Some people would call these business expenses, I prefer to title them investments- because investments pay dividends!
Last month, in my last professional practices article, I discussed 10 ways that I created income streams that paid off my student loan debt in 2 years. I also mentioned that it took a lot of personal and professional development to create the necessary mindset to even think of these ideas. Well, I was talking to my friend from graduate school who went through the same program, and she mentioned that post made its way around the internets. The School of the Art Institute posted it on their Facebook wall, and there was an alumni that reposted it, angered that the school, which they were indebted to probably as much as I was, was taking credit for the work and ideas that I invested in that helped me pay off the debt.
While I am very fortunate and grateful to have the education that have, and it is from that education that I have the type of creative skills that I share with you in my classes and on this blog, I want to give credit to the programs and people who helped me learn the personal and business practices that are prospering me now. So lets clear the air! When it comes to this topic, I have no problem sharing the process that I took to get completely out of debt while building a business. I hope it’s helpful- please know I am not an affiliate or getting any kind of commission for sharing this. As a business owner, I know its important that people share where their education and services come from, and I want to do that today!
My 10 investments
First and foremost, as I described last month, I lacked life skills. I had a master’s degree, a highly educated mind, but I did not know how to use my education to create income and support myself financially. And my life got scary folks. I would be in the newspaper, celebrated that I was showing at a museum, and yet, I had to cancel my cell phone plan because I could not afford it. Or worse, I would be working for an institution 3 to 4 hours a day, for months on a membership committee, helping them put on a show that later made them $10,000, while not earning anything and fearing that this would be the month that I would not be able to pay my rent. IT SUCKED! I had all these ideas that these things were supposed to be what finally brought me income, and while they were helpful in putting me out in public, my lack of understanding caused me to go without income. Seriously, I could not afford to be an art philanthropist! Finally, I had to get a teacher and mentor. To me, putting a few extra 1000 dollars into some good teaching and personal development was nothing after spending $50,000 on grad school and not finding employment. And yes, I put it on a credit card back then. I chose the Tree of Life Program because I do believe in a higher power and higher personal purpose. It gets me out of bed in the morning, believing that I can make some kind of impact in the bigger picture. And I thrive by learning laws and principles and practicing them. With Kelle’s teaching, I learned personal and professional boundaries and I got out of the situations that drained me that I believed were necessary to have relationships and a career. I needed someone to teach me how to value my energy and life and build my own structures so that I could be creative- and prosper from it. The work has to start within, and when I changed myself, my surroundings changed- drastically. As far as investment goes, consider that initial $2000 has now lead to practices that are now my income and paid off the crazy amount of debt, fast, that’s exponential dividends that work in my favor and support me. So full credit for my personal and professional transformation goes to Kelle’s amazing program.
2. Dave Ramsey
Soon, I had built a new life for myself with the personal development, and I needed help to make a plan to get out of debt. I knew the debt needed to be paid, but did not know how. My mom gave me Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover, and I read it in one night. That night, I decided that his plan was something I could follow and implement, and could get me where I needed to be and with Paul’s support, we used his practices to pay off the debt. When I was in school, or in the situations I mentioned above, I would have NEVER listened to Dave Ramsey. He would have seemed too conservative and obnoxious in his “get over yourself” disciplines. I mean, I was a sensitive artist- lol! I needed to be free to be creative. Oh man, I was way too free. His program helped me learn discipline, and how to really pay attention to what was happening in my bank account. One thing my teacher Kelle says is- "people may not be able to see where they are spending and losing energy, but they can really see it when it comes to money." Using Dave’s disciplines to pay attention to money made me also see where I was losing energy. And he taught me to really focus, and with that focus, use discipline to accomplish our goal. I bought his program Financial Peace University for $87 dollars, and I paid off all debt with it. An amazing investment, with principles that I now use in my business, health, and relationships.
