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How to Become an Entrepreneur Without a Degree

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Entrepreneurship is all about motivation, creativity, hard work, passion, and dedication.

Can a university degree give you all these attributes? I don’t think so.

A university degree can increase your knowledge base and make you proficient in some disciplines, but it cannot give you the raw material for entrepreneurship. The raw material for entrepreneurship doesn’t have much to do with formal education.

Steve Jobs, the iconic co-founder of Apple, Inc., dropped out of college to start his business after just six months. The British billionaire Richard Branson dropped out of school when he was just 16. He then started the Student magazine to give a platform for young people to voice their opinions. He also suffered from dyslexia. But none of this stopped him from becoming the inspiring icon that he is today. David Karp, the creator of Tumblr, never quite finished high school. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of Harvard to work on Facebook full time.

There are many more inspiring stories of world-famous entrepreneurs who never earned a university degree. And yet, that didn’t deter them from pursuing their dreams and making it big.

Formal education is not the litmus test for your knowledge and skills. You learn on the go as you take up challenges and work towards your goals. You encounter failures and obstacles. But you try to fix them and move ahead. And that paves the way for your success as an entrepreneur rather than a university degree.

5 Ways to Become an Entrepreneur Without a Degree


Start early

Running a successful business is all about the experience. In entrepreneurship, knowledge and skills gained from experience matter more than bookish knowledge. The earlier you start, the better it is.

Starting your business at 18 gives you more time to experiment, innovate and overcome failures. If you start the same business when you are 30 or 35, you won’t get that added time value. As you start early, you learn on the job and pick new skills as you go along.

Work experience matters in some niches. So it’s good to start early and learn the tricks of the trade before you launch your own company.

Work hard

It might sound clichéd, but no amount of university education can replace the value of hard work.

You must work even harder to make up for the knowledge and skills you missed out on by skipping a college education. There is no 9 to 5 schedule for an entrepreneur. Every moment of your waking life is important. Utilize your free time to network and update your skills and expertise.

Remember that success is 90 percent hard work. Talents can be developed, skills can be learned, and knowledge can be gained, but a lack of hard work can’t be compensated.

Start freelancing

Aspiring entrepreneurs without a college degree have difficulty landing a job or an internship. Most companies have a rigid policy of giving jobs only to graduates. But that shouldn’t dishearten you. You could always start with freelancing. Freelancing is a great way to learn on the job and test the waters before launching a startup.

As a freelancer, your formal qualifications don’t matter. Clients value your skills and expertise and just want to make sure you get the job done well.

Once you have gained some experience in your niche, you could try for professional internships. Now that you have experience, a lack of a degree shouldn’t deter companies from hiring you.

It’s always a good idea to gain some work experience before starting your business. It will make the whole process much easier and hassle-free.

Expand your knowledge base

An entrepreneur must embrace a constant learning curve. Stay up to date on all the developments in your niche. Never miss out on seminars, conferences, and other industry events related to your field. Learn from your competitors, and study their business strategies to see what they are doing well and how you can offer better and more innovative products and services.

Do not limit yourself to your specific area of expertise. You must know all about the niche your business broadly belongs to. For example, if you are a tech startup with software development as your area of expertise, you should still have a basic knowledge of hardware and marketing.

Expanding your knowledge base isn’t just about industry-specific knowledge. Entrepreneurs must constantly work on their communication skills and business expertise. Read as many books as you can about business, management, finance, and marketing. This will equip you with the skills necessary to run a business successfully. And you can easily make up for the lack of a formal degree.

Get recognized

Promoting yourself is a must for becoming a successful entrepreneur. You might be doing the best of work, but unless you go out there, network, and communicate with people, they won’t know you exist.

Market yourself and your brand proactively. Don’t be hesitant to showcase your work at events and gatherings. Once you build a strong network and people in the industry know about you, your educational qualifications do not matter.

Take risks and don’t be afraid of failure

The ability to take risks is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur. Do not shy away from taking risks.

You have a natural advantage over entrepreneurs with a college degree; you are used to a life of unpredictability and challenges. Highly educated people tend to prefer stability and security over change and innovation. So utilize this advantage to take your business forward.

Embrace failure. You would never know what is going to work unless you have tried out all those things that didn’t work. No entrepreneur can predict the future of an idea. So learn from failure and move ahead.

Bottom line

It’s been drilled into our minds that a university degree is a ticket to a successful career. But that’s not the case. If you are passionate about something and are clear in your head that you want to make a business out of it, you will learn about it anyways.

Solid, practical experience matters more in business than academic qualifications. So if you have an awesome idea, and want to create an enterprise out of it, go ahead. Don’t let the lack of a formal degree stop you.

Images by Christin Hume and Glenn Carstens-Peters 

John Burton

John made his start in a service based business, Used that to leverage himself into a large property portfolio. And now wants to spend his time helping up and coming entrepreneurs and small business owners.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Sabina,
    Although it was drummed into our heads that we need a college degree for just about anything, it is not true. My degree doesn’t have anything to do with my work online.
    Indeed, we need to start early, be consistent, and most of all get out there and network with others.
    -Donna

    1. Hi Donna! My degree doesn’t have anything to do with my work either. 🙂 I am grateful I have it, though, as I enjoyed the process of working on it and I think it’s good to have a degree. You really don’t need a degree to do most freelance online work, though, fortunately, so freelancing is open to pretty much everyone. That’s a very good thing even in the best of times and more so now in our current times. Thanks for commenting!

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