For young people, entrepreneurship is the new 9 to 5, with 60% of teenagers saying they want to start their own business rather than have a traditional job.
However, given the uncertainty business owners have faced over the past two years, it can be beneficial for Gen Zers to learn from professionals who have managed to thrive 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. Her art has been her main source of income for the last 6 years.
Before the pandemic, Labowitch made much of her income from teaching face-to-face classes and workshops. But after taking to social media in 2020, she’s been able to supplement that income and then some.
“When [the pandemic] When I first happened I was horrified,” Labowitch tells CNBC Make It. “I immediately lost a bunch of jobs, and the number of email correspondents I had about promising projects just went away. But if I’ve done anything during the pandemic, it’s maintained consistency. Because the magic of the internet allowed me to work with a global audience.”
According to Labowitch, aspiring business owners should remember three things:
Strategize with social media
According to Labowitch, 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 see everything I post on the internet as a form of advertising for my services. I market myself with every sample of my work because you never know who’s going to see it. And that’s you. I’ll never know if something you did two years ago will be seen by the right eyes and result in an interesting email in your inbox.”
Labowitch began showcasing her art on Myspace in 2007, but has recently increased her TikTok presence by live-streaming her drawing process. Her viewers could then send her money tips on the app and create a more personal connection with her.
These live streams not only helped her build an online presence of over 200,000 followers, but also helped her make enough money to pay off the last $13,484.58 of her student loans.
“TikTok roses are the lowest currency you can donate to a live stream, and the streamer gets the equivalent of half a cent per rose,” says Labowitch. “So I did the math and found I needed 2,696,916 roses.”
“It took me exactly 30 days and 117 hours of live streaming to raise enough money. It took my life for the entire month of April. And I built this whole new, really passionate fan base of people who just really wanted to support me and my business.”
Find a good, trustworthy accountant
Being your own boss has its perks, but it also has its potential pitfalls, most notably financial ones. When people pursue entrepreneurship, create content, or do freelance work, many don’t realize that they will increase in financial responsibility.
From filing taxes to documenting and monitoring income and expenses, a trusted accountant can play a crucial role in a company’s long-term success.
“If there’s one thing I would recommend to any entrepreneur that they would devote themselves to and spend money on, it’s an accountant,” says Labowitch. “It’s worth every penny for the peace of mind that my accountant is doing better than I ever could.”
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart
The path to a successful company is not a straight one. For some, it can take months while other entrepreneurs take years to get their business off the ground.
Despite these different time frames, the common denominator for all entrepreneurs is preparation. According to Labowitch, there are many aspects of early entrepreneurship that are not for the “faint-hearted,” including a lack of health insurance, funding, and “instability.”
“I’m in a cohabitation with my boyfriend because of the health insurance,” she says. “And I know so many entrepreneurs who are in positions similar to mine who don’t have that option, or whose partners don’t work for companies where domestic partnerships suffice. I know [several people] married for health insurance reasons.”
“I also needed to learn about the cost of sales and just be able to calculate not only how much I should charge in general, but how much I should charge to make sure this is a sustainable endeavor for me.” So I didn’t get into full-time entrepreneurship, I got into it.”
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