunny Mexico.