As recently as 2012, a major study concluded that 1.3 million students will graduate from college with debts. It’s not uncommon to see someone with six figures of student loan debt, and these represent huge obstacles for the majority of people. If you want to launch a startup, you may be wondering how you can possibly do this.
I wondered the same when I graduated from university with $36,000 in student loan debt. I thought I would never be able to pay the debt off, let alone start a business. Years later, I haven’t paid off my debts, but I’ve started my business and I’m making the repayments on time.
It can be done, and this is how you should go about managing it.
The type of loan.
First of all, you need to establish where your student loans are coming from. You may have federal loans or private loans. If you have federal loans, you can consolidate your loans to reduce the amount you pay or file for debt relief if you are facing a period where you will be receiving little to no income.
You will still have to pay the money back, but in the short-term this can provide you with help. On a side note, bear in mind that private loans are less flexible and rely on you conducting negotiations with your lender. I was lucky enough that I had both federal and private loans. The private lender wouldn’t play ball, but I managed to be cleared to not make any repayments on the federal loans for six months. This freed up capital to help me run my startup.
Simply gaining some debt relief isn’t going to help you run your business. You still have to pay this money back. It’s not the same as debt forgiveness. I was extremely conscious of this and so I made sacrifices to save money immediately. I used a combination of the following money saving devices to both generate an income and reduce my outgoings.
- Roommate -- If your landlord allows it, take on a roommate. This can cut your monthly expenses in half. With bigger properties, you may be able to advertise for multiple roommates.
- Cut down on entertainment -- The entertainment budget is the easiest one to cut. Stop going out for meals and cook at home. Drink at home with your friends instead of paying for expensive drinks at the club.
- Get rid of the car -- Nothing burns through your money like a car. If you live in a major city, you don’t need a car. Use public transport instead. Or do what I did and buy a bike. It will help you to stay fit and healthy at the same time.
Plan for growth.
If you have debts, you can’t afford to wait six months to start generating an income. Make sure you have a plan for growth immediately. Go to market hard and fast. Have a plan for how you are going to make money. It’s not important whether you are making a profit at this stage. Just make sure that you are bringing some dollars in.
There are many ways to increase sales leads this year, so do your research and think outside the box. For example, I went out of my way to implement a small scale telemarketing campaign to forge real human relationships with my leads.
Build a fund.
I would always recommend building up a fund for your living expenses prior to going it alone. Try to have at least six months of rent saved up so if things do go wrong you aren’t out on the street. Entrepreneurs are notorious for their optimism, but this isn’t a reason to be reckless.
Always plan for the worst case scenario when starting your business. The sad reality is most startups fail within the first five years due to a lack of sales, falling for financial scams, and a simple lack of innovation.
Burying your head with student loans.
It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand when you are unable to make repayments on your student loans. If you find yourself struggling to pay them off, contact your lender to discuss an alternative repayment plan. You may be able to make income-based repayments. Student loans always exist because they can’t be discharged via bankruptcy.
Beginning a startup with an immense amount of personal debt adds a challenge to an already challenging process. Don’t let it deter you from starting a company off the back of your great idea, though. There are options as long as you have a plan for the future.