Solopreneur Spotlight: Jennifer Graham On Coping With Business Changes During COVID-19

Jennifer Graham made a number of pivots in her business to adapt to COVID-19. While we discussed her business strategies last week, this week I want to highlight the emotional strategies she discussed with me. Being a business owner during this time has been hard on many of us, and the thoughts she shared about taking care of her own wellbeing were full of insights we can all use. Taking care of our emotions allows us to be smarter with our finances, so I believe prioritizing our feelings during this time is key to preserving our businesses.

Acknowledging Grief

The first thing Jennifer mentioned doing once shelter in place went into effect, was acknowledging and holding the grief that came along with it. In addition to all the other abrupt changes, Jennifer lost a lot of photoshoot work, and experienced a total change-up in her calendar. Many people have been experiencing grief during this period, and Jennifer took time to acknowledge and care for hers.

Taking Care

During our interview, Jennifer brought up a couple other practices that have helped her take better care emotionally. First, she said making a practice of acknowledging her feelings, and asking herself “What would bring you joy right now?” has helped her stay centered. Sometimes that might be stepping away from her work to nap or take a walk, and she allows herself to do that. She also mentioned that really acknowledging the work she is doing has been helpful. Many people are currently describing their days as blurs, so perhaps this practice can help remedy that feeling.

Lastly, she mentioned working with a team of people, namely her therapist, business coach, and myself, as being particularly helpful during this time. I’ve written a few articles about how relying on a money team or money buddy can ease the decision making process and alleviate hard times. It’s great to see that Jennifer is leaning on others when it comes to making decisions for her business.

Making Space for Ideas

All this emotional self-care is part of what made it possible for Jennifer to adapt her offerings to current conditions. She relayed to me that “about 3 weeks in, the ideas just started coming,” and from there she was able to create new services that were shelter-in-place-compliant. This nimble and creative thinking is especially valuable at a time like this. Because Jennifer is able to acknowledge her feelings and tend to them, she has more mental space available when it’s time to get to work.

You can read part one of this series on Jennifer’s business here, and watch the full video interview too. You can also visit her site, her Facebook page, and her Instagram feed to learn more about what she offers. If you’re interested in a guide for business owners on adapting COVID-19, my Cash Flow Reboot Guide is available for a free download here.

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Angela

Solopreneur Spotlight: Jennifer Graham on Adapting Her Photography Business During COVID-19

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Graham, a photographer and solopreneur, and we got to talk about how she’s adapted her business to COVID-19. Originally, her main income was in-person photoshoots. A week before shelter-in-place orders went into effect, she saw about $10,000 worth of shoots cancelled. Immediately, she began to think, “How am I gonna pivot?,” and I’m excited to share some of the strategies she came up with today!

Digital Assistance

Jennifer adapted to the quickly shifting atmosphere by adding some new offerings to her repertoire. The first one she told us about was an offering to help business owners organize their visual branding materials. She’s created an offering to cull, edit, and arrange the photos her clients already have to best convey their branding. Since this can all be done remotely, and there’s a huge incentive to ramp up digital presence for most businesses, this is a timely offer.

Educational Offering

Jennifer’s also created offering called Lights, Camera, Action!, which offers the client help with staging and lighting at-home photos, shoots, zoom calls, you name it. Another relevant way to adapt to these digital times, this offer is also a way for her business to recoup some income while practicing social distancing. In addition to this offering, she’s also been offering short tips and tricks videos on her Instagram feed.

Distance Shoots

Since our interview, Jennifer has started to offer Family Porch Portraits, which comply with social distancing and donate 50% of their proceeds to local charities. This offering combines the need for physical distance with the opportunity for people to give back to the community, something that’s very important right now. I love the way she adapted her services to be so specific to the conditions of shelter in place, while still getting to do what she loves.

Working on the Business, Not In It

During our interview, Jennifer spoke about how, with the removal of regular photoshoots from her calendar, she’s had more time to work on her business, rather than just in it. Rather than simply doing shoot after shoot, she’s had room to pause and think about what she’s creating through her business. This is a rare opportunity for solopreneurs to reflect, and I appreciated that she mentioned this as one of her priorities. I’d recommend doing some introspection on your business, if you haven’t been able to yet!

