At the end of this year, we will have officially marked a full calendar year of Duo Collective. We have learned so much in the last year and a half. Starting a small business is far from easy. Neither is the glorified entrepreneurship lifestyle. We could do an entire series of lessons learned from our first year of entrepreneurship – who knows maybe we will. But, we thought we would start with something we struggled with our first year: what should we invest in and where should we spend the very limited dollars we have?
We are dedicating an entire blog post to sharing the nitty gritty details of what we chose to invest in for our first year of entrepreneurship. Keep in mind, there are no right answers here. Every small business will be different and have different needs. Trial and error is more than okay. If you sign up for a monthly subscription you can cancel it and shift gears. One of the biggest things we’ve learned so far is that flexibility and acceptance of failing is key to surviving. We are learning as we go, alongside you.
Here is our list straight from our “expense” spreadsheet (more on that below! ?) We hope this helps you on your newfound journey, especially if you are also a first year entrepreneur.
Small Business Investments
11 things we invested in during our first year of entrepreneurship
We knew right away that we needed a home on the internet. We’ve worked with almost every website provider through our clients and we have only heard wonderful things from those who’ve worked with Showit. We started with a free template and just this year decided to make a huge investment with a stunning new template from Tonic Site Shop. So keep your eyes peeled for a brand new look coming to our website in 2021.
Along with a website provider, you’ll need a domain name and a hosting platform. If you know us, you know we are a Google business, so we purchased ours through Google Domains. There are so many different providers out there so make sure you research what one is best for you. Showit allows complete customization, but with that comes a learning curve and some time investment in understanding all of the capabilities. We will still recommend this platform until we are blue in the face, but if you don’t have the time or energy there are plenty of other platforms like Wix or Squarespace that make building a website very easy.
2. Google Workspace
Speaking of being legit, securing your business email is so important. Changing your email from @gmail to @yourbusinessname shows your clients you are professional. It also helps you come across more trustworthy during cold emails or referrals. Signing up for a Google Workspace (formerly known as GSuite) account is extremely affordable, starting at only $6 per user per month. Not to mention you get so much more than just customized email addresses with cloud storage, video meetings and more.
3. Client Management System
We started our first year of entrepreneurship without any sort of client management system in place. If you are worried about funds, this is definitely one you can start without. You just need to make sure you are diligent about tracking your income and expenses meticulously. You’ll also need to dedicate extra time to delivering and tracking invoices, managing calendars and signing contracts. After a year and a half of managing all of this through a mixture of spreadsheets and word documents, we finally invested in Dubsado. Our recommendation for you is to consider the time investment you are making in these activities and actually do the math. Will freeing up your time allow you to focus on something else that could be more profitable in the long run? If yes, then it’s time to invest in a client management system! P.S. that wonderful self-inputted, spreadsheet is how this entire blog post is made possible! A simple list of your expenses can go a long way.
We knew right away that we were going to need help with social media in order to be more present for our clients. When looking specifically for Pinterest, we discovered Tailwind. We hopped on the free trial and were instantly hooked. Pinterest is now our number one traffic driver for our website. Because of the amazing success with Pinterest, we decided to give Instagram a try. No surprise, it was another home run. In our opinion, twenty dollars a month is a steal. Especially, since this platform saves us so much time! If you are interested in checking it out, click this link to get started now with a $15 credit.
5. Course Creation
We quickly discovered a few months into our business that there were a few offerings every client wanted. The work started getting repetitive and we thought, “how could we make this service more affordable for our clients, while also saving us time?” That’s when The Beginners Guide to SEO was born. We did so much research into different course creation platforms and ultimately landed on Thinkific. Their lowest level offering is completely free, so we had a chance to test out the service before deciding if it was worth our money to upgrade. If you are just starting out on your course creation journey and looking for an affordable platform, we would highly recommend Thinkific.
