Starting a business is scary. Spending money on your business when no revenue is coming in? Straight up terrifying.
When I first embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship, I was seeking advice from anywhere I could find it. Podcasts, business articles, my parents, fortune cookies at the greasy Chinese food spot down the street.
I needed to figure out the best way to invest in myself and my business that was actually going to provide a solid ROI. The most bang for my buck.
I knew the old adage “you gotta spend money to make money” was true, but I didn’t know how to filter out the noise to decide exactly WHAT to purchase.
A few years have passed, and I can tell you I’ve spent a fair bit of money on pointless resources that didn’t help move the needle. There are so many people out there telling you what you NEED, and how a simple tool can singlehandedly quadruple your revenue/traffic/likes on Instagram.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it is this.
There is no ONE thing that is going to solve all the pain points of your business. But, there are resources and action items that truly help you grow in the right direction, increase productivity, and make your life easier as you navigate this crazy world of entrepreneurship.
Below I have outlined all the resources I have invested in that have truly helped grow my business.
The right equipment for you
Every business is unique and requires different equipment. The one true constant however is investing in QUALITY. Spend the extra money here. It will be worth it in the long run.
Buy a new computer with a crazy good processor and splurge for the extra storage. Buy the good camera, not the one that is decent and a bit cheaper.
Do your research. Establish a few items that you absolutely need, and remember that you can continuously add capitol as you progress in your business.
When I first started, I invested in a great camera with one other lens and that’s it. Over the years, I have purchased other lenses, a drone, external hard drives, tripods, and lighting equipment.
Make a list of the equipment your business will truly benefit from, and weed out the “wants” versus “needs” for the first few years.
If you are a blogger, aspiring photographer or online entrepreneur, here is a list of equipment I recommend slowly adding to your kit.
A user-friendly website
There are a lot of opinions out there about whether or not you should invest in a custom website design. With so many beautiful templates on Themeforest and hosting services like Wix and Squarespace, many are opting out of the expensive custom sites for something simple and functional.
When you are just starting out, I recommend going with something stock and customizing it to fit your branding. Invest in some product photography and switch up the fonts. Keep it clean and user-friendly.
After 2+ years, you will have a much better idea as to how your customers and readers are navigating your website. What are they searching for? What are they clicking on most? Have you taken things in a different direction?
The problem with designing something custom right out of the gate is that you don’t know your audience or what the future holds for your business. Chances are, your business plan and vision will evolve and change drastically in its inaugural years.
Once you have a steady foundation and brand pillars, I think investing in a user-friendly website based on your business and customers is crucial.
I recently said adios to the generic WordPress template I had and invested in a beautifully branded website that is no longer just a blog, but a space to showcase other facets of my business.
I made this decision after getting really clear about where I saw the Kaylchip brand evolving to in the future. I am SO happy I didn’t do this right away because I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning.
Attending Events and Conferences
I can’t stress enough how important attending events and conferences is for the growth of your business. There are so many wonderful opportunities to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. Events are a great place to network with likeminded individuals and promote your biz.
Conferences and Events that have been worth it for me:
- The Blonde Abroad Blogging Retreat
- Talent Lab Events
- Elizabeth Gilbert Live on the importance of Creativity
The connections I’ve made at events have led to incredible opportunities that never would have been available to me if I had just stayed in my PJ’s afraid of putting myself out there.
Follow people you admire in your industry and keep an eye out for events they are attending, or annual conferences you might like to be apart of one day. Create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets and add to it often.
If you live in Vancouver, Talent Lab is an amazing talent acquisition consultancy that plans events around the city.
There are a lot of shitty online courses out there. Unfortunately, with all the saturation it’s difficult to know what courses are actually packed with value.
A great way to decide if a course is worth it is to look at what the course creator is giving away for FREE. Dive into their content and see if it’s packed full of valuable information.
Do they serve their audience without asking for anything in return? Are they succinct, easy to understand, an expert in the industry? There are so many people out there that simply throw a course up on Udemy or Teachable and tell people to buy their course with no authority to back them up.
Do your research and follow people for awhile before purchasing their courses. If there are testimonials on their site, reach out to those people to get more information.
A few courses that have been insanely valuable and worth the money for me:
- Melyssa Griffin’s Pinfinite Growth
- Pinterest is an insanely powerful tool for business, but is usually overlooked. People assume it’s just for pinning outfit ideas and travel inspiration, but it’s a MONSTER for driving traffic and increasing sales/leads.
- Heather Goodman’s Photo Editing Course
- If photography is an integral part of your business, I highly recommend learning how to use a DSLR camera and how to edit in Lightroom.
- Skillshare courses – Tons of great resources for business owners looking to learn a new skill!
Great Free Podcasts
- Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast (Free, but she has a few paid courses that I imagine are wonderful as well)
- Tim Ferris Podcasts
- Lewis Howes Podcast
- Pursuit with Purpose
Gym Membership? This made the list? Short answer is, absolutely. Getting out of the house and out of your own head is VITAL for survival in the entrepreneurship world.
