For the past four years, I’ve been a full-time student and a part-time business owner (by default). UVA’s classes started last week and as a recent (and very nostalgic) grad, I wanted to do a small post that highlighted running a small business in college. If you’re in a season of juggling business and college, I hope it will inspire you to keep pushing through!
There were weekends where I’d spend Friday night in a library, Saturday at a wedding, and Sunday traveling to sessions because my class schedule for the semester didn’t accommodate weekday sessions (pro tip: don’t make that mistake, schedule your classes accordingly). In these moments – with tired eyes and coffee in hand – I held on to my love for clients and my desire to continue building my business. However, if I’m being completely honest, it was really important for me to have systems and boundaries in place to ensure I still had a social life, got assignments done, and protected my sanity.
Below are some tips that were extremely helpful for me over the past four years.
1) Build systems and work towards efficency:
From administrative tasks to editing – systems keep all businesses organized and ultimately save you a ton of time. This important because we all know that as a college student, it's SO easy to get off track and procrastinate.
CRM system: I started using Honeybook at the end of 2016 and before that I was using 17Hats. From the time I started booking wedding clients, I knew that I would need a way to manage contracts, payments, leads, and all the other things business owners need to keep organized. Although Honeybook is my top recommendation, find a system that works for your needs and use it to make your workflow more efficient.
Block scheduling system: Every year, after figuring out my schedule and which readings/classes I could skip (cause let’s be honest), I began to schedule blocks of time each week that were solely to get things done for my business. That time would be treated as if I had a mandatory class and I would pick a specific place (Nau Hall, if there are any Hoos reading!) to sit down and get business stuff done for that block of time. This ensured that I wasn’t editing when I should be writing a paper and that I wasn’t up until 3am because of a lack of time management.
2) Using the university's resources
This is probably the most important tip! As a student, you have access to more resources than you even realize. And if you’re lucky, they’re probably free (well, free along with your not so cheap tuition). Reach out to different departments and schools at your university to learn more about – flash seminars, student only resources, equipment rentals, or even professors that may be experts in your field. The list goes on and on. I’m lucky that UVA has an Entrepreneurship center and since that was my minor, I was able to connect with people in Charlottesville who could help me with the administrative aspects of my business. I also was able to find discounted legal and accounting resources through my university which was extremely helpful! Last, but not least, research and take advantage of student discounts while you can (S/O to Adobe and Squarespace).
3) Local networking
I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t recognize how important this was until now. Going to school in a new city means new opportunities and connections. Whether it’s connecting with new clients or just to make new friends in the industry, networking in Charlottesville was really beneficial for the growth of my business. I already received great word of mouth advertising thanks to my friends and family back in my hometown of Fredericksburg, so I was really able to focus on learning more about the Charlottesville area and how I wanted to serve that market. Over the past four years, I've met some amazing creatives in Charlottesville!
Okay y’all, I tried to keep this post as short as possible, but I could talk about this topic all day (shoot me a message, if you’d like to chat about it in more detail!). Starting a business in college is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was most definitely challenging, but it was also the reason I grew personally and professionally in so many ways. Whatever your venture may be, I really encourage you to just GO FOR IT!