11 Steps to Starting a Successful Business in Your 20s
Your 20s are meant for hustling. While your friends are enjoying “Sunday Funday” and going out on a Thursday night, you can be growing your own business and laying the foundation for your future success.
Millennials and Gen Zers have an amazing opportunity at their fingertips. While our parents’ generation had to put in the time and work their way up the corporate ladder, the iGeneration and Net Generation have a quicker (and more fun!) alternative. Since we grew up with technology, we have a competitive advantage to build brands that rely on digital marketing and technology.
Whether you want to create the next Snapchat, start a marketing agency or become an Instagram influencer, it’s time to stop stalking others’ lives on social media and get to work on your own business.
1. Start a side hustle.
Most people underestimate how much time there is outside of work if you have a standard 9-5 job. If you are working at a job you dislike and want to be your own boss, stop complaining about your current terrible job and take action. Grab a cup of coffee after work and start hustling from 6 p.m to 2 a.m. on your new business venture.
If you are an artist, start posting YouTube videos about the details behind your painting process. Open up an ecommerce store on Shopify. Promote your products on Instagram. All of this can be done as a side hustle while you grow your business. Best of all, you are still collecting a paycheck from someone else.
2. Stop boozing.
If you are truly passionate about entrepreneurship, you will quickly understand that the weekends are the most productive time to get work done. You literally can put in 20 hours of work on the weekend to grow your brand.
This isn't going to happen if you are going to the bars on Friday and Saturday night. First off, you are going to drain your bank account from buying shots for all of your buddies. Secondly, you are not going to be productive when you’re hung over.
Start setting your alarm clock and for 6:30 a.m. on the weekends. Put in a full day of work. You won’t have any regrets about missing a night or two out when you’re in your 30s and have a million-dollar business.
Related: 50 Signs You Need to Start Your Own Business
3. Wake up early.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The sun has not caught me in bed in 50 years.” Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for getting up early and sending out company emails at 4:30 in the morning. The youngest CEO in the NBA, Brett Yormark, gets up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to the office by 4:30.
When it comes to business, the early bird catches the worm. You can actually be playing offense rather than defense, which will allow you to work on growing your business.
Make sure to put your alarm clock on the opposite side of the room, which will force you to get out of bed and not hit the snooze button. Do 50 pushups within 5 minutes of turning of your alarm clock to truly wake yourself up. If you need extra motivation for waking up early, follow Before 5 AM on Instagram.
4. Build your personal brand.
It blows my mind how much time people spend on social media promoting themselves yet they don't have a website that gives people more information or a place where people can get in contact with them.
Everyone should see if their first and last name is available for purchase on GoDaddy. If you have a common name, insert your middle name and your craft as part of the URL (example: SarahSmithNYCArtist.com). The next time you go into a business meeting, you'll be amazed how much more impressed people will be by your professional website.
5. Become an expert by contributing content.
In addition to owning a marketing and app development agency, I am also the partner of an ecommerce skincare website that sells dermatology strength products. We are constantly trying to get media mentions from Glamour, Bustle and Teen Vogue. Do you know what I discovered? A ton of the writers on these nationally recognized sites are college students!
If you love sports, start reaching out to sites like YardBarker to become a contributor. If you love fashion, what's holding you back for writing for Teen Vogue? This will boost your personal brand, establish credibility and present new opportunities you never imagined.
6. Talk it out.
When you are an entrepreneur, you live on a lonely island. Nobody will ever realize just how much hustle you put in on a daily basis. Your friends who work a 9-5 job won't understand how your business means the world to you.
Since entrepreneurship can be lonely, make sure you have someone you can air it out with. Whether it is your girlfriend or boyfriend, mom or dad, or just a mentor you can trust, in order to grow, you need to be able to have a sounding board along the journey.
7. Have patience.
The issue with the digital age that we live in is that people are impatient. They expect results yesterday.
Bill Gates was famously quoted saying, "Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years."
In order to build a business, you need to be patient for the long run. Don't think about where you want your business to be in a year; think about your goals for 10 years down the road and how you are going to execute to make all of your ambitions come to fruition. If you are in your 20s, what will differentiate you as an entrepreneur is patience. Make sure to move fast on getting stuff done but be patient for the long-term gains.
I've owned my company for seven years now. I know that 96 percent of businesses fail before turning 10. I keep that statistic in my mind each and every day because I want to be part of the 4 percent that succeed past 10.
Each year you celebrate your business anniversary, your muscles will continue to grow.
8. Make money.
I can't stand all of the people who claim they are entrepreneurs. One simple question separates the contenders from the pretenders: "Are you generating revenue?" There are so many people out there who claim to be crushing it with their "entrepreneurial journey" but when you dig into it, they aren't generating a penny in revenue. I'm not even getting into the details of generating a profit, which is what every business must do to survive.
If you aren't making money with your business, you need to start and you need to start soon. Just like a hockey team needs to score goals in order to win a game, your business needs to make money to actually be considered a business. Stop with the pretend stuff and start selling your product or service.
9. Start meeting with millionaires.
On a monthly basis, start meeting with a millionaire for coffee. You'll be amazed that there is no secret sauce to succeed in business. You'll learn that hard work leads to better luck and success. You'll also become inspired and motivated while listening to someone who has succeeded in the business world.
If you try and meet with Evan Spiegal from Snapchat, you aren't going to have much luck. You'd be amazed, though, how many CEOs of billion- and multi-million-dollar companies would be willing to meet with you if you are persistent.
Don't think for a second that you are the only one gaining value from the meeting. The CEOs and founders that you meet with -- who will likely be in their 40s, 50s and 60s -- will be asking you a lot of questions. The reason? Their customers are most likely your age, and they understand the spending power of millennials and Gen Zers.
10. Become an SEO and paid advertising expert.
Do you want to know a more efficient way to grow your business than attending outdated networking events? Rank towards the top of Google so people will contact you directly for business inquires. Whether you just graduated from law school and plan on opening up your own practice or you are selling customized dog collars, SEO and paid ads can literally help any business.
This is one of the main reasons I've been able to grow my marketing agency quickly and efficiently. In the Columbus, Ohio markets, we crush it for terms like "social media company" and "SEO Company."
There is no college degree or class you have to take to become an SEO or PPC expert. You just have to get your hands dirty, read articles and watch videos. If you are starting a business, you need to be well versed in this area so you can generate leads and sales online each and every day.
11. Be cheap.
Earlier in the article, I talked about how you can save money by not going to the bars every weekend. Do everything you can to be frugal with your money. You never know when the economy will turn south or when your biggest client or customer will drop off. If you are spending lavishly, you won't be well prepared for tough times.
Start eating more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and eat out less. Stop buying clothes at Nordstrom and start shopping at TJ Maxx.
Every dollar is so important when you are starting a business. There's a reason Warren Buffett has lived in the same house in Omaha, Neb., that he bought for $58,000 in 1958. The real winners in business are smart with their money.