How to Start Your Own Small Business in College

Want to Start a Business in College? Read These 5 Tips First

If you’re thinking of starting a business, beginning sooner rather than later is key. I’m a college student, and despite my lack of time, money, and resources, I’m currently in the process of starting my own photography business. You might be thinking I’m crazy, but there’s actually a lot of logic behind starting now rather than after I graduate.

Got a great business idea? Go for it! Here’s why you shouldn’t wait until after graduation – and five tips to help you (and your business) succeed.

1. Start sooner rather than later

In the business world, the saying “there’s no time like the present” is one that should always be taken to heart. By starting now, my business will have time to grow and become more sustainable and profitable, ultimately preventing me from having to worry about paying car insurance, or rent, or even about paying for every meal. For the next two years while I’m in still in school, I’ll be growing my business so by the time I need to earn a living out in the real world, I’ll already have a steady source of income.

Sooner is smarter. The sooner you start, the sooner you can achieve stability.

2. Put the money you make back into your company

Remember when I mentioned money, time, and resources being scarce? Well, that leads us to our next tip: put some of the money you make back into your business. This goes hand in hand with beginning sooner rather than later, because the earlier on you begin, the less you have to worry about using the money you make to pay your bills. Instead, you can put most of your money back into your business to help it grow quicker. When you invest your money back into your business, you can purchase more resources to help get things done, or even hire someone to help you out. Then, you’ll have more time available to accomplish even more within your business, and ultimately further its growth.

So, the thing to remember here is this: reinvest as much as you can to grow your business faster.

3. The power of the promo

Next things next. In order to draw customers in, you need to heavily promote your business. Don’t be afraid to find creative ways to engage with potential customers. I ran a promotion for my photography business in which I held a drawing, and picked five people to win a free photo shoot out of everyone who entered the contest. By doing this, I got potential customers engaged, and created awareness about my business. I then gave every person that entered the contest but didn’t win 20% off of their first shoot with me. This small follow-up promotion created even more engagement. Promotion is so important because it creates both awareness and engagement, and turns potential customers into actual customers.

4. Keep a balance sheet

You may have zoned out in your economics classes, but when it comes to your business, you’re going to need that information. It’s crucial to keep track of your costs. You need to know your fixed costs, your variable costs, and what your time is worth. For example, my fixed costs come from the cost of my camera, tripod, the cost per month to run and maintain my website, or the cost per print of a given size. Fixed costs don’t change.

My variable costs then come from gas to get to my shooting locations, and the time it’s going to take me to shoot and edit a client’s photos. Variable costs change, so a good way to calculate them is by using averages of the amount of time or materials required to complete the job.

Knowing your costs is so important because it allows you to understand how to price your product or service so that your business is profitable. If your business is profitable in the short and long run, then you know your business will be sustainable.

5. Know your audience

Last things last, you need to find your target audience. The saying that you can’t please everyone reigns true.

However, if you narrow everyone down to a group of people who all have an interest in products and services similar to what you’re providing, perhaps you can please everyone. When searching for your target audience, you need to consider things such as location and proximity. If your business requires proximity to your customers, you want to target people that are close enough to have access to your business. You also want to consider things such as age and financial state. For my photography business, I want to target high school kids who want senior pictures, and my college friends who might want couples photos. I need to keep my prices lower in order to keep those audiences interested.

Another thing I considered when choosing my target audience was where I want my business to go in the future. Right now, I really want to do senior photos and couples photos, and photos of people around my age. However, after I graduate, I want to do more wedding photography, and grow my business into the field of wedding planning as well. So, I figured that if I am targeting college students or people between the ages of 17-21 now, by the time I expand business to include wedding photography and planning, my clients will be at the age where they want to get married. At that point, I will have built a reputation for quality photos, and old clients will return. So, ultimately, you want to select your target audience based on who will have access to your business, who will pay your prices, and in terms of inflow of clientele or customers.

Related: How to Create a Student Business Card



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