By Elain Thompson

Parents, this blog is for your teenager to read. Share it with them and let this be a conversation starter to see if your kids have or ever had an idea to start their own business.

If we know anything, it’s that talent doesn’t discriminate against age. With limitless knowledge accessible through the internet, teenagers are an inspiring source of innovation and art in the information age. Starting a business as a teenager is not only a great way to prepare for the future, but offers an opportunity to learn practical skills, stand out on a college application, and feel the gratification of seeing your creation come to life. Now the question is, how do you get started?

Before You Start

Before you spend everything you saved from that summer mowing lawns on equipment, remember that a savvy business person always plans their strategy before they make their first move. Say you’re a digital artist and you want to sell your graphic designs. Before you start, find the answers to these questions:

  • Who is likely to purchase a design?
  • How much does it cost to make?
  • What kinds of equipment or software do you need?
  • Are you passionate enough about your product to spend lots of free time on it?
  • About how many designs can you do in a week?
  • What sort of licensing do you need?

Basically, what you’re trying to figure out is what size business you want to create and how much time and money you’ll need to invest to make it successful. Do some quick research and determine who your customer base will be before you invest in that crazy expensive software subscription. If you are only able to produce five designs a week, wait until you find your rhythm before taking on more than one client. If you aren’t willing to give up time with your friends to get that last project finished and shipped, it might not be the right time for you to get started. Learn your market the best you can and hopefully you’ll avoid making these common amateur mistakes.

Becoming Legit

Here’s the least fun, but extremely necessary part of starting a business: laws and taxes. For your business to be successful—which we hope it is—then you’re going to have to pay taxes. No matter what, you’ll want to talk to a tax professional to figure out how to set up your business and what kinds of taxes you’ll be paying so you don’t find yourself owing the government big time come tax season. But don’t let this discourage you! Let’s walk through the basics to help you know how to get the conversation started.

When setting up a legal business, there are five different business structures to choose from. I won’t overwhelm you with the details here, just know the one you choose will depend on how you want to split profits, tax responsibilities, and liability. It’s vital that part of your business is managed with advice from a professional, but the IRS has a great resource to get started.

Setting Up a Work Space

Staying focused is a nightmare when Instagram is one click away and the final season of The Walking Dead is waiting, unwatched, on your Netflix account. But your product is serious business, so set up a workspace that limits your distractions as much as possible. Keep only useful tools that are relevant to your work in this space and set boundaries about when and how long you can spend on social media and other distractions while you’re there.

Whether you’re selling original art or developing a pastry recipe of earth-shattering goodness, internet security is necessary to keep your brainchild safe. When you surf the web, your internet company can track everything you do, which makes that info potentially hackable. Without a Business VPN, you’re opening your company up to a potential loss of proprietary information. A dedicated VPN will put a canopy over your internet traffic so your internet provider can’t create a record of your activity that can later be hacked. A business VPN is the first step to securing your emails, your research, and, most importantly, your product.

You will also need additional security tools to protect both your company and you customer’s information. You can find many tool categories with suggestions to consider on our Tools page:

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Remember that in Silicon Valley—one of the most innovative areas of the world—it is often said that a person only has credibility after at least two failed startups. And they say that because, whether your idea makes you a teenage millionaire or not, starting a business is an education. It teaches you how to network, refines your talents, and gives you a sense of what deals to trust and how to spend your money. Don’t be discouraged if your business doesn’t land you in the newspaper or earn you enough to buy a private plane. Being exposed to the business process early on is going to make you that much more capable when you finally find the right product in the right place at the right time.

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