You can watch the full video interview with Jennifer here, and you can visit her website and Facebook page to learn more about what she’s doing. Her adjusted offerings are great examples to follow for solopreneurs, and I’m glad to be able to share them with you all. She also had some great insights on dealing with the shelter in place from an emotional perspective, so we’ll discuss that next week.

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Angela

How to Find Good Financial Advice During COVID-19

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic ripple effects, there’s been a lot of discussion and advice about what business owners should do. I’ve added my own voice to the mix, with a recent article and a full-length guide accompanied by a video series. Along with the variety of advice out there right now, there are also differing tones and points of view. Whether you’re looking to speak with others about money in the time of pandemic, or just hoping to find a way to navigate through all the guides, resources, and economic commentary, here are a couple things to pay attention to.

Nix the Shame and Guilt

Right now, I’m seeing a lot of people writing about this from a point of view that places a lot of shame and guilt on readers feeling unprepared and surprised by the economic fallout that’s occurred. Some are claiming that people’s lack of savings or inability to save for these types of emergencies is the ultimate source of their misfortune during this time. While saving up an emergency fund is of course a great idea, I do want to make sure that we recognize we are in the midst of a global emergency.

If you have lost money and don’t have enough saved to cover that loss, please don’t internalize that as your own fault. Sources that are encouraging you to do so or blaming those in need of unemployment benefits and other assistance are best avoided. If you are experiencing shame and guilt, take some time to process these feelings, but don’t make any decisions based on them. This might be a great time to do some mindset work.

Bye, Fear Tactics

While there’s certainly been an uptick in economic uncertainty, I’d advise you to steer clear of anyone leading a business pitch to you with this information. There are some coaches and other financial professionals who are currently using fear tactics to draw more clientele. Here’s a good litmus test to avoid people like this: don’t sign up for anything or listen to anyone who makes you feel more scared and activated than you were prior to hearing from them.

What We Really Need


Instead of fear tactics and guilt-tripping, we need to listen for messages that are factual. Resources that speak in practical terms and outline solutions are your best friend right now. Additionally, guides that approach the current economic situation from a growth mindset which stimulate your creativity and promote problem-solving, are good resources. If you have a public platform, keep all this in mind. People need guidance right now. The more we spread messages that are empowering and hopeful, the more we can contribute to the wellbeing of our communities.

If you’d like more thoughts about navigating all the financial advice out there, check out my articles on the topic:

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Angela

Image by: Fa Barboza

7 Financial Tips for Business Owners During COVID-19

Following the recent restrictions on gatherings, businesses that are allowed to be open, and all other health concerns and restrictions, your business may be caught in the wake of COVID-19. You are not alone. There are many business owners in similar positions to yours. While I don’t have a silver bullet for ending this pandemic (unfortunately) I do have a couple ideas of how you and your business can move through this turbulent time.

Be Proactive With Creditors and Landlords

For many people, rent and mortgage payments are due on the first of April, coming up in ten days. You may also have other bills, such as credit cards or debt payments coming up soon. If you are at all concerned about your ability to make these payments, I encourage you to get in touch with your creditors and/or landlords. Politely but firmly explain your situation to them and ask if you can work something out, like a reduced payment or a refined payment schedule. Because so many people are in a similar place, you may garner their sympathy and receive some assistance.

Cull Your Expenses

Now is the time to really go through your personal and business expenses with a fine-tooth comb. Cancel any subscriptions or memberships that aren’t vital. If you’re in California or Illinois, for example, then you’re probably not going to the gym or yoga studio anytime soon. Review your business’s spending needs and nix anything unnecessary or now irrelevant.

Get Creative With Your Services

Think about ways you can adapt your business to the current times. Maybe it’s time to ramp up your online store and start doing local delivery. Many yoga teachers and entertainers are starting to offer their services online. Brainstorm and get creative.

Check Available Resources

Every community has different resources available to those struggling with expenses due to COVID-19. Here in California, you can refer to the information provided by the Employment Development Department to see if you qualify for aid. Also check local nonprofits and other resources. Many communities are creating volunteer networks and community funds to protect the most vulnerable in the community. If you are seriously at risk, consider seeking these out. Otherwise, consider contributing to them, either monetarily or with volunteer time.

Lean On Your Money Team

This is a time when those on your money team can really come in handy. Reach out to your financial confidants, your bookkeeper, financial coach, etc. and start strategizing on how you can fortify your business during these tough times. Don’t make these decisions alone; remember that you have allies.

