Tips for running a small business as a student

This academic year I’ve been juggling working towards my degree, writing for this blog and running my own small business… it’s been wild.

I haven’t had my business, HyperHoot, for all that long. I started selling my needle felted gifts earlier this year and I still have a lot to learn. But over these past few months as I’ve juggled my university work and my shop, I’ve come across a few tips that have helped me out and I’d like to share them with you guys. I know many students often think of ways to have their own ‘side hustle’ when they’re at university, so I help these six tips will help you out if you do decide to take the leap and start up your own business.

Sell from stock

If it’s possible for your product, sell from stock and avoid made to order. It can seem really tempting to just make things when the orders come in, but things start to go a bit wrong if you have 10 orders in overnight and you have an essay due the next day.

You don’t want to be putting yourself in a position where you have to do both university work and making products at the same time. The quality of your products will go down and your university work will stuffer because you’re rushing. So where possible, make a batch of stock and sell that. When you have free time, add to the stock but avoid making to order if you can help it.

Use what resources your university has available

See if your university has any programs available to help you out. At my university we have Benterprising, what’s a whole section dedicated to helping students start up their own businesses and become entrepreneurs. Having their support has helped me out so much, they were also able to help me with applying for grants the university had available for me.

Check out any resources or grants that your university may have available for you, they may be very beneficial to you.

Use your spare time wisely

The amount of contact hours in class you have at university varies from course to course, but in general you do have a lot of time on your hands. The temptation is to leave your essays till the last minute and watch YouTube and Netflix for hours a day. Even if you don’t have your own business, spending your days on YouTube and doing your assignments last minute really isn’t a good idea. But it’s an especially bad idea when you have the extra work that comes with maintaining your shop. Make the most of your spare time, try to avoid procrastinating and you may have to give up a little of your down time.

Having a routine really helps with this. Dedicate set times for your class work and your business. But don’t forget to schedule in time off too (for me it’s a Saturday). Having a good organisation system helps too. I personally use a Clever Fox planner and not a bullet journal because I can’t maintain one, but what ever works for you.

Don’t get caught up on failing

University is a fantastic time to test out the waters with a small business mainly because you’re a student. Chances are you don’t have a mortgage, a full-time job, children and a family to support. There’s a lot less fanatical risk when you’re at university. You’ll have your loan coming in consistently and most don’t have a lot of outgoing bills. Yes, student loans don’t let you live a life of luxury, but no matter if your business does well or completely plummets, you’ll still have that reliable source of income.

Yes, it will be disappointing if you’re business falls through especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and money into it. But at least while you’re a student you have a consistent income and less risk involved with it. Try not to let the fear of failing hold you back.

Remember why you’re at university

Now and then I find myself prioritising HyperHoot over my assignments. I think it’s because shipping products out always seems like the more immediate deadline I need to address. I have to catch myself and remember that I’m at University for a reason. I’m here to get my degree and as nice as it is to focus on the avenue that’s giving me an income, my assignments need to take priority.

It can be so tempting to get caught up with making more and more stock, but just be prepared for everything you need to do when you sell it. Packaging orders, going to the post office, making sure you’ve done custom forms right, they all take time. If you’ve got a month with 5 essays due or two exams, maybe slow down on your shop. If I’ve got a busy few week ahead of me, I’ll drop down some of my stock. Say my sad ghost stickers, I usually have 15 in stock, but if I know I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of me, I’ll go into the behind the scenes of my shop and maybe drop it down to 5. I’ll do this with a few of my items and sure it means I won’t make as much money, but it means I won’t get overwhelmed with orders while I’m drowning in University work.

Lowering the number of products you have on your store when you’re really busy with classes and essays really helps you keep your studies as number one priority.

Keep one eye on your stress levels

There’s some Pinterest quote saying, “Chooses a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It’s cute and all that but when it comes to running your own business it couldn’t be more wrong.

I love what I do, I can whole heartily say I love my craft and the products I make. I love it so much I’d love to develop HyperHoot into a full-time job. However, since starting my business I have never had to work harder in my entire life.

Running even a small business is stressful. It requires so much hard work, dedication and passion. It’s by no means a walk in the park. To put it bluntly you will work your backside off and then you will have to work even harder because you’ve got university deadlines to be managing too. You’re going to get stressed and that’s OK.

Be real with yourself about your stress levels, monitor them and don’t let them get too high. A little bit of stress is a good thing, it keeps us pushing forward, but if you start to feel them rising too high make sure you take a breather, chill out, maybe treat yourself. Once you’re refreshed, crack on again.

Remember to have fun and enjoy yourself

 I’ve spoken about using your spare time wisely and how you’ll need to give up some of your down time but remember to keep things fun.

Yes, there’s a lot of stress that comes with running your own small business but remember to keep it fun and have a good time.

I hope you found this post useful if you’ve got your own small business and are a student.

Remember to shop small this Christmas and try to support your local business as much as possible. I completely understand the temptation to hop onto Amazon and do all your Christmas shopping in one place, I know how convenient it is to do. But where possible please do support smaller business as much as possible. This year has been very challenging for a lot of shops, online and on the High street, and may are still struggling. Any support will be appreciated.

You can check out my store here

Cover photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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