Three tips for young budding entrepreneurs

Improve the likelihood of becoming successful by following three simple tips.

Want to work for yourself? Want to be your own boss? Become an entrepreneur! You can actually learn entrepreneurial skills just like you can learn how to spell the word! Michigan State University Extension recommends reading up on the topic and practicing these skills.

Young people can start a business at any age. A 12-year-old could canvass the neighborhood to collect recyclables or walk the neighbor’s dog. Fifteen-year-olds may start a babysitting business that eventually evolves it into a summer day camp for children. Sixteen-year-olds might offer lawn-mowing in the summer and snow removal in the winter. An entrepreneur of any age can benefit from these three simple tips!

1. Write an agreement. Once you have discussed all the details with your client, put what has been decided in writing. That will help ensure that you and your client agree on both your role and his/hers. For example, outline what your responsibilities are, the timeframe, who will contact whom if appropriate and what and when you will be paid. Also include a statement that you will meet with the client to review the contract after you have done the job a few times.

Let’s use walking the dog as an example. The contract would say that you will walk the dog, Shadow two miles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. at a mutually convenient time. You will call before you stop at the house to make sure it is a good time for Shadow’s owner. You will be paid $7 for each walk and will be paid every Friday. End the contract with the statement that you will touch base with the owner at the end of the second week to ensure that the arrangement is working as expected.

2. Keep records. Whenever you work, pay money out or take money in; write it down. This will become more essential when you have several clients so it is wise to get in the habit from the start. When accepting payment, it is wise to use a carbon receipt book; fill in the information and give the top copy to the client. This is especially important if you are given cash as the receipt documents the amount and avoids a disagreement later about how much money the client gave you.

Let’s use mowing the lawn as an example. Every time you mow and trim a client’s lawn, write down the date and how many hours you worked (in increments of 10 minutes). Also include specifically what tasks you did. Keep a record of all money in and out. When you purchase gasoline, write down the date and the amount spent. If you have to buy grass clipping shears, be sure to include that expense as well. Also track every time you are paid; include the date, amount and who paid you. All the expenses must be deducted from your income to know exactly how much your business has made; your profit. These detailed records will be essential if your contract says that you will bill the client for your services. Your record keeping efforts will be invaluable if there is a discrepancy between you and your client. These records will also be useful in the future when you are ready to strategize how to improve or expand your business.

3. Check-in with your clients. After you have done the job several times, touch base with your client. Make sure they are satisfied with the job you are doing. Although it may be hard to hear when your client isn’t perfectly happy with what you are doing, think of the feedback as valuable information that helps you improve your business for the future. The discussion gives both you and the client the opportunity to tweak the arrangement if necessary. It also gives you the opportunity to ask if there is something else the client would like you to do. After observing how you work, your client may want to give you additional tasks—- you have just expanded your business! Plus a satisfied client singing your praises to friends and family is priceless advertising.

For more information on starting a business, check out two national 4-H curriculums, “Be the E” and “Build Your Future” located in the 4-H Mall. Contact the 4-H your local MSU Extension office to request an educational workshop for a group of youth.

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