(Fun fact!: 500,000 Venezuelan bolivares used to be worth about $300 USD. It is now worth $0 USD because they reissued their currency. Change your unstable currencies in the airport *before* you fly home, kids!)
I like to set a theme for each year — particularly for my freelance writing business. This year’s theme? Pruning back the wrong opportunities, and investing in my business.
Of course, I’ve been investing in my business all along. I joined the Freelance Writers Den. I took classes with people like Carol Tice and Ed Gandia. I invested in the software and tools, like Freshbooks and a properly-functioning laptop, I needed to run my business effectively. But this year, I’m actively seeking out investment opportunities I know will help my business grow.
Most of those things do cost money, but I just want to say this off the bat: You don’t need to have a lot of money to start investing in your business.
But owning a writing business is no different than owning any other type of business — you need to be constantly investing profits and energy back into it if you want to see real growth.
1. Invest in the right tools
Unlike starting a restaurant, starting a writing business doesn’t require much capital. You can turn in decent work using just an ancient laptop with spotty Wi-Fi, but as you establish yourself it’s worth investing in proper tools — for your own sanity if nothing else!
Consider the tools you need to do your job well and hassle-free: a new laptop, a good desk, software (like Freshbooks and Dragon Dictation), a high-quality monitor, a standing desk, an ergonomic chair….
These things don’t need to be expensive, but you need to be able to count on your tools.
2. Invest in your education
One of the best ways to grow your business is by increasing your skills. Whether you’re interested in picking up a new type of project — like case studies or white papers — or breaking into a new industry, seek out courses, podcasts, blogs, and webinars. Some of these resources may be paid, others may just require an investment of time.
3. Invest in a long-term side project
One way to invest in your business is by taking time to work on a personal project that will pay off long-term dividends. (These dividends don’t always have to be monetary.) One copywriter friend is currently taking time from her busy client schedule to create a webinar that she hopes will net her bigger and better projects. My side projects are my novels, and this blog.
Invest in your future by building something today that will support you tomorrow.
4. Invest in professional conferences
Attending a professional conference is a good way to not only learning new skills and meet new people, it’s also a good way to demonstrate to potential clients that you’re serious about your business.
In this recent High Income Business Writing podcast with Ed Gandia, Jennifer Gregory talks about some of the connections she made by attending Content Marketing World last year. It’s a really inspiring story about putting yourself out there, and treating your business as a business.
After listening to that podcast, I signed up for Digital Summit PDX next month. I’d been on the fence, but decided to take the leap and get serious about networking with other professionals in my field.
(If you’re going to be there, hit me up! I’d love to meet for coffee/happy hour.)
5. Invest in quality peer networks
What kind of people do you want to be surrounded by? Seek out those people, and invest in building relationships with them.
Since we’ve moved to Portland I’ve been developing an amazing network of writer friends. Some of these have been chance encounters — like the two science fiction writers who introduced themselves to me in a coffee shop because they noticed I was using Scrivener. But much of this networks has been built by me deliberately saying yes to as many opportunities as I can. Being proactive in asking people out for coffee. Attending readings and introducing myself to people at the table beside me. Going to meet-up groups and networking events.
I’m lucky in that Portland has a very interconnected speculative fiction writing community, but even if your town doesn’t have a good writing community, you can seek out these relationships online. I’ve spoken before about my freelance writing accountability group. I’ve never met these women in person, but they’ve become a core part of my freelance business.
6. Invest in professional memberships
As part of creating your personal network, it can be beneficial to fork over some dough for a reputable professional membership. Maybe you could join a trade organization, or, like I did when I was first starting out, join a paid forum like the Freelance Writers Den. The quality of the networking you’ll find in these organizations is often much more professional than what you may find in less formal organizations or forums.
7. Invest in professional touches
If you want to be seen as a pro, you need to look like a pro. Get professional business cards. Invest in a solid website. Get some nice headshots. None of these things need to cost you a ton of money. Try bartering with a friend who’s a photographer or website designer. Or opt for pre-designed business cards on Vistaprint.
As your business grows, revisit your initial marketing collateral from time to time to see if you can step it up. I’ve always done my own website design, for example, but this year I finally invested in a professional theme for this site. It still required work on my end, but it was approximately 1,000,000 less hours of my own time that went into it. I consider that $40 well spent!
8. Invest in your personal growth
This one is a bit more nebulous. It’s important to remember that you, a human, are at the center of your writing business. If you’re not taking care of your personal stuff your business will suffer.
Hire a business coach. Go to a therapist. Pick up a self-help book or two. Start meditating. Get out and walk every morning. Spend time with your family. Deal with your childhood trauma. Invest in your relationship with your partner.
You’re both your best boss and your best employee — take care of yourself.
9. Invest in a financial buffer
At the beginning of 2015, I was completely stressed out about money. I had enough to pay my half of the bills — most of the time — but I didn’t feel stable. I kept working my way up the pay scale with every new gig I picked up, though, and by the end of 2015 I had given myself a raise and had three months worth of business expenses saved up in my business’ savings account.
Talk about a stress-reliever.
To me, one of the most important things in running a freelance business is financial stability. That’s what keeps you from saying yes to jobs that aren’t right for you or getting trapped by clients you hate working for. It’s what lets you sleep at night, even if you just lost a big client or have a surprise bill come due.
So while you’re shelling out for courses, a new laptop, and a ticket to Content Marketing World, be sure to be putting a portion of your money aside for savings, too. Your future self will thank you
What are some ways you’ve invested in your business? I’d love to hear about them – leave a comment!