Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 23

Thursday, October 23, 2014

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received about small business…or any business in fact:


You will rarely disappoint your clients, and almost always leave them feeling pleasantly surprised and satisfied with their experience with you.

Practical examples of how to apply this:

-- Set your shipping time to longer than you think it will actually be.

-- Overestimate your deadline for finishing a project. When you finish "early," it will be a pleasant surprise.

-- Leave some of the perks of a package you offer unadvertised so you can surprise your clients with it later. Maybe a free printable, access to an e-book, etc.

-- Don't oversell yourself when you're trying to make an initial deal or sale. Find a good balance between offering something people are interested in, and then providing a product or service that exceeds their expectations.

Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 21

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to charge people for your goods or services. Do enough research and you’ll be up to your eyeballs in retainers, percent interest, late fee strategy, expensive bookkeeping programs, and suggestions for hourly rates. As a startup business, here’s a few lessons I’ve learned over the past year and what I found works for me.

Lesson 1: Check the industry standards for your craft. This will give you a good idea of what you should be charging and what people expect to pay. If you are chronically undercharging, don’t expect your clients to tell you – they’ll just pay what you’re asking and get a really, really good deal. If you are taking the plunge and starting your own business, you are worth the industry standard for what you’re doing. Have confidence in what you’re offering and keep your rates competitive.

Lesson 2: For service-based businesses, consider asking for a retainer. As much as you want to believe the best about the individuals who hire you, it’s always a possibility that they just won’t pay. This happens for a lot of reasons but after spending x amount of hours invested in them, it really really sucks when someone just doesn’t pay you. One way to prevent that is to a. always have new clients sign a contract! and b. require half the payment up front. It’s up to you how much you charge before you start, but people tend to take things more seriously when they’ve already made a monetary investment.

Lesson 3: Include in your contract what will happen if payment is late or missing – it’s okay to charge a late fee, typically a month after the invoice is sent, but make sure your contract has that well outlined so you always have something to refer back to.

Paypal has worked really well for sending invoices and keeping track of payments. I set one up with my business name and logo and have the ability to charge tax if necessary, send payment remidners, and keep my clients in an address book for quick reference. Paypal does charge a fee, however if you keep track of that for each transaction in your fancy shmancy excel accounting sheet, you’ll get that back when you do your taxes. (That amount goes under the bank charge column.)

Even if your clients send money by cash or check, you cans till mark it paid in Paypal and write the check numbers down to keep track of it. Super flexible and easy to use – that’s the name of my game here.

I’d love to hear if you’ve got some other great ideas on this topic!

Day 20 | Behind the Scenes

Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking some time from the 31 days series on starting your own small business to participate in a little "Tour Through Blogland" to give a little behind the scenes look into work and life right now.

Who nominated me? 

My dear friend Leia, blogging over at Leia Bryn, who I met through blogging and was so blessed to room with at Influence Conference. This woman has been a huge light in my life and has so much to share about writing, ministry, design, marriage and following the path that God has for her. Read her 31 day series on writing here.

What am I working on? 

Right now I am working my way through some design projects, including a Bible study series layout that I'm really excited to be a part of. Since I am currently working at a law firm by day until the baby comes, my time has become much more limited to work on projects for my own business but that will soon come to a screeching halt when this little lady shows up. For the new year, I am in the process of rebranding my design business. Looking forward to some more focused work projects, a new business name, some fun collaborations, and a shiny new website. Can't wait to share with you! Also, if you haven't noticed, I've been binge blogging every day in October for the #write31days series on Taking the Small Business Plunge -- practical steps to starting your own small business.

How does my work differ from others of it's genre? 

Despite how much I admire really clean, fancy, white, sparkly design brands, that has just never been me. I am very much still learning a ton about my own design style, what that looks like as a visual brand, and how that comes out in my writing. Because of that, I think what I do and what I create comes off as a very raw, whimsical, passionate process that you don't see from everyone in the industry and I like that. I hope that as this little business of mine grows, I never lose the transparency. That's one thing I value most in others.

Why do I write/create what I do? 

I absolutely love working with other business owners who are passionate about what they do. My favorite part of branding a business is getting to pair a visual with the core of who they are in every aspect of what they do. So many small business owners have so much drive but have no idea how to create a powerful, cohesive, authentic brand and run with it -- and that's where I come in. I love showing people the possibilities of social media and what it looks like to fully capture the brand of the business they put so much time and effort into every day.

How does my writing/creating process work? 

Since I work during the day outside our home, I usually focus my afternoons, evenings on design work. It makes for longer work days and a need for more intentional time away but it's a blessing to be able to do both right now. A lot of times I ask my clients to create an inspiration board of sorts and chat over a cup of coffee about who they are, what they do, and what is at the heart of their business. From there, I start playing with colors, images, and design elements that eventually turn into a logo, font and color palate, and marketing materials. Someday, I would love to work with a clothing company or something similar to create a look book and the whole nine yards. Does anyone else get pumped up about this stuff?? A for my blogging, I have really made peace with the fact that this just isn't going to be a forced space to write x number of posts per month and so on. I started blogging because it served as a sort of online journal for me overseas and now for our family and I treasure that freedom and un-business-like motive about it. It's a fun space for me and I am always surprised when people are actually interested enough to read it. So, thanks for reading!

Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 17

Friday, October 17, 2014

“Done is better than perfect.” Those are some of the most valuable words I’ve ever taken to heart about business (and life in general). You always hear of those people who tell you late in their life that they wish they would have started x,y, or z. Or they had a great idea for something but let other things get in the way of making it happen. Let’s not be those people.

With small business, it’s so natural to feel like you want to put your very best foot forward into the world, especially when it feels so personal (and it does). The fear of rejection, mistakes, unknowns, and comparison often persuade our decision making and hold us back. But you know what? It’s totally worth it. It’s totally worth it to put yourself out there, to put a foot forward, one foot in front of the other, and just DO IT.

The “launch and refine” idea is one I’m really waving a flag about these days, especially for those I know who struggle with the fears that hold them back from doing what they really want to do.  Sometimes, launching your idea, just doing it, imperfect, messy and full of lessons to be learned, is the best. Launch now, refine later. Build your brand once you have one. Change your business name once you’ve had a chance to really let one sit with you for a while. (Ps, changing your business name is as easy as filling out a “doing business as” form. Don’t be afraid to just put one down on paper to start with and change it later.) Open an Etsy shop, make some business cards, and advertise your services. Go all Nike on it and JUST DO IT.

Now I know that you’re thinking…okay, the whole rest of this series has to do with preparing and doing small business well (and legally) and this seems different.

I’m not saying that having a plan and a strong brand presence and some solid ideas to put out there is not important. It totally is. But if you are one of those people that will NEVER start something unless it’s perfect, than my advice is just do it. Just launch it. Because to tell you the truth it won’t ever be perfect but the beautiful thing about that is the chance to grow and learn tons of things along the way.

What do you need to launch in the very near future? What is the thing you are scared to do? Do it now, make it official, jump off that (figurative) cliff. Refine later.

Come January, I am planning on making some changes to my own business that I feel will really move me in the direction that I’m super passionate about in design. There will be a name change and a shiny new brand and service list to go along with it. I am so excited to share with you guys when the time comes! Stay tuned!

Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 16

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This post is part of a 31 day series on tangible steps to starting a small business of your own. You can read the rest here.

For times when you feel like you’re floating in the middle of the small business ocean, it’s important to remember that there are many, many resources at your fingertips for inspiration, helpful hints, and words from experts. Most of these resources are on the web…which means they are free and you should use them!

Here are some of my go-to sites when I need some advice from people who actually know what they’re doing:


Small Business Association


That should keep you busy through the weekend, yeah?

Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 15

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

As I sit down to write this post at an hour way past when I’d like to stop working, I found it very fitting to talk about balancing a small business with a 9-5.

Most likely, if you are in the beginning stages of building your own business, you are still working your day job. Now that may mean a number of things – an office for some, a house full of children for another, but bottom line…you’re daytime hours are pretty much spoken for.  Last year when I started my design business, I was lucky enough to be working a few part time jobs that allowed me a lot of flexibility during my day to work my business. In this season we’re currently in, I am working almost full-time elsewhere so we are able to put away some money for the season I’ll be home with this little human we’re about to meet. (eeeek! baby!) So needless to say, I find myself sending design business emails after 11:30 pm and, well, that’s just rude.

For the season of working a 9-5 while growing your business, here are some (hopefully) helpful thoughts:

1.     PLAN YOUR WEEK – I can’t tell you how much more productive I am when I make a list of projects I’d like to work on for my business and things I want to get off my plate. It really is amazing. Usually, I’ll sit down Sunday night and do that, update my finances, and make reminders for emails I need to return. When you have a limited amount of time, you need to use it well.

2.     ASK FOR HELP – When there’s dinner to make, laundry to get done, and that one thing you’ve needed to pick up from Target for the past two weeks, it’s obvious that you need people on your team. Ask your spouse or roommate or whoever to maybe take on some of those duties while you’re using your evening time to work on your business. For a season, that may just be how it is and it’s so valuable to find people to support you in that and want to help.

3.     SET LIMITS FOR YOURSELF – In the world of running your own business, the to-do list never goes away. There is always one more thing you could get done and one more email you could send. If you don’t set boundaries for yourself, you’ll burn out super fast. Make peace with the running list, shut the computer, put your phone down, and take time to rest. Believe it or not, you’ll actually become more productive in your business if you take intentional time away from it.

4.     COMMUNICATE – If you are unavailable for the majority of a traditional workday, make sure you communicate that with your clients and customers. Let them know that you generally are unable to respond during the day, but you are available after hours to talk over the phone or respond by email. If you’re making a product, let your buyers know that you ship on one particular day of the week or only answer Etsy messages at a specific time. Generally, people are way more gracious and willing to work with you when they know your availability and feel like you care enough to communicate often with them.  

Overall, hang in there! There may come a day in the near future that you will be able to run your business as full capacity without having to work another job. Until that day comes, embrace the season and find ways that work for you to keep things running on track. Remember, you are only one human and you are in a business that serves other humans. Everyone is limited and all you can do is the best you can with the time you have. Thankfulness does the heart good!  

Taking the Small Business Plunge | Day 14

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

So on a related note from yesterday, here’s an example of an expense sheet I use on Google Docs. It’s so important to keep your receipts so you can easily update this. (Make sure to keep your receipts as proof of purchase just in case you get audited.) Some accountants will ask for them also to cross check your records.

At the end of the month, the total is what I subtract from the total amount made during the month, and that’s how I figure out my profit. Any questions, please ask!

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