For young people, entrepreneurship is the new 9 to 5, with 60% of teenagers saying they want to start their own business instead of working in a traditional job.
However, with the uncertainty that business owners have faced over the past two years, Gen Z may benefit from learning from professionals who have successfully thrived during and after the peak of the pandemic.
Jane Labowitch, also known as Princess Etch, is a 30-year-old Etch a Sketch artist who uses the mechanical drawing toy to create intricate portraits and landscapes. For 6 years, his art has been his main source of income.
Before the pandemic, Labowitch earned a portion of his income by teaching in-person classes and workshops. But, after leveraging social media in 2020, she was able to supplement that income and then some.
“When [the pandemic] happened for the first time, I was terrified,” Labowitch told CNBC Make It. “I immediately lost a number of jobs and the number of email correspondents I had on promising projects simply disappeared. But if there’s one thing I’ve done during the pandemic, it’s maintained consistency. Because with the magic of the internet, I was able to work with a global audience.”
According to Labowitch, here are three things aspiring business owners should remember:
Develop a social media strategy
Labowitch says social media is a great tool for building a brand and showcasing what your business has to offer. She uses platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Discord, and Twitch to boost her company’s online presence.
“I consider everything I post on the internet to be some sort of advertisement for my services. I market myself with every sample work I create because you never know who’s going to see it. And you’re never gonna know. ever if something you did two years ago is seen by the right eyes and leads to an interesting email in your inbox.”
Labowitch first started showcasing her art on Myspace in 2007, but more recently she’s boosted her presence on TikTok by live-streaming her drawing process. Her viewers were then able to send her money advice in the app and have a more personal connection with her.
These live streams not only helped her establish an online presence of over 200,000 subscribers, but also helped her earn enough money to pay off the last $13,484.58 of her student loans.
“TikTok roses are the smallest denomination of currency you can donate to a live stream, and the streamer receives the equivalent of half a penny per rose,” says Labowitch. “So I did the math and found out I needed 2,696,916 roses.”
“It took me exactly 30 days and 117 hours of live streaming to raise enough money. It took over my life for the whole month of April. And I developed this brand new fanbase really passionate people who really wanted to support me and my business.”
Find a good accountant you trust
Being your own boss has its perks, but it also has its potential pitfalls, one of the main ones being finances. When people get into entrepreneurship, content creation, or freelancing, many don’t realize the increased financial responsibilities they will have.
From filing taxes to documenting and tracking income and expenses, a trusted accountant can play a vital role in the long-term success of a business.
“If there’s anything I would recommend any entrepreneur to indulge in and splurge on, it’s an accountant,” says Labowitch. “It’s worth every penny for the peace of mind knowing that my accountant will cross the T’s and dot the I’s better than I ever could.”
Entrepreneurship is not for the “faint of heart”
The path to a successful business is not linear. For some, it can take months, while other entrepreneurs need years to start their business.
Despite these varying timelines, the common denominator for all business owners is preparation. According to Labowitch, many aspects of early entrepreneurship are not for the “faint of heart,” including lack of health insurance, funding, and “instability.”
“I’m in a relationship with my boyfriend because of health insurance,” she says. “And I know so many entrepreneurs who are in positions similar to mine who don’t have that option, or their partners don’t work for companies where national partnerships are enough. I know [several people] who married for health insurance reasons.
“I also had to learn about cost of sales and be able to calculate not only how much I should charge in general, but how much I should charge to make sure it’s a sustainable business for me. So I didn’t dive into full-time entrepreneurship, I indulged in that.”
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