When I started my web design business, I invested in a lot of tools that ended up doing nothing for me. I thought they’d help me bring in more clients, save me a lot of time and make me a better business owner. But the truth is that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I was wasting money on tools I didn’t really know how to use.
I think that before you invest any money in your business, you have to sit down with yourself and ask the right questions.
What is your business?
What do you offer that is different than what other people in your industry offer?
Who exactly do you want to work with?
What kind of lifestyle do you want to achieve?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
These are super important questions to ask! I personally just dove head first into my business and tried tactics I’d seen other successful entrepreneurs use and make money from. Unfortunately, a lot of them didn’t work for me.
So I decided to write this post to tell you what worked for me, and the reason investing in certain tools didn’t work. You might have a very different experience than me and maybe this post is completely useless, but if it can help another entrepreneur realize that they can keep some of their money in the pockets and invest it on more important tools, I’ve done my part.
So, where would I suggest you spend your first $300?
1) Get a domain name ($10 per year)
Domain names are cheap, guys! Find a business name you like and make sure to buy the domain name that goes with it! I recommend buying your domain names on Namecheap, they have a great service and won’t try to upsell you every 30 seconds and keep you in their ecosystem… (I’m looking at you, GoDaddy!)
What is the domain name you want costs more than $10 per year? What if someone is trying to sell it to you for $100, $500 or $1000? Walk away. There are thousands of domain names that will do the job. It’s not worth investing in a “better” domain name that won’t really make a different in your business (you’re the one who makes a difference 😊 ).
2) Get a quality website ($110-$150 per year)
Oh, you can totally run a business without a website. I believe that. But I also think that it’s a tool that will make a huge difference booking clients and spreading the word about your business. We hope that people don’t judge books by their covers, but they do. And they also judge an entrepreneur by their website.
So make sure yours looks great, without having to drop $5K on a web designer. (When you’re ready for that, though, come see me! 😉 )
Your website will be the place where potential clients can learn everything about you, all in the same place. If you even want to be able to book clients in your sleep, you need a solid website. So the sooner you get started, the more your link will be shared, the more traffic you can generate and the more income it can bring in!
There are two good ways to get your first website up depending on what your goals are and how comfortable you are with technology.
Set your website up with WordPress ($110-$120 for the first year)
There are two things you need to buy to set yourself up for success. First, hosting. Without it, you simply won’t have a website. I recommend SiteGround to all my clients since they have the best price/value out there! You can get on their StartUp plan (which is more than enough for a beginning) for $4 a month! That’s $50 for the year.
Once you’ve done that, you could start building your website already. But I recommend buying a premium WordPress theme to make your life a whooooole lot easier! This is honestly super worth it! Otherwise, you’ll end up hating WordPress before you even give it a fair chance. I use the Divi theme with my clients, but you can buy anything on ThemeForest too! (Note that not all themes are equal on ThemeForest, so please read reviews before you buy anything!) Give yourself a budget of $60-$70 for a theme and you’ll have a great foundation to work from!
Set your website up with SquareSpace ($150 a year)
If you’re not very good with technology and get scared at the thought of figuring out WordPress, give SquareSpace a try! I haven’t worked with it personally, but I know a lot of people say it’s a great option! It’s easy to use and hard to make it look bad. 😉 Expect to pay around $150+ depending on your needs.
3) Get a professional email ($60 per year)
Now that you have a domain name and a website, it’s important to make sure that potential clients can contact you. You could set up your email through your host if you decided to go the WordPress way, but G Suite by Google is sooooo much better! (Like, all-your-emails-won’t-end-up-in-spam good!)
I cheaped out at the beginning and just set up my email through SiteGround and had it show up in my normal Gmail account. Big mistake! At one point, I was sending quotes and my clients weren’t receiving them!! I had to contact them with my personal email after a week to ask if they ever got my first email and they said no! So don’t make the same mistake and invest in G Suite! The difference is that your emails come from a place that is considered “safe” (since it’s from Google’s servers and they make sure to keep them clean) compared to SiteGround’s servers which aren’t always “safe” (someone else who’s hosting their website on the same server as you might be doing shady stuff!)
So make sure you protect yourself and your business by receiving and sending all your emails the right way!
4) Get a mailing list (Free!!)
(Note that you’ll need a custom email address, so like email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, to be able to send emails through most mailing list providers. So make sure you get #1 and #3 before you get started on the mailing list!)
It doesn’t get better than this, right? Even if you’re just started and don’t know what you’d do with a mailing list, add a subscription form on your website. You might be surprised by just how many people actually want to hear from you! So give them the opportunity to! 😉
Start by creating a free account on Mailchimp. Some people like Mailchimp, others don’t… It’s a personal preference for many. But I think they’re worth playing around with since they offer you their services for free until 2000 subscribers! (And YES, you can transfer your list to another platform if you’re not happy with Mailchimp in the future!)
I’m still with them and don’t plan on changing yet, because they fit my needs more than any other platform out there.
Noticed what is not on the list? No, you don’t need a logo to get started. No, you don’t need to sink $30 a month on a social media scheduling platform when you don’t even know what your plan is with social media. No, you don’t need to spend $500 on an invoicing software.
There are options out there that are free that can get you started. If you don’t know what you’re doing yet, try to figure it out on your own before you spend a lot of money on things you actually don’t need.
I know, because I made that mistake.
One thing about business is that there are two ways to make the income you want:
- You bring in more clients
- You lower what you spend money on
Last year, I learned my lesson and cut on a lot of tools I wasn’t using and think about it twice before spending $100 on a webinar software I’m never going to use.
If you can make something work without using a fancy, expensive software in the first place, it’s probably a good investment. If you’re not sure it’s bringing actual value to your business, move on.
Eventually, when your business can support you, you can start streamlining your processes. That’s awesome! Spend the money on tools that save you more money than what they’re worth, but that’s not something you need to do right out of the gate.
And I’m totally okay with that!
Eventually, I’ll pay for stuff like my invoicing software (I’m still on the free plan!) and bookkeeping, but I’m not there yet. My business is growing in a super healthy way, and I don’t want to jeopardize it by putting costs on it that it can’t handle.
Bonus: Learn, learn, learn!!!
One thing that I don’t have any problems with spending money on is continuous education. I think that’s absolutely necessary that, as entrepreneurs, we keep learning. There is a LOT of stuff that we don’t know. So whether it’s a book, an ecourse or an event, I’m totally down for it!
The only thing though is that I don’t think it’s worth to bet your future on it. Please, please, please! Don’t even hire a coach or buy a program if you can’t afford it. If it means you won’t be able to put food on your table. There are plenty of ways to learn for free. Make sure that you have the money to get the extra help. Otherwise, there are books you can buy for $20 that will teach you the same lessons a $5K coach could. (You might not get as far with just a book, but you can still learn a lot!)
Just make sure you can actually afford something before paying for it. (And read reviews! Not all books/coaches/courses are worth their price)