Knowing where to invest money back into your business isn’t always obvious. As a small business owner, you’re often DIYing allofthethings.
Well-intentioned coaches and seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you to “hire someone” to take work off your plate.
But here’s the thing they never follow that up with: “And by the way, paying people to help you is actually really expensive.”
I’ve listened to countless business podcasts with exceptionally brilliant entrepreneurs expressing regret that they didn’t hire anyone to help with their business sooner.
The takeaway is that we’re all holding our businesses back by not trusting others to help us.
I get that. I agree with that.
But here’s where I wish I could phone in radio style and ask the business owner:
What advice do they have for someone who doesn’t have an extra $500-$5,000 laying around each month to spend on employees or contractors?
What advice do they have for someone who wants to stay small (but profitable!) and doesn’t want to manage multiple contractors or have employees?
Which investments did they make before they started hiring that helped their business jump forward or solidify its foundation?
I imagine their answers would change the conversation entirely.
The truth about six-figure businesses you don’t want to hear.
The problem with taking advice from very successful business owners (I’m talking multi six-figures and up) is that they are outliers. Their level of financial success is not the norm. Add to that, their business looks and operates completely differently from someone bringing in $50K in revenue with $25K in take-home pay. That’s undeniable.
Let’s look at the numbers:
I recently took a business financials course and when I did the math, a business bringing in 100K in revenue, should aim to allocate 50% ($50K) for owner’s pay, 30% (30K) for expenses, 15% (15K for taxes), and 5% (5K) as profit.
The reality is, spending $30K on necessary expenses (software subscriptions, membership dues, hosting fees, education, marketing, advertising, merchant fees, utilities, office supplies, shipping fees etc.) not including contractors is easy to do.
So, you’ll need to scale back certain expenses to make room for others. It will be a constant game of give and take. A constant ROI assessment.
The takeaway? The coveted “six figures” doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room. Six figures doesn’t take you as far as we’d all like to believe.
I know this first hand.
So where are you supposed to find this money to invest in your business, as the experts tell you to do?
My hot-take is it takes “the rest of us” a long time to get to hiring status.
I have friends who have been in business for 8-10 years and only recently started bringing in enough revenue to hire consistent, year-round help. They worked with contractors on small projects here and there. Or they set aside business savings for several years so they could invest in help when the time was right.
What they did, and what the rest of us need to do, is focus on making small strategic decisions about ways to invest in our business each year so it can grow slowly and sustainably.
Here are the expenses you should consider investing back into your business, based on your goals.
The following lists ways to get short-term or project-based help or automation tools you can set up and (mostly) forget about. Keep in mind you don’t need to invest in everything all at once. I didn’t use Dubsado, my client workflow and CRM software until I entered my third year in business. There is abso-bloody-lutely nothing wrong with bootstrapping it.
(Most tools are Google docs dressed in fancy clothing. Don’t @ me. I said what I said.)
If your goals are to raise your perceived value (and pricing) or book better-fitting clients:
Book a brand photography session. (Look for seasonal mini-session offers.)
Refresh your brand identity to better reflect your vibe and client expectations. (I.e. Logo, typography, color palette, marketing brand assets, etc.)
Save up for a professionally designed website or…
…upgrade your website template or…
…find a designer who will style your site template. (This is often a VIP day offer.)
Save up to invest in a professional copywriter or
…check out their copy audit or VIP day offers.
If your goal is to differentiate yourself and refine how you talk about yourself:
Work with a brand strategist or brand messaging strategist.
If your goal is to gain a (re)new(ed) sense of direction in your business:
Working with a business coach can help you find clarity and map out a path forward.
If your goal is to spend less time emailing back and forth with clients:
If your goal is to figure out how many sales or clients you *truly* need to take on to pay yourself, pay your taxes, and cover your expenses:
Hire a small business accountant or bookkeeper on a quarterly retainer.
Take a business financials course. (Shanna Skidmore’s mastermind course was worth every penny.)
Read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz (Don’t forget, books from the library are f-r-e-e!)
If your goal is to step away from 1:1 client services and create more digital products or courses:
Subscribe to an email marketing platform with ecommerce capabilities. (I use Convertkit to sell products, build all my opt-ing, launch, and course email automations, and manage my bi-weekly newsletter.)
If your goal is to take some admin tasks off your plate so you can focus on bigger projects:
Hire a VA for a limited amount of hours each month.
If your goal is to improve your search rankings:
Hire a blog content writer or Pinterest strategist on a retainer.
If your goal is to find new business partners or get referral business:
Go to an in-person conference.
If your goal is to stay on top of industry trends, learn something new, or get inspired:
Attend a virtual conference. (Many in-person conferences offer a virtual ticket option that is a fraction of the in-person price.)
If your goal is to level up your skillset, learn how to DIY a need in your business, or gain confidence in your craft:
Purchase a course specific to your needs. Opt for courses with 1:1 coaching or mastermind sessions over purely self-paced courses when possible. Your chances of succeeding (or actually, erm, finishing the course) will be greater with a live component. (Sad stat: According to Teachable, only 5% of students finish a self-paced course.)
If you have a spare $500, where should you spend it?
You should spend (or save) that money on something that is going to move you toward where you want to be three to six months from now. An extra $500 is “baby steps money”. Chances are, there are a number of things you’ll need to put into place in order to reach your ultimate goal—whether it’s the ability to take more time off, increase revenue, book more or fewer clients, add more automation and less manual tasks, create additional income streams, carve out the time and space to write your book, etc.
What needs to be in place in order for you to do that?
Most of us are building our businesses with baby steps and the beauty in that is when you’re not overreaching financially or taking huge risks you’re inadvertently building a solid foundation to grow your business.
Take what you need from the business and marketing experts but don’t be afraid to push back and don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
Pin It To Save For Later
If you found this article helpful…
The BP Resource Library started as a way to offer brand strategy and copywriting education to creatives and entrepreneurs with champagne tastes but a Pellegrino budget.
If I’m helping you make more sense of this whole “writing for your biz” thing, please consider expressing your appreciation for the research, writing, and design that goes into each and every post and library freebie.
Buy me an espresso