3. Startup Camp
When I had the principles locked down and working in my favor, soon I just needed to get some tactical assistance. My second year in business, I was having panic attacks over not knowing what the heck I was doing. I would wake up in fear that I wasn’t withholding enough in taxes, or that I didn’t have my business set up properly. What’s an occupational license? Omg, I was a mess. I had my products, my services, my offerings, but no structure. This is where I believe that you should pay for programs, education, and teaching that organize it all for you. Sure, I could have kept going to free seminars that only told me so much, I could read 1000’s of free blog posts and work through free PDF’s that only get me so far, or go to the library, but I did not want to spend another year floundering, and I was busy enough just working in my business! So I enrolled in startupcamp.com for $100 a month to receive monthly business classes. When I can afford it, I happily pay people to teach me so I can learn strategies from someone who has figured it out. And actually, if you want to run a creative business, but hesitate to pay for help because you think you can do it yourself, then how are you ever going to create the energy within you to attract people willing to pay you? You can actually afford it and its a part of your growth to do so. If you want to be paid for your teaching and services, then pay others. It creates circuitry in the economy.
4. Hire an Accountant
Okay back to my IRS nightmares. My grandfather was a CPA and my mother is a Human Resources Vice President (I’m so proud of my Mom!) and Bookkeeper. So that meant, Andrea never had to look at a tax form in her life. My mom just did it for me every year. When I started running Fair Fit, I had to find someone to help me. I found Bill through Dave Ramsey’s ELP program, and I love him. He helps me keep Fair Fit on track tax wise, so that I don’t have to get scared that I’m not doing it right. I am never going to figure this out for myself, and every good business has to have tax help anyway. Why not start when you are small so its set up for when you grow?
5. Hire a Graphic Designer
My friend Taylor who I met in the Tree of Life Program, (see, things come full circle) designed the Fair Fit logo and transferred my original Goodsie site to Squarespace and made the first template back in November 2014. I have a graphic design background that my friend Daniela taught me long ago, but I was really stuck in old design patterns. Again, it was during the time that Fair Fit was growing, but I had no idea what I was doing as far as my presence online and in social media. Taylor helped me learn how to create social media posts, how to have a thoughtful plan, and it was awesome to hire her for a time because she could see me and my business in a different way. Its very hard to always know how other people are looking at you and your business, and having another set of eyes was what I needed at the time. Now, I design and run all aspects of the fairfitstudio.com and our marketing (this really is where I spend most of my time) using principles and practices that I learned in Startup Camp. But it was by hiring Taylor for a couple months that got me started. And I just did my January 2016 rebranding and strategy all by myself, something I could not have seen myself be able to do before hiring help.
6. Hire a Laywer
Fair Fit is trademarked. I’m not messing around- as soon as I had the cash, I found Mark, a trademark attorney that was recommended by my trusted students, and I probably paid him more money than anything I have mentioned so far. Its because I want to completely steward and protect what I have received creatively, and we are set up with laws to do so. By investing in legal, I invest in Fair Fit’s longterm growth and protect it. That creates the energy for me to receive more and for my business to grow- that’s something I learned from Kelle. Investing in a trademark and proper legal says I am committed to my longterm potential and Fair Fit’s future.
7. Hire a photographer! Explanation point, explanation point!
Hello!!!! This is critical, I have a creative business, and I am a crappy photographer. I mean, my instagram has just been pititful at times. I like the tactile, and its where I’m good, and that’s enough said. Carolynn is a huge blessing in my life, and she is an amazing photographer. I work with her a couple times a year, and hopefully more in the new year, to create stunning photos for Fair Fit. Guys, I even took photography in art school, and I have been surrounded by brilliant photographers all my creative life, and it never rubbed off on me. I pay happily for this incredible service because I know I can’t do it myself- even with 2 art degrees!