Mindset Matters

Although the virus is seriously threatening, those most at risk are the elderly and the immunocompromised. It’s important to remember that we are taking all of these measures in the name of collective care, to protect those of us who are most vulnerable. I encourage you to remember this and to avoid self-victimizing, panicking, or hoarding. Holding onto a mindset of courage and generosity will do wonders in this time, for your own mental health and everyone around you.

File Your Taxes On-Time!

You may have heard that the IRS has officially extended the deadline to pay taxes to July 15, 2020. While this is great news for business owners, it’s important to remember that you still need to file your taxes by April 15th. If you are unable to meet this deadline, you can request a six-month extension for filing. You can check out the IRS site for more info. EDIT: The deadline to file has also been extended!

I hope these ideas bring you some sense of hope and agency in unpredictable times.

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Angela

Why Hiring a Financial Coach Is Worth It

Having someone to talk to openly about your money is an invaluable resource. When that person also helps you set goals and untangle financial knots, that’s even better! Hiring a financial coach can be well-worth the investment. Coaches can help you break through emotional and logistical roadblocks to set up better systems in your business.

What Does a Financial Coach Do?

A good financial coach will work with you in a way that’s personalized to your needs. Their presence and the tools they use help provide structure for you to reach your desired goals.

They also provide nonjudgmental listening and act as a sounding board for your financial concerns and dreams. Given the opportunity to talk through these things, many people begin to work through their emotional blindspots and start making more logical financial decisions. A good financial coach guides this process in a structured and goal-oriented way. For example, they can help you determine a revenue target intended to help you reach other goals in your life. They can also help you test out new ideas for your business and help you tinker with your profit model.

What Do You Gain From This?

Some business owners balk at the expense of hiring a financial coach. The irony of this is that working with a coach can help you increase your profit margins. Like a bookkeeper, hiring a coach can be viewed as an investment in the longterm profitability and wellbeing of your business.

Aside from increased profits, working with a coach is also an opportunity to gain financial clarity. You can work on any emotional baggage you have around money, determine where the money from your business should go to best serve you, or find a way to spend more time attending to your favorite parts of the business.

If you appreciated these ideas, try checking out my service packages. You can schedule a free curiosity call with me to chat about whether working with a coach is right for you.

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Angela

How to Build Your Best Money Team

Money team jumping into the air

Money is a team sport. Although we have an unfortunate notion in our culture that talking about money is taboo, we need to do our best to break it. By collaborating with others and building a team of people we can trust to talk to about our money, we can start getting the help and information we need.

There are many different people who can make up a money team. Money confidants, such as close friends and coaches who you can confess your financial feelings to, and receive good advice from, are one good example. Your bank can be considered a part of your money team, especially because good customer service is an important aspect of banking. Similarly, your tax prep person, financial planner, accountant or bookkeeper, and even the people you get financial advice from, are all important parts of your money team.

These “team members” fall into three different categories: people in your life, trusted professionals, and advice sources. Let’s take a look at each category and figure out how you can find good team members.

People in Your Life

Anyone in your life who you’re able to talk to about money falls here. Most importantly, these people are able to provide you with space to air your feelings. In some cases, they may also offer good advice. For example, if you’re friends with an accountant or a retirement planner, you’ve hit the jackpot! If not, good friends that you can open up to are still very helpful. The more we air our feelings about money, the more we’re able to think clearly and pursue practical solutions

If you don’t have anyone in your life that you’d consider a financial confidant, don’t worry. Run through your list of connections and identify some people with whom you might feel safe sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas about money. Then, try approaching them with the idea of sharing these things. Many people are happy to have someone to talk to about this, so it’s worth a shot. For more tips, you can read my article on Why You Need a Money Buddy.”

Trusted Professionals

Here’s where your team members might get more diverse. Financial coaches, bookkeepers, tax preparers, and financial planners all fall into this category. Not everyone will need to refer to every one of these professionals, and perhaps not on a regular basis. However, working with professionals in all of these areas can do wonders for your financial life.

Like a money buddy, coaches are there for you to confide in, but are also trained to help you find specific solutions. Good bookkeepers are able to deliver valuable financial insights about your business and follow appropriate record-keeping laws. If you run a business, you might find you appreciate that someone else does your record keeping, while you get to do whatever it is you really enjoy. Here’s an article about how to find a good bookkeeper.

