04.17.13

ADVICE / 60

today’s question: “how do you invest in your business?”

invest

KATIE’S ANSWER

i’m not really at a point to invest in my business yet. as soon as i get there i would probably start renting a studio space to work out of. it would be nice to separate home and work. and! with that comes the adventure of furniture shopping!

i’d also like to find an accountant that works with freelance designers to make sure i’m actually doing everything the best i can.  i currently work with a lovely H&R Block woman named barbra for my taxes. she told me she was proud of how organized i was this year vs. last. she is great but i just wonder if i’m getting the best freelance advice. i would also get a lawyer and have him/her go over all my paper work and make sure my business is set up the best way. since i wrote this post about getting paid i’ve had a couple of sticky situations come up. it would’ve been nice to have some heat backing those emails i was sending.

i assume that if i’m profiting enough to put money back in my business i’d be crazy busy. i might want to hire an intern to help out a couple days a week. i’d try to find someone from a local art college to help out. i love working with students. they’re so ambitious and excited. i like to think that i’m helping them on their career path like my mentors once did for me. my mentors help me make my career. every big job came from someone recommending me. it’s really all about word of mouth.

so…one day…that’s the plan.

BRI’S ANSWER

i have definitely learned the importance of putting money back into the business. sure, we’d all love to get a paycheck in the mail and take it straight to the bank…and then to the mall. but it doesn’t really work like that.

i am going to focus on the expenses of a blogger for this one…

1. employees & contributors: my biggest expense! in the beginning this expense scared me the most because it’s sure not cheap! but when i was really able to evaluate the income before i had the extra help and then after, i realized the value right away. i needed to free up some of my time so i could think further into the future and stop spinning my wheels.

CONTINUE READING by clicking below…

2. branding: with all these blogs out there now, the desire to make yours look presentable and professional is more than ever. (this is why we created blogshop, so you can!) this means forking over the $$ for a slick blog layout, money to pay a coder to make it all function, web hosting, a custom domain name, business cards…the works!

3. content: sure, bloggers get to a point where sponsored posts come our way. but more often than not we are making blog posts happen on our own dime. the costs can add up, from paying photographers, spending hours of your own time putting shoots together, buying supplies, props and outfits if you’re appearing in the posts…if you have an idea that you feel is something people would be into, don’t be afraid to spend money to make it happen. hopefully you will see profit in return in other ways! this also means documenting your everyday experiences (for instance, traveling!)

4. all that business stuff: if you want to be a legit business, you’ve got to act like it, and invest in yourself. at the very beginning it might seem silly or not necessary, but it’s better to be prepared to run like any other company. find an expert to help you set up your corporation or llc, trademark your name/logo, get set up on quickbooks online. a tax accountant makes everything a little easier (although the process is always a pain!) you may find you need to get business insurance, but for sure have a lawyer that you can at least consult if need be. you don’t want to be caught down the line unprepared. i asked my other freelance friends if they had a lawyer that they could recommend and eventually found one that way.

5. workshops & conferences: get out there and stay inspired, educate yourself and network with people in your industry. invest in a class that interests you, take up html, head to alt summit or a local design conference. never stop learning, or refining your skills. and you may meet just the right people to collaborate with.

6. workspace: then there are the day-to-day expenses of running your actual business. it’s important to work in a space that inspires you, if possible. we just got done making over our office and it really is so great to be there each day. even if it’s just a nice potted plant, or treating yourself to comfortable chair or buying a cool art book. start small. at some point you may want to look into renting a workspace. there are options to share a creative space in many communities (like makeshift society in SF!), or maybe  you just need some storage for all your supplies. assess your needs and invest accordingly. it also goes without saying you need the proper equipment. computers, wacom tablets, cameras, an iphone so you can operate on the go, this is all money well spent.

7. other tiny details: these are the kind of obvious, but sometimes overlooked. along with my hosting fees for my site, i also pay monthly for photobucket to host my photos, and a handful of other subscriptions. hey, netflix is research or spotify to play during blogshop! you also want to look presentable for meeting with clients and any time you might be photographed. i think the proper wardrobe, hair, makeup can all be considered under this category as well (and no, you can’t just write off a whole shopping spree). i know i don’t want my nails to look chipped and haggard if my hands are in a DIY shoot. and if you’re driving around town for meetings, shoots, etc. parking, fuel and even your car and maintenance can be considered a business expense. from client gifts, to lunches and cleaning supplies, there are all kinds of little details that go into spending money on your business. the bottom line is, if you invest in yourself, it will pay off down the line!

what are some of your biggest expenses as a freelancer? i am sure we are forgetting lots of them!

