You Don't Have to Pay Your Dues Before You Start a Business
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
My job consists of building cool stuff, helping people build apps and helping startups grow and scale. This means I field a lot of questions and hear a ton of startup ideas.
One day, an impressive young entrepreneur came to me with an interesting idea. It sounded promising, so I thought he should go for it. He did, and found a gaping hole in his local market. As any good entrepreneur would do, he went in full-force to exploit it. The idea was solid, he was able to validate it and went to build.
But before he got started, he wanted to incorporate. This is a great idea. It helps protect your personal assets if something goes wrong. It can help you with taxes depending on where you are and honestly, it helps make you look professional if you are in the B2B, consulting or services spaces. It’s quick and easy, and you can get it done for a small fee in a few dozen places online.
Lucky for this young hustler, he had a family friend who was a lawyer. Time to save some cash and get some expert advice in the process, right? Sadly, that’s not what happened. Instead, my young student got an earful of horrible advice that put him down and out. “You’re in high school. You’re too young for this. Focus on getting into a good college, work hard, get a job, then start this business.”
That pissed me off.
The opportunity was right in front of him. There’s no law saying a high school student can’t start a business and make money. There’s no rule that says you can’t have an app and get into a good college. The time to do this was now -- when there was a gap in the market, and he was in the best position to fill it.
When I was in high school, I ran a business with one of my buddies selling bootlegged anime. I didn’t know that was legally frowned upon at the time, I promise. When I was in college, I started a web development agency and a SaaS company, which I later sold.
I didn’t wait to start those companies because someone told me I was young and inexperienced. I didn’t put my dreams on pause to get good grades and an entry-level job. I didn’t want to wait and pay my dues. I knew I had a skill that others were willing to pay for, and I offered my services to them. Funny thing is, my customers didn’t seem to care that I was still a student with no real job experience.
Does that sound like “skipping to the front of the line?” It should, because it is.
There were definitely people doing what I was doing, and doing it better, but I was competing on their level. And I didn’t work my way up for 10 years before I started. I built my empire one client at a time. And I’m definitely not alone.
So why do authority figures -- I'm talking parents, legal counsel, etc. -- tell people to pay their dues so they can get a good job before they work on their real dreams? And then, focus on your job and do this entrepreneur thing on the side for a while to test the waters.
Building an app on the side when you have a job is a good idea. It’s called a “side hustle” and if you want to do it, do it. It’s a great way to transition out of your boring 9-5. And if you don’t want to go full time, it’s a great way to make some passive income on the side.
But if you’re a student, why not start your business right now? You’re in the perfect position with limited responsibilities and endless resources -- resources to help you with business or technical challenges and tons of time to get some solid training on the internet.
So why wait to pay your dues before you find your success? Screw the old ways of the business world. Don’t wait for the world to give you permission. If you have an idea; if you have a dream; if you have the passion and the drive -- do it.
Let them say “you can’t” right up to the day where they ask you “how did you do it?”