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I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

Hey there!
of the year

5 Shifts I Made To Go From Freelancer to CEO When I Started My Business

Reading Time: 15 minutes

If you're a new business owner or still in the season where you prefer to call what you do a side hustle, freelance work, or a hobby, this is for you. I’m sharing 5 strategies to help you step into a CEO role, even if that term feels silly to you now. It's okay to feel new and uncertain but to grow your business, you need to act like a business owner. That means letting go of the freelancer and hobbyist mentality and taking things more seriously. Don’t worry - I’m going to help you do just that today!

Quick intro to me: I'm Elizabeth McCravy, and I've been in business for around 7.5 years. Started with social media marketing and design, then focused on different types of design, specifically branding and Showit website design. My business had its first six-figure year within a couple of years. As the demand for one-on-one clients grew, I added website templates to my offerings. Last year, my template sales crossed the million-dollar mark, serving customers worldwide. I also launched a course called Booked Out Designer in early 2021, where I teach other designers how to build a successful brand and website design business. If you're a fellow designer, be sure to check it out! 

Now let’s dive in!

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:

Listen & subscribe on your favorite platform:  Apple Podcasts  |  Stitcher  | Google Play  |  Spotify  | iHeartRadio

Search for episode 228!

There's a quote that you may or may not have heard before: "Treat your business like a business and it'll PAY you like a business. Treat your business like a hobby and it will COST you like a hobby."

This quote is near and dear to me, and actually prompted me to record a similar episode to this one back when I first started my podcast (although many years later and working with so many more business owners since then, I’m bringing it back with some new insights and perspectives! In fact, at that time I had a post go viral on Instagram that said “You can’t run your business like a freelancer and expect results like a CEO.” - something I still agree with today!

1. Start to actually market your business and create content

I know you might think this is basic - but hear me out for a second. 

As a new business owner, it’s super common to not have any marketing in place. This means you may lack a social media presence, a website, or even a blog. Instead, you rely on word-of-mouth, platforms like Upwork, or Facebook groups to get clients. These methods can be effective, especially in the early stages of your business. If you're looking for more guidance on booking clients quickly, check out my free guide here, where I talk about how great those things are starting out. But here’s the thing: they aren’t supposed to be a forever solution.

And that was me for longer than I want to admit. It took me over a year to start blogging in my business. It took me even longer than that to have a business Instagram account and Facebook page. Looking back, I think I would've seen faster growth in my business had I started doing some of those things quicker.

Now, after working with countless other business owners, I think that we delay taking our business marketing seriously because:

  1. We are so focused on getting clients that we can’t focus on anything else. 
  2. We don’t think we have anything to offer because we are still learning. 
  3. Our priorities aren’t long-term. 
  4. It makes our business more complicated and more work. 

If you're wondering how to get started, the simplest way is to create a social media account for your business. Don't worry about being on every platform at once. Start with the one that interests you the most. For example, if you enjoy TikTok and know what engages you, go for it. If your audience is on Instagram or Facebook, focus on building your presence there. Choose one of these platforms and create content that adds value to your potential clients' lives or businesses. Share tips, advice, and showcase your professionalism while letting your personality shine. It may take some time to feel comfortable, but you'll get there. Eventually, you can expand to other content creation avenues like blogging, podcasting, or YouTube. Personally, I started with social media, then moved on to blogging and podcasting, and now I also have a YouTube channel. Take it step by step, and remember to start with just one.

Read more: 5 Ways I’m Growing My Website Traffic This Year

If you are worried about friends and family judging you

I understand that you may be concerned about the judgment of others when you post on social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok. It's natural to worry about how people from your real life, such as friends, ex-partners, or acquaintances, will perceive your content. I really want to encourage you to let go of these thoughts. The opinions of these individuals do not pay your bills, and on top of that, people generally care less about what you're doing than you might think.

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed in your business endeavors. As you grow and become more successful, those same people who may have judged you before may start seeking your advice and viewing your business as impressive. If you still find it challenging to ignore their opinions, there is an option on Instagram to hide your content from specific individuals by muting or hiding stories and profile content. I did that and I recommend doing it. 

Adding value in the beginning

When you're new, you may think you don't know enough to teach others. But I believe you're wrong. You obviously have knowledge about what you're doing, so share it with others. If you need quick ideas for content, think about the questions your clients often have, whether it's during a discovery call or throughout projects. Also, consider the topics you've enjoyed learning and mastering in your niche. There's so much you can share!

create content for your business in the beginning

2. Use a legitimate way to accept payments. 

Have you ever seen some version of this question in Facebook groups: "Does anyone have a recommendation for avoiding fees when receiving money?" 

Some new business owners accept payments through Venmo, Cash App, or paypal.me, which are personal ways to accept payments. Others prefer cash, checks, or in-person payments. Some businesses even avoid credit card payments to eliminate fees. 

