As a new business owner, we often treat our business like a hobby unintentionally. Maybe your business even started as a hobby so treating it like one comes naturally. We desire to be a business owner, but we have bad habits that are keeping us stuck. We say things like “I’m just a freelancer” or “Oh, it’s just a little side hustle.” But, to grow your business, you’ve got to act like a business owner, which means ditching the freelancer/hobbyist ways of working.
As the quote goes, “Treat your business like a business and it’ll PAY you like a business. Treat your business like a hobby and it’ll COST you like a hobby.” In this episode, I’m sharing 5 ways I commonly see people treating their businesses like hobbies. Some are even ways I was guilty of early on in my business — so, I speak from experience!
When you make shifts AWAY from the freelancer attitude, you can start to step into the CEO role in your business, and see massive growth. You can’t run your business like a freelancer and expect results like a CEO. I hope this episode is the tough love you need to take things to the next level and get a little more serious with the way you manage your business!
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
Links Mentioned in this Episode:
- Stripe - a payment processor
- PayPal - a payment processor
- Wave - a payment processor and invoicing system
- Dubsado - a CRM payment processor, and invoicing system
- Thrivecart - what I use to power my online store
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi - a powerful book on growing wealth
- Podcast episode about the 4 mistakes I made early on in my business
- Shop Showit website templates in my online shop!
Let’s dive into the 5 ways to step into the CEO role in your business…
1. Use a legitimate way to accept payments.
In Facebook groups, I often see this type of question: “Does anyone have a good recommendation to get around not paying fees for receiving money? I know it's the cost of doing business and is more convenient for clients, but I hate the fees! Thanks!” And, it’s a problem!
Often times new business owners only accept payments via Venmo, Cash app, PayPal.me, or checks in the mail. All of these are ways to avoid the 2.8% - 3% processing fee. People do this to save a little cash. When you allow people to pay you online through their own payment choice, the payment platform takes a very small percentage of the total. These fees happen with any normal online payments — debit card, credit card, and bank payments all take a fee.
Here’s the thing though… payment processing companies are businesses, just like you are. In order to operate, they have to make money. Instead of charging you a monthly flat fee for using their service, they take a small percentage of what you earn. Instead of whining about the percentage, be a business owner and set your pricing to where you aren’t “hurt” by the fees.
I can speak bluntly about this, because I have been there! When I was a new business owner, I took payments only on Venmo, Cash App, or checks in the mail. And, it wasn’t cool of me! It cost me more time. Plus, when I was earning less money, I was really only saving $10 or less per transaction. The $10 was not worth the hassle on me or my customers.
Here’s why using those apps to save a little cash was a mistake:
- Since I wasn’t using a legit payment platform, I was creating every invoice in Adobe Illustrator from a template I made. I did this EVERY TIME. This was not very efficient for creating invoices or remembering due dates.
- My clients probably hated it (and yours probably do too) because it’s less convenient. Plus, it might be costing them potential rewards from their credit card companies and the peace of having well tracked payments.
When I’ve paid contractors via Venmo or Cash App, it has to come out of my personal checking account. These apps only allows one bank account from each banking institute. (Which both my personal and business accounts are at the same bank.)
So, as a buyer, I have to go find that venmo cost and transfer money from my business account to my personal finances to cover it. Then, I have to remember to categorize that specific transfer as a contractor payment in QuickBooks. It’s more challenging. Your clients don’t like it.
3. You’re making your clients miss out on the convenience of paying how they want to. I’m very big on using a credit card in my business to put all my expenses on, and then I pay it off at the end of the month. ALWAYS pay it off. I know most of my clients have the same preference. When I get to put expenses on a credit card, I get more rewards points which equals savings on travel or actual cash back depending on the card. I get actually excited about big expenses sometimes BECAUSE OF THIS. I’m like YAY more points, more cash! When you don’t let people use cards you make them miss out on these bonuses and conveniences.
4. The big reason: You might get penalized for it. I actually got kicked off Cash App early on in my business and got in trouble with Venmo. The two companies realized I was using their app for business and kicked me off. It’s against their policy because when it’s a business expense you SHOULD pay for processing. Since those companies are meant for friend to friend, they don’t have a processing fee. So, don’t risk getting kicked off over saving a few dollars! START NOW with professional payment systems.
So, what payment processors should you use?
First of all a payment platform and an invoicing company are different things. So, you can use something like Dubsado for example and accept payments through different payment platforms — like Stripe, Square or PayPal. But, Dubsado is the invoicing system you’re using.
