A lot of people that I know wanted to start a business. Some people think that once you have a business, tons of money will magically appear everywhere and we will all live happily ever after. I hate to break the news to you guys, but entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Before you think of starting any kind of business, you should consider if you are well-equipped to do so first. If you’re unsure, I think you should focus on learning how to build your entrepreneurial skills first.
My Entrepreneurial/Solopreneurial Journey
I’ve been selling a variety of stuff since I was a kid. Partly, to help myself earn additional money for my school allowance and partly, as a hobby.
I did that intermittently when I was in grade school but I stopped doing any entrepreneurial-related gigs when I was in high school and college. After college, me and my friends got into multiple business gigs which sadly, failed.
Luckily, we didn’t lose any money nor did we earn any. But, we did lose a lot of time and energy (and sleep) in the process.
It was an awesome learning experience though!
After those business gigs, I didn’t dabble anymore in any kind of business until in my late 30’s when I started selling preloved clothes online as a hobby until I finally decided to pursue it full-time.
Why Build Your Entrepreneurial Skills First
A lot of businesses fail in it’s first few years. And this can be attributed to a lot of things most especially to the skills, perseverance, etc of the driving force behind the business – the owners/founders.
I’m not saying this to discourage you from starting a business.
I’m saying this to tell you the reality of this endeavor.
But, if you do your own due diligence, and manage all your resources well, then you can have a good shot at this.
Many people think that to start your business, all you need is startup capital.
Personally, I disagree. It’s not the only thing that you need. And it’s not the only important thing, especially in this era.
You’ll be amazed to know how many young people have started low-overhead, high-profit margin online business!
Startup capital can be loaned. You can borrow money from your friends, family, banks, etc.
You can’t borrow entrepreneurial skills. Well, technically you can by hiring consultants but it will cost you a lot of money.
And also, think about this – Why would you start something that you don’t know about and just rely on everything to the person you hired?
Build your entrepreneurial skills first before you start a business and give yourself a good fighting chance to succeed.
7 Low-Cost Ways to Build Your Entrepreneurial Skills
I’m here to share with you some low-cost ways to build your entrepreneurial skills that I have learned along the way.
Read Business Books and Blogs
One of the things that I was really fond of was reading business books and blogs. It doesn’t have to cost you that much if you will not be buying brand new books. You can buy second-hand books from any buy and sell websites in your country or you can borrow some.
A no-cost alternative is to read business blogs instead. It’s practically free to gain information from reading business blogs. Here are some topics that I suggest you prioritize at the start:
- Basic Accounting
- Current and historical data of your chosen niche (In my case, I’ve been reading about the reselling market)
- Customer Service 101
- How to Manage Resources
- How to Sell
- Communication styles and Business Writing
Watch Youtube Tutorials or Listen to Audiobooks and Podcasts
If you’re not fond of reading then there are other ways to learn such as watching Youtube Tutorials and listening to audiobooks or podcasts.
Personally, I learned how to blog and how to generate traffic by following Youtube tutorials and by reading blogs.
Follow Business-related Social Media Accounts
You can also follow various social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook that are geared towards entrepreneurship. Personally, I prefer using Twitter in doing this. Using Twitter, you can also follow CEOs, entrepreneurs, personal finance bloggers, and other leaders in your chosen industry and interact directly with them.
This is a great way to learn straight from the people who have already succeeded in your chosen industry. This is also a great way to network with like-minded individuals in the comfort of your own home.
Take Free Courses Online/Offline
Just do a quick Google search about a topic that you’re interested in and you’ll see all the available free courses online. It really is simple but not many are taking advantage of these free resources.
Aside from taking free courses online, you can also take free courses offline (depending on the situation in your area).
In the Philippines, we have a government agency known as TESDA that helps people learn and improve their skills. Their courses vary and this is one of our country’s ways of helping people become employable or start their own business.
Aside from networking online, you can also network offline especially once the pandemic issue has been resolved. You can actually do this in a variety of ways without spending money.
I am an online seller and I frequently go to couriers to ship my merchandise. Every time I go to couriers, I chance upon fellow resellers and I always take that opportunity to ask them about:
- What their business is?
- What are they selling?
- Where are they selling it on/to?
