Struggling for credibility as a young entrepreneur? Don’t worry – so is everyone else in your age bracket. As you get older, you’ll continue to improve on your “business sense”, and eventually, you’ll be treated like a real businessman or businesswoman.
But who wants to wait? Below are five key things to keep in mind if you’re an aspiring young entrepreneur. They’ll help you become competitive, be taken seriously, and achieve greater success, especially when dealing with those who are older than you. Read on.
If you’re talking the talk, you better be walking the walk – literally.
Confidence is an absolute must as a young entrepreneur. Right out of the gate, everyone is going to assume you have no idea what you’re doing. You need to talk the talk and make people listen to you – and more importantly, make them understand that what you’re saying is worth listening to.
But no matter how confident you are, very few are going to be quick to trust their money to a kid. You have to present yourself in a way that says “yes, I’m young, and yes, I am absolutely the person you want to work with”.
You do this with what we like to call “extremely smart casual”. This means you’re not going out and buying suits – not only could you not afford the good ones, but that’s not a strength of yours (explained later). Instead, you want to get an outfit like this:
- Nice pants that fit (chinos or dress pants)
- Nice shirts that fit (they don’t have to be boring)
- A nice pair of casual shoes that shows just a little bit of wealth (Lacoste, etc.)
- A nice watch that matches your outfit, but not a fake Rolex or anything tacky like that
Dress like this every day and you’ll notice that other people take you more seriously. You’ll start taking yourself more seriously, too.
Everyone knows that you don’t know everything – do you?
If you’re someone at the top of a company and you have decades of experience under your belt, it’s safe to say that you know a lot about everything related to your business.
But as a young entrepreneur, you’re not that person. While you may be exceptionally knowledgeable and driven for a young person, you’re still young, and you haven’t amassed the knowledge to be an expert about everything.
Everyone will know you’re not omniscient. As long as you make it clear that you aren’t a “know it all”, you’ll be fine. If someone mentions a term or phrase you haven’t heard, feel free to ask – very few will ever think less of you for asking a question, and if they do, they’re not the people that you want to be dealing with, anyways.
In business settings, behave like you are 45 years old
Let’s say you’re 23 years old and you’re in a meeting with someone who is… 55. To him, you are a child, but he does still remember once being your age. The goal is to behave and act in a way where to the older business connection, you are an impressive 23-year-old.
- Don’t say “um” – instead, take a silent pause if you’re not sure what to say next
- Don’t fidget – this is everyday stuff for you just like it is for the older person, so you shouldn’t act nervous
- Talk like a pro – no slang or terms that the other person might not understand
How you carry yourself says quite a bit about your competence. Give off an impressive vibe and older businesspeople will be more willing to do business with you.
Knowing one thing really well can make you competitive fast
Let’s say you hope to start a web design agency, but you find that as someone young with a relatively limited skill set, you can’t compete with older freelancers who have just done more designing.
You can make yourself a threat by learning one thing, and doing it much better than the people who are offering everything. For example, if you made just logos, or even just one type of logo, your focused practice will increase your skill level at a blinding pace. You might be able to land the client for the logo and another firm handles the rest.
Think of your age as an asset and advantage
Keep in mind that being young is an advantage. Your lack of experience or skill might not be an advantage, but you physically being young always is.
- You’re more up to date. You know the trends. You know the new technology. When older competitors are falling behind, you can be flying ahead.
- The old respect the dedicated young. If you’re dealing with a business owner who didn’t quit his job and start his own business until he’s 40, he’ll usually be willing to give you a shot because you’re trying to make something happen. That’s not to guarantee he’ll just give you his money – but age is an advantage in this regard, too.
- Time is on your side. You have time to fail and get back up again. Don’t sweat it if you do – by the time you reach the age of the people you’re doing business with, you’ll be light years ahead through trial and error.
Young entrepreneurs – we know it can get difficult. Like, really difficult. You can feel lost, or like you’re years behind (you are), or like nothing is working. You might even be tempted to get a “real job”.
But the key above all else is never giving up – and working towards your goals in a smart way. Scroll up, jot down the five points, tape them up by your bed, and wake up every morning knowing that you’re not just an entrepreneur – you’re a young entrepreneur.
And you can do it.