Last week we talked about having a business savings account and all the expenses you can incur. This week we’re going to talk about how to break it all down so you can make the most of your savings for your creative business.
Step 1: Starting With a Budget
The first thing to get in order is your budget. Go through your expenses and see if there is anything you can cut out or back on. If you have never made a budget or find it difficult, there is lots of help out there. I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan and recommend his book The Total Money Makeover. However, his style isn’t for everyone. Take some time to find a financial expert that you resonate with and whose teachings line up with your views about finances and money.
If you’re interested in what Dave has to say, check out his site at www.daveramsey.com.
Step 2: Start Saving
Take an initial three to six months to start saving for your business expenses. It could be $25 a week or $100 a week, depending on your salary. The key here is every little bit helps. Start saving your change over a few months. I saved my change for a year once and had $200 total at the end. Pick up a part time weekend job and use that to save for your business. If you’re looking for something you can do on the side from home, the website Real Ways to Earn Money Online has a lot of ideas for flexible work opportunities that you can do whenever you have time. It’s up to you weather you decide to add an extra “gig” to start saving, just make sure you start saving period.
What Do I Really Need and When: Beginners (1-6 months)
Now we’re going to get down to the meat and potatoes of this business stuff. As I said before, there are a lot of expenses you will incur in your business. Once again, as an author, I’m going to walk you through what you need and when in this profession.
When you’re just getting started you will need the following:
You must have a web site, there is no getting around it. If you don’t have a web site these days, you’re not in business and your audience can’t find you.
Domain Name-Your domain name is what you call your business. Domain names are relatively cheap and cost between $9-$17 a year. I suggest getting a .com whenever you can.
Web Hosting-Web Hosting is what powers your site and keeps it online. There are many providers out there like Blue Host, NameCheap, etc. You can pay either monthly or annually for web site hosting.
I use In Motion Hosting and pay a little over $100 a year for my hosting. I suggest shopping around and seeing whose prices fit your budget. If you’re not happy with your service, you can always switch later after your paid term is up. Keep in mind some companies charge a fee to transfer your site and others don’t. One other tip I have is to buy your domain name with one company and your hosting with a different company. Why? Because if your site gets hacked and the company you are with shuts you down, you can’t use your domain name somewhere else. You will have to figure out a new name.
Paid Theme– A theme is the layout of your site. You can find lots of different paid themes on WordPress. When you go to WordPress, choose features from the top menu and “themes” from the drop down menu. You will see a bunch of themes pop up. Over in the top right hand corner you will see three boxes that say All/Free/Premium. Hit the Premium button and then all the paid versions will come up.
Another resource I’m going to mention is AuthorCats. This company specializes in web sites for authors. I recently got a free trial from them in a writing bundle that I purchased. I love how responsive their themes are and how professional they look. The only thing I find disappointing is it looks like they only have three themes to choose from: light, dark, and bright.
Their concierge service will set your site up for free and their sites are meant to convert which is awesome. I’m not sure if I’m going to switch over to them or not but I may check out the free trial and go from there. Authorcats charges $59/month (start with 30 days free) or $497/year (start with 30 days free). Once I decide what I’m going to do I will write a post about the whole process.
Why not use a free theme?
*Free themes are limited in their features.
*Sometimes free themes can have bad things attached to them, like viruses.
Email Marketing Service-You will need to sign up for an account with an email marketing service. There are many companies to choose from like Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, etc. I have used Mailchimp for the past four years and like it. However, I’m considering switching to ConvertKit because they have more features but only when I have more subscribers.
If you’re on a budget, Mailchimp will work fine for you. You can have a free account until you get 1000 subscribers. I have friends who swear by ConvertKit and I just read in an email the other day that they now have a freemium version. Regardless of who you choose, you will need an account with one of these services. You can always upgrade to a paid plan with more features later. Why? Because this is how you gain subscribers to your newsletter.
P.O. Box-You will need to rent a P.O. Box at the post office in order to send your newsletter out. Having a physical address at the bottom of your newsletter is mandatory. I rented the smallest box they have and it will run me $30 every three months I believe. Don’t ever use your real address, protect yourself.
Opt-In: In order to get subscribers, you will need an opt-in. As I mentioned last week, this was one of my big mistakes in the beginning. I had no idea that you had to offer something in order to entice someone to sign up for your email list.
The thought of creating something to give to your audience may sound tedious but actually this is the fun part. There are tons and tons of options you can do here. I started out with a short publishing resource check list and then recently wrote a small e-book about publishing your first book for my new subscribers.
- Other ideas you can do include:
- A collection of recipes
- A grocery shopping checklist to go with a meal plan post
- A knitting or crochet pattern that you create
- A checklist on how to do something
- A short e-book on how to do something
- A budgeting checklist that you create
There are tons of things you can do with this so take some time and have fun with it. One other tip is if you’re not good with graphics and visuals (like yours truly here) hire someone on Fiverr or Upwork to make it beautiful. I paid between $35-$40 to have my e-book done and she did a fantastic job.
Stock Photo Subscription-This is another crucial element that is a must have when you start out. You must have a subscription to a stock photo site. You can’t just find an image somewhere and use it, you can get in hot legal water for this. I have a subscription with DepositPhotos and I love them. They offer many different plans and pricing. You will need a subscription for photos on your blog, social media channels, book covers, etc. The best part is they have some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen.
Business Cards-I wouldn’t go overboard but it’s nice to have business cards on hand to hand out at author events or to people you meet randomly who may be interested in your books. Keep it simple, just your name, web site, and social media accounts. I would order the smallest amount that you can.
SEO Expert-SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, it’s how search engines find your web site. You can optimize your articles for SEO but that’s not enough. The other thing about SEO is that it seems like it changes every year. This is one of my big mistakes when I started out, I didn’t hire an SEO person to help me rank because I didn’t know anything about it.