I learned the power of this investment last year. I used to resist having nice and useful and new technology. I would make do with what I had, until it died, and then fight getting a new computer/phone/device until the last minute. Then, last year, I realized it would really help me be more productive if I had a laptop. But I resisted it! I have a desktop, make do with the desktop. But with the desktop, I am chained to my desk, and can only get certain things done at certain times. When I was out of town, I saw a Mac Shack- and ran in there. In that store were repurposed lap tops, and I bought one that day! I’m using it right now, lol! But would you believe, that next week I made enough money in sales and service to totally pay for that laptop? I was stunned. I must have been really blocked by resisting this next step, and the floodgates opened!
This same thing just happened to me last month! I had an iPhone 4, that was slowly dying. I could not even post to instagram, or run Facebook on it, let alone do any kind of video. I mean, that’s pathetic for someone who runs most of her business online. But I was resisting getting a new phone, but finally I just had to do it. And that day, as I got my new phone, I went though my Facebook finding old messages. Someone had messaged me that she was interested in my dresses, and wanted to know how she could get some. With my old phone, I was missing out on business!! Unbelievable. I wrote her an apology, sent her the link to my sample sale, and an hour later she cleaned it out. Which paid for my phone!!! It’s time that I declare, I will never resist a tech upgrade again.
I recently took technical classes so that I could learn how to create patterns using illustrator. I needed to know how to digitize some of my patterns so that not everything I do is finished on brown butcher paper. So I’m taking Pattern Workshop so that I can learn how to streamline my pattern making process and get some of my designs in the computer. This investment is going to save me time, and create better archives for my pattern designs in the longterm.
I haven’t made this investment yet, but its the next one I need in my growth and development so its probably going to happen in February. I tried surfing through Pinterest and spent several hours last month doing research. But with all that time and effort, I don’t know how to use Pinterest, Instagram, or even how to get my blog out there. I hate the idea of creating content, without having a real strategy or idea of how a platform works. And yes, I could outsource it, but these platforms are critical to how people perceive your business, so I believe in not outsourcing until I have an idea of how it works. I don’t want another person having control over Fair Fit’s image- so I’m going to pay for some classes and learn. As I develop an understanding, I will share the system and strategy with the person who someday helps me with these systems as Fair Fit grows. This way I take responsibility and create the way I want the platform used, before handing it off blindly. Make sense? I’ll let you know what I find in the months ahead.
So there you have it, this is the list of the investments I made after my formal college education that helped me achieve my goals. The key lesson here is I had to work to overcome a lot of resistance each time I paid for education or services. Its funny how we think its that you don’t want to spend money- actually, if we dig a little deeper, could it be that we sense how much we will grow and have more responsibility on the other side? I know that was my deal. But every time I did one of these programs or hired help, I was able to grow 10 times more. I want to encourage you to consider ways that you participate in other people’s businesses and programs, and know how much benefit is coming back your way, hopefully 1000 fold.
I liked writing this post because it shows me how far I have come, and how grateful I am for the brilliant people who have been a part of my journey. Honestly, I haven't really spent anything I've earned on personal stuff, Paul and I live very frugally. At first, everything I earned went to these investments, and then to pay off the school debt. And at this very moment, still, everything I earn goes back into the investment I'm creating for my longterm future. And here’s to more to come! As I grow, I get to meet and hire more experts, and the same applies to you. Can you see now how I participate in the economy? I’m a DIY’er up to a point, but there comes a time when its time to grow yourself and business, and as you grow your business, you invest in yourself and in other people. You don’t have to do it all alone, and figure it out and do it all by yourself, and it takes some small steps. Yes, its been hard to spend money at times, and I had a lot of fear and excuses around the topic. I’ve seen that I had to take the small steps to learn how to take the big steps and it gets easier. We live in a time where we think we can get everything for free online, but you can only go so far with this mentality. If you want your income, business, creativity, and life to grow, it takes investment because we need those dividends. If we all did everything for free, or did everything ourselves, what kind of economy would we have? Think about it, when you hire an expert, you speed up your process, and get to what you are good at faster. And really, that’s what we all want, right?
Are you resisting spending money on an investment that you want, or know you need? Have you seen investments in education and services pay off? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
If you liked this article, check out last months Professional Practices topic: