Are you coming to the end of your university course and wondering what to do next? It’s become a much more popular option for large numbers of graduates, but why would you start your own business?
First for the gloomy stuff. According to The Guardian, at the end of 2011, 18.9% of those who graduated in the previous two years were unemployed. Admittedly, this was lower than the beginning of 2010 when the figure peaked at 20.7%, but it’s still more than four-times higher than those graduating four to six years ago. So there are no guarantees you’ll find a job, let alone a job you want. Starting your own business could be the best way to avoid unemployment for some graduates.
Also, according to The Guardian, graduates are now “having to settle for low-skilled jobs more than used to be the case. In the last quarter of 2011, more than one-in-three of those graduating in the last six years were in low-skilled roles.” In 2001 this figure was almost 10% lower. Starting your own business could be the best way to avoid ending up in a humdrum job that doesn’t make best use of your skills or education.
There are no guarantees, and you might earn less – or little or nothing – by working for yourself. However, running your own business could provide you with more income. So what are you likely to earn working for someone else? First-job graduates earn £15.18 per hour, on average (source: The Guardian). Science graduates doing medicine and dentistry-related jobs earn the most (£21.29 per hour); while first-job humanities graduates pick up £14.63 an hour and arts graduates earn £12.06 per hour (all figures before tax in 2011).
Many young entrepreneurs now enjoy celebrity status. One example is Richard Reed, who co-founded Innocent Drinks in 1999 with fellow Cambridge University graduates Adam Balon and Jon Wright. Reed studied Geography at St John’s College and then worked in advertising for four years. The three friends started off selling wholesome smoothies from a stall at a London music festival in 1998. Now partly owned by Coca Cola, Innocent sells more than two million smoothies a week, has some 250 employees and turns over £100m-plus a year. Reed is a regular on business TV programmes and is one of the UK’s best-known business people.
Don’t fancy early mornings? Want to pick which days you work? Much will depend on the type of business you start, but working for yourself could grant you much more flexibility to live life your way (including possibly starting your working day a bit later!). That flexibility is unlikely to exist working full-time for someone else. Running your own business might even enable you to work from home or another location of your choice.
Don’t want someone else telling you what to do? Perhaps you’d rather call the shots and decide your own destiny? Fair enough, but with power comes responsibility, which means you must make your business a success. Do you really have what it takes? And running your own business can be a lonely, erm, business. It’s not for everyone, but if you succeed, the rewards and sense of satisfaction can be much greater.
One of the best reasons for starting your own business is coming up with a great idea. Great business ideas come from many places, for example, you might spot a gap in the market or seek to earn a living from one of your passions. You and your university friends may have thought of a good business idea. You’ll still need to test your business idea before starting up, and you’ll still need to work hard, show desire and commitment and get your share of luck.
There’s no doubt about it, starting your own business and growing it into a larger, more successful enterprise is a great challenge and there’s an element of risk, but this can be a source of great excitement. Working for yourself involves highs and lows, so you really need to carefully consider whether running a business is for you. It can be unpredictable, too. Some days you might question why you ever started your own business and on others you might think it’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.