The old school way of thinking would have you believe that a college degree is essential for success. But this isn’t true. You can totally start a business without a degree — and these three entrepreneurs are proof.
Read on as they share their secrets and biggest advice for success.
Meet Sarah Turner, a copywriter and copywriting mentor who runs a multimillion dollar business
Sarah Turner is a medical copywriter and copywriting mentor who runs a multimillion dollar business with 16 employees and counting. And no, she doesn’t have a college degree.
Here’s what she had to say when I chatted with her about her entrepreneurial journey:
Her success so far
“Back when I was working strictly as a freelance copywriter, my biggest year was $303,000 — which was mind-blowing!”
Sarah never imagined she’d be able to earn that much.
Today, she runs ‘Write Your Way to Freedom’, a copywriting course, community, and mentorship program for individuals who want to break into copywriting. (Confession: I was one of Sarah’s original students — and her copywriting course helped me build my own six-figure freelancing business.)
“We’ve had almost 4,000 students come through the program,” she says. “We’re also a multimillion dollar business, which also blows my mind. But I’m a big believer that life gives to the giver.”
Why she became an entrepreneur
Sarah says she started her business from a very dark place.
“I was in debt, struggling with severe anxiety and depression, and drinking too much. I was a hot mess.”
Her desire to travel and work from anywhere is ultimately what motivated her to take her first step toward entrepreneurship. That, and she wanted to pay down her debt.
“Even though I was struggling when I started, I had this suspicion that I needed to be my own boss,” Sarah explains. “I’m a hard worker and I was ready to reap the rewards of my hard work rather than passing them on to a company.”
Read more: How to get out of debt on your own
Challenges she faced early on
Sarah says that most of the challenges she faced as a new entrepreneur stemmed from her mindset and financial stress.
“I was really struggling mentally. So taking on client work was nerve-racking, scary, and intimidating. I felt like an imposter and my self-esteem was in the toilet. Overcoming the mental hurdle of showing up for myself every day was a challenge.”
Sarah also delayed getting the basics for her business — like accounting software and an LLC — simply because she couldn’t afford them.
“Slowly but surely my mental health (and my bank account) got healthier.”
Sarah’s advice for starting a business without a degree
Sarah is a firm believer that degrees are becoming more obsolete — and you definitely don’t need one to start a business.
“You really just need to figure out everything along the way, deliver on your promises, keep showing up, build your reputation, grow your network, and slowly but surely you’ll get there,” Sarah says.
“It’s unfortunate we don’t ask ourselves, ‘should I get a degree?’ It’s just something we think we should do, no matter what. And when we don’t stop to ask ourselves if it’s actually the right decision for us and our goals, college degrees can create massive financial harm.”
Read more: Are graduate programs worth the cost?
Meet Divine Bunch, a real estate copywriter and serial entrepreneur who ditched her 9-to-5 during the pandemic
Divine Bunch is a real estate copywriter who’s pretty much been an entrepreneur since birth. At age 7, she started a banana-based desserts business (complete with an email address and a “business loan” from her mom — which she had to pay back).
She also did admin work for her mom’s business at age 8, started babysitting at age 14, and built a semi-passive income business by age 15 when she had the bright idea to start training and vetting other teens to babysit.
But she didn’t start her copywriting business until the pandemic struck in 2020.
Why she became an entrepreneur
Divine’s first wake-up call came in February 2020.
“I had a grocery store job. So we were considered essential employees and were worked hard. I was miserable.”
Her second wake-up call came in April 2020 when her dad died of stage 4 cancer.
“After that, I spiraled. I would miss shifts because I was too depressed to pick up the phone. I spent some shifts just crying in the backrooms,” she says.
“My dad’s death hadn’t become real enough to me yet, so I really didn’t know why I was crying. He was in the Army, so I told myself he was just on another deployment.”
Divine got the courage to start her own business in June 2020.
“My job took up the majority of my life and I felt like I would rather die than go back. So I didn’t.”
That’s when Divine stumbled across Sarah’s Write Your Way to Freedom program.
“Within one month of joining the course I had my first client and within two months I nervously began to market myself,” she says.
