Veronica here with this month's blog post and your exclusive destination for bespoke interior design. My husband and I have been on a journey of financial independence, but when I lost my job before the pandemic, starting a business was the last thing I thought I'd be doing. Realizing that I was not the only one in my position, I thought I would share my experience with new design businesses wanting to start off right and experienced interior designers looking for a financial change.
I took the leap and was determined to not go into debt as I ventured on a journey of new business ownership. I saved up cash to register my business and have been running it debt-free since inception. Although this may not work for every business model, as a new startup business, it's been great for me. Here are 5 Ways I'm Running my Debt Free Interior Design Business:
DON'T SPEND ABOVE YOUR MEANS
Set a budget and stick to it. The cash that I have stashed away for my business is specifically for business expenses. I don't spend it on anything else. Even if that means my team gets paid and I don't, that is going towards my business expenses only. Luckily I've been able to bring home income. It's my duty to make sure that those I am serving don't go without food. I know it is coming back to me 100-fold, so I'm not worried about it! Those funds do not get spent and I don't spend any more than I have allowed as cash flow for my business.
Without vision, we perish. I made a spreadsheet and listed out the necessary expenses I needed to maintain proper business functions for a month. Once I knew what those were, I make sure I keep those funds as liquid cash (at least 3-6 months worth) in my business checking account. The expenses that I have held in my business checking account are for payroll, insurance, professional membership dues and subscriptions, as well as other software such as AutoCAD, MyDoma Studio, and maintaining my website.
SAVE FREE MONEY FOR EMERGENCIES
Murphy's Law is always in affect. It's an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Knowing this, it is always best to be prepared. We saw all too well how the COVID-19 pandemic affected small businesses. Many shut down and didn't qualify for loans to keep their business afloat.
However one opportunity arose that even small businesses with no employees were able to take adavantage of, the EIDL Grant. For those with qualifying business who applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) may not have qualified for the loan (I suggest not borrowing if you can avoid it), but DID qualify for a FREE grant from the Small Business Administration. I was one of those businesses. I wholeheartedly believe in maximizing on FREE where feasible, especially in the form of grants. Instead of spending it, I saved it.
Just like with educational grants, small business and governments grants also don't have to be paid back. So I saved this grant in a business savings account to help cover unexpected business emergencies and it has been sitting there specifically for that reason (again, at least 3-6 months worth). To help these dollars grow more and serve you better for those emergencies, you can place it in a high yield savings account or money market account. If you're further along in business and have your savings account fully funded, you can instead invest it into a Solo 401K or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA plan. Now that my funds have some wiggle room, this is my next step to retirement investing!
It's no secret that interior designers frequently make large purchases on behalf of our clients. They don't want to be bogged down with the logistics of ordering, shipping, receiving, deliveries, sales and use tax and the like. To avoid these hassles, we take on this heavy feat as designers for a more enjoyable experience for our clients.
Big purchases mean fostering relationships with vendors in which each has their own payment terms. As a business with positive creditworthiness, you open yourself to a plethora of options that could mean huge cost savings for your client as well as your profit margins so you can feed your family! The key to providing our clients with unique pieces they can't find at expensive retail stores.
This could range from having to pay 100% upfront before an order is placed to Net 15, Net 30 or even Net 60 terms. This is where you have more time to provide the funds, but place an order today to combat the long lead times we face with custom designs and shipping delays. Furthermore, the more you can purchase with a vendor, oftentimes the better pricing you can receive to help meet client budgets and pay less than retail.
To do this, I opened a business credit card. I use my credit card to pay for monthly expenses ONLY, and cash for client purchases through my business checking account and increase the limit when needed. Plus, the money for those expenses are already covered, because I already have it as cash reserves in my business checking account. So I pay the card off at the end of every month and don't incur debt. This way, I build my personal and business credit, I can have better payment terms with vendors which helps save me and the client money, and I use the cash back to apply towards my credit card expenses or office supplies, thus stretching my company dollars. So many wins in this scenario.
WORK ODD JOBS
If you're having to work any odd jobs as you're building your business, be proud to do-so! Odd jobs are a great way to maintain flexibility to take on more design clients while providing a more consistent income as your build your pipeline. I'm not ashamed to say that as I am building my business, I'm also helping other interior designers from time to time with theirs. You can take on projects through Elite Design Assistants or reach out personally to colleagues to see if they need help.
Hey, we're in a pandemic and I know that not everybody is in a position to have their home designed. Not to mention, as a new business, you're still in the beginning stages of marketing and being found by your ideal client, which takes time. So if that means you have to take on extra work until you're in a position to NOT have to, that's totally OK!
Us professionals are all a part of the design community (emphasis on COMMUNITY), therefore, we help each other when there's a need. As a matter of fact, it's part of my company vision and mission statement that we believe in the mantra and old African proverb, “each one teach one”. Helping another interior designer not only helps to keep their business going, but it can foster a positive colleague relationship (can you say colleague referrals!) and an opportunity to sharpen your skills and keep that creative muscle working. The most important thing is not having to take out any loans to pay for your business.
UTILIZE FREE MARKETING TOOLS
Pay for advertising when you can afford it. I know a lot of people are wanting to spend tons and tons of money on marketing and advertising. Why would you when there are FREE ways to market your business? There are free platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok and even your own blog like this one to name a few. You can create valuable content to reach your ideal client without spending a dime.
As a new business owner, funds are often limited, so you must be wise on where the money is being spent. You absbolutely DO need to market and advertise your business. You can set a monthly budget to include this in your expenses, but keep in mind the free platforms where you can market and utilize their paid advertising as needed. Here's what I mean.
Let's say you want to create a social media post. Maybe it's a post about your day-to-day operations. This is great content to share, but is it worth using your advertising dollars for? Probably not. Instead, this post would be better served as a free marketing tool on the platform and using the proper hash tags to capture the eyes you're wanting. However, if you want to share a new project reveal or a promotion you're running, then place a paid ad (even if only $20 spread out over a 5 day period). Reaching 1,000 new potential clients in a week targeting a specific audience is better than just sitting around waiting for people to come to you. Spend more when you can and only IF you want to. We don't have to reinvent the wheel or break the bank. Just start somewhere until you get to where you want to be and can then spend those advertising dollars on a marketing agent or publicist.
Being an entrepreneur has its challenges, but with the right tools, it can be so much easier and dare I say, ENJOYABLE! When I overcome a hurdle, I feel it only right to share what I have learned and hope this blog post has blessed you in some way. Even if you are able to just rethink your current circumstance and can find ways to improve on what you're already doing, my hope is that this post not only served you, but let you know there is light on the other end of the tunnel. Until next post!
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