These different methods are all ways to avoid the typical 2.8% to 3% processing fee in our industry. When you allow online payments, platforms like Stripe and PayPal will take a small percentage of the transaction total as a fee. This applies to any normal payment, whether it's on Amazon, at a boutique, or for groceries. It’s the cost of doing business, and it’s not exclusive to YOUR business. Even bank fees exist, albeit smaller. 

My advice? Instead of whining about the percentage, be a business owner and set your pricing to where you aren’t “hurt” by the fees. 

Especially with services like Stripe or PayPal, they are a business too and they aren’t charging you to use their service. They only make money off the transaction fee.

I can speak bluntly about this because I've been there. When I was starting out in my business, I went through a phase—I can't recall exactly how long—where I only accepted payments through Venmo, Cash app, or checks in the mail from my clients. It was a hassle to create invoices myself in Adobe Illustrator, and managing everything on my own without a proper payment platform took up a lot of time. Besides, using personal payment apps like Venmo and Cash app didn't help with bookkeeping since they were linked to my personal bank account.

This setup wasn't ideal for my clients either. I'm sure some of them would have loved the option to use their credit cards for big projects and earn cashback rewards. Plus, let's not forget that when my business was earning less, I was only saving $10 or less per transaction, sometimes even just $5. It just wasn't worth the hassle for me or my customers.

Another thing to consider is the risk of penalty. I actually got kicked off Cash app early on in my business, and also faced issues with Venmo because they realized I was using their app for business purposes, which went against their policy. Those apps are meant for personal transactions, which is why they don't charge fees. When it comes to business expenses, it's expected that either you or your client should cover the processing fees. So, avoid the trouble and don't risk getting penalized just to save a few dollars.

Read More: Stop Using Apps Like Venmo To Avoid Fees When Accepting Money In Your Business

What is a payment processor?

Let's talk about that real quick. Firstly, let me clarify that a payment platform and an invoicing company or a CRM are different things. For instance, in Dubsado, you can accept payments through platforms like Stripe, Square, or PayPal (the payment processors), while something like Dubsado itself serves as the invoicing system (a CRM). 

Now, when it comes to invoicing systems, I have a few recommendations. If you're looking for something easy and free, Wave is a great option. It allows you to create and send invoices, automate reminders, and it's free for invoicing. However, keep in mind that payment processing is not free (ie. it’s free to send an invoice but you’ll pay a fee off the transaction).

Another more robust option I suggest is Dubsado. It goes beyond invoicing and offers features like contracts, questionnaires, lead management, calendar management, and more. It can truly transform your business and save you valuable time. If you're interested in Dubsado, you can use the code "Elizabeth30" to get a 30% discount on your first month or year.

Read More: How To Automate And Systematize Your Service-Based Business

Still resistant to paying those credit card fees?

Sit down and do the math. Sit down with your iPhone calculator and a sheet of paper, and factor in the fees when considering the cost. For my own business, when I look at my template shop and the price of each template, there's the amount you see when you purchase a website template, but there's also the amount I see. I don't take home the total because of those fees. However, I factor them into the cost of running my business, my goals, and ultimately, the pricing of my templates.

By being more professional in your payments and invoicing, you'll set up your business for long-term success. I know it may seem like a lot to pay that $5 to $15 processing fee in the beginning when every dollar counts. But trust me, once you start accepting these fees and working them into your cost of doing business, you'll feel better. The time saved by using legitimate invoicing systems will likely make up for the fees you pay. Your clients will appreciate the professional approach rather than asking them to send you payment on a cash app. 

Additionally, remember that you can write off these fees on your taxes. They are tax-deductible expenses, which can reduce the amount of taxes you have to pay. So as you consider the cost of doing business, keep this in mind.

taxes-gif

Looking for your next paying client?

Let me interrupt this post for a second - if you're a brand or website designer and you're new to the business, looking to find your first or next paying design client ASAP, then you need to check out my guide on finding clients fast. Inside, I teach eight key strategies for finding clients as a designer. Discover great places to look for clients, creative ways to approach them, and practical tips for implementing these strategies. Grab your copy here.

 

3. Separate your personal and business finances. 

This one also relates to finances because I have found that we often stay in a hobbyist mentality when it comes to our finances. So, the third tip is to separate your personal and business finances. This is crucial and something I personally learned from not doing well early on. I'm thankful I made the shift early enough to avoid any major headaches. 

As a new business owner, it's common for your business and personal finances to be in one account. You might be running your business transactions through your personal bank account or credit card. And this may make sense when your income and expenses are low in your business, but hopefully, that will change soon. When it does, having your weekly groceries or buying your kids' diapers mixed in with your subscription or website expenses will become confusing and overwhelming. So it's best to make the change early. 

