When I first started my website I was bombarded with advice to hire a website designer, invest in a brand, upgrade to the Genesis Framework, and purchase tools to "help me grow my business" all in the name of investing. I truly believe investing in your business is important to growth, but there is a right and wrong way to do it.
When you're starting out with $10 in your pocket, you can't invest in everything to start. So, this guide is for those of you starting your own business or blog with your own money. Here's what you should REALLY invest your money in and in what order.
This probably doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it anyway: This is my own opinion. If you have the money to hire a $5000 web designer and social media guru right out the gate, this post is not meant for you. But, if you're a student/stay-at-home-mom/hobby-blogger who wants to make some extra cash, this is how I did it and how I could afford it.
1. Domain Name
You can start with a free website, use free resources to build a brand and come up with your own content, but without a proper domain name, no one will take you very seriously. Domain names can be cheap too! Check out the links below for some affordable options. General rules for a good domain name can include making sure it's easy to spell, not too long or hard to remember, skip numbers and dashes to make it easier to say out loud, make it memorable.
2. A Good Web Host
You can start with a free website on Weebly or Blogger, but eventually a better web host needs to be chosen. I use Squarespace for my website and I LOVE it. I've talked about it a lot so check out this post if you need some help. WordPress is the other popular option. I used Bluehost for my WordPress host for 5 years and I loved them (plus they're super affordable). If you need help with WordPress, check out this post.
3. An Accounting System
Before you start making or spending money on your business, you should find a good accounting system. There are some free options like Wave Accounting, but if you're looking for some additional functionality, Freshbooks and Quickbooks are widely used. Personally I still use Wave. You should also set up a business account or at least a separate bank account for your online business. You can connect your accounts to your accounting system, which will make tax time about 9000% easier.
I. LOVE. EVERNOTE. Here's why. The reason Evernote is so early in this list is for a couple of things.
- Evernote is cheap. For $50/year you can get premium access.
- Evernote can be used for blog post storage, client on-boarding, planning your business, saving resources and creating presentations.
- Evernote can be your business hub.
- Evernote works well for the GTD system. Don't know what that is? Go here.
Evernote has a ton of functionality and for less than $5 per month you have access to one of the most popular tools on the market.
5. Custom Branding or a Graphic Design Program
A lot of times I see bloggers starting out and hiring someone to do their branding for them straight out the gate. This is a mistake. Your business is going to change a lot in the first 3-12 months and I guarantee it'll be worth waiting to invest in a better designer and have a clear picture of your business before investing in this one. Who knows, you might not need one in the future. I taught myself we design and my entire site, photos and graphics are all designed by me. Regardless of what you pick, some helpful tools can be found below:
6. A Good Newsletter Host
When you're starting to grow your newsletter list I highly recommend Mailchimp (read my post about newsletters here). However, as you grow, you're going to want to invest some money for more fuctionality and audience members. I love Convertkit, but GetResponse has had some seriously happy customers too (and to be honest, I'm thinking about moving to them).
7. A Social Media Scheduler
As your business grows, you'll need to develop a social social media marketing plan and schedule. This usually requires a lot of hours, hiring a VA or investing in a good scheduler. I used Buffer for years and LOVED it, but I recently switched to CoSchedule. There's a lot to choose from, but for starters I think Buffer is awesome. Read about it HERE.
8. Project Management System
When you begin offering services, taking on clients or starting projects with a team, you're going to need a solid project management system to keep everyone on the same page. Asana is a great free alternative, but if you're looking for a system that'll manage your payments, quote, contracts and invoices as well, I can't rave enough about 17Hats. Read all 17 reasons I love their system here.
9. Office equipment
When you're working with clients, selling product or making some revenue, you'll be able to start investing in better equipment. This category ranges from a new computer to inspiring wall art. Here are my 5 favorite office tools to give you more ideas.
- New computer
- A comfortable chair (I use THIS)
- A well designed computer mouse (I love THIS one)
- Wall art & inspiration (I love THIS site)
10. Video Equipment
Last, but not least is video equipment. Video is SO good for business and once you have the money, it'll be well worth it to purchase a great microphone, umbrella lights and a quality camera. I personally use my iphone to film but below are the other tools I love:
- Screencast-o-matic (for recording tutorials)
- Filmora (for video editing)
- These super affordable umbrella lights
- This tripod
At the end of the day, what you invest in is 100% your choice. I didn't mention it in this post, but investing in courses, ebooks and lessons can be invaluable assets to your business. It's important to focus on the small stuff first, though. Buying a $2000 computer isn't really going to help you grow your business if you haven't yet purchased a domain name. You can truly start a business with $0 and grow it to a successful career. I did it that way and I can tell you it's 100% possible and within your reach. Just invest in things that will help you grow and be smart with how you spend your money.