When I graduated from college with an English major, I was always asked the same question: “Are you going to teach?” When I answered that, actually, I planned to start a business, I was met with blank stares. “But you majored in English,” came the reply. As if an English major were a creature from outer space, unable to breathe the same air or share the same dreams as a more typical business preparation, like an Economics, or Business, or even Poli Sci major. English literature was for frivolity, not business.
Never mind that the core of business is very similar to the core of writing: gestating an idea and communicating it in a compelling manner. Liberal arts majors, especially humanities majors, were simply not serious candidates to make decent money, let alone start their own businesses.
There are so many misconceptions about starting a business, beginning with the idea of what a business is in the first place. Most people think of a business as being a bunch of people in a building somewhere, often in a large city, doing teleconferences and displaying wares at conventions, having meetings, hiring and firing. The reality is that most businesses are nothing like that.
A business is a financial instrument designed to create profit from an idea in the marketplace.
Here are three of the most common myths that keep would-be entrepreneurs from giving business a shot:
1. Most businesses fail in their first year.
You’ve heard the stat that 80% of businesses fail in the first year, right? According to Michael Ervick, Lecturer at the University of Washington Bothell School of Business, that stat is flat-out wrong. In fact, most businesses make it five years or more. It’s just that what popular culture considers a business and what the government, especially the tax authorities, consider a business are two vastly different things.
2. Starting a business requires a huge upfront investment.
According to Ervick, 80% of businesses in the U.S. have no employees at all. Most don’t have an office. Few require any capital expenditure. And fully half survive for five years or more. You can start a business in your spare time, while you’re drawing a paycheck from another business. You can start two businesses, three, as many as you’d like.
3. Setting up a business is time consuming.
You can structure your business in a variety of ways. You can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, a limited liability corporation (LLC). You can get the paperwork to form each of these entities online. You don’t need a fancy lawyer or accountant to start a business.
The fact is, if you’re doing something, anything, that involves making money, you should consider starting a business.
In this column I’ll be looking at different elements of starting and running a business for liberal arts majors. I’ll write about the different types of businesses, the opportunities, the challenges. My goal is to persuade more people, especially young people, to take the plunge. I’ll focus on grads with humanities backgrounds. Just because you can read literature critically doesn’t mean you can’t also decipher a spreadsheet.
America was built on everyday folks starting businesses. Don’t let the so-called experts keep you from joining the storied history of American enterprise.
I believe passionately in the power of liberal arts to make a better world. Won’t you join me? I invite you to follow me on Twitter @willjeakle.
By Will Jeakle|Forbes