When I first started my business, I made the mistake of keeping everything in my personal checking account with my personal bank. It seemed fine since my startup costs were low and I was disciplined with spending. I even had a separate tab for business expenses in a Google spreadsheet. But looking back, I realize how crazy it would be to continue doing that now. With payroll and multiple software subscriptions, it would have become incredibly overwhelming. 

Read More: 6 Months Into Using The Profit First Accounting Method: My Honest Review! 

Setting Up a Business Bank Account

So here's what I recommend if you have both your personal and business accounts together. First, check if you can open a business account with the bank you already use for your personal finances. It's an easy option. Alternatively, if you have a specific bank in mind for your business, go for it. When you open your account, ask your bank about no-fee business banking accounts. Otherwise, they might try to set you up with an account that has a monthly fee of around $5 to $10. But trust me, most banks can work that out if you discuss it with them. At least, that's what I've experienced. So make sure you talk about it because you should be able to have an account that is free as long as you maintain a certain balance. In my case, I had to keep $300, and then there were no fees, which is totally worth it, plus you can have that extra money in your account. 

By the way, if you are interested in diving more into this, I recently did two podcast episodes (part one + part two) about business finances and how I handle them now (in 2023) using a system called Profit First. I wish I had read "Profit First" eight years ago when I started my business because it has truly changed everything for me. 

Want to learn more? Grab my free guide where I walk you through what I do every month in my finances here.

 

Bonus tip: Keep your expenses on a business credit card that offers great rewards and pay it off every month.

This will help cash flow in your business checking account, especially in the early stages when funds may be limited. It's really beneficial as you'll be earning cash back. The card I recommend is the Capital One Spark business card, which offers a fantastic cashback system. I personally use it for both my real estate business and personal business. While I do have one other business credit card, this is the main one I use for all my expenses. If you're interested, you can learn more about the Spark 2% cash plus card, which is the one I have, here.

Now, I do want to mention that if you have a history of struggling with credit card debt and tend to overspend, it's likely better to stick with a traditional debit card and spend only what you have. But if you're responsible with money and can pay off your credit card balance in full each month, using a credit card is a great way to earn extra money. Personally, I'm a big advocate for using credit cards and getting awesome rewards. In fact, most of our vacations are funded through credit card rewards, which is really cool.

4. Have a legitimate website presence. 

As a website designer, I have to stress the importance of having a legitimate website presence for your business. Relying solely on platforms like Instagram, Upwork, or word of mouth can be fun and effective, but it doesn't reflect a serious business mindset. Platforms can change their algorithms, rules, or fees at any point, potentially impacting your ability to find clients. A website not only showcases your professionalism but also provides stability amidst platform changes. 

With that said, having a website alone is not a guaranteed win. If your website is unattractive, poorly functioning, or difficult to navigate, it can actually harm your business more than not having one. It's crucial to have a well-designed and user-friendly website that appeals to your ideal clients. Next, I’m going to address three of the most common things I hear when talking to business owners about their websites.

Feeling like you can’t DIY your website?

If you're struggling with improving or editing your website, don't worry. Website development can be complex, but there are always ways to make it better. For starters, I always recommend Showit. If you've never heard of Showit, it's a website builder similar to Wix or Squarespace. It's what I use, along with my clients and customers, and it's excellent. For most small business types, Showit is highly recommended. You can either have a designer custom design your website or use a template that you can customize yourself. 

As a new business owner, getting a custom-designed website may not be the best option due to budget constraints and the likelihood of changes in your business within the first couple of years. If you're a new business owner, I highly recommend getting a Showit website template. While it may not be cheap, it's usually considered a valuable investment. Most Showit templates offer payment plan options to work within your budget.

Additionally, if you have excellent credit (like the Spark 1.5 Cash Select Card, which offers a $650 cash bonus when you spend $6,000 in the first three months), this can help offset the cost of your website template or full-year subscription to Showit. Take advantage of cash-back rewards to make the expense more manageable. I did the same thing (although there was a slightly different promotion at the time) when I started my business. I put ALL my expenses on the card to get that cash bonus!

But yeah, if you're new, I'd recommend using a good template. In my own template shop, I can promise you that they're easy to use with well-thought-out content, perfect for any industry. Plus, if you use the Code BBPODCAST), you'll get 10% off. So it's definitely worth checking out!

Read More: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Can’t Afford To Not Have A Website … Even If You’re Crushing It On Social Media Or 3rd Party Websites!

Showit websites for DIY beginners

Feel like you can’t afford a website template right now?

While I do offer payment plans, I don't know your financial situation. If you think you can't afford a website right now, you might be right. However, saving up for a website template should be a priority.

Are there things you can cut back on? Can you invest money from your personal life into your business? That's something I did early on, and it was helpful because a good website is worth the investment. It's something you can work up to. Launching our websites feels huge because it's an investment of time and money, and it legitimates us as business owners. It's really exciting.