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are over here!)

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21 Comments

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  • 1. catherine  |  April 18th, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Bills! I’m not a freelancer anymore, but if you’re at home all day and you have to heat your house (because British winters are COLD) instead of having it off all day if you work in an office, the costs definitely add up! I don’t know if it’s the same in the States, but over here you can claim things like that as an expense as well.

  • 2. Pigeon Pie  |  April 18th, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I’m a freelancer and every time I invest in my business I do see a result (apart from a few misguided advertising attempts at the start).

    I really do think that investing your appearance is a big thing, as a creative people EXPECT you to look like you have style. I wouldn’t pay big bucks to a designer that turned up in tack pants and peanut butter stains on their shirt!

  • 3. erin  |  April 18th, 2013 at 4:21 am

    If you’re working from home you can write off part of your house/apartment and rent/utilities as a business expense.

    My biggest expenses tend to be licensing fees–fonts, premium plugins, etc. They can add up really fast!

  • 4. Jana Miller  |  April 18th, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Thanks for the great advice-I’m just starting out again. I’m an illustrator. I used to own my own sewing business in my 20’s. The best thing I did was hire an accountant to help with the taxes.
    J

  • 5. alicia  |  April 18th, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I was just at H&R block last week to do my taxes. It was a disaster and I went home and cried cause I wa sso frustrated that I didn’t really understand everything/wasn’t properly prepared. Lessons experience!! I made myself a vow to find an accountant that specializes in freelancers for next year and to be so much more organized (+ I need a lawyer to look over my spiffy contracts + be there if all hell breaks loose).

    Thanks for the list Bri, so helpful. My workspace is a disaster and not inspiring at all so it’s top priority on my list right now. Summer project!! Your own office post came at a perfect time, it’s great inspiration!

  • 6. Luv and Kiwi  |  April 18th, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Hi Alicia! If you live in the Los Angeles area I have a GREAT accountant recommendation. Alex Parajon from Paragon Business Solutions. The man took all the stress out of tax season. A friend suggested I see him. I loved him. Made my fiance go to him and now all my friends go to him as well. Gotta share the love (and tax angels)

  • 7. Lethbridge Boudoir Photography  |  April 18th, 2013 at 10:54 am

    This is a great post to be talking about! I think some of my biggest expenses are running online and the time I have invested into making my own blog and website & designing it all myself, and my camera equipment. It is so rewarding though to do something you really love and to have people say “Yes you do do good work” and to know that it’s not just a hobby anymore, now it’s a career :)

  • 8. gudy herder  |  April 18th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    My biggest expenses are my travels to international trend shows to stay inspired and informed about trends. It’s a hell of money but I really enjoy it and it starts to pay off. Plus, it gives me an expertise and kind of “added value” as a stylist. I do agree in investing in education but it still has to be affordable and don’t stress you out! Good post, Bri!

  • 9. Stevie-Ella  |  April 19th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I’m still getting into freelancing on the side, but definitely phone bills! I’m a freelance journalist and while I love that long chats with interesting people is part of the deal, it’s not cheap, especially if they’re in a different country.

  • 10. Katie From eMinutes  |  April 19th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Hi Everyone (mostly ladies), I was just perusing through my favorite design blogs and came across this great question about how to invest in your business and how to make your business “legit.” I have a penchant for interior design, but also work at a law firm by day that is currently investing in entrepreneurs. We are forming 725 free corporations and LLCs. You can learn more about it here (eminutes.com/entrepreneurs) and see the profiles of the first 500 people we formed companies for. We would love to help anyone out that wants to discuss possibly incorporating their business!

  • 11. tasha  |  April 23rd, 2013 at 10:44 am

    There is some great advice in this post. I would really like to get a work space separate from my place and hire two people. I currently have an accountant and a lawyer.

    Currently investing in better site design. Working on branding across the board. Hopefully yall come back to Texas soon.

  • 12. Links I Love: 9 | Califor&hellip  |  April 25th, 2013 at 2:26 am

    [...] and Katie at DESIGNLOVEFEST had some great advice on investing in their businesses and how they’d use the [...]

  • 13. Link Love: 4.25.13 | Nubb&hellip  |  April 25th, 2013 at 6:12 am

    [...] • When we’re first starting out in business, it’s easy to forget how important it is to reinvest in order to grow. [...]

  • 14. A Day In the Life…I&hellip  |  May 14th, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    [...] The first post is inspired by a blog post that I read at Design Love Fest’s blog. It was a Q/A on how to invest in yourr business. [...]

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