Tax preparers are great to consult with during tax season. The most helpful tax preparers help you get a better idea of what you need to file, what you can write off, and if you qualify for any credits. Depending on your assets, you may or may not need to have a financial planner you can regularly work with. If you want to do some complex planning, it might be good to consider adding a financial planner to your money team.

Advice Sources

The last category is made up of public figures and advising entities. Your bank is probably the most important member of your money team here. If you don’t have a bank that provides good customer service, or if you’re getting charged bank fees, switch, and fast. Being able to sit down with a bank employee when you have questions is an important aspect of building your money team. Bank fees are just annoying, but also totally avoidable! Read my articles about “How to Avoid Bank Fees” and “How I Broke Up With Wells Fargo (And You Can Too!).”

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that a financial planner can be a good reference, but another option is to simply meet with a planner at a firm as needed. I had one client who, when planning for retirement, made one appointment at a firm and got all her questions answered. No commitment needed, and a good source of advice.

The last member of this category is public advice figures. There are quite a few out there, so finding the ones who give the best advice for you might require some sifting. These articles contain some of my thoughts on finding good financial advice. Also, here are a couple of my personal favorite resources.

Building a money team takes some work, but when you have a network of people, professionals, and resources who can help you solve your money problems, you’ll be glad you did it!

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Angela

Image: Husna Miskandar

Reduce the Hassle: 3 Tips to Keep Your Money System Simple

When I work with small business owners I often run see this one unfortunate pattern; many business owners believe that your money system has to be complex in order to work. The reality, however, couldn’t be further from that. We’ve already talked about how important having a money system is, and how to visualize it with money-mapping. Keeping your money system simple and streamlined makes it easier to visualize, but also much easier to follow through on and keep organized. If a system requires a bunch of checking in or spreads your money into a bunch of accounts you forget about, it’s not worth the maintenance. Here are three strategies you can use to pare down your business’s money system to a manageable size.

Limit Your Cards

If you’ve got a ton of cards under your business, keeping track of all of them and keeping them paid off can be difficult. To make it easier on you, I suggest paring down the number of cards you use. This will help you better keep track of your bills, credit rewards, and any other info associated with your cards.

Please note, I’m not advocating for closing any of your credit cards, as this can lead to a lowering of your credit score. However, here’s a good guide on how to do that, if you’re interested.

Under One Roof

One recommendation I regularly make to my clients is to consolidate their money into one institutions. If you have business bank accounts at three, four, or five different banks, that’s gotta be hard to stay on top of! Getting it all under one roof will help you keep an eye on your finances as a whole more easily. If you have multiple banks and you’re wondering how to go about consolidating, you might like to read this piece about switching banks we featured a couple years ago. It contains a guide to comparing banking offers and picking to the best option.

Keep Track

Making a regular habit of checking in with your finances. Make this easy by consolidating your passwords to your different accounts and portals. If you don’t have to go searching for passwords before you begin your checkin, you’re way more likely to actually do it!

I also recommend using an app or other tracking system. I especially like Mint.Others also like YNAB, or paper money tracking. Digitally tracking your money can save you some time, while also giving you a quick snapshot of your accounts when you need it.

If you found these tips helpful, you might also like this article on automation, which is another money hack to keep your systems tidy!

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Angela

The In-Depth Guide to Mapping Your Money, and How It Can Fortify Your Business, Part III

In the last two parts of this in-depth guide to money mapping, we’ve talked about why it’s helpful and how to get started. We’ve also touched on creating a system of accounts to set up a regular paycheck for yourself and an assurance of profit. Creating your own money map based on these ideas takes a lot of evaluation of your finances. You need to assess your operating and tax expenses and analyze your living expenses and savings goals. Once you’ve assessed these amounts, they translate into the percentages you put into each account.

What’s Your Percentage?

I help clients figure out what their percentages could be. We assess the needs of their business, and we figure out how much they actually need to live on. We discuss their life goals, and how those relate to money. There are good benchmarks for each percentage, which are suggested by Profit First. For your reference, the suggested percentages are: 5% profit, 50% owner’s pay, 15% taxes, 30% for operating expenses. This breakdown applies to most solopreneurs (anyone under $250,000 in annual revenue).If this doesn’t feel doable for you right now, don’t sweat it. It takes a lot of work, evaluation, and good financial habits to create a sustainable money system.

