This post is sponsored by Capital One.
It’s been almost a decade since I started my first business. I spent years loving and learning photography, and in 2008, I launched my photography business. Two years later after being featured on Groupon, I was able to quit my full-time day job and replace it with my own photography business, and later on refocus on my blog. I’ve learned so much since then and today I’ve partnered with Capital One to share some lessons I’ve learned in self-employment.
Start with a strong foundation.
If you’re in the heat of the moment, this is going to sound crazy, but for sake of your sanity, start with a plan of some sort. When I started my photography business it was something that grew slowly, and although I had some processes in place I feel like I could have done much better from the start. Try to visualize what a typical day might look like, and set a schedule for yourself. To-do lists have been my favorite for being productive.
Look for others in the same space.
No one really tells you how isolating it can be to be self-employed. I do almost all of my work from home and since becoming self-employed the only thing I miss about going to work every day is the interaction with other people. I am not an extrovert by any means, but it is nice to take a break for coffee with someone every now and then. Now that I’m self-employed, I look for like-minded groups and people I can get together with at least once a week.
Set goals for your business.
Visualize what you want it to look like in one, five, or even ten years and select goals that help you go in that direction. They can be simple or complicated, with due dates that are more logical or attainable. Over time you will be able to adjust them to meet your business’s needs. This is something that I need to be better about doing, it just goes by the wayside when my to-do list is a mile long. I would love to make it a priority.
Use a separate account and track your expenses.
Once you know you’ll be in business, you should open a separate account from your personal. This will make it easier to track your expenses, and easier if you are ever audited. Remember that you’ll need to save 15-40% of your income depending on your expenses for taxes. Remember to save paper receipts from meals, meetings, travel, etc. You can scan them into your computer if you prefer that. Using software to track your expenses will be easiest to reference and keep track of.
Set a monthly budget and stick to it.
This is one thing that I still have not done with my business, but it’s one of my goals this year. I had the chance to meet with a money coach during Capital One’s Banking Reimagined Tour in San Francisco. The tour is a hands-on digital experience that is designed to help you become more confident with money. During the virtual experience I did a quiz that really honed in on what my priorities were with my income. It came down to buying a house, but quickly swayed to spending money on travel instead. It was pretty spot on. And my one-on-one experience with the coach not only gave me financial ideas, but sparked some about how managing money is tied into our overall well-being. It was almost like talking to a life coach, but for money. Even if money is a taboo subject sometimes, as a business owner you should know the ins and outs of it for your business’s sake. Look at your expenses from each month for the business (don’t forget to pay yourself!), and rank them in order of importance. If funds run low, you’ll know which you need to pay first. Keep in mind yearly expenses that may only pop up once a year (like general liability insurance!). Being in business for yourself means that your income will likely fluctuate from month-to month so any money left over should be saved for months that tend to be slower.
Seek advice from trusted professionals.
There will be times where you are not sure what to do with your business, what decision you should make, or even how to manage your money. The most important thing that self-employment has taught me is that you are always in a state of learning. This allows you to grow as a businessperson and your business to grow with you. On top of offering a free space to work and collaborate in, Capital One Cafe offers free money coaching sessions to anyone who would like them. Having personally gone through one, I can say that they are less like talking boring numbers and financials and more like talking about your goals as a business and how you work to make them attainable for your business.
Stay positive, dream big, and work hard.
Often the thing that makes a business succeed is it’s owners ability to stay positive, dream big, and work hard. You have to be able to think in a problem-solving way and stay on your toes. You won’t always be able to prevent problems along the way, but you can control how you deal with them. Didn’t get that big deal you were hoping for? Not a big deal, something else will come along the line. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of ‘No‘, but remember that you only need one ‘Yes‘ to change your life. A great quote that I heard from Charles R. Swindoll is, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.“.
As time goes on you’ll learn what works for your business and how to adjust each of these lessons to work for it. You’ll learn the ebb and flow of income, balancing your budget, and even that you need to take care of yourself. I hope these lessons will both help and inspire you to really go for your dreams.
Are you self-employed? Do you have any lessons you’ve learned that would be helpful? I’d love to hear!
This post was sponsored by Capital One, a company I’ve had an account with for years. All thoughts and opinions are my own. To learn more about Capital One Cafe and to see if there’s one in your city, please visit their website. To learn more about the Banking Reimagined tour and to see if they will be in your city soon, please click here. Thank you so much for helping to support the sponsors that make life here a little sweeter.