The question almost EVERY entrepreneur has grappled with at one point or another:
Is it an investment or an expense?
All businesses have both, but it can be tricky to navigate what actually constitutes an investment and what is really an expense.
The troubling thing is, while investments in all shapes and sizes are essential to grow, scale, and sustain your business, they are often the first thing business owners cut when they’re trying to reduce COSTS (aka expenses)!
That’s because, on the surface, investments may seem unnecessary or extraneous. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
In reality, the difference between an investment and an expense in YOUR business comes down to your perceptions and expectations!
Let’s set the record straight.
With an investment, you spend money (or time, energy, and effort) with the expectation that you will see returns on it. Long term, you will make more money than the money you spent because you spent that initial money wisely.
An expense is something you purchase with no expectation of a return. It’s one and done, and it’s usually transactional. You might enjoy it, and it may even be necessary, but it’s not something you make money on beyond its initial use.
COO Tip: Investments are often mistaken for expenses. To make this more tangible – let’s explore one of the most common investments that often get mistaken as an expense: Your website!
The domain, design, and copy of your business website may SEEM like an expense upfront. But when you invest in a web design and copywriting team to help you create an exceptional, high converting, effective website, your website becomes your best employee! It works behind the scenes, 24/7, to generate new leads, communicate value to your audience, and land new clients! Every new client who walks through your door because of your website is a direct return on your website project investment!
Now that you understand the difference between an investment and an expense let’s explore the various kinds of investments you may want to focus on as a creative entrepreneur to nourish, grow, and scale your business!
While there are many different ways to invest in your creative business, most options will fall into three categories: personal development, hiring or outsourcing, and tools.
I find that most businesses benefit from finding a balance between all three over time (no need to invest in all three simultaneously). Let’s explore each of these investments and why they’re essential to the health and well-being of your business.
Does the thought of investing in your personal development feel frivolous or even selfish?
I get it!
Developing your skills, mindset, and expertise may feel like something you should pay for out of your own pocket, especially if it’s something you WANT to learn. But in reality, investing in your self-growth IS investing in your business.
Think of it this way: in your old 9-5, you probably had opportunities to take trainings, attend workshops, or learn new skills that would allow you to be a better employee and further fulfill your role.
The same logic applies here. Only NOW you get to decide what your personal development looks like! Even if it doesn’t seem like it directly correlates to your business, any way you are improving yourself will infuse your business, your creativity, and your work with new ideas and perspectives.
Remember, you started your business because it’s something you LOVE to do. Developing that passion should ALSO be something you’re looking forward to and excited to dive into!
It doesn’t have to feel like “work” to be for your work!
So, whether you want to take a business course, learn some workplace meditation tools, or take a night school class to level up your design skills, you AND your business will be better for it!
Investing in yourself and your business is not a nicety; it’s necessary if you want to succeed. The most successful entrepreneurs know they must be committed to their personal development to continue growing, evolving, and thriving.
It’s time to shift your perspectives around personal development and start to see these opportunities as investments instead of expenses. Investing in self-development for your business will allow you to:
At the end of the day, you are your business’s most significant asset! As a creative entrepreneur, you are SO intertwined in your business, and your creativity is at the CORE of your business, for better or worse!
If you aren’t good, your business isn’t good, so you need to take steps to make sure you’re showing up as the best version of yourself possible!
You don’t have to do everything in your business and, in fact, sometimes you SHOULDN’T!
Maybe the idea of hiring a team member or outsourcing a project has crossed your mind in the past. But, as appealing as it sounded, all you could see were dollar signs!
Leaning on the right support is NOT an expense; it is absolutely an investment in the sustainability of your business.
But all too often, entrepreneurs choose to carry the weight of the world on their own instead of investing in the support they truly need. Knowing when and how to invest in your team is an art and a skill in and of itself.
Investing in hiring or outsourcing for your business will allow you to:
Invest in the right tools that will help you do your job better and faster. Tools can include things like equipment, tech, software, systems, processes, automation, etc. – the important thing, though, is not all tools are investments. Some are just expenses (and that’s okay too, as long as you are able to tell the difference).
Without the right tools for the job, you’ll always work harder than you have to.
I’m not saying (by any means) to run out and purchase a fancy new computer every year just for the hell of it or spend a crazy amount on the fanciest, all-inclusive, enterprise-level bundle from your internet provider if the plan you have is working just fine.
But, if you are constantly stuck waiting for uploads, getting disconnected from Zoom calls with clients, or rushing off to coffee shops for reliable internet, and this regularly gets in the way of productivity, upgrading your internet might be a worthy investment.
It’s all about balance and being brutally honest with yourself about expenses vs. investments and their true ROI (return on investment).
Now that you know the difference between an investment and an expense, as well as the different ways you can strategically invest in your creative business, it’s time to put it into practice!
Here is my simple 4-step process for approaching new investments with confidence and clarity:
Save or set aside money specifically earmarked for investing in yourself and your business! These budgeted funds should be reserved for things like outsourcing, personal development (learning, upskilling, growing), or adopting new tools to uplevel your work.
Prioritize your investments from a time, money, energy, and focus perspective. Don’t let investing opportunities become “nice to haves” when really they are “must-haves.” Keep in mind your investments don’t always have to be monetary! They can also be investments of your time or energy. Weigh your options and the current state of your business to decide what’s right for you!
Set goals and lay out a path. This could include putting a hiring or outsourcing plan in place, developing your own curriculum, prioritizing your personal development, or creating SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to make handing tasks over now and in the future as easy and seamless as possible!
COO Tip: Sometimes, the better question you can ask yourself is not “how” to invest but “who” to invest in or invest with. Who already has these skills or has solved this problem? Who is the expert or person whose zone of genius this task or project falls into? Then ask, “how can I hire them, work with them, or learn from them in the best way to solve my problem?”
What is WORTH your investment right now? Funnel your time, money, and/or energy into the RIGHT investments. You can’t do everything all at once. So taking time to decide what will make the most significant difference for you and your business NOW will help you determine what to focus on immediately and what to table as a future investment. The “right” investments are the ones that will move the needle, help to bring you closer to your goals, and are in alignment with your core values.
My best investment advice?
Go deep rather than wide. FOCUS your investments in the right areas rather than spreading your time, attention, resources, and energy thinly over a whole bunch of things. Your goals and your vision should strategically guide these investments.
Why not choose an investment that will allow you to leverage all three types of investments: personal development, outsourcing, and tools?
My upcoming course is precisely that! Inside you’ll learn the business side of running a creative business that they didn’t teach you in art school. You can lean on my expertise (my zone of genius) to guide the way and utilize tons of templates, tools, and resources to help you quickly and efficiently implement what you learn!
Jump on my no-obligation waitlist and be the first to know when my course is officially open for enrollment!