For young people, entrepreneurship is the new 9 to 5, with 60% of teens who say they want to start their own business instead of working a traditional job.
However, with the uncertainty business owners have faced over the past two years, it can be beneficial for Gen Zers to learn from professionals who managed to thrive during and after the height 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. For the past 6 years, her art has been her main source of income.
Before the pandemic, Labowitch earned a portion of her income by teaching in-person classes and workshops. But, after tapping into social media in 2020, he was able to supplement that income and then some.
“When [the pandemic] it happened for the first time, I was terrified,” Labowitch tells CNBC Make It. “I immediately lost several jobs, and the number of email correspondents I had about promising projects just disappeared. But if there was one thing I did during the pandemic, it was to stay consistent. Because with the magic of the internet, I was able to work with a global audience.”
According to Labowitch, here are three things aspiring business owners should remember:
Labowitch says that social media is a great tool for building a brand and showcasing what your business has to offer. He uses platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Discord, and Twitch to boost his company’s online presence.
“I consider everything I post on the internet to be, in a way, a kind of advertisement for my services. I’m promoting myself with every work example I create because you never know who will see it. And you’re never going to know if something you did two years ago is seen by the right set of eyes and leads to an interesting email in your inbox.”
Labowitch initially began showcasing his art on Myspace in 2007, but has more recently expanded his presence on TikTok by doing live streams of his drawing process. His viewers were then able to send her money tips on the app and have a more personal connection with her.
These live streams not only helped her establish an online presence of over 200,000 followers, but also helped her earn enough money to pay off the last $13,484.58 of her student loans.
“TikTok roses are the lowest currency denomination you can donate to a live stream, with the streamer receiving the equivalent of half a penny 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 over my life for the entire month of April. And I developed this whole new and really passionate fan base of people who really wanted to support me and my business”.
Being your own boss has its advantages, but it also has its potential dangers, one of the main ones being finances. When people pursue entrepreneurship, content creation, or freelancing, many don’t realize the increased financial responsibilities they will have.
From filing taxes to documenting and tracking income and expenses, a trusted accountant can play a vital role in the long-term success of a business.
“If there’s one thing I’d recommend to any entrepreneur who would indulge and splurge, it’s an accountant,” says Labowitch. “It’s worth every penny for the peace of mind that my accountant will cross the T’s and dot the I’s better than I can.”
The journey to having a successful business is not linear. For some, it can take months, while other entrepreneurs need years to get their business off the ground.
Despite these variable time frames, the common denominator for all business owners is preparation. According to Labowitch, there are many aspects of early entrepreneurship that are not for the “faint of heart,” including lack of health insurance, funding, and “instability.”
“I’m in a domestic partnership with my boyfriend because of health insurance,” she says. “And I know so many entrepreneurs who are in similar positions to me and don’t have that option, or their partners don’t work for companies where domestic partnerships are enough. I know. [several people] who got married for health insurance reasons.
“I also had to learn about cost of sales and be able to figure out not only how much I should charge overall, but also how much I should charge to make sure this is a sustainable endeavor for me. So I didn’t dive into entrepreneurship full time, I I got used to it.”