There are a lot of ways to spend money in business, some necessary, some luxuries, and some wasteful. So how do you decide when and where to spend money? There are four categories of investing that I believe should be routinely watched, evaluated, and upgraded when time and money allow: business operations, ongoing education, hiring help, and getting a coach or consultant. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I feel these are core elements that are ever growing and shift whether you’ve been in business for a week or for a decade.
Let’s break down each of these categories and explore how to know it’s time for an upgrade or investment, and picking the person or service to give our money to.
First up, Business Operations. This are software and apps that we use to track, schedule, and generally run the digital aspects of our business. I often see newer coaches having lengthy conversations about which CRM they should get, which course hosting platform is the best, or looking at an all-in-one type software. Yet, too often these coaches don’t have the income or the client demand to necessitate such an upgrade. For more established business, figuring out the applications that could be a benefit to switch to, can quickly be a task that gets brushed from one to-do list to the next, since they already have systems that are functional.
Things to ask yourself when you’re shopping for new software or apps:
- Do I have services or software that already do these tasks? If so, would the change better streamline my current processes, to be more efficient?
It’s so tempting to have the biggest, fastest, newest service or app out there. But switching systems comes with a cost, both financially and in your time, to learn and transfer everything. Make sure that any changes in your business operations are actual upgrades to your current processes.
- Can I afford this software with my current monthly income? Also, what services are you currently using that could be replaced by the new one?
Too often I talk to coaches that are spending money on redundant software features. Or I speak to newer coaches, who are paying for a service that could be done for free or for less cost elsewhere, while struggling to bring in consistent income.
A prime example of this, is my recent switch to Paperbell. I had systems for everything Paperbell does, but they were spread through four other locations. By making the switch I was able to eliminate two paid apps, which equaled the cost of Paperbell, so there was no change to my budget. The change also greatly streamlines my onboarding process, for both myself and my clients, by having the entire process in one app instead of spread out through four. Additionally, it gives me a central location for checking on appointments, notes, and payments, saving me time whenever I’m working with client information.
Next, let’s talk Ongoing Education. Running a business and being a coach come with a lifetime of ongoing education. We’re constantly working to improve our coaching skills, learning how to better run our business, and going through our own personal growth. I’m a big believer in having a portion of my yearly budget earmarked for ongoing education, whether that be a monthly membership or a one-time high-ticket course.
Things to ask yourself as you shop for ongoing education:
- Is this person qualified to teach on this topic?
Dig into the teacher’s Business DNA. What are their credentials on this topic? How did they get into business? Who are their teachers? What are their personal and business ethics around topics that are important to you? Make sure they’ve got the background to be teaching you this. And vote with your dollars by supporting creators and teachers that align with your values.
- Is there a custom, or one-on-one component of the program?
I have found in my years, that one-size-fits-all courses often leave the buyer missing important information that they hoped or assumed they would be getting through the program. Making sure there is a customized component will give you the best value for your dollar.
- Are you looking for a Magic Bullet?
Business building can be frustrating, and it’s easy to think that one more course will provide the information that changes everything. Rarely is it. We’ve still got to apply the lessons to our business and give them time to work. Be sure that you’re investing in ongoing education because you want and need that information. Most importantly, make sure you have time to complete the work, as opposed to an emotionally driven need to fix this gap now.
Hire help / outsource more
Let’s talk hiring help and outsourcing. This is a huge topic, but I wanted to touch on it, as it is frequently discussed in the context of growing your business and budgeting. Whether you’re looking for a person for a short-term project, or you’re looking to add someone long-term to your team, there’s really one question.
What is the ROI? First up, define your expected ROI from this investment. This may be cash dollars. For example, hiring an Advertising Manager and being able to see that spending X on them (and ads) bring in Y amount of new revenue. Dollars spent, versus dollars made.
In another sense, ROI can be time. There are high value tasks, like public speaking, hosting webinars, etc., that bring in quality clients. Or lower value tasks like managing your inbox and posting to social media. These don’t directly make you money and often take away your time for doing higher value tasks. An example here could be hiring a virtual assistant to handle lower value day-to-day tasks, to give you more time for working with clients and participating in events that will translate to more customers, more quickly.
Regardless of whether it’s short-term or long-term hiring and outsourcing, there should be a visible ROI by dollars in the bank or hours on the calendar, or best yet, both!
Get a coach
Our last area of investing in our business that we’ll talk about is hiring a coach or consultant. Coaches and consultants can seem like a pricey investment, and one that you only need once you hit a magical income level. Truth is, they can be beneficial at every step of business.
The key question to ask yourself when looking for major one-on-one support is: what exactly are you in need of help with? There are a wide variety of coaches and consultants, and hiring the wrong one can be a costly mistake.
For example, as a Business Strategist and Accountability Coach I help new coaches and creatives build a foundation for a purpose-filled and resilient business. My friend, Rachael is also a Business Strategy Coach, and she’s a master in helping coaches and creatives move from solopreneur to CEO in their business. We’re both strategists, but we have dramatically different client bases. If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you could waste money working with the wrong one of us.
Another example is hiring out of order. What I mean by that is, before you can work on Business Aspect 2 you have to work through Business Aspect 1. Doing so out of order can be a waste of money and can be very frustrating. An example is, often people think that to get new clients they simply need to run ads. But if they don’t have clear messaging and something to sell, then either potential leads won’t click the ad, or they’ll get confused and bounce. In this case, you would be better served to hire a messaging coach before hiring an ads consultant.
Before hiring a coach or consultant, spend some time getting clear on what you specifically want support around. Messaging, systems management, mindset, content, etc. Think about if you want a coach or a consultant. Typically, coaches are more in a role of guiding you and teaching you to be self-sufficient after your work together has ended. A consultant is going to be more hands on in your business or more direct in telling you ‘this is how we’re going to get this done’.
Often, there is a short call between you and the potential coach or consultant before any work is started (the discovery call, initial consult, get to know you call, etc). Remember, that call is as much for you as it is for them. You’ve spent time thinking about what specifically you need to support your business, plans and goals. Ask this person directly “I want to achieve XYZ. Would working with you help me get there, and how so?” They should be able to clearly articulate how and why they’re right for the job. Or make a referral if this question leads you both to the realization that this is the right person for you. If you feel sketchy after the call and don’t feel sure they are the right person – don’t hire them. You are under no obligation just because y’all had that conversation.
Before hiring that coach or consultant, be sure you are crystal clear on what help you want and need, that they’ve got the skill set, and that this is the right next step for you.
As I said in the beginning, these are just a few ways we’re consistently evaluating to invest in our business. Business is an ever-growing and changing project. It’s too easy to get caught in a moment of shiny object syndrome (I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened to me).
Before you hit “Buy Now” on that next piece of software, the next new hot course, or hiring others, take a few steps back. Think about the specifics of why this would be a beneficial purchase, what would be the return on your investment in dollars or hours, and be sure whoever you’re giving your money to is aligned with you needs and your ethics.