Here are invoicing systems I’d recommend:
If you want something easy and free, I recommend Wave. Wave is an invoicing system. You can create and send invoices from the platform, send automated reminders, and more. The invoicing is free, but just like everything else, payment processing is NOT. (Which remember we are ok with, because we are being CEOs not hobbyists!)
For something more robust, I recommend Dubsado. It’s so much more than invoicing. It does contracts, questionnaires, emailing, calendar management, and more. You can use “ELIZABETH30” to get 30% off your first month or year. And go to episode #18 to learn about Dubsado more. With Dubsado, you can accept digital checks, Stripe, Square, and PayPal payments. I used Wavve when I was a new business owner, and then switched to Dubsado when I wanted more features.
For online shops: Shopify, Shopify Lite, ThriveCart are great! If you have a course or membership site, use the payment processor that comes with it. As far as what processor to use, in my shop and in my 1:1 work, I get a lot of payments via Stripe and PayPal. I love both. Both take an almost equal fee. You can also accept payments via digital check, which is the lowest cost option and is typically a flat $5.
But, what if I still really NEED to avoid payment processing fees?
Switch to one of these platforms I’m recommending. Be a professional business owner. You’ll save time and create a better experience for your customers. You can consider asking clients to pay via check (digital or mail) and tell them WHY — that it saves you hundreds in fees.
I used to request checks, but have since stopped. But, I always appreciate it when a client pays with a check! But again, I have decided not to push it and I let people pay however they want. Factor the fees into the cost.
You’ll set your business up to succeed more in the long run if you start being more professional with your payments and invoicing now. I know early on, avoiding the $10 fee can feel HUGE. You don’t want to pay the $10. But, trust me, once you accept the fees for what they are and work them into your costs of doing business, you’ll feel better and your clients will appreciate it!
BONUS TIP: Don’t charge your customers extra for using credit cards. I’ve seen this suggested and again, it’s unprofessional on your end. They should be allowed to pay how they want.
Also, you can write these fees off on your taxes. They are tax deductible. I write mine off as miscellaneous and categorize them as “credit card processing fees.'' This reduces the amount of taxes I have to pay, which is great!
2. Start to actually market your business and create content.
As a new business owner, it’s super common to not have any marketing in place. You might not have any social media presence (except from your personal accounts), you’re not blogging, you’re not doing email marketing. You’re just getting clients from wherever they come.
I can relate - this was me for WAY TOO LONG. It hurts sometimes to think about the money lost just because I only focused on client work and never marketing.
It took me over a year to start blogging and even longer to have a business Instagram account and Facebook page. I waited a long time for email marketing too or any type of way to educate my potential clients and create value in the marketplace.
We often wait on these things because:
- We are so focused on getting clients that we can’t focus on anything else.
- We don’t think we have anything to offer because we are still learning.
- Our priorities aren’t long term.
- It makes our business more complicated and more work.
The simplest way to get started is with a social media account for your business. Start creating content that will help a potential client decide whether or not to work with you and will add value to their lives. You can do this just through your Instagram feed and Instagram stories! Start posting tips and advice. Be professional, but show your personality.
Then eventually, you can move to more content creation through a blog, podcasts, YouTube channel, and things like that in addition to the social media. And yes, people still read blogs, especially someone who is thinking about hiring you.
But you’ve got to start somewhere. When we are new, we often think we don’t know enough to teach others. But, I think you’re wrong. You obviously know something about whatever it is you are doing. Educate people on THAT. What are questions your clients often have? What are the topics you’ve enjoyed learning and mastering? There is so much you can share!
3. Separate your personal and business finances.
Often times as a new business owner, your business finances and personal finances are one unit. It’s all just the same account. This might seem like it makes sense when you aren’t earning much or spending much in your business. But hopefully, that will all change quickly and then when it does, having everything together will feel very overwhelming.
Here’s what I recommend YOU do if yours are both together: See if you can open a business account through whatever bank you are using for your personal finances. I recommend it being at the same bank so you can easily pay yourself and move money around within one login/account.
For me, whenever I pay myself from my business account, it’s like I’m transferring money from one account to another but both within the same account. It’s awesome! Because of this, it’s an automatic transfer, and there’s no need to wait for the money to go through.
And then I recommend keeping expenses on a business credit card that offers great rewards, then paying it off monthly. This will help with cash flow in your business checking account.
4. Have a legitimate website presence.
If you’re only operating your business from Instagram, UpWork, or word of mouth, then that’s all fun and cute. But you are treating your business like a hobby, not a real business. Sorry to break it to you, but you need a legit website, no matter how great you’re doing from finding clients on other platforms.
Having a website shows that you are a legitimate business, not a hobbyist. A hobbyist might have an Instagram where they get clients or get jobs on UpWork sometimes. But, a business owner cares about having a solid online presence, and the first step towards that is a website of your own.
