How High School Students Can Prepare for and Become Entrepreneurs in High School
Entrepreneurship is a quickly growing career path within the United States. In 2016, 15 million Americans reported that they were self-employed, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This accounts for just over 10% of the workforce.
For young adults getting ready to enter the workforce, this flexible career path offers the opportunity to be your own boss, set your own hours, and pursue a passion.
Whether you already have a skill that you’d like to make into a business, study in a business program, or just want to prepare for a career of working for yourself, there are certain steps that you can take while still in high school to become a successful entrepreneur.
Learn business fundamentals
Every entrepreneur is first and foremost a business owner. Talented creative professionals, such as photographers and writers, still need to understand how a business is run. This includes interacting with clients, collecting payments and keeping financial records, and complying with state and federal regulations.
High school students can get a head start on learning these important skills through formal education or informal experience.
Take a business class. Many high schools now offer technical classes that can benefit future entrepreneurs in everything from computer programming to bookkeeping. If your school does not offer these classes, request to audit freshmen-level classes at a nearby university or seek out free online resources.
Shadow a business owner. The best place to learn about entrepreneurship is from someone actually doing it. If you can find someone with a successful, established business in your field, talk to them about job shadowing, interning, or an after-school job. Chances are they will be flattered and more than willing to help the next generation of entrepreneurs get off to a great start.
Get hands on experience. If you are ready to jump right into running a business, go for it! Do you babysit or walk dogs? Turn that part-time gig into a legitimate business by registering it with your state officials, getting a tax identification number (and filing your taxes correctly), and marketing. You’ll gain valuable business experience and new customers at the same time.
Dedicate yourself to your craft
The foundation of any successful business is the product or service that they provide to customers. The more time that you spend perfecting that product or service, the happier your customers will be and the more successful your business will become.
This can apply to part-time work that you already do or a new enterprise that you aspire to create. If you can gain extra credentials to set yourself apart from the competition, do it.
Babysitters can become CPR certified. Dog walkers can learn how to provide grooming services. If you aren’t able to provide these extras yourself, work to develop a referral network with other businesses. Your customers will be happy that you went above and beyond to help meet their needs.
Hone your work ethic
Setting your own hours sounds pretty great. Given the choice, who would choose to wake up early to put in a full day at the office? Most successful entrepreneurs wake up early, stay late, and often work weekends.
You can set your own hours. Entrepreneurship often comes with flexibility, which is why it is so appealing. But if you take time off during the day, expect to have work to do in the evening to keep up. Once you are the boss, you can give yourself time off but you also need to keep yourself accountable to doing great work, no matter what time of day or night.
Learning is working. Entrepreneurs know that self-improvement is key to business success. Dedicate time everyday to learning something new. This may mean that you turn off Netflix to read a book about workplace efficiency or customer service.
The first few years are hard. New businesses face the most significant hurdles as they develop a strong customer base, refine their business practices, and establish themselves in the community. You may have to put in extra hours during the early days to ensure long-term success.
It’s also important to learn to accept and learn from failure. When you are first starting out, you will make mistakes with your business. Rather than let those setbacks derail your entire plan, find what you can improve and move on. Successful entrepreneurs know that failure is part of any enterprise and is felt even more keenly when you are the boss, responsible for the success or failure of the business. Pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
It is never too early to prepare for entrepreneurship.
If you have a great idea or passion to create your own business, learn what you can as a high school student from classes and mentor, perfect your product or service, and get to work. Before you know it, you’ll be a successful young entrepreneur living your dream.
Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion.