When we start out, our business money tends to get muddled into our personal money. Who really notices the bag of flour, the blocks of butter, or the bag of sugar in the weekly grocery shop? Pretty soon that one bag of flour becomes two, those two blocks of butter become four, and you find yourself buying sugar at Costco in a bag so big, you’ll need to see the chiropractor after you lift it into the car. Managing business money can be really hard when we don’t have much of it, or a lot of it has been “hiding” among our personal purchases. Here’s how I managed my business money (and still do!). It’s the single best way I’ve found to keep those funds separate and to start gaining some control over your business finances.
1. Set up a business bank account. There are plenty of fee-free ones out there to choose from. It does not have to be a banking “business” account per se, it just needs to be a place for money which is not your normal family or personal account.
2. Put some money in there to get it going. I really like you to start this account up with some seed money (a nice chunk of money you can throw in there to start things off) but if you don’t yet have that, use this account as the place to store the money you’re saving for your business. If you’re not yet in business (meaning you don’t sell anything yet to anyone) – use this as a business savings account, and follow the steps below other than the salary one.
3. ALL business transactions should go through this account. Be vigilant about this please! So if you buy your sugar and flour at the same time as you do your weekly shop – do it as two transactions. Pay for the business stuff with the business account and the house stuff with the house account. When you get paid by a client – deposit it into the business account. NO exceptions.
TIP: If you don’t currently have the money in the account to do that exclusively, sit down with your loved one or a financial adviser and find some seed money for the business account. If you can afford that stuff as a family, then maybe you can afford to invest in the business on a weekly basis, too. So as an example, perhaps for 3 months, each week $50 goes from the personal account to the business account. KEEP TRACK of this movement of money, because we don’t want it going on forever. Same is true for those of you saving up to start-set up weekly amounts to divert to the account. Money NOT tracked is money LOST.
4. Immediately, set up an auto-transaction from the business account to the personal account. I recommend doing it on a fortnightly (every other week) basis, or weekly if you can – monthly is too far out. The auto transaction is a deposit going into your personal account FROM your business account. THIS IS YOUR SALARY. I don’t really care how tiny this amount is (seriously, it can be like $10), the point of doing it is:
- You get in the habit of paying yourself regularly.
- Money LOVES systems, so you’ll find the more it moves in/out of the account, it will have a way of appearing when you need it to without you really feeling it. If you left paying yourself to “whenever” that time will never come, and the money won’t be there when you need it. It’s to easy to say, “Oh it’s payday,” then look at the balance in the account and go, “Ahhh…maybe not!” This way, pay day happens without any direct interaction from you. It just happens. The money is there. Always.
- Paying yourself smaller amounts over a designated period of time makes cash flow handling WAY easier.
- Quite honestly, it just feels freaking AMAZING to have a regular salary coming in from a business you own.
5. Put a note in your calendar for 3 months time from now to review your salary. Ask yourself if you even noticed/felt the money coming out of the account, or did it just kinda happen and you didn’t really feel it. My guess is, you won’t even really notice it going OUT but you sure as hell will love it coming IN. Give yourself a raise. Again, this can be $5 or $100 or whatever (your choice) but the point here is to get in the HABIT of increasing your salary. If it’s a slow few months, you might want to keep it the same for now. Totally okay – but again, put a reminder in your calendar for 3 months ahead from here, and assess again.
TIP: Each time I gave myself a raise, my aim was to to double my salary. Yes, it was scary and it was also totally worth doing. The money had a way of appearing when I needed it to. I did sometimes choose (usually in winter months) to leave my salary the same but I NEVER turned off the auto-pay even when I was terrified there wouldn’t be money in place for it.
TIP: When you give yourself a raise, call your Mom or your husband or whoever and gloat like the bad ass business woman you are and sing, “The Boss Lady gave me a raise! WooooHoooo I got a rraaa–iissseee! I got a rrrraaa—iisssee!” CELEBRATE IT, SISTER!! (This is really, really important to do. Again, it’s about your mentality.)
6. SET A GOAL for this salary – “Right now, I’m taking home $50 each week. By June, I’d like that amount to be $100.” or your goal might be: “Every time I give myself a raise, it’s double what I was getting before,” and then, my love, go out and MAKE THAT HAPPEN. Market the shit out of your business. Be brave. Get it out there. Get more clients. Improve your skills. Review your pricing. Believe me, when you have a goal to increase your salary, suddenly doing the marketing and the pricing is a little less daunting because you already KNOW how awesome it feels to get paid.
TIP: Some of you will be reading this and thinking, “Seriously Michelle – $10 a week is going to make me feel good? If I wanted to make so little, I’d work at McDonald’s.” To you I say: I hear the local McDonald’s is hiring. This is not about the absolute dollar amount right now. This is about taking control of your money. This is about MINDSET. This is about making a plan, sticking to the plan, and ensuring your long-term business plans are met and that you are working towards them. This is about being a business owner, who can see that there is only direction from here and that’s UPWARDS.
7. If you want to do a class, buy equipment, etc that you don’t have enough money for in the account: either save up for it, get a payment plan, ask for it as a gift, or take a loan the money for it or make the tough decision not to get that class or that thing. If you do spend it, please KEEP TRACK of this money because we’re also trying to get a picture of where the spending is going and how often bigger amounts like this come out of the business. Remember: Money NOT tracked is money LOST. You will probably find that as you keep track of your money more, you make fewer impulsive decisions about spending in your business. I want you to start this second account so that you’re becoming more aware of the movement of money in and out, NOT for you to become either a crazy spender or a crazy hoarder of money. Time to put on your big girl pants!
And lastly…one of the most common complaints and worries I hear about from our industry is that we don’t get paid enough, or we don’t get paid AT ALL, or we can’t figure out how to make this business pay us. In a vast majority of people I speak to, they never set any system in place to pay themselves. They never started a salary and grew it (they just wanted to be making a ton of money from Day One), never set any financial goals, and basically they have no control over their money. These are the same people who will then go on to complain about clients not paying deposits on time, not paying what they are worth, etc. YOU are in charge of your business and that means being in charge of getting yourself paid, too. Remember that even the apprentice gets a little bit of a wage to start and then it gets bigger – the big bucks didn’t start from day one – but with no systems in place, the apprentice also goes hungry.
Above all else, remember that a big part of being a business owner is dealing with money, even if money makes you feel kinda yuck right now. Ultimately, it all comes down to this:
[bctt tweet=”If you don’t control your money, your money controls you.”]