Wondering if a new website should be a priority?

You might also think your website “isn't that bad, but I know it's not great”, and that's a common thought. If it's not that bad, other things can take priority right now. 

When it comes to business spending, it's important to consider how we allocate our time and energy. We have limited resources, so creating a priority list is crucial. For instance, there might be other areas in your business that require more attention and investment than a website, especially if your current website is not bad. As you address those higher-priority tasks, you can gradually focus on improving your website. 

However, it's also important not to settle for a website that you don't love in the long run. Remember, if you don't think your website is great, chances are your ideal client won't think so, either. This can adversely affect your business's confidence and how you present yourself to others. You’re not going to be eager to send people to a website you don’t love.

On the other hand, if you have a website you're proud of, one that effectively sells your brand and products, you'll naturally feel more confident directing people to it. So, aim for that level of confidence and strive to send people to your website as much as possible. Don't underestimate the impact of a well-designed website. If you're in search of website templates, check out mine here. 

Read More: How To Know When It’s Time For A New Website

5. Start calling yourself a business owner. 

I can reflect on my past self as a new business owner and remember how huge this was for me, and I believe it can be big for you too. Start embracing the title of a business owner. The work we do, our businesses, and our livelihoods - they all hold deep emotional significance. When we make the decision to venture into the wild world of entrepreneurship, it feels vulnerable and scary because we are placing our bets on ourselves in a way that isn't present when we accept a nine-to-five job. This isn't to undermine the difficulty and challenges of traditional jobs; but declaring, "Hello, I'm starting a business, and I'm going out on my own to provide for myself" feels especially vulnerable and intimidating. 

Interestingly, this vulnerability often intensifies with the people we already know, rather than strangers. This brings me back to my earlier point about hesitating to share content due to fear of judgment from people in our lives. Similarly, you might struggle to feel confident in telling an old college friend that you quit your job to start a photography business but you might not mind the same way when sharing the news with the vastness of the World Wide Web.

Keeping that in mind, I really believe it’s important to truly embrace our role as business owners. It's important for you to acknowledge yourself as a business owner, not just a freelancer or someone with a side gig or hobby. 

If you lack confidence right now, know that it takes time to develop. I used to stumble over my words when people asked what I do, and my husband, Adam, would playfully tease me about it. He found it easy to explain, but I struggled to take ownership of what I did. When people asked about my work, I would say things like, "I recently started freelancing on the side. I do social media management, graphic design, and branding, which involves logo and that kind of thing." That became my go-to response. It was the opposite of confidence and prompted follow-up questions like: “Wait, do you work for a company, or do you do that on your own?”

Now, I will say, “I own a web design company”. That's usually how I started out. I might also add that I host a podcast and have an online course for designers. Sometimes, I say that I create and design website templates. 

I'd encourage you to practice saying this. It might sound cheesy, but give it a try—stand in front of a mirror today. Whether you're washing dishes in the kitchen, at the gym, in the car, or walking, say out loud what you do. It could be "I own a wedding photography business" or "I'm a web designer." Learn to confidently say your answer. Remember, it's for your benefit, not the person you're talking to. Viewing yourself as a business owner will help you treat your business seriously, not as a hobby - which is the point of this entire episode.

5 shifts to go from freelancer to ceo

Ready to start taking your business more seriously?

Here’s a quick recap of the 5 things I believe you MUST do to take your business more seriously:

  1. Start marketing your business and creating valuable content
  2. Use a LEGITIMATE way to accept payments
  3. Separate your business and personal bank accounts
  4. Have a legitimate website presence you are proud to show off
  5. Start calling yourself a business owner

Before you go - are you in the Breakthrough Brand All Access Facebook Group yet? It’s free to join, and it’s where we take conversations like this one about stepping into a CEO mindset and go even deeper. Pop in and ask questions, share insights, and even peek behind the scenes of my own business and what I’m trying lately. I would LOVE for you to join!

 

Join breakthrough brand all access group

Links Mentioned:

Shop All of My Showit Website Templates (use code BBPODCAST for 10% off!)

Get Your Next Client ASAP With This Guide

Listen to Episodes 219 + 220 Where I Break Down My Profit First Finances

Sign up for a free Showit trial and get a month free

Check out the Capital One credit cards I use in my own business

Join my FREE Breakthrough Brand All Access Facebook Group

Connect with Elizabeth on Instagram

Join me inside Booked Out Designer

August 22, 2023

Explore more categories:  Business, Entrepreneurship, Podcast, Popular

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see my top biz resources

see my top biz resources

podcast

freebies

template highlight

gabby podcast kit

Oh, you wanna know more?

design

business

marketing

template showcase

personal

listen to the podcast!

I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

Hey there!
of the year

@ELIZABETHMCCRAVY

Let's be friends, yo.