Challenges she faced early on
Divine’s mind was her biggest hurdle in starting a business without a degree.
“I did everything afraid. I was afraid I was too stupid to achieve some things. Afraid I was too young, too weird, too much, or too little in so many ways,” she says.
“But one of the most beautiful things about being a business owner is forced personal growth. Because my whole life was riding on my success, I had no choice but to bet on myself, even when I didn’t truly believe in myself.”
Her success so far
Divine’s original idea of success was to make enough money to support herself each month.
“I live in a cozy area where my monthly expenses were only around $1,200 at the time, ” she says. “I accomplished this goal within three months.”
Fast forward to today, and Divine has steady $5K+ months.
“I’m also seeing consistent growth to the point where I’m hiring and training writers, researchers, and an SEO specialist to join my team.”
Divine’s advice for starting a business without a degree
Divine has two important tips for anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur with no degree.
“Remember that your mind can be your strongest asset or the biggest detriment to your dreams,” she says. “Keep doing the scary things that you know will get you where you want to go.”
She adds: “Stick with some things a little longer than you think you should — like a class, a networking event, or a new system. It’ll pay off, promise.”
Read more: 25 high-paying careers that don’t require a college degree
Meet Freddy Goins, a real estate broker with over $20 million in sales under his belt
Freddy Goins is a 25-year-old real estate broker with over $20 million in sales under his belt. He’s the co-owner of Gold Street Realty in Ocala, Florida.
And confession: he’s also my cousin.
I specifically wanted to highlight Freddy’s story because, for years, our family worried and stressed about him not having a degree. Many adults in his life begged him to finish college (all with good intentions), but Freddy was determined to chart his own path to success.
So many budding entrepreneurs have similar stories, which is why I want to share his.
Why he became an entrepreneur
Freddy got his real estate license and began working for Remax at age 21.
“My business partner, Kyle Lambert, and I had a successful team at Remax but we started to think about what the next season of our career looked like.”
Starting your own brokerage carries a lot of risk and overhead, but Freddy and Kyle were determined.
“Our aha moment was realizing the cost to run a brokerage was only about 20% more than the amount of money we gave to Remax each year out of our commission split,” he says.
“We realized that the opportunity to spend an extra 20% per year to start and grow a company would potentially yield a return significantly higher than what we could earn working for someone else.”
Challenges he faced early on
Freddy’s biggest challenge starting out was having the mental discipline to continue to show up and work hard every day despite feeling like he was working for free.
“When you start a company, especially a real estate company, you have to be prepared to go a few months without income,” he says. “We had to adopt the mindset that we were ‘paying our dues’ and that our future selves would thank us for staying the course.”
His success so far
Fast forward to today, and Freddy’s business has experienced a series of record-breaking months — both in terms of sales volume and growth.
“Our original goal was to have 10 agents working for the firm within one year of being open. But we reached that goal within five months,” Freddy says. “Now, we’re on track to have 30 agents under Gold Street Realty by 2023, so triple our original goal.”
Freddy’s also proud of the culture they’re building.
“We’re all young, ambitious, and we have a downtown office with a view.”
Freddy’s advice for starting a business without a degree
Freddy’s advice is twofold: know your numbers and focus on “IPAs” (income-producing activities).
Knowing your numbers is about being prepared financially. Freddy and his business partner built up a six-month emergency fund for their business before they struck out on their own.
“This savings gave us the confidence and comfort we needed to spend each day working on what mattered most — rather than stressing on how we were going to cover our costs each month,” Freddy says.
IPAs are about focusing on growth rather than being busy.
“Starting out, time is of the essence. Every week matters,” Freddy says. “Delegate the busy work and focus on what’s going to grow the company financially.”
He adds: “If you don’t have anyone else to rely on, then take care of your IPAs first and fit in the other tasks after 5 pm.”
Read more: How do you know you’re financially ready to start a business full-time?
These three self-made entrepreneurs are proof that it’s possible to achieve your dreams — regardless of your educational background. So don’t let not having a degree stop you from starting a business. If you’re willing to put in the hard work, it can certainly pay off.
Featured image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com