23 minutes | Mar 8, 2021

Invest In Yourself And Your Design Business - RD251

Where would you spend your extra money?

In the Resourceful Designer Community, we recently discussed the question, "what would you do if you had extra money to invest in yourself and your business?" There were many great ideas on how to use the extra money and, just as importantly, how not to use it. It was such a great conversation that I thought I would share my thoughts here on Resourceful Designer.

Before I go any further, I must state that I am not a financial planner or financial advisor, nor do I play one on TV. In fact, I have absolutely no expertise when it comes to this stuff. As far as I know, experts who see this may tell you what I'm saying is completely the wrong approach. These are my thoughts on what I would do if I had extra money to invest in myself or my business. So here goes.

Imagine you had extra money sitting around. Anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. I know, it’s a nice thought. But you never know. Maybe you had a favourable tax return. Or you inherit a sum of money. Maybe you won a cash prize in some lottery or draw. Perhaps you had an outstanding quarter and have money left over once all your monthly bills and expenses are paid off.

Whatever the reason, you have extra money and try to figure something practical to do with it other than blowing it on a vacation or other luxury. No, you want to use that money as an investment of some sort. But what?

This is the order of preference for how I would invest the money.

Investing in your future.

I believe the most important thing any business owner can do is invest in their future. That future could mean next year, or it could mean retirement in many years. The idea is to use the money to help you down the road.

As a solopreneur, your income relies on your ability to work. In most cases, if you are unable to work, you don’t make any money. That’s why I believe padding your future is one of the most important investments you can make.

This may mean putting money into a savings account to act as a three to six-month buffer in case things get tough and business slows down. Work in our field is never guaranteed, and even the best of us experiences lulls from time to time. This buffer can help tide you over and help cover your expenses until work picks up again.

Or maybe an accident or illness will force you to take a medical leave. Having a buffer to get you through that period may mean the difference between staying afloat and being forced to close your business.

And then there’s retirement to think of. Saving for retirement is something you should start doing as soon as possible, especially if you want to continue living the good life in your later years. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to save up.

I don’t know about you, but as a creative person, it’s hard to think I’ll ever retire. I believe I will be creating and designing things until the day I die.

But the fact is, one day I may not want to spend 8-10 hours a day in front of my computer anymore. And that means less money will be coming in.

Not to mention that even though designers are like a good wine, we get better with age; some people may not want to hire a 65-year-old to design the brand for their hip new startup.

These two reasons alone. For short absences such as dips in work or medical leave and retirement are why I believe investing in your future is the first thing you should do with your money. I know it’s hard when you have bills and debts to pay. But even a few dollars here and there will add up over time.

If you do come into some extra money, this is where I suggest you invest it. In your future.

Investing in your present.

Next on my list is investing in your present. Investing in your present means putting money to use towards immediate self-improvement.

Learn a new skill.

Invest in is things such as tutorials, courses and programs to learn new skills or improve your existing skills. These may be design-related, or they may be business-related.

There are many great places to learn new skills, such as

Let's say you design Wix websites and have had to turn down several clients because they wanted a WordPress site. You may put your extra money to good use by learning WordPress and expanding your service offerings.

Or you may want to take a course or webinar on growing your business through social media. Or learn more about SEO or Google Analytics. The possibilities are endless when it comes to learning new things.

Not only can you learn something to grow your business, but you may learn a skill you can offer to your clients to make more money.

Invest in yourself by reading books.

Invest in business and self-improvement books that will help you grow.

I prefer listening to self-improvement audiobooks. I just recently finished listening to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and next up I have Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

But if you don’t have time to sit and read a book. Audiobooks are a great way to still learn from the experts while out and about.

If you’ve never tried an audiobook, you can get one free book of your choice when you sign up for a trial Audible account. If you decide it’s not for you, cancel without paying anything, and they let you keep the free book you downloaded.

Join Networks.

Join networking groups or communities such as the Resourceful Designer Community to grow as a designer and business person. Or join a group such as Toastmasters who can help you fine-tune your presentation style when pitching to clients.

If you have extra money, after you’ve invested in your future, that is, I suggest using it to improve your current situation. The little bit you spend now can bring exponential growth for you and your business. Your future self will thank you for it.

Side note: I know I just said you should invest extra money in tutorials and courses and such. But don’t go looking for things to learn just because you have money to spend. It’s never a good idea to spend money on courses and such just for the sake of learning something. Only invest in things you want or need to know. Otherwise, invest the money in your future instead, as I mentioned earlier.

If you’re unsure if it’s important enough to learn now, go back and listen to episode 8 and episode 94 of the podcast. In both of those episodes, I talked about Just In Time Learning which plays right into what I’m talking about today.

Investing in your business.

The final category on my list is investing in your business. This means putting your extra money to use by improving the infrastructure that helps you perform your job.

  • Update your computer and equipment.
  • Purchase software and design resources.
  • Update your brand
  • Update your website and marketing materials.
  • Update your working environment

However, just like with investing in your present, there’s no point in spending money on a new computer or equipment unless you actually need it. You are better off saving the money for when you do.

Invest in growth.

There are more ways you can invest in your business. Use the extra money to hire outside help, such as photographers, copywriters, developers, etc., to help with your own promotional materials.

Hire a virtual assistant to help you with certain tasks and activities. I speak from experience that hiring my VA is one of the best investments I’ve made for my business.

If you haven’t done so already, use the extra money to register a trademark for your business name and visual assets. It’s always good to protect yourself.

And finally, Spend the money on growing your business through marketing, advertising, sponsorships and networking. Remember, the more people who know about your business, the faster you will grow.

When in-person conferences were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID, many of them went the virtual route. I took the money I would have spent on travel, hotel and expenses to attend PodFest Multimedia Expo and instead invested that money to become a sponsor for their online event.

That opportunity put my brand, Podcast Branding, in front of thousands of people in my niche and helped boost my business in ways that attending the conference in person could have never done.

So after you’ve invested in your future and your present, it’s a good idea to invest in your business.

Bonus

Here’s a bonus afterthought. If you’re satisfied that you’ve covered the three categories above, you can always use the extra money to thank your clients.

Sending a gift basket or special gift to a client, or even sending a client something as simple as a coupon for a free pizza, can go a long way to strengthen your relationship.

Imagine creating a new logo for a client and then sending them a glass mug with their new logo etched on the side?  That sort of thing can go a long way.

You can never go wrong when you invest in your client relationships.

As I said at the start, I'm not a financial expert. However, I believe you can't go wrong if you use any extra money you have to invest in your future, your present and your business. It's how you grow.

Where would you spend any extra money?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

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