Can Budgets Be… Sexy?
When you think of the word “sexy” have you ever pictured a budget or financial report? Come on; I can’t be the only one!
In all honesty, I don’t find budgeting or reports sexy AT ALL, but I do have a secret love affair with a well thought out yet, simple system for just about every part of my business. And I have not doubt in my mind that budgets and money reports are not at the top your sexy list either!
Ask just about any coach, consultant, or other service-based business owner and they’ll most likely tell you they hate budgets and bookkeeping. There seems to be a fear about numbers or doing the calculations wrong that hinder a lot of people from really making friends with their books and taking control over their business, especially for those of us who work alone without an accounting department.
But what if I told you that budgets CAN be sexy and don’t have to lead to worry and agony every month? Instead of always worrying that you don’t have enough money, think about all the things you can do for your business that will bring joy to you and to others.
I know it can be hard to break the habit of always worrying that your company is making money and you have enough to cover your expenses. But in this planner, we’re being a BOSS and taking control of our finances so we can open doors to bigger and better things in life. Are you ready to come along for the ride?
Changing Your Denial Mindset
If you have ever had a toddler in your house, then you know the game of “if I close my eyes then I disappear.” This is called Object Permanence in the world of Developmental Psychology; the kids don’t understand that the world around them still exists even if they can’t see it. Now think about your own financial feelings about your company. If you don’t print out reports or look at your financial statements, does that mean you’re making a profit or that a loss doesn’t exist? Or does that mean you’re in denial and clueless about the true state of affairs? Be honest.
Denial won’t get you to that 6-figure milestone; denial will make your business stagnant and possibly repel clients away because of your fear or lack of confidence. In this planner, we’ll take steps to make friends with your money and to learn to love all the opportunities that your business can afford once you get real with how much you want to make.
There’s no time like the present to tackle this denial problem so face your money fears head-on and take a look at your business bank statement, right now. Now recite some positive affirmations about your business and how you feel running it. Meditate on the reasons why you started your coaching practice in the first place. Think about the lifestyle you want to lead with your family. Journal about your fears and possible steps for overcoming those money fears.
While we may not love numbers, budgets give you the power to do great things in your business, and in life.
Step One: Get Comfortable with Money
Not just pay-the-bills comfortable, but really, intimately comfortable. Many people have deeply held negative emotions surrounding money, and if you’re going to make budgeting fun, you have to get past those limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs, such as you don’t have enough experience to run a 6-figure business, drain on your psyche and affect nearly every aspect of your life. Have you heard the quote attributed to Henry Ford, “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”?
Well, it’s true.
If you think you can make 6-figures, then you’ll have an easier time moving forward and taking action to reach that goal. If you think negatively about that goal and believe you don’t have what it takes, your motivation will wane and you’ll talk yourself out of doing tasks that could lead you to that big milestone.
Your Past Does Not Represent Your Future
Go back into your memory bank and think about your financial situation growing up. Did your parents talk about money? Were they always penny pinching because funds were tight? Did they rack up piles of credit card debt living above their means? No matter what your personal situation, it laid the foundation for how you think about money today.
As with any problem in life, you alone have the power to change the outcome. If you suffer from limiting money beliefs (and newsflash, just about everybody does!), YOU can change your mindset but that requires taking action. Beliefs are neither right nor wrong; they are simply beliefs that have become ingrained in our minds and at any point in time you can make the effort to change those beliefs. However, it’s not enough to just say, “I want to change.” You need to actively seek out ways to change your attitude about money.
How to Change Your Limiting Beliefs
The simplest way to change these limiting beliefs is to turn these beliefs into positive truths. For instance, if you think earning money is evil because there’s so much poverty in the world today, take that negative thought and tell yourself that you can do more for others when you’re rich than when you’re broke. Instead of picturing yourself as a greedy miser raking in piles of money, think of all those things that money could do to help others. In many cases of limiting beliefs, people think of earning money as the end result when it’s really a means to do more in life. The end result is the good you can do in the world with that money.
Here are some other common limiting money beliefs and how you can change them:
“It takes a lot of money to start a business,” becomes “Starting a business gives me the freedom to earn unlimited amounts of money.”
“I have to work hard for money,” becomes “I do what I love, I help others, and I am rewarded with a big profit.”
“I can’t control how much money I make,” becomes “I am in full control of my life and I take consistent actions to make it exactly as I wish.”
“Money can’t buy me happiness,” becomes “Money allows me to improve the quality of life for my family.”
You get the idea. Take that negative talk and turn it into positive talk to combat your fear. Some people believe in the power of journaling these negative beliefs so you’re releasing the belief from your head onto the paper, making room for more positivity in your brain. Of course, balance that negative journaling with the positive, new belief, especially if you have many blocks you’re trying to dissolve at once. If you need a reminder of your new, positive thoughts, make a copy of your journal page and post it in your office or anywhere in your home where it will inspire and remind you that you CAN reach your goals.
Denise Duffield-Thomas is a master at breaking through negative money blocks and offers a free workshop on the subject. She says that breaking these money blocks is a daily activity instead of a one-time thing and even mega-successful business owners stumble into fear-based blocks as they reach new levels of success. So you’re definitely NOT alone in this arena. The key is how you handle those negative mind blocks; that will make the difference between your success and failure.
What Happens When You Change Your Mindset?
When you take the fear of money out of the equation you will feel more in control of your business. You may see new opportunities pop up – such as doing a project with a Joint Venture partner – that you might have missed in the past or thought you weren’t qualified for. Your self-esteem and mood will improve which often leads to an increase in motivation so you’ll work more productively. For example, if you want to create a signature product, you’ll feel confident about your ideas and the content will flow very naturally and quickly. All good things come from breaking through those negative money blocks.
In short, breaking through those limiting money beliefs allows you to take ACTION to create the life of your dreams. If you’re sitting watching life pass you by, don’t settle. When you realize that your life is a scene from the movie, “Groundhog Day” where the same thing happens every single day, delve into your negative money blocks and get ready for a positive shift that will bring about great changes. But you have to WANT it and take that action first.
Step Two: Track All The Things
Until you know what you’re really spending, you can’t create a workable budget, let alone a fun one. Start by tracking all your business expenses, no matter how small. A simple spreadsheet will do; no need to get fancy.
If you want super simple and old school, keep a small notebook with you at all times and jot down all your expenses during your daily routine. At the end of the day you can categorize them on your spreadsheet into Business vs Personal expenses. This example is a little neater than simply throwing receipts into your pocket or purse, although saving those receipts is important for tax time so don’t be quick to toss them.
Don’t worry right now about cutting expenses; we’re just getting an overview picture of how much you spend in your business on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Until you know the details, you can’t set a budget or invest back into your business wisely.
If you want totally hip and modern, check out these tracking apps for your smartphone:
Fudget – a no-frills app that allows you to keep a running list of income and expenses in your phone. Fudget gives you a running balance based on your list however it does not integrate with your bank. There are also no categories to manage; simply input your income and/or expenses on a daily basis. Available for both Android and iOs.
Dollarbird – a calendar-based app that allows you to input income and expenses as well as assign categories so you know exactly where your money is going and why. Did you stop at Panera for a morning coffee or did you go there for lunch with a coaching client? There’s a difference and Dollarbird will make note of that difference. You also have the option of syncing your calendar with a spouse or business partner so you both have the most up to date information. Available for both Android and iOs.
Wally – an intuitive app that tracks your expenses, takes photos of your receipts for tax time and helps you set financial goals. Uses categories to sort each expense. Available for both Android and iOs.
As with any app or software, there are dozens if not hundreds available for the purpose of tracking your business expenses so do your research carefully. You’ll also find free versions along with ad-free paid options. It’s easy enough to try out the free versions first before upgrading to a paid plan (which very often requires an annual commitment).
Get Organized While Tracking Expenses
Now that you’re playing with your tracking app and getting your expenses organized, take some time to organize your financial accounts. Do you have a business account separate from your personal account? Do you also have a PayPal account? What’s your balance in all your accounts?
If you do any business online, it’s wise to have a PayPal or a Square account. Both of those companies allow for online payments (including credit cards) and if you sell physical products, Square has a small Point of Purchase card reader that’s free for new users.
Do you need both accounts? Probably not, although PayPal is probably more well known than Square. Square also transfers money to your bank account the next business day. It’s nice to have that quick money but if you prefer to have a balance in your online account until the end of the month, PayPal is the better option, as there are no transfers until you request one.
Your PayPal and Square accounts need to be linked to a bank account so be sure to use your business account here. Ask your accountant how tricky it is to divide personal versus business expenses out of one account when tax time rolls around. Start with a solid foundation by keeping ALL your business expenses away from your personal expenses.
What Exactly Am I Tracking?
