Students are the ideal entrepreneurs. Passionate, creative, innovative, and driven — many students have started multimillion dollar businesses from the comfort of their dorms (Facebook anyone?). But what happens when the balance between your business responsibilities and your studies becomes hard to manage? How to ensure that you come away with the qualifications you deserve? Even a modest business venture can be demanding in terms of time, attention, and effort, and you may find yourself feeling increasingly stressed or tired. Here are some ways to maintain maximum balance and avoid student burnout.
Processes, processes, processes
Anyone who has read the entrepreneur’s handbooks E-Myth, knows that a healthy business is built on the power of processes, not random acts of genius. Processes add order and structure to what could otherwise be quite a chaotic undertaking.
You need to ensure that your business processes (admin, answering emails, marketing etc) are balanced with your student processes (reading, studying, going to class, exams). You need to figure out how these separate processes best function side by side. By introducing better processes, you will be adding more structure to both your business and student life (which never hurts).
Building structure starts with figuring out where you are right now: so spend time analyzing how much time tasks are currently taking you. (Time tracking software like ClickTime may help you here).
Are you being inefficient about how you handle customer emails? What about your exams — are there processes in place to give you a bit more study time during cramming season? It’s all about optimizing what you’ve got to ensure maximum efficiency.
Timetabling tasks will introduce a new level of accountability to ensure that you are not unnecessarily taking time away from either your business or your studies. Make sure that there are extra resources and backups in place for the peak season.
Start the right kind of business
Not all businesses are compatible with student life. You need to find a business model and a niche that is going to inherently work around your studies.
Here are some business ideas that work well for students:
- Seasonal businesses that flare up during the holiday season, and only need minimal management outside of peak season
- Online/’passive’ income ventures that make you money online, even when you are not directly present. Ideas include blogging for money, affiliate marketing, and ecommerce
- Freelance businesses mean that you can say no to work when you have a big assignment on
- A business that’s connected to your studies. Anything that will increase your knowledge and give you a practical grounding in your subject is obviously win-win (and you should whether your business can be used to support your assignments)
- Working with other students means that you can balance the stresses (and triumphs) of business management with other likeminded people.
Remember that passion and enthusiasm are also important considerations. Only if you really enjoy what you’re doing, will you want to come home and work on your business after a long day of studying!
A mentor is a lifeline for a student entrepreneur. They can help guide you through difficult decisions and tricky turning points. Mentorships are often encouraged and fostered by universities, so you shouldn’t struggle to find a good one. Speak to your student guidance counselor for some advice.
As well as face-to-face support, you will need to harness the power of the web in order to get advice and help from others who are more experienced than you. There is a huge knowledge base and a profound depth of data out there — use it to your advantage and mine online forums, blogs, and social media networks for hints on how to get more customers, send better invoices, and pretty much everything else!
If you are making money through ecommerce, you will want to build a store that has knowledge and support built into it. You will get so much more out of your business venture if you engage with the entrepreneur community. If you are blogging, join blogger groups on social media: it’s a great way to gain new knowledge and simultaneously grow your following.
Going to career and business events and mixers put on by your university and local business groups is also a good way to get some invaluable face-to-face networking experience.
The bottom line: just be brave and approach people for advice — generally people are happy to give some. Be direct, but remember that people are busy and won’t be able to always respond immediately.
Think about your future
It’s easy to lose sight of your goals if your days seem like one busy mess, so take some time to really think about what it is that you want to achieve. Think about the bigger picture and why you are studying and running a business. What are your end goals? What will your business, and your final qualifications, allow you to do? Where will your future likely take you, and what do you need to get there?
If you are on a scholarship, you have to be careful that your business venture isn’t impacting your academic results. For the sake of a little extra cash right now, don’t ruin your academic career. Play the long game, and take support and advice where you find it.
Balancing your studies with running a business is all about focusing on your goals. Think a few months, even years, down the line and work your way backwards. You need to be clever with your time management, and ensure that each and every day has a solid structure so that you’re not adrift. At the same time, down time is also important and will help keep you feeling motivated and refreshed. Don’t make the mistake of working 24/7 and causing yourself to burn out unnecessarily. Even if you love your course and your business: take some time out.