Move your body and clear your head. I recently joined ClassPass so that I could take advantage of some amazing studios in my area. It’s $110 a month, so it’s not cheap, but it has been worth every penny for my well-being and sanity.
Pick an activity that you really enjoy and purchase a membership or the proper equipment and schedule this into your work day.
Online Memberships that Make Life Easier (and the ones I tried and cancelled..)
User-friendly E-mail Marketing Platform
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, your e-mail list is CRUCIAL to success. It is the only thing you own (Mark Zuckerberg owns your Facebook fans and Insta followers). It is one of the best ways to start a conversation with your clients.
My e-mail list has tripled in the last few months thanks to ConvertKit. I made the switch from MailChimp after hearing how easy Convertkit was to create freebies and automations. To quote Eleanor Shellstrop, HO-LY SHIRT. What a game changer. I spent way too much time with my face scrunched up trying to figure out how to send e-mails to my audience.
I invested in Leadpages for a few months, and while I did see an uptick in subscribers, it wasn’t worth the extreme price point. As soon as I found out Convertkit offered landing pages amongst other things, I made the switch and never looked back.
Social Media Automation Tool
Keeping up with all the social media channels out there is a lot like trying to date 5 guys at once. Might be enticing but sooner or later things are going to crash and burn.
Focus on 2 platforms and do them really well. Depending on your business, that might be Instagram and Pinterest, or perhaps Twitter and Facebook.
Buffer is a great tool to help schedule content for FREE. Batch working is something every business owner should be adopting. Buffer helps you create content for an entire month if you want, all in one sitting.
DON’T: Meet Edgar
I paid for a few months of Meet Edgar but I didn’t see the value when I could get everything I needed from the free Buffer service.
The only nice thing about Meet Edgar is that it saves your posts and recirculates them. If you are putting out a TON of content, this looping feature is a nice way to make sure you are constantly posting on social channels.
I personally don’t like to post the same content more than once, so this wasn’t worth it for me.
My business would not be where it is today without Tailwind. I have 1.3 million monthly viewers on Pinterest thanks to this beast of an automation tool. If you are a blogger or business owner and not utilizing Pinterest, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity for growth. Click here for a free month!
I offer consulting for Pinterest, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure how it can work for your biz, give me a shout.
This tool allows you to plan and schedule your Instagram posts. There is a free version, but if you want the ability to schedule more content, you can pay for premium plans. My plan comes to around $7/month Canadian.
I no longer frantically have to make sure my feed is going to be cohesive, or struggle to find something to post. Planoly is another popular tool if UNUM isn’t your style.
DO: Hello Bonsai if you’re a freelancer
If you are a freelancer, Hello Bonsai creates invoices, contracts and receipts for you. Total time saver and an amazing resource for those like me that suck at organization.
As I mentioned above, Lightroom is a game changer for beautifully edited and curated images. It is $14.99 CAD per month for both Lightroom and Photoshop.
What Self-Care Looks like to You
Maybe it’s a meditation app like Headspace, a monthly massage, or a weekend getaway. Invest in these seemingly unrelated luxuries as they play a HUGE roll in the success of your business and most importantly, your well-being. A business can’t run if the person behind it doesn’t have enough gas in the tank to continue forward. Take a break and come back stronger.
Hire an Expert
You just can’t do #allthethings. When you first start your business, you’re going to be acting like a full-service agency with only one employee. Cue overwhelm, stress, and a plethora of tears into tall glasses of pinot noir.
As you move forward, recognize the tasks you don’t enjoy, procrastinate doing or take too much time out of your day to complete. Can you hire someone to do this more efficiently? What is your time worth to you?
Hire a Virtual Assistant
In October, I hired an employee. It was beyond terrifying, but really freaking exciting. Not only did it help take the pressure off me, but it actually held me MORE accountable for my business. It wasn’t just me anymore. I needed to plan ahead. Creating tasks for her forced me to complete my to-do list as well.
When hiring someone, I strongly suggest finding someone whose skills complement your own. I am horrible at organization, but with the help of my assistant, I now have google sheets, a Slack channel, a Trello account, editorial calendar and reusable templates that have made a huge difference.
Hiring someone was the scariest decision of this journey thus far. However, my page views have increased, my social channels are growing faster, and I’m producing more high quality content consistently with her on my team. Such an important investment in my business.
If you aren’t quite ready for an assistant (took me 2 years), Fiverr is a great resource for simple tasks like logo design and keyword research. I paid $5 for an old logo of mine that I used, and paid $20 for a complete competitive analysis for SEO that was worth EVERY PENNY.
Phew! I feel like I just did a full audit of my business history. I wish I had found something like this years ago. If you’re just starting out and feeling the overwhelm, let this be a reminder that you are doing amazing. The work you are doing is important. People out there are looking for what you offer. Don’t give up.