Start your day by checking your online bank account balance; knowledge is power. Then, if you pull out your wallet for anything, pull out your app and track the expense. If tracking business and personal at the same time prove difficult or overwhelming, just focus on your business expenses, such as:
- Mileage – are you going to a business networking meeting or meeting a client in real life?
- Autoresponder Service – usually a monthly recurring expense
- Subscription Fees – do you belong to any paid online memberships? Your local BNI chapter?
- Phone – do you have a paid phone service, like Grasshopper or Mighty Call? How about a professional answering service, like Ruby Receptionists?
- Outsourcing – track it all, from the 5 hours per month you pay a virtual assistant to the one-time project you had for a graphic designer.
- Online Scheduling Software – free versions often have advertising; it’s best, in this case, to pay for an upgrade so only YOUR branding is visible to your clients.
- Website Hosting – vitally important for maintaining your online presence
- Computer Anti-Virus Program
- PayPal Service Fees
- Estimated Business Taxes (you never want to be caught off guard with taxes!)
This is just a sampling of what you should track. If your wallet comes out, track it. Many apps allow you to mark certain expenses as recurring so it’s very easy to add it once and then it automatically shows up next month.
Now is the time to start looking at ALL your business expenses and make note of any duplications. Do you have extra domain names that you haven’t used? Consider selling them or letting them expire. Is there a less expensive autoresponder available? Switch plans or commit to sending out more emails to your list. Do you really use and receive value from the paid online groups you belong to? If not, cancel your subscription without regret.
Step Three: Keep a Money Journal
Different from your spreadsheet tracker, a money journal is where you track your assets. Did you receive investment money from a spouse, family member, or small business administration? Log the cash investment as an asset.
Fixed assets are those things that are used to generate income for the business over the long term, such as laptops, office furniture, computer software, printers, etc. Take note of all those components you use every day for work and how much you spent on each. Also, take note every time you make a repair to an asset or if you have discarded an asset.
NOTE: Inventory does NOT count as a fixed asset, so if you self-publish a book or signature program, log those expenses on your tracking spreadsheet, not in your asset money journal.
How much have you invested in your company? Many solo business owners have no idea; they just check their bank balance before making a purchase and don’t account for the purchase or know where that money is coming from. Working this way is detrimental to your overall earning potential because you are likely not buying necessary items and you may be focused on all the extras that are not important to your overall monetary goals.
Do you have any outstanding loans or debts related to your business? Those should be listed under your expenses as they need to be paid back on a monthly basis.
In general, coaches who run their practices out of their home have very little overhead and assets to report but it’s still important to take note and know how much money you spent on each asset. Most importantly, incorrect reporting to the IRS can be punishable with hefty fines, so consult with an accountant or a bookkeeper to make sure your files are in order and the records are accurate.
How Do I Break My Old Habits?
First, make a conscious decision that you will take firm control of your business finances and implement an accounting process every month. Invoice weekly or monthly and make careful note of those incoming payments. Spend a few minutes each morning to make a note of your cash balances, your debt, and your accounts receivable (aka outstanding invoices). The more you pay attention, the more comfortable you will become with money – and the more open you will be to receiving it.
In this line of work, there are always ebbs and flows, where business is booming for a while and then it tapers off for a few weeks or months before it booms again. Knowing exactly where your money is coming from and how many expenses you have each month will help you prepare for those stark months and financial knowledge equals financial power.
Consider using a journal to write down the money fears that you conquered and use those posts as inspiration for the month to come. Empower yourself!
Step Four: Get Real About Your Income
Would it shock you to know that many small business owners have no idea what their month-to-month income looks like? They know how many coaching clients they have but beyond that, they don’t keep track of their expenses and other discounts they may have given to certain clients. Having a “ballpark” range isn’t in your best interest as a business owner. Let’s change that. When you can know with at least a little certainty how much money you’ll be making, it’s a lot easier to create a budget.
Let’s start by merging your two spreadsheets together – or looking in your app – first at your gross income and then at your expenses. Hopefully, these records show that you’re in the black – that you made more than you spent in any given month. Are there any surprises? So often, when we don’t keep track of our finances, we think we’re bringing in a lot more money than in reality. Likewise, we don’t think about all the little expenses that add up each month, cutting into that profit margin.
Part of your new monthly accounting process is to create a Profit/Loss report. Many invoicing programs have this feature and depending on the app you’re using, that may be an added feature, too. When you print out a report or view it on your computer, those are cold hard numbers staring back at you and they don’t lie. Right there in black and white is how much you made minus how much you spent with the remainder being the profit you made that month.