- How much is their capital?
- How much is the profit margin (ballpark figure)?
- How much time does it consume?
- Are they doing it full-time or part-time?
Due to the huge number of online sellers in my town, a simple trip to the courier to ship my merchandise becomes a huge opportunity to learn.
In return, I also share information about what I do. I always believe that information sharing is a two-way street and both of us should benefit from that interaction.
Start Any Low-Cost Business to Speed-up Your Learning
I envy kids who grew up in this era. A lot of them are very tech-savvy and can easily adapt to new technologies. A lot of the people that I encounter in my trips to the local courier are teenagers.
All of them are selling a variety of stuff online. Some of them are selling clothes that their parents made, preloved clothes (like I do), printed T-shirts, face masks, handmade-stuff, plants, and even grape-cuttings.
And they ship these items all over the country.
Amazing, isn’t it!!!
Sometimes, I even hear some of them discussing their profit margin, expenses, and gross and net profit while I’m waiting for my turn at the courier, and man, some of them are earning waaay more than I do.
And I’m not talking about rich kids (yet, but I’m sure that they’ll be rich soon if they keep on). I’m just talking about regular kids from a regular neighborhood.
And to think that they’re discussing these things at their age… man! I’m really amazed! When I was their age, I only know video games and other kids-stuff.
Why am I sharing this?
I’m sharing this so you’ll know that ANYONE can start a business.
If teenagers from a small town (where I live) can do this, so can you!
I’m also sharing this to highlight the fact that it’s possible to start a business with very low overhead costs and with very simple and humble products such as handmade items, used clothes, and other preloved goods.
Start and run a low-overhead cost business so you can get a feel of how it’s done.
By doing so, you’re minimizing any possible loss that can be incurred once you launch your main business due to a lack of business knowledge and experience.
If you start a low-overhead business such as selling preloved clothes online, you will learn the following:
- Identifying a Profitable Niche Market
- Inventory Sourcing
- Inventory Management
- Financial Management
- Cash Flow
- Online and Offline Marketing
- How to Please a Customer
- How to Deal with Challenging Customers
- Basic Accounting
- Business Competition and Collaboration
- Trendspotting/ Supply and Demand
- Business Resiliency
- Stress Management
- Business Continuity
- Continuous Improvement
And more… the list is endless… you can even learn how to scale a business up in case you decide to grow this business that you’re just using to learn the basics of entrepreneurship.
Get a Mentor
Perhaps you’re thinking, you don’t personally know any entrepreneurs. Well, you’re not alone. When I started, I also don’t know anyone who has a business and I relied on teaching myself using the available free resources online.
Aside from learning online, I also interacted with the people that I want to emulate and I followed their online blogs, social media accounts, etc, and think of them as my mentors (even without telling them LOL!).
Even though we seldom have a direct conversation, just by reading what they have shared online, you’ll get to understand somehow how they think and act professionally. By constantly reading (and re-reading) and by observing how they conduct their business, you’ll get to learn their:
- Communication style
- Growth strategies
- Business continuity plan
- Adaptation skills
Of course, it would make a lot of us feel better if there will be someone that could hold our hand and assist us every step of the way. But, unfortunately, this kind of resource is not available to a lot of us.
If you think about it, these people that are very much capable of mentoring are also very busy people running their respective lives and businesses.
So, the next best thing is just to make the best out of what we have and what is accessible to us.
This is also a trait of being an entrepreneur, right? Someone who can manage whatever available resources there is and make the best out of it.
If you’re going to erase from your mind the movie-like concept of what an entrepreneur is then you will get a better picture of the reality.
Entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick scheme and it entails a lot of hard work and sacrifices and the reality is, not everyone is built for it.
Entrepreneurship even at a smaller scale is very demanding and very stressful especially during the startup phase.
The good news is, a lot of these issues can be avoided if you’re going to build your entrepreneurial skills first before jumping right in.
It’s like attending a boot camp first or going to a school (the more practical version) before getting into the real thing.
I believe that almost everything can be learned and acquired and this includes entrepreneurial skills.
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If you give yourself some time to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship before starting your main business, then you will definitely increase your chances of succeeding and thriving in this very challenging environment.