I know this is what I do, so I’m supposed to sell you on websites, but it’s actually just the truth! Just having a website isn’t always a win though. If your website is ugly and doesn’t work properly, I think it’s MORE HURTFUL to your business than not having one at all. So, it goes both ways. You need a website, and you need it to be good.
Maybe you’ve said or thought these reasons about not having a website…
“I don’t know how to improve my website and make it better than it is. I feel limited when I’m editing it.”
If this is you, then you need a platform you can use with ease. I recommend Showit (it’s what I use and what all of my clients use. And it’s excellent for MOST business types.) You also need either a designer or a template you can utilize.
As a new business owner, I usually don’t recommend custom design because your budget is likely tight. And your business changes a ton the first couple of years, so you might be looking at a new name, new brand, or new services, every year. Getting a new custom site done really often is expensive. If you’re a new business owner, I'd recommend a website template. A good template is usually going to FEEL like an investment, but with most you can do a payment plan if needed. Check out my template shop for easy to use Showit templates!
“I can’t afford it right now.”
Make it a priority and save for it. Are there things you can cut back on? A good website is worth the investment.
“Mine isn’t THAT BAD. But, I know it’s not great.”
This is so common! And maybe if it isn’t “that bad” then other things can take priority right now. But, don’t settle for a website you don’t love. If you don’t think it’s great, your ideal client likely also doesn’t think it’s great.
“I just don’t know what platform to use or where to even start.”
This should not be an excuse. We live in an age of information, so do some research. Ask your fellow business friends, make a decision and do the work. It doesn’t have to take hours or months to choose a template or a website platform. So, give yourself a limited time to consider the options, then make a decision. Your website will likely evolve and change SO MUCH over time. You’re not making a life long commitment here.
And again, if you’re looking for a website template, go check mine out.
Seriously, if you like this podcast, you’ll probably like my templates!
5. Start calling yourself a business owner.
Our work and our business are such EMOTIONAL things. So, when we first decide to go out into the entrepreneurial world it can feel really vulnerable and scary. The weird thing is that it often feels that way most around the people we know closely.
So, you might struggle to feel confident telling your friend from college that you quit your job and started a photography business. But, it might feel more natural saying it to the world wide web.
I think a huge step in really OWNING our role as a business owning is to be able to call ourselves that with confidence. I love to talk about mindset and how it affects our businesses, and I think this is a huge example of just that.
When you are thinking, “I’m not a real business owner.”, that thought creates FEELINGS in you like “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not good enough for this. I feel like a fraud. I feel like this is a long shot.” And through those feelings, your ACTIONS are created. So, when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s how you’re going to act. And by acting that way, it creates your results, which will probably NOT be what you want.
This is called the “thought model” it’s a common thing taught in the life coaching world. Thoughts create your feelings, which lead to your actions, and create your results.
So, what thoughts do you have about your business right now? Our minds want us to think that because we haven’t done something yet, that means we can’t do it.
For example: Our minds lead us to think things like “I can’t start a business on my own because I’ve never done that before.” Or, “I’ll never be able to be as good at this as her because I don’t know how.”
What if as a baby you had just decided “I’m not going to walk because I’ve never done that before.” There would be NO moving forward! If you’re seeking a result you've never had before it's going to require you to take action you've never taken before. We are drawn towards what is predictable because it keeps us safe. But to evolve and really get what you want, you’ve got to do what’s scary. When you have a self-defeating thought, ask yourself, “Does that thought come from my past or my possibility?”
So, with that in mind, I want you to OWN your role as a business owner, not a freelancer.
For a WHILE, I stumble over my words when people ask what I do. My husband and I used to laugh about it and we’d leave a party or hang with new people and he’d tell me (in a playful way) “You’re so bad at telling people what you do.” And to him, what I did was pretty simple to explain to someone. But to me, I didn’t feel good enough to own up to any of the things that he saw as the answer to what I do. When I answered people, I usually was the OPPOSITE of confident. I often avoided the word “business owner” which confused people. I had this weird emotion of wanting people to ask what I did but also nervous when they did. Now, I don’t really care if random people know what I do, but when they do ask, I answer confidently.
Now it’s your turn to practice!
I want you to stand in front of a mirror today or wherever you’re reading right now just take a moment and say what you do. Whatever your answer is LEARN TO SAY IT. And you guys, I encourage this for YOUR BENEFIT, not for the person you’re talking to. When you see yourself a business owner, you’ll treat your business like a business and not a hobby.
A quote to close us out:
“If something isn’t working, don’t try harder or do more. Do something DIFFERENT.”
- Ramit Sethi