The interview below highlights the real life experience of Crystal S., a “serial entrepreneur,” and Marquette University alum, who co-founded two small business ventures by the time she turned 22. As a Los Angeles director’s assistant, nationally published photographer, CEO of a production company and world traveler, Crystal understands the importance of maintaining an effective budget in both her personal and professional life. Her story is part of a series that focuses on real people who learn to show themselves (and their businesses) some financial loving care.
Having a budget is essential to what I do! And trust me it takes time to learn this. My life and business focus on creativity, so the science of managing finances didn’t come naturally to me; it was more of a necessity.
I need money to live on, but my personal budget is very minimal as I try to grow my business. I do simple things to get by on a limited budget. I don’t live in an apartment I can’t afford. I don’t spend extra money on cable that I don’t watch. To sum it up, I don’t spend money I don’t have. I’ll splurge later in life (at least, that’s the goal!).
Budgeting for a business is a learning experience when you begin. You have to discover what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes you learn the hard way. My business budget is crucial in order to continue to grow and sustain the longevity of my money as I move forward in my career. I’m always aware of exactly where each dime is spent. When starting a business, you have to sacrifice a lot because you’re running in survival mode. Extra money made isn’t spending money for leisure; it’s money to reinvest in yourself and grow your business even more.
To create a business budget, you need to know which components of your business will cost money. Ask yourself: Do you have a monthly website fee? Employees you need to pay? Office space? Business cards? Count all the little things, because they add up fast! Avoid excess costs and don’t spend money on things that won’t return the investments.
If I didn’t have a budget, I would be a lot more careless with my spending and probably overspend on little purchases. It’s easy to calculate big purchases, but the little things will cost you. Making a habit of spending on a budget will help in the long run. Simply being aware of your budget helps you make conscious decisions each and every time you make a purchase.
You begin by using the free resources you have all around you. There are an abundance of tools through social media and the internet to get started. I self-educated online about the industry I wanted to start a business in. If you put energy into your free resources, it will turn into leads with enough time, effort and persistence.
I also shared my business ideas with prominent people in the industry. Business is very much about relationships, so I discussed mine with people in my network. I found organizations and networking groups that I could become a part of, as well as other young start-ups I felt I could collaborate and grow with. I set up a lot of meetings with people in my community that I could gain leverage with. These relationships cost any more than a cup of coffee at a local shop and an hour of my time. When I was in college, I sent 100 emails to photographers I wanted to meet, and only five or six actually got back to me. But those people inspired me and taught me about the real business even before I launched my own.
You might feel vulnerable to others’ opinions, but taking these steps to share your business endeavors to your network and beyond is essential. You have to sell your vision and dream to others, especially potential investors and clients.
If you have the right mindset, true entrepreneurial spirit, a fearless drive and resources to self-educate, you’ll find a way to make it happen on any budget. Go out and just do it.
I’ve made budget mistakes and created some debt, but I’ve made far greater strides in my career by investing in myself and building my knowledge into a lifelong asset. Having minimal debt was a necessary business decision. Being in debt isn’t always a bad thing, as a long as you have a plan to get out of it. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
Don’t completely deprive yourself, either. I celebrate the little successes along the way and make it a habit to reward myself when good things happen. If you feel like you deserve it, you’ll feel better about the money spent.
I can work from anywhere, so if I’m working at a coffee shop or restaurant, I’ll spend money on food or drinks I could do without. It’s also difficult for me to turn down travel, but sometimes it’s necessary. Other than that, I’m a terrible consumer; I hate spending money! My mom once said, “If you’re not making money, you’re most likely spending money.” I tend to focus on the former.
Tell us about your financial mishaps and how you ultimately accomplished your goals. Or, share how you’re giving yourself some financial loving care. Whatever your story is, send us a message and you could be featured.