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If you’re dreaming of doing this online biz thing, but are finding funds are tight, let me just say I can totes relate!

When I started my business back in college, I was on a serious (I mean serious) budget. I knew I wanted to invest in myself and grow my business, but it can be hard to know where to spend those precious few $$ in getting there!

Looking back, there are a handful of things that I feel are super important to invest in depending on the stage of business you find yourself in, as well as a few things you can afford put off (or even forget about all together).

Today I’m sharing the common problems you might face in each step of your business, and the smart-investments to make to help you solve them!

The smartest investments to make in business if you are…

Just getting started out

Let’s just say you’ve got ideas.

You don’t have an exact business plan in mind, but you have a topic that you are superrrr passionate about and you’re ready to get the ball rolling.

The biggest problem you’re likely going to have in this stage of your business is that you have no freakin’ clue what you should be doing when you sit down to work every day.

You feel like you need to be working, but without a clear direction, you end up filling your day with tasks that don’t actually move the needle.

So what’s you’re next best move (IMO)?

Smart investment #1: Online Courses

I took Marie Forleo’s B-School when I was just getting started and planning to try to take my business full-time…again. (More on that story episode 001 College student > multiple 6-figure online business owning digital nomad but long story short, I failed the first time. Hard.)

Now, I’m not saying you all need to run out at take her course (I mean it was an amazing course) but it was the perfect fit for me and my business and I left it feeling confident I knew what the heck I should be doing when I sat down to work each day. It totally fast-tracked my business and kept me from wasting time learning hard lessons or spending hours/days/weeks on the non-essentials.

Regardless of what field you’re in, find the expert on that topic, and then learn from that person.

Smart investment #1: get a legit website

It’s pretty impossible to have a successful online business without being, you know…online. But it’s not enough just to have a website.

This is your online storefront, your business card, and eventually how people are going to be paying you so it better be legit.

The good news? You can totally put off hiring a professional web + brand designer (for now.)

Now, professional designers are 100% worth their weight in gold, and this is def an investment you’ll want to make down the road. But even if you’re completely sold on your business idea, it is going to change a lot during those first few years.

At this stage in your business, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to drop all that dough on getting that fancy website and brand made up, only to have to pay more later to have it updated.

It’s 100% possible for you to DIY a professional-looking website. The website building platform that I use and highly highly recommend is Squarespace (use code Paige10 for 10% off…that’s an affiliate link!)

Need help getting started? My course Square Secrets is meant to help you go from clueless > confident in the Squarespace website building department.

It covers every important aspect of building sites that convert visitors into clients, including both the Squarespace tech as well as the design best practices and website conversion strategy.

Another key benefit to DIY-ing your site when you first start out is that you now have the know-how to update your site on demand. No more having to wait weeks until your web designer or developer is available to change out your photos or update your info.

Besides your mad new Squarespace skills, you’re going to need one other thing to make that website of yours look legit…

Smart Investment #3: Professional Stock Photos

Photos can make or break a visitor’s impression of your website, and there ain’t a designer out there who can deliver a wow-worthy website using crappy photos.

But there’s no need to run out and book a photographer just yet! You can do pretty fabulous things with your website using stock photos, and they are a little easier on the pocket-book when you’re first getting started.

Here are a few places to find totally profesh-looking quality photos:

You can also search “stock photos” on Pinterest!

Pro tip: I tend to always buy from the same few photographers to keep my website images looking cohesive!

Smart investment #4: Mindset Books

If you’re like me, another struggle you might be facing in the early stages of your business is confidence!

Is this even possible for me?

Are people going to think I’m a fraud?

Business books are always a good idea, but it’s at this specific point in your business I would recommend picking up a book or two to help you with mindset.

Here are my fave mindset books to recommend:

Books are v. affordable compared to many of the investments you will make in your business. You literally get a person’s entire lifetime of knowledge wrapped up in a neat little package that you can digest in just a few hours of your time, which is why books are always a no-brainer in my mind.

The smartest investments to make in business if you are…

Generating revenue (but not exactly making serious bank)

In this stage of business, the next obstacle you’re most likely to come up against is time (or lack thereof). You know now what you need to be doing, but you simply don’t have enough time to do all of the things.

You’d love to start outsourcing some of these things, but there isn’t exactly room in the budget for bringing on a team member just yet.

Which brings me to…

Smart investment #5: Software

Basically, anything that could make your life easier with automation so you have more time to do the real work in your business.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re working 1:1 with clients and you’d like to speed up your processes. The software you need is a CRM (customer relationship management system). A CRM can do things like send welcome packets, invoices, and contracts, take payments, and send client communications, literally saving you hours each week in your business.

The software I use is Honeybook (you can use my affiliate link for 50% off your first year!)

Another useful software to have at this point in your business is something like Zapier which in a nutshell is responsible for making all your other software communicate with each other.

An example of this is that whenever someone schedules a call with me using Acuity, Zapier automatically sets up a task for me in Asana! (For more on Asana, check out How I use Asana to organize the tasks and calendar in my online business).

