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5 Ways To Start A Company Without Dropping Out

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On college campuses across the world, entrepreneurship is hot. And you want in. Well, not all in.

Maybe your schedule is already jammed with classes, extracurriculars and commitments to student organizations. Or, perhaps you aren’t out to disrupt an industry or create the next Snapchat. But you do have an idea and want to see if it will work.

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The good news is that being a student doesn’t mean you can’t dip your toes in the pool of entrepreneurship.

Instead of diving all in, build an “after class startup” that you can explore in your free time. This allows you test the waters and bring out your inner entrepreneur on your own terms.

Here’s how to do it right:

1. Pick Your Project

Odds are, you have an idea of what you’d like to work on. Maybe it’s something that’s been on your hard drive or in a journal for months. Whether you’re looking to launch a web-based business, self-publish a book, or offer some type of service, the key is to choose one project to focus on. As a student, you have limited time, and the more projects you attempt to cram into it, the less likely you will be to succeed.

2. Establish a Board of Advisors

Working on a new business idea and making decisions on your own is challenging. So don’t.

Instead, identify three to five people whose expertise you value and ask them to be on your personal “board of advisors.” These could be classmates, professors, or friends who can provide you with great feedback, knowledge, or guidance. Also, take advantage of on-campus resources like student entrepreneurship centers.

Once you establish a board, stay in regular touch with them. Making a habit of being in contact with these folks will give you a sense of accountability to stay motivated and inspired.

3. Fill In Your Gaps

If the project you’re exploring requires skills you don’t have, you’ll want to get yourself educated. But, “I’m a full-time student,” you say, “and I don’t have time.”

There’s a hack or two for that. Online education platforms like Creative Live, General Assembly, and Skillshare offer free and paid courses on a range of topics like coding, photography, marketing, art and design that are easy to work around your schedule.

4. Set Targets

Not establishing goals is like starting a road trip without knowing when or where it ends. Establishing key metrics to hit for your project will help you measure progress—and can also provide the rush of small victories that you’ll need to keep moving forward. To do this, break down your project into small parts and establish key deadlines over the course of the semester.

5. Look for Ways To “Cheat”

When it comes to selling your product and collecting money, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. For a part-time business or project, you’ll find it user-friendly to utilize platforms like Gumroad, Fiverr or Etsy to list your products or services. To get paid, use services like Dwolla and Square to process payments.

Are you a student that’s creating something cool? We want to hear about it. Share your entrepreneurial story with us in the comments below, or on Twitter.

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Antonio Neves is the author of '50 Things Every College Student Should Know.' He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.