6. Design Platforms
Half of our Duo is all about building stunning creative, meaning we need the right tools in our pocket to do just that. Adobe Creative Cloud is a no brainer, but what actually surprised us is Canva. The first year of entrepreneurship is all about managing your time in the most efficient way possible. Canva lets you create a brand toolkit with your colors, fonts, graphics and logos that makes creating new designs a breeze. There is also an insane amount of stock photography available and the collection of creative templates is jaw dropping. We can whip out a months worth of content in just a few hours. But, the best part about it, is that we have so much fun doing it!
You don’t own your social media followers. How often have you heard that before? We can’t even count! We started with nothing and knew we needed a platform that could grow with us. Flodesk was the perfect solution. Given the company is still in beta, the price point was something we couldn’t pass up. It’s only $19 a month! Say what!? Knowing we’ve locked this rate in for life, as this company continues to grow, is amazing. Plus, the creative templates can make even the non-designers look like a professional. If you don’t have your list started yet, what’s holding you back? Sign up today and get 50% off your subscription!
This might be our most exciting purchase within our first year of entrepreneurship. There is no such thing as waiting until you’ve “made it” to make an investment in yourself and your business. These investments, although they tend to be the highest investments, typically bring in the best return. We are just starting this journey with Val Marlene Creative and we couldn’t be more excited to streamline and grow our business in 2021.
10. Brand Photoshoots
Content is king! Did you know that one brand photoshoot can supply you with content for upwards of 6 months, if not more!? Julie Greer Photography has spoiled us with photoshoots that are completely on brand, capture our personalities and showcase the uniqueness our business has to offer. She truly works her magic with the camera.
In addition to our brand photography, we leverage free stock photography sites to stretch our content even longer. Some examples of these are Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. Interested in learning more about how we build our social media content strategy? Check out this post.
11. Cost of Business Expenses
These costs can dramatically fluctuate depending on what type of industry or business you run. Photographers and videographers have to pay to upkeep all their camera equipment. If you sell a product, you may be constantly managing inventory and or machinery. For us, we work all day long on a computer creating digital content. Investing in a laptop that can keep up with our business was a priority. This first year of entrepreneurship, after we’ve felt comfortable about our revenue, we made some large investments. We purchased new laptops, new office chairs, microphones, headphones and more. We considered these goodies our little year end bonus to ourselves!
So, how much does it cost to run a small business annually?
We don’t want to shy away from the hard questions. When starting a new business, your first question might be “how much is this going to cost?” We’ve been there! And it’s actually really hard to find an answer on this. Because every industry, every business and every person is going to need something slightly different.
Regardless of the industry you are in, we hope that we can shed some light on this topic. We are giving you a peek at our expense tracker and what it will cost you if you were to invest annually in all of these systems and tools that make our business run smoother. Keep in mind that this list includes year over year annual costs verses some of the one-time expenses we discussed above, such as laptops, coaching and brand content. It’s still extremely important to budget that into your annual expenses. Here’s a peek into our small businesses annual costs for the different systems and tools mentioned above:
What are some easy ways to save money as an entrepreneur?
Before you start adding all of these items to your cart, let’s consider some easy ways you can save money in your first year of entrepreneurship. Here are a few tips:
- Buy annual plans: if this is a system you know you’ll use for at least 6 months, invest in the annual plan. This oftentimes can save you tons of money in the long run. If you don’t see an annual plan, email customer support to see what options you have.
- Need vs. want: really think about whether this is something you need now or if it’s something you can hold on. There are a lot of systems that you can wait to invest in until you feel fully comfortable with the spend and time savings.
- Plan ahead: write out all of the systems you eventually want to invest in and prioritize them.
- Wait for sales: if you’ve planned ahead, then you have the perfect opportunity to sit and wait for some hot sales to come across. For a lot of these systems you saw above, we waited for the end of the year holiday sales to hit.
If you’ve made it through this blog post with us, then you are either running a small business or about to. Either way, give yourself a huge hug. We are serious, really wrap those arms around yourself. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and surviving the first year of entrepreneurship is even harder. In fact, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year. That statistic is heartbreaking and we are here to help make that number smaller each and every year. We are here to help you dominate your market. So stay with us and follow along because we have lots more to share!
Looking for more resources for starting your own business? Here are three Google tools every new entrepreneur should have implemented when starting a business.