You hear about it all the time, a teen has started a great online business and it’s making tons of money, getting lots of recognition, and turning into something beyond anyone’s dreams. Now your teen has that great idea, or maybe just the drive and motivation, and he or she wants to launch an online business. You think it might really work, but you’re a little worried about the online aspect of it. You want your teen to start his business in a smart, effective, and safe way. Don’t worry – it can be done!
Focus in on Your Product and Find a Niche
Some good advice for teens launching an online business is to find that niche and focus in on it. Maybe your teen is a wonderful artist and wants to start selling her art. Instead of just setting up a website and posting general work that people can buy, offer a specialty, like pet portraits or names with personalized colors and lettering (you can even help get the word out). She can post some samples and make it easy for customers to contact her about details.
Whether it’s starting a business selling greeting cards or tutoring math online, there is a place for almost any venture. Any business will do better the more specific it is; work with your teen about finding that part of their talent and narrowing in on it.
Safety is a Big Priority
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to oversee your teen’s online business. If your daughter is babysitting, you wouldn’t let her just go to anyone’s home to babysit–you’d make sure it was safe. You need to do the same online. Go over safety issues with your teen. Reiterate the importance of not giving out too much personal information. Sure, an email address is fine (but your teen may want a “business” email address separate from his personal one). If you need to give out an address, think about opening a PO Box so your home address is not public.
PayPal is a great way to receive payment; it takes care of the need to give out personal information to receive checks or other payment. The bottom line about safety is: Be smart, as a parent and as a teen. A younger teen will need more supervision, while your older teenager can handle more freedoms with his business.
Though safety and privacy is a concern and a consideration when your teen wants an online business, know that at some point, she will have to market the business, and that means herself. Some businesses really take off when a young person creates and runs them; they have their age in their favor. If they want media coverage, their name may have to be made public. So though you should monitor all of this, keep in the back of your mind that if your teen is serious about starting a small business, you both may have to step outside the original safety box and into the adult world of marketing and business at some point.
Kids have great ideas–they are innovative, creative, and unafraid. Guide your teen along on his endeavor, keep an eye on things, stay safe, but don’t stifle this–it could be big! Best of luck to you and your teen!
Special contributor: Heather Legg is a blogger who writes on Internet safety, small businesses, and parenting.