Reports don’t sugar coat things; they will tell you right there that you’re spending too much or you need more clients to increase your revenue. Or that you need to offer group coaching or signature packages to bring in more profit than individual coaching can do.
Let’s Start at the Beginning – How Much is Your Time Worth?
Get back to basics and think about how you came up with your coaching fee. Was it an arbitrary number you pulled out of thin air or did you actually use some math and easy calculations? Melissa Ingold at TimeFreedomBusiness.com has an easy and free calculator that brings you through the four easy steps of discovery. Of course, this is a subjective number because there are other factors that go into your hourly rate, such as experience and whether or not your target audience can afford that price, but it’s a very good starting point.
Now compare your new hourly rate to your invoiced client rate. Is it the same, higher, or lower? If you’re charging higher than this calculation and have clients willing to pay, hoorah for you and keep doing what you’re doing! But if you’re charging significantly lower, you have to get real and understand how much money you left on the table because you undervalued your time. Here’s that fear mind block coming to rear its ugly head again. Take out your money journal and recite your millionaire mindset affirmations or meditate on ways you can increase your income and client base. All is not lost…you just need to regroup and make a plan.
Step Five: Create a Decision-Making System
Shiny-object syndrome is a real thing and can cause small business owners to overspend on tools and systems they don’t need and won’t use. By creating a decision-making system ahead of time, you’ll be less likely to waste money on things you don’t need.
Take a quick look through your computer’s hard drive. How many training programs or other packages did you buy over the years but have never used? Do you even remember where you stored those downloads? How many online paid memberships do you have that you aren’t utilizing to the fullest? Just because you got a membership at the lowest price possible doesn’t mean it’s a good deal if you never use it. That’s just money going down the drain because you aren’t taking ACTION.
The first step in creating a decision-making system is to understand the difference between WANT and NEED. Yes, we probably all had this talk with our parents as teens when they didn’t want to spend their hard earned money on something frivolous but it bears repeating. You may WANT that donut in the bakery window but you NEED water to live. A need is something that is vital to your survival, or in this case, vital to how your business operates. A want, on the other hand, is something nice to have that is useful and pretty but is not deathly important to how your business operates.
An up-to-date laptop with modern software is a NEED whereas a photo shoot with hair and makeup is a WANT. You need the laptop for invoicing, taking client notes, online scheduling, and creating your signature course. You can still do all these things without having professional photos taken (although that’s a nice perk to save up for, especially to improve the professional look of your brand).
Next Step: Prioritize Your Needs
It’s wise to keep your business equipment up-to-date with the latest software but that doesn’t mean you have to purchase everything all at once and overdraw your bank account. Prioritize your needs and spread out your purchases throughout the year. Schedule these purchases on your calendar and when the time comes, evaluate objectively if the purchase is still a need or a want. Will your business stall if you don’t make this purchase?
Also be wary of making purchases too quickly. A common marketing strategy is to use scarcity tactics, or making it sound like the product is almost sold out so you better get your copy NOW. Sometimes those scarcity tactics can include fast-action bonus offers that sound awesome. Hold up a minute and really evaluate if this product, and its bonus offer, is a need or a want. Is this something you already have scheduled to purchase at a later date? Is this truly the best price you can find? Is this a product you will truly use or will it gather dust?
If necessary, wait a full 24 hours before making a purchasing decision. Then readjust your purchase calendar to reflect this new purchase and implement your purchase immediately into your business so it doesn’t get lost.
Step Six: Plan Your Long Term Goals
No matter how much you love numbers, budgeting is a whole lot more fun when you’re planning a big business expansion (or even better, an epic vacation). Now’s the time to dream BIG so don’t limit yourself or talk yourself out of something. Use this time for brainstorming your biggest dreams; you’ll have time later to prioritize and figure out what’s within reach.
Where do you see yourself in five years? That’s a popular interview question in the corporate world and one worth exploring as an entrepreneur. Will you still be working from home or have an actual office? Will you stay in your home town or will you become nomadic and travel with a laptop in hand? Will you be happy with your 1:1 clients or do you want to make a bigger name and become an internet sensation? Do you have any desires to start a public speaking tour or do you prefer your intimate Skype sessions with clients?
There are no wrong answers here because everyone’s definition of success is different. If you’re very happy working part-time hours to supplement your spouse’s income, then so be it. If you want to earn multiple six-figures and have several books published and be featured on television as an expert, then do it. Dream big and imagine your ideal definition of success.