Oh, and Zapier has a free plan btw, so depending on how many automatic tasks or “Zaps” you set up, you may not need to drop any dough on this one after all.

The next type of software I would suggest if you are creating any sort of graphics in your business is a graphic design software. It’s possible that the free version of something like Canva may be all you need, but often the time we spend hacking something to try and do it cheaper ends up costing us more than it would to just upgrade to the paid version or tool.

Two design tools I love to recommend are:

Using Pinterest for your business? There’s a simple way to streamline that process, too! I use Tailwind to schedule all my pins (along with a few other really nifty features!)

Smart Investment #6: Spending on things that free-up time in your personal life

This may not feel like the time to be splurging on your personal-life, but any amount of time saved there can be poured right back into your business!

My personal fave investment that brings me more freedom in my personal-life is my cleaning man. Best money I spend all year, no doubt (and not just for my business’s sake!)

Can’t afford a cleaning guy? Get a Roomba (that’s an affiliate link!) If you have pets or kids, keeping up with the vacuuming can be a huge time suck (see what I did there?) and every little bit of time saved helps!

Another service I take advantage of in my personal-life is Hello Fresh. I do not want to be eating out every night because I don’t have time to shop for and prepare a proper meal, so using a meal kit service like Hello Fresh literally frees up hours every week.

So now that you have freed up all this time to work on your business, it’s time for your next smart investment to get you to where you want to go!

Smart investment #7: More courses

You have your business idea down, and you’re starting to bring in more funds, but maybe you there’s something you’d like to start doing that you know would grow your business even more.

When I wanted to start the podcast, I knew that I wanted to learn from the expert. And who’s the expert in podcasting? Pat Flynn! (From Smart Passive Income).

I immediately went to his website, found his Power-Up Podcasting course, and got myself enrolled.

All I can say is money well spent. It really helped me move so quickly. I didn’t need to think about what I should be doing, I just turned off my brain, followed the steps that he laid out, and knew I was taking care of.

(Check out my post An honest review of Pat Flynn’s Power-Up Podcasting Course for more on that)

Whether your goal is to start a blog, a podcast, a You-Tube Channel, start using Pinterest for your business, or transition from 1:1 services to a more scalable product-based offering…whatever the thing is, there is no need to waste time trying to reinvent the wheel.

Find the expert > take their course.

Smart investment #8: Professional Brand Photography

We talked about the importance of having bomb-looking photos for your website, and how you could make use of stock photography to get the job done.

But if it’s in your budget, this is def the point in your business I would suggest hiring a professional photographer to do a brand photoshoot!

Your first shoot can be as inexpensive (ie. just you and a photographer at a cute coffee shop) or as extravagant (renting out a photography studio with makeup, hair, props…the works!) as you like, but having professional brand photos can go a long way in feeling confident about putting yourself out there on your website or social media.

Smart investment #9: Business Books

You already know you’re a badass, thanks to your earlier reading on mindset, so now is the time to be loading up on business books!

Books are exceptionally useful at this stage in your business for moving forward at a faster pace and keep up the momentum you’ve built.

The smartest investments to make in business if you are…

Making good revenue, and your goal is to scale your business

Business is pretty good, but you have big dreams and it’s going to take a little more than books and a few bits of software to get you there.

If you’ve reached this point in your business, your next smart move is to invest in…people!

Smart Investment #10: Hiring & Outsourcing

If you’re the visionary – the founder of your business – it’s up to you to move the business forward, and to think of new ideas and create new products.

If you are spending all your time responding to customer service emails, you aren’t going to have much time left over for the things that actually move the needle in your business! It’s time to outsource! (Here’s how I outsource my email inbox, btw)

Who you should hire depends on your business, but a good start would be to look back through your calendar/planner/project management system and see where it is you are spending the most time in your business.

What are the $15/hour tasks that you have been handling that could be easily passed off to the right person?

Speaking of outsourcing, it’s time to revisit some earlier investments we’ve been putting off until just the right time…

Smart investment #11: Professional Branding + Web Design

You’ve been running your biz successfully for a while now. You have a solid idea of who your ideal client is, and the “why” behind your business.

This is the point at which it actually makes sense for you to have your branding and website professionally done. They will take what you have learned about your ideal client, and your goals for your business and use that to build a visual brand that reflects that!

I would def still suggest going with a designer who uses a platform you are already familiar with as again, you are not going to want to wait weeks and spend $$ every time your site needs a quick update.

Smart investment #12: Find a Business Mentor

Whether you seek out a mastermind or business coaching, this is the point in your business to invest in 1:1 or small-group mentorship.

When I went to create my online courses, I sought out the expert on online course creation and joined her mastermind group. There are tonnes of courses I could have taken, but for an undertaking of this size, I wanted something just a little more 1:1 where I could go to get all my questions answered in real-time.

So there you have it! My list of smart investments for every stage of business (and all the ways I’d splurge or save if I could do it all over again!) I hope you find this useful in planning out your next big investment in your business!

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028 The smartest investments to make at every stage of your online business