Going after your professional dreams is already a scary endeavor and it can be especially intimidating when there’s money involved. Oftentimes you have to make a large investment before you have any guarantee that your ideas will pay off. I’m a huge advocate of staying thrifty in the early stages. While my baby product idea didn’t work out, I saved thousands of dollars by making my own prototypes and I had a lot of fun in the process. I wrote about how great it was to save hundreds of dollars by having my friend do a photo shoot for my Brutal First Impressions website. But recently I’ve been changing my tune. I paid for an amazing photographer for my first writers’ conference and I hired a talented graphic designer to create the logo for the conference series.
So here’s how I’ve decided when to spend money and when to save:
When to be frugal:
- If money is your excuse for not taking the next step. Pare down your idea as much as possible and see what you can do on your own. Taking a cheap, baby step forward will help you feel more comfortable when it’s time to take an expensive step forward.
- If you enjoy doing it. I have a friend who makes beautiful jewelry. She could expand much faster and make more money if she hired people to help or outsourced the work entirely, but that would ruin the fun for her.
- If it’s important to have a personal touch. I wanted our wedding guest books to be personal. I could have spent a fortune to have someone else make them, but I loved giving out a hand-made gift with lots of personality.
When to spend:
- If you’re supporting a friend in a new business.
When Callan announced her new graphic design business I jumped at the opportunity to help a friend out while also benefiting from her services. If you’re starting a business, you’ll need your friends to support you, so start setting up the precedent by supporting them now!
- If you’re not taking yourself seriously.
I know if I put on a nice blazer I instantly feel more professional, and the same goes for the image of your business. Get some nice business cards, upgrade your website, get a real logo, sign up for a networking event. And while you’re at it, invest in a wardrobe that matches your dream job. Spending some money will remind you that this is not just a hobby but a future career.
- You are asking others for money.
How can you ask others to invest in you if you’re not willing to invest in yourself? Spend some money to present the best possible package to your potential investors and send a clear sign that you are serious.
- If you’re stressed out.
If you dreamed up the business, your creativity is your most important asset. Don’t distract yourself with things that someone else can do. If you have no intention of becoming a professional programmer, don’t waste time learning how to build your own website. Hire someone who needs the money and will do a much better job than you in half the time. Spend your energy on what you’re good at.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you decide when to save and when to spend? Was there something that was so totally worth it? Was there something you shouldn’t have wasted your money on?