I highly suggest hiring someone to do your On-Page and Off-Page SEO. On-Page SEO needs to be done only once and Off Page SEO is something that should be done on a monthly basis. I’m currently getting ready to hire an SEO person for my site. You can find SEO experts on Fiverr and Upwork. This will help your site be found and get traffic. Keep in mind that the results from SEO don’t happen overnight, sometimes it takes 3-6 months to get some traction and results.
Terms/Policies Kit-You will want to buy a legal kit for your blog which consists of compliant drafts of terms and policies. You also want to make sure your site is GDPR compliant. This is especially true if you have customers who live overseas. How do you do this? There are plug-ins that you can add to your site. Just do a search in the plug-ins section in the back end of your web site. These kits can be pricey but better to be safe than sorry, here is a link to a kit created by a lawyer in California.
Courses/Books-If you have a specific kind of writing you want to do, I do suggest taking a course about it or reading a book about it. However, be careful not to get caught up in shiny object syndrome. This can happen very easily, believe me, and all of a sudden you have enough courses and books to last you the next two years. Been there, done that. While reading and taking courses is great, applying what you learn is most important.
Step 3: What and When: Intermediate (6-9 months)
When you get to this stage, you have had your site up and running for awhile and it has several articles (20-30) on it. You have also claimed all your social media handles and are posting on a regular basis.
IG/Pinterest Graphics Person-If you are visually and graphically challenged you need to hire someone to create your graphics for you. I have tried and tried on my own and all I create is garbage, it’s just not in my skill set. I’m getting ready to hire someone on Fiverr to create my graphics for me in the next month or two. You want your socials to look top notch.
Social Media Traffic Expert-Once again, it all comes down to the traffic in order to get subscribers and followers. If you’re having trouble with this, you may want to hire someone to manage your social accounts and help drive traffic to them. As I’ve said before, we can’t do everything ourselves and it’s best to hire those to do the things we are weak at.
Web site Promotion/Ads-At this point you will want to do some marketing for your site by running some ads. This is something new to me personally that I haven’t tried yet so I don’t have a lot of advice on this right now. Although once again, it’s important because it helps your site get seen by your target audience.
Software-If you don’t have any kind of writing software, you need to get some. I have used Grammarly Premium and also ProWritingAid. I love both for different reasons. Grammarly Premium is easy to use and catches many mistakes but is a little pricey. ProWritingAid catches more mistakes and has more suggestions than Grammarly Premium and costs less. I would say try a month of each and then decide which one you like the best.
If you’re writing a book, there are lots of software out there you can use. I’m writing my current book in Scrivener and I really like it. I also have a free trial for a software called The Novel Factory that I need to redeem by this June that I got in a writing bundle. Once I have some experience with it, I will write a post about it and let you know which software I like better.
Web Site Manager-This is a person you hire monthly to work in the back end of your site, making sure everything is working correctly like plug ins, contact forms, security, etc.
Other Author Business Expenses
Book Cover Design-Hiring a book cover designer is crucially important. Your cover is the first thing your potential readers see and it’s the last thing you want to take a chance with. Prices range from designer to designer and from site to site. For example, my illustrator for my book Don’t Eat Your Boogers charges $300+ for a cover.
I have used various web sites and people for my covers but my most recent find is 100 Covers. I think they are amazingly professional looking and have some amazing packages depending on what your needs are. I’ll be using them for my next book.
Interior Formatting-A interior formatter is the person who makes sure your book looks fluid in print and on all reading devices, depending on where you are publishing. Once again, pricing varies from person to person. I have used various people for the interior of my books including:
Businessmagic (Fiverr-She did the interior of the print version of Shadow Of Soul)-$40
tlmason (Fiverr-He did the interior of the e-book version of Shadow Of Soul-$15-$20
Maureen Cutajar (gopublished.com/Maureen formatted the interior of all my books except for Shadow of Soul and does an amazing job.) Her prices vary but she does have a fiction package for $200 that consists of four files, Kindle and epub, a version for Smashwords and a PDF for print.
Formatted Books-I recently found this company and plan on using them for my next book. The way they do their interiors looks publishing house professional and knocks me out. They do beautiful work. They offer e-book and print formatting for $200.
Illustrations-Illustrations are another expense you may have to think about. Once again, prices vary by illustrator. In my personal experience, I pay around $70 for each color illustration from my illustrator. She charges me another $250 for the cover. If it’s your first book, I would budget at least $1000 for cover and illustrations. However, don’t let this scare you. You may find someone who does amazing work for less or even more, it all depends.
I use Jeanine Henning for my illustrations and she is an amazing lady and very fun and professional to work with.
NOTE: The prices I quoted were approximates of what I have paid. You may pay a different price due to price increases and other factors.
Book Copies-If you attend author events (and you should) you will have to pay for “author copies” of your books from whoever you publish with.
Author Swag-I wouldn’t go overboard on this but it’s good to have a nice banner or board to put up featuring your books and a few other goodies to hand out for fun at events. Things like bookmarks and pens, etc. You can find these things on Vistaprint. Author swag is like a nice dusting of confetti for your business.
Publisher Rocket or KDSpy-I would consider this software a must have for authors. Both Publisher Rocket and KDSpy help you research ideas, keywords, categories, and “spy” on your competition. If you want to have an insider’s view on your competition (and you do) this software is a no-brainer.
So, there you have it. Now you will know what you need as a beginner and as an intermediate when it comes to your creative business and saving money for it. If you’re an author or an aspiring author, you have an even clearer picture. You now know what you need to do for your creative business to make it a success. Did this help break things down and make it less overwhelming? I hope so. If you’re interested in learning more about publishing a book or want more writing tips and advice, please subscribe.