Hey y'all! So I tried to get this out in October but it was just a busy ass month. Plain and simple. But *pops champs* I've just crossed over the burning sands of my 2-year anniversary as a full-time girlboss this past October! And as we make our way into the holiday season and the end of the calendar year, I thought I'd jot down a few things that I felt were important to me in my first two years, hopefully it helps someone. Oh, and also I wanted to finally take you on a tour of my studio/office, its super cute! So there's that.
So for all my freshman and sophomore creative girlbosses and solopreneurs, here are 7 rules of thumb every girlboss should master as soon as she possibly can!
1 Create a yearly business plan, and set realistic goals and intentions.
We've talked about this before. Setting realistic goals and having a weekly/monthly plan of attack to get you closer to them, should always be at the top of your to-do list. I exceeded the goals I set for myself at the end of last year because I made it a point to look at them every week and take specific actions that I thought would help me cross them off my list. Don't write your goals down and then never look at them again. Try to review them every Sunday and plan your week around one or two of them. Chip away at each goal a little at a time and slowly but surely you will start accomplishing what you set out to do.
2 The Bullet System is a must for beginners.
When you’re first starting out, you will be lost. So lost. Utilizing the bullet system journal/agenda helped me actually get those yearly goals accomplished. Each month I create a list of goals pertaining to my yearly goals, and then each week, I list a task or action to complete to help me check off that monthly goal (which connects to the yearly goal, are you following?) The bullet system is a great way to stay focused on the goals you set and stick with the task at hand. Once you've set goals, there's no need to stray, add, subtract. Just try your best to do what you said you would.
3 Know your fiscal year and then set some financial goals.
Your fiscal year may be different than the calendar year. My business went full-time in October, so when looking at my numbers and growth, I look at October 1-September 30 each year, as opposed to January-December. Lots of corporate businesses set their budget goals for the next year in October actually. Historically, its the time of year when demand for all things non-holiday related start grinding to a halt. Like everything.
For creatives, it’s a good idea to understand your business ‘season’ just like the 9-5 world and use that to set financial goals. This rule of thumb is more so for 2nd year+ girlbosses. When setting budget goals for the next year, fully understand in advance which months you can bank on and which will be slow as hell. Once you can kind of gauge this, you’ll know how to correctly forecast your seasons, both high and low, and where you stand to make the most money. After your 2nd year, you should no longer have to wing it, you should have solid numbers and evidence of a realistic trajectory. Use that evidence to make big boss lady decisions moving forward.
4 Know how to calculate exactly what you need and want.
When I first started out in 2013, I looked at a few other photographers I thought were comparable and chose my rates based on what they were charging. I knew my rates were bottom of the barrel low, but I didn't know just how far off I was from justttt breaking even, let alone profiting. One day during year 1 I realized, whether I was in a position to charge what I wanted or not, I still needed to know the minimum I should be charging to survive, pay bills, eat, so that I had a concrete number to strive towards. So I put together a handy dandy calculator in excel. I inserted the hourly rate I wanted, my expenses, taxes the government would be asking me for, credit card processing fee (don't forget it, it can get hefty) and out came the bare minimum I should be charging for photo shoots and weddings. Of course that minimum was and still is way higher than what I'm currently charging. But with this calculation I can always plan out what type of quarterly rate increases I need to keep pushing toward my ideal rate and my ideal client.
5 Use a Quarterly Rate Chart to get closer to your target rate.
Not all new solopreneurs have to start off in the rate slums before they can charge appropriately. But for those of us that do, quarterly rate increases will be your best friend. I created a quarterly rate chart to track my projected increases. By breaking your price increases into quarters, you can move forward at a steady pace, while also keeping your rate in line with your perceived experience. By the end of this upcoming year, I am hoping to actually make it past the ‘almost broke even’ point. OMG, wish me luck.
6 Working for free. Determine when to cut people off.
Around October, go back through your past clients and mark how many actually paid full price for your goods or services. Then count all the ‘clients’ who did not pay full price, or even better, nothing at all. Did you have more ‘clients’ in the free-ski list? Of course you did, welcome to starting a business.
Ok so we're all entrepreneurs here right? So understand that it's ok to do things for business besties, be a part of an auction or ‘donate your time’ for things that you feel will TRULY benefit you in the long run. Just remember at the end of the day, doing more unpaid work than paid means you’re not actually running a business, you’re just running a really fabulous hobby. Are you ok with that? Unpaid projects don't help me pay my cute studio's rent. I can't give my Redfin agent an earnest money check full of unpaid project to take a house off the market while I get my unpaid project down payment together. You want to be in business? You have to charge. Old friends, new friends, past co-workers, past BOSSES, other business owners. This is not a drill. We all gotta eat. Always assume when someone is reaching out to you for your goods or services that they have the money to pay.
Now, a great way to leverage bartering: Don’t take on any unpaid projects until you’ve hit the monthly forecast goal you set. If you haven’t hit that goal, then you may not have time to be working on an unpaid project that will only benefit someone else. First-years: disregard. You must do everything free, sorry, life.
For everyone else, here's a nice way to turn down barter requests you can't afford to take on: “Hi Sally. OMG that project sounds like so much fun! I wish I could help out, unfortunately, I’ve hit my unpaid project limit for the month/quarter and can only take paid projects here on out. Here are my current rates, if it happens to work with your budget, let me know!” Done.
7 Charge tax.
Um. You need to charge tax girl. I don’t care if you quote it separate from your base or include it in the calculation, but you need to account for it some kind of way. Fudging your numbers, eating the cost, or not paying it at all, can hurt you in the long run on things unrelated to business. Tax returns are needed for things like applying for a home loan, renting a new zillion dollar apartment in Old Fourth Ward, etc. You can’t claim to be self-employed, but magically no self-employment income is on your tax return because you didn’t want to pay the tax. If your numbers are off, that can cost you way more than the tax you should’ve charged. Soooo charge your clients or customers tax; keep your numbers accurate. And creative solopreneurs…the government is coming for 15.3%. Work it out. I'm actually excited about the amount of tax I owe in December, it means I made some mula.
Now go forth, change lives with your creative magic and attempt to make ends meet!