Launching your first start-up is rarely an easy journey. Whether you’re considering starting a new business, or have already engaged in the start-up process, it is critical to acknowledge the opportunities, but also the challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted businesses across Australia, with lockdowns resulting in inconsistent working hours and unexpected closures. This has contributed to some people, including international students, looking for other ways of making money, such as freelancing or, more daringly, starting their own business.
“Brioched, my media start-up, allowed me to make coffee money, build my personal brand, write insightful content and most importantly, learn through building [a vision],” shares Arthur Wong, a double-degree student in Law and Commerce at Monash University and the founder of Brioched, a fintech media platform.
Arthur Wong, founder of Brioched
The idea of being your own boss can sound exhilarating. However, starting a business can be challenging. To help you understand how to start your business in Australia as an international student, here are our top tips!
Tip 1: Start planning in advance
Before starting a business, make sure you have a thorough business plan. Think of every possible scenario, both bad and good ones.
The best way to plan your start-up is to answer the 5Ws and H (that is, what, when, where, why, who, and how).
- What is your business?
- When are your services used?
- Where are your services used?
- Why does your business exist?
- Who needs your business?
- How does your business solve a problem?
- How does your business stand out from its competitors?
This helps you consider your business idea from different perspectives and with more depth. The more questions you ask, the more challenges and opportunities you can identify.
“Really fall in love with the problem you’re solving and think about the people [who] you want to make a difference in their lives,” says Jeanette Cheah, CEO and founder of HEX, which helps young entrepreneurs develop future-ready skills and mindsets through education programs and initiatives.
If you can’t convince yourself and the people in your team that you have a valid answer to all of these questions, you should re-evaluate your idea or create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is the most basic version (including sketches, mock-ups and physical models) of your product or service that can be used to run early testing with actual users. This is a cheap solution to determine whether the idea works.
Tip 2: Understand the law
To start a business, it is critical that you acknowledge the laws and requirements, especially as an international student. Checking your visa conditions is extremely important, too (see below). These resources are a good starting point:
- Guide to starting a business – understand business planning, business types, and how to start a business in Australia.
- Legal essentials for business – legal laws with which you need to comply, such as registrations, contracts, marketing and employment.
- Starting a company – business structures, legal obligations and business registration.
Checking your visa requirements
Make sure you always have a valid visa to run your business. If you are on a Student visa (subclass 500), you are required to study full-time while in Australia, although you are also able to work. The Australian Government recently lifted the 40 hours per fortnight working cap for international students, but this is not a permanent change and will undergo a review in April 2022.
Ensuring you always meet the conditions of your visa should be a priority. Regularly check your visa status on the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system to ensure you comply with the current laws.
But what happens when your student visa expires? You’ll need a working or skilled visa to continue operating your business. Remember that temporary Australian visas have expiry dates. Ask yourself – will this affect your long-term business plans and, if so, what’s next?
If you have any questions at all regarding visas in Australia, contact a registered migration agent for advice.
For more information about starting a business as a non-citizen, visit the Australian Government website.
Registering your business
For business registration, you should look into getting an Australian Business Number (ABN) and a Tax File Number (TFN). Your TFN is a personal reference number in the tax and superannuation systems and is used to lodge your tax returns. If you don’t have one, read our article on applying for a TFN.
An ABN is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business or organisation to the government and community. You can use an ABN to:
- Enhance the credibility of the company when ordering and invoicing. Customers and partners will be more comfortable doing transactions with a legally recognised company.
- Apply for key services. You can register for taxes (PAYG withholding and GST), a business name, trademarks, and/or an Australian website domain, and claim GST credits.
However, an ABN is not for everyone. Check entitlement information and read more about ABN here.
Tip 3: Make connections
Getting noticed, making impressions, building your personal brand – the benefits of networking when starting a business are endless!
“There are many confident and capable people out there who have cool ideas and great skills, but they aren’t able to start a business yet because they weren’t connected to the right people,” Jeanette says. “To become a successful founder, your network and community are some of the most important things you need.”
LinkedIn is an easy way to establish connections and maintain engagement with your contacts. Find out how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out and boost your online presence.
Tip 4: Attend events and programs
There are plenty of student entrepreneurship programs and events that can connect you with start-ups and businesses and/or help you develop your entrepreneurial skills. For example, international students in Melbourne can access the Future Founders Program, Australia’s biggest entrepreneurship program, which is completely free. Reach out to your education provider or the study body in your state or territory to see what opportunities are available for international student entrepreneurs.
Tip 5: Embrace failure
If you are a hopeful entrepreneur, never shy away from failure. Oftentimes, mistakes are simply a sign that you’re growing and bettering your business. After persevering through your failures, the satisfaction of success will feel even more worthwhile.
Why you should startup as a student
Starting a business is definitely not an easy ride. However, building your entrepreneurial skills early on will help you in the future.
When thinking of a business idea, you establish a willingness to learn – about people for their insights, other founders for their business thinking, and different angles and topics of life for exploration.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was worth it,” says Arthur.