Think about some big dreams for your family as well. Have you ever taken a vacation or driven a brand new car? Have you ever traveled abroad? Have you ever traveled outside of your home state? Do you want to remodel your kitchen or hire an interior designer? These are all things that you can use as a reward for your hard work, especially if you see a significant increase in your income or if you launch a new product.
Do You Have a Vision Board?
Vision boards are fantastic tools to focus on what you want in your life. They can be designed strictly around your business or your personal life, or you can make one board with a combination of business and personal goals.
The philosophy behind a vision board is that you put those desired goals out into the universe and at some point in time they will manifest in your life. While it sounds very magical, making your vision board come to life does involve action on your part. But having a visual representation of what you want in life will help you stay focused on those goals, to the point where you may recognize signs or opportunities that could lead you to those desired goals.
You have two easy options to create a vision board. If you have loads of magazines at home, flip through the pages and cut out anything that attracts your attention or that you desire. If you want to improve your fitness, for example, maybe a brightly colored pair of sneakers will grab your eye. If you’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, maybe an article about cruise vacations will catch your eye. Cut out all these photos and paste them onto a piece of poster board.
You can also create a vision board digitally using free online photos. Since this vision board is for your personal use only, there’s no need to worry about copyright infringement so simply copy and paste free photos and arrange them in a Word document or a PowerPoint slide.
When you’re finished, find a place to display your vision board so you’ll see it on a daily basis. When you start your business day, take a few minutes and reflect on the board to get in sync with what you want in life. If you don’t recognize your board and your goals, it’s quite likely it will just blend into your office décor, thus negating its meaning. Your board can also change at any time; there’s no right or wrong to this exercise so change it up as you desire.
Live Without Regrets
Working hard is admirable and taking that action is the only way to change your life and your business but remember to live in the moment, too. Your family members want a healthy you to love and care for them, not someone who is so distracted by work that they can’t enjoy a simple board game or bedtime story.
Get your family involved in these big time goals instead of doing all this dreaming in private. Acknowledging your plans will help motivate you and makes everything more real, especially if you have kids who will keep asking when you’re going on that awesome vacation! All this planning will also help them to understand why you work so hard.
Be sure to set your business boundaries as well, so you can enjoy family dinners each night without interruption. Knowing you can close up your office at the end of the day without frantic calls or emails will help you focus on your family without feeling guilty.
Step Seven: Create Your Budget
Now that you’ve gotten good and comfortable with your money, have a handle on your expected income and basic expenses, and know what it’s going to take to reach your short- and long-term goals, it’s time to get serious. Open up your favorite spreadsheet and let’s plug in some numbers!
We’ve already talked about tracking expenditures, so now it’s just a matter of combining all that we’ve discussed in this planner into one main file or spreadsheet that you can use for easy reference. If the app you’re using for expense tracking has a budget function, that’s even easier to use, but you should still understand the idea of a budget. Remember, you are in control of your financial destiny!
When creating your budget, the idea is to spend only as much as you earn without going into debt. So to begin, enter your estimated monthly income. Look back at your income for the last year and calculate the monthly average. Enter that amount on your spreadsheet.
Now think of the most important items in your business and allocate money to those line items first. If you have a home office, then maybe your website hosting/design and maintenance would be the most important line item. Compile those monthly costs and plug that in on your spreadsheet. If you have a physical office outside of your home, then your rent and utilities should be the most important line items. Input those numbers. Your Estimated Taxes should be line item #2 to avoid hefty penalties. Continue down the spreadsheet with the various categories and expenses you use in your business.
Should You Pay Yourself First?
Many financial experts argue that you need to pay yourself first before paying your business expenses; after all, why are you in business if you aren’t bringing home any money? There is some validity to that but very often you’ll have to go through the budgeting process calculating your income versus expenses first so you know at a bare minimum that your business can continue to operate without a huge debt hanging over your head. Once you calculate those numbers, you can determine how much of your profit you can afford to pay yourself.
Now look at your numbers. Are you making a profit or are you in debt? If you’re in the red (aka you’re spending more than you’re bringing in) it’s time to figure out how to earn more money while cutting expenses at the same time. If you’re in the profit zone, congratulations! Now you have a firm grasp of how much you spend and you can continue brainstorming ideas for making even more money so you can reach those long-term goals.
Financial freedom is within reach but only if you take control of your company’s books and fully understand how much is coming in versus how much is being spent. Once you have a firm understanding of how much it takes to make your company work, you can get excited about earning more money and treating yourself to something wonderful!