by Jenna Kutcher
Investing in your business is nerve wrecking. You might look at your bank account and wonder how you can even establish more than a hobby and fund this dream of yours… trust me friend, I get it. When I was starting out, I was using my corporate gig to help me build my business on the side and I was hustling day and night to make it a reality.
I want to preface this post by sharing that I never went into debt for my business nor did I wrack up any credit card debt in order to fund my new adventure, heck, I was busy paying off student loans at the time and didn’t have much to spare. Determining where to invest your money when it comes to your business is a hard thing to figure out so I want to walk you through 5 places you might be thinking of investing in to help you decide where your dollars will go the furthest.
Now, depending on what your dream is, chances are you will need some equipment to get it going. As a photographer, I was faced with the fact that I needed certain gear items to actually be legit: a camera body, a back up, batteries, memory cards, a flash, and lenses. Now, I didn’t need ALL of the things right off of the bat but I had to build out my equipment arsenal in order to really perform on my jobs.
TIP: First, determine what will really impact your business the most, what will actually help you do your job better. Sure, I wanted every lens on the block but those wouldn’t necessarily make me more money, so I very slowly and intentionally built out my gear bag as money allowed, starting with just the basics, a camera and a lens.
Having a place to send people to on the world wide web is super important, it’s almost like a billboard for your business and while starting on social media like a Facebook page or Instagram account, it’s even more important owning a space on the web that you have control over the clients experience. What do I mean by this? Facebook is in control of how people see your content, what they see, and the order in which they see it. When you have a website, you can send people to it and outline an experience that can help guide them into making the decision if you are the right fit for one another.
TIP: When I first started out, I couldn’t afford a full website. I started a free WordPress blog, hired a design student to make me a logo, and started sharing my work through that. I had ONLY a blog for a few years but it served me well because I was still able to have an “about” page, a contact form, and a portfolio of sorts. Websites are a total: “start small, work big” part of your business and there are many free platforms you can use to get started until you have grown your business to a place that you can afford your own branded website.
Here’s a word that makes people automatically clam up. It’s scary, especially when you are just starting out. There’s this desire in you to get the word out about your new dream and endeavor and ad agencies might notice that you’re “fresh bait” and prey on you. Here’s what I want you to really think about: what is your ideal client doing and would investing in advertising in this form get you in front of them enough to have them take action? There are many different ways to advertise: magazines, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, doing expo shows, donating your services, etc. You have to really ask yourself if it can move the bottom line and if you can measure it’s effectiveness to know if it’s a smart move for your business.
TIP: Remember, the people presenting the opportunity are trying to make money, so ask a trusted friend or mentor before signing up for something new. There are SO many ways to advertise for free. Sometimes you have to bootstrap things before you can do paid advertising. Leverage your social media platforms, share your dreams with your friends and family, ASK for referrals, reach out to potential dream clients, etc.
Keep in mind, I’m an educator BUT, I wish that I would have invested more into education at the beginning of my career when I was floundering around and feeling entirely alone. I was scouring the web for resources, trying to piecemeal a plan together, and trying to learn the art of photography while putting my corporate business education to work as an entrepreneur (not as easy as it sounds.)
I truly believe that there are some really amazing educators out there who can help cut your learning curve in half and give you resources to help you grow your BUSINESS so you can get back to the art of things. If you aren’t at a place where you can afford education, there is SO much free content out there for you until you’re ready (like this podcast!) Scour and find mentors you trust and get your hands on all of their free content until you’re ready to dive into their courses.
TIP: As a creative, I believe that courses that teach true, pure business strategies can be one of the best investments of your dollars because you pay once but you have that information and content forever. For me, learning the art on my own helped me ensure I was in control of creating images that came from ME but learning the business stuff from other mentors was a solid investment for me.
I feel like workshops are popping up left and right and rightfully so, there are some incredible experiences waiting for you if you sign up for one. I would place workshops towards the bottom of the investment list NOT because it’s not worthy but because each one offers different opportunities.
While workshops might cost quite a bit of money, it’s important that you do a lot of research to ensure that you are going to walk away with giant value whether its from the speakers who will be sharing, the one-on-one education you’ll receive, the portfolio building opportunities that will come, or the community you will create while there.
TIP: In 6 years, I’ve only paid for ONE workshop but I wanted to go for community and for the speakers. I’ve spoken at over 10 workshops over the years and each one holds a different experience. You truly get out what you put in and one of the BEST things you walk away with is new friends who really KNOW you.
Okay, here’s how it helps me to think it through biz investments: costing it out: How much is an unclear business strategy and plan costing you? What is your lack of web presence or equipment keeping you from earning? Like, what’s the dollar amount? It helps me making investment decisions to write that number down on paper. Then, how much MORE could you make every year with a streamlined system and process? With a new gear line up or portfolio? How many more clients could you book in a year, or how much could you increase your rates?
Now, write those numbers down. If those numbers outweigh the investment, then it’s clearly a sound business investment. Otherwise, it may not be the right time. However, if you could make more than the cost of the course by implementing the smarter business model the course teaches, then it’s a worthy investment!