Are you afraid to spend money on anything other than the essentials within your business? So that’s your website hosting, your domain name, and, well, that’s probably it, right?
I was like that at first, too. And it is important to be like that in the beginning, because you’re growing a business and trying to make sure you can pay rent at the same time. But it’s also important to outgrow that mindset when you start doing a little better. Eventually, you should be willing to spend money on things that aren’t essential. Because that’s how businesses grow. And if you want to run a business that supports your lifestyle (which is presumably why you’re here), you’re going to need to shake some pennies out of your purse from time to time and spend them on something you technically could do without and things would keep ticking along nicely.
BUT WE DON’T WANT TO KEEP ‘TICKING ALONG NICELY’, DO WE?
Maybe you just consider yourself a ‘freelancer’, but making the mental shift to considering yourself a business owner is huge. You should also think about setting things up for the business you want to have — not the business you have right now. You have to keep striving, and spending money is a big part of that because there’s only so much you can do with the limited resources you have available to you right now. Let’s take a look at some of things you could invest in, shall we?
Accounting and Bookkeeping
Accounting and bookkeeping are such huge time sucks, and they’re a fucking drag to boot. In the beginning I enjoyed doing my own bookkeeping, because I liked to see how much money was coming in and roll around gleefully in the knowledge that I was making money by myself. But now I’m like, ‘Fuck, this is boring’, so I’m thinking about outsourcing it.
And accounting? Whole other ballgame. Listen, I don’t want any more stress in my life than absolutely necessary, and trying to figure out when I’m supposed to pay taxes and how much and who to is just a massive ballache I don’t want to deal with. So I hired accountants before my first tax return was ever due, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my business. And it pays dividends (LITERALLY HAHAHA I’M SO FUNNY). But seriously, investing in my accountants has actually saved me money, because they showed me how to categorise things cleverly (wait, is that a real word?). And they helped me set up as an employer so I can save myself some big bucks by paying myself as an employee instead of just a director. It costs me around £200 a year for my accountants to deal with all my payroll nonsense, but I save £1600 that I otherwise would’ve had to dish out as corporation tax.
But getting a return on your money isn’t the only reason to invest in stuff. There are so many other types of return on investment. I see my accountants as an investment in my mental health and my time, too.
Growing an email list — I know, I know, you know exactly what I’m about to say — is one of the best things you can do for your business. (Okay, so there are a lot of ‘best things’ you can do for your business. Maybe we could just round it up and say INVESTING is the best thing you can do for your business?) Having an email list gives you a direct line to your hottest prospects — the ones who are likely to buy from you. None of this Facebook bullshit or Twitter masturbation. You want direct contact with your prospects, not through some loose connection that could be taken away from you at any time.
Conventions, Conferences and Events
Meeting people is, oh god, here I go again — one of the best things you can do for your business. But this is especially scary to invest in because it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum. I’m going to the World Domination Summit this summer and the flights alone are going to set me back around £1000, so let’s not even talk about accommodation, eats and local travel costs (and wine, obviously). But I know it’s going to be worth it, and not just because it’ll be hella fun.
Without other people, you don’t have a business. You don’t know whether the people you’ll meet will become your best friends, your mentors, your confidantes, or even just somebody who knows somebody else you should know. You don’t know if you’ll meet clients, business partners, collaborators. Or if you’ll finally find that community of like-minded people that just feels right. And you never will know unless you’re willing to slap your cash down and attend the damn events.
Web Design, Copywriting and Other Creative Skills You Don’t Possess
Presenting yourself as a professional is kind of important when it comes to, you know — being a professional. (Sidenote: professional is not the same as serious.) The more professional you come across, the more likely people will be to trust you, to take a chance on you, to buy your products or hire you. Of course, appearing professional isn’t just about having a slick website and finely-tuned copy on your site. It’s also about offering something good to the world and being consistent. It’s about being open and honest and trying to help people.
But those slick designs and words can help align your appearance with your values. And appearance is the first thing anyone is judged on. In the beginning you probably won’t be able to afford a pro web designer to create a fully customised website for you (hell, I’m only just thinking about it myself), but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t pick up a premium template for WordPress or get a logo designed on Fiverr. They won’t be perfect, but they’ll probably be a damn sight better than what you’ve got now.
Knowledge and Learning
Read books. Take courses. Attend classes. You’ll never run out of things to learn, and everything you learn makes you better. And if you’re better, you can charge more. You’ll also become more confident, which will make it even easier for you to charge more. But just buying the books and the course materials isn’t enough. Jesus, sometimes even reading them isn’t enough. You have to actually learn from them, and that means playing around what your new-found knowledge, testing it out and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t.
I started out with a fairly crappy 10 inch Samsung laptop. That was pretty much my only equipment for a long time. Now I’ve got a MacBook (yeah, I think this happens to everyone eventually) and it is so much more pleasant to write on. Which makes me want to write more. Which means I will (and do) write more, which is obviously good for business.
I also recently invested in an ergonomic kneeling chair and a wireless keyboard and mouse (yes, the official Apple ones, because fuck it, they really are superior). I had upper back pain and it was making me not want to do my work. For the whole of December I escaped my desk whenever I could. Now, with my new setup, my posture is fucking excellent, if I say so myself. (Seriously, sometimes I get back pain from sitting on a sofa. A SOFA. I sit in my new chair and it evaporates — the pain, not the chair.) And again, it makes me want to work more. It makes me enjoy my work more. It makes it so much easier for me to get my arse in my chair (‘on’ my chair feels more appropriate now though — I’ll share a photo of my beautiful desk setup with you some time soon).
What it Takes to Invest in Your Biz
The thing about investing in your business is that it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s not for the weak-willed or the risk-averse. It’s for the superstars who know they’re capable of something more. It’s for those who believe in themselves and believe in their businesses. You may not feel like this to begin with. But you must have some belief in yourself, because you’re thinking about doing this. You’re wondering ‘what if’, and maybe you’ve even started on the path to success already.
Just as ideas beget ideas, belief begets belief. And confidence begets confidence, which is the other element we need to talk about here. You need confidence in yourself. So take a look inwards. What have you done that most would never consider? You’ve thought about fucking convention and doing things your own way. Maybe you’ve created your website, scored some clients. That’s awesome. What’s next? What can you invest in to make your business — and yourself — better?
Fortunately, confidence can be faked in the beginning. You just need to look like you’ve got your shit together, and eventually you will. You will have your shit together. Because nobody knows what they’re doing at the start, but it’s only by being willing to take risks — let’s call them chances — on yourself that you’re going to get to where you want to be.
So stop being such a pussy and stick your hand in your damn pocket.