Applying the Model

Let’s look at an example of all of this mapped out. In this example business, the owner is using the ideal benchmarks and keeping a cushion in their Owner’s Pay account. What they do take out is then subdivided, with 20% of their pay taken off the top for three savings goals (I like to call this “paying yourself first.”). The remainder of this money goes to living expenses. While this model might be unrealistic from where you stand, keep in mind that this is something my clients work towards. I’ve included it here so you can start to picture what your own money system looks like.

If you enjoyed this guide, I recommend also checking out Part I, and Part II. And, try going to the Tools page, where you can play with an allocations calculator. Plug in your revenue and your preferred percentages to see what your amounts are! Then you can start filling in your money map.

Money mapping is an important tool, and one that I enjoy walking clients through. If you’re interested in working with me, check out my services page to check out my packages, and schedule a call.

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Angela

 

Image by:

Estée Janssens

Why Your Finances Might Be Feeding Your Impostor Syndrome

If you’re not aware of how your business finances look, it might be feeding your imposter syndrome. Ignoring the financial side of your business prolongs the anxiety that surrounds that part of your life as a business owner. Impostor syndrome can be detrimental to your business. It undermines your success and obscures opportunities for growth. Let’s take a look at the different ways impostor syndrome affects your business.

Anxiety

Impostor syndrome is commonly marked by a feeling of not fully trusting your own success. This anxious feeling says “Don’t let them find out who I really am!” and fails to recognize all your accomplishments. If you feel uncertain about your business finances, this takes a toll on your stress and anxiety levels. Consequently, your relationship with your business can feel increasingly strained and uncomfortable. Financial uncertainty and related stress can create a vicious cycle.

Under-Compensation

If you’re not looking closely at your business finances, you might be under-compensating yourself without even knowing it. Whether your prices are too low, or you need to cut back your operating expenses, you may be underpaying yourself. Finding yourself scrambling and struggling to get work done for less pay than you need is disappointing for many business owners. It can add to your feeling that you aren’t truly succeeding.

The Solution: Look at Your Finances

In short, there’s a feedback loop between your finances and your identity as a business owner. Therefore, the best thing to do is to really look at your business’s finances. If you feel underpaid, research changing your prices. Study your personal lifestyle and establish an income goal, and then look for ways your business can bring in that income. Go over your business expenses with a fine-tooth comb. Most importantly, remember that there are solutions to your financial woes, ones that you have the ability to find and implement! I believe in you!

If you want more of my thoughts on this, check out this facebook live video I made on the topic. If you’re interested taking a look at your finances, check out my end of year Quickbooks Online Reboot offer. This session is intended to help you simplify your system, learn QBO shortcuts, and identify secret insights in your financial records. You can schedule a session through my contact form.

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Angela

How to Invest in Your Business At Exactly The Right Time

Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling with your business, it can be difficult to chart a clear path forward. Running a business is full of constant decision making, and often it can be tempting to just stick with what works, without trying to expand. However, with a few strategic moves, your business can meet the income goals you want it to reach. But what are they? The thought of spending the money for a certain marketing plan, or hiring a coach only to find little return on your investment, often plagues business owners. How do you know when the time is right to invest in your business?

As part of my series on financial mistakes business owners have made early on in their businesses, today I’m exploring when to take the leap and spend for business success. For other posts in this series, check out the articles on tax prep, pricing, and hiring a bookkeeper. Let’s jump in:

The Mistake

When should you invest in your business? Doing so at the wrong time and not doing so at all can be equally debilitating for your business. I’ve noticed this in the business journeys of quite a few of my clients.

The Solution

Knowing when to take the leap to invest in your business, to spend on marketing or hire an employee, can be tough.  These decisions can become clearer through working with an advisor to review the costs and benefits and also by using the Profit First system for guidelines around spending for operational expenses or for expansion. You can read more about the Profit First system by downloading the first 5 chapters of the book, or by exploring my page on the theory, and the allocations calculator. 

I hope these thoughts have been useful! If you’re interested in investing in your business but don’t know where to start, check out my Service Packages. I offer guidance on exactly these sorts of things. I’m also offering an accounting reboot session for anyone using Quickbooks Online as an end-of-year special. It can make a huge difference and help you identify trends in your business finances.

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Angela