When I launched my business three years ago, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I wasn't even sure where to look for resources to help me figure it out (who knew Pinterest could be a wealth of business information?). My father is a successful entrepreneur who runs 7-figure brick-and-mortar businesses, so I went to him for all of the practical stuff, like setting up my S-corp properly and getting square with the IRS. But there was so much he couldn't tell me because he had never run a predominantly online business.
Over the years, I spent oodles of money I didn't have on every course and ebook to teach me all the things. Sometimes I'd dive in and apply what I learned for an immediate return on investment, and other times, I'd forget which of my gazillion email addresses I sent the workbook to! I found clients the "old-fashioned" way, through networking in person. I am an amazing networker, if I must say so myself, so I started with local businesses. It was a good place to start, but it didn't bring me any closer to my dream of running a successful online business.
Granted, my business model is not 100% online. I teach yoga, and I teach yoga students how to become yoga teachers, and then I teach yoga teachers how to grow their business. Some days, particularly now during the global pandemic, all of my work is done online. Other days, I'm in studio or in the homes and offices of my clients. I need certain tools to help me be versatile and flexible with my time and how I offer my services to my clients.
It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what I needed, and what I probably should have had from the beginning. The great news is that now that I know, I can save you a lot of stress in trying to figure it out on your own. The following are four of the best business tools I think entrepreneurs should invest in right away. You know the saying, "You've got to spend money to make money"? Well, you do. Think of it like this, if you were opening up a store on your town's Main Street, you would need to invest in rent, inventory, display tables, a point of sale cash register, a bookkeeper or accountant, a website, telephone service...and a whole lot of other things I haven't even thought of. Why would anyone think they could start an online studio with a free website and zero financial investment? If you have to spend the money, spend it wisely.
#1: An excellent computer
Folks, this was the last thing I acquired and it probably should have been the first. My reasoning was, I'm just accessing the internet. I don't need all the bells and whistles. I can use my phone. Um, no. Just no.
Think about it. You are operating an online business. You need to be able to address your clients' needs and you can't wait for the spinning blue circle to stop spinning. You could spend all your time getting frustrated at your computer, or you could invest in a better laptop. Particularly if you use Zoom to do anything with your business. As a yoga teacher, I teach classes on Zoom. Occasionally, I go live on Facebook. There's nothing worse than losing your class in the middle of it because your computer is too slow. You can only blame it on your internet service so much. You know in your heart it's your computer. And you have the power to fix it.
A techie friend of mine (who repairs computers for a living), told me that any computer under $500 is not worth it. He told me to get a Solid State Hard Drive, at least 16GB of memory, and an Intel Core i5 (or above) processor. I did not understand any of these words, so I asked people who did. Another friend built my computer for me on Dell.com with my specific business needs in mind. It's the one I ultimately bought for close to $1600. It's beautiful. It has a gigantic 17" screen, an 11th generation i7 processor, and the screen doubles as a tablet. I get excited to work everyday (instead of typing with dread) because it is so fast and intuitive. Check out my computer here.
#2: A business coach or mentor
You don't need someone who made 6 figures in two weeks, or some craziness like that, to help you get started. I mean, if you can afford that kind of investment and you think you have what it takes to see a return, go for it. But for most small business owners, all you need is someone who has done what you are trying to do, and can guide you in the right direction. They have to be about two or three steps ahead of you so they can show you the ropes. They don't even have to work in the same industry, but they should understand how to run an online business.
You want to talk to this person before you hire them and make sure they are a good fit. They should be willing to answer your questions BEFORE you pay them, and you should feel comfortable telling them personal information about you and your business. You don't have to be besties (it's probably best if you're not because they have to be able to tell you like it is), but it helps if you like the person. If you find that it's no longer a good fit, at any point in time, you could always hire someone new.
I felt like I looked for a mentor forever. The first woman I talked to on the phone asked me for $10,000 for six weeks of coaching and she didn't answer a single question of mine. The second woman I engaged with face-to-face on Zoom and when I casually mentioned how much the first woman was charging, she told me, without flinching, that she had decided to increase her price by $2,000.
The third woman I talked to was not a yoga teacher. I'm not even sure if she's ever practiced yoga. But she is the one I went with. I knew in my gut before we even talked that first time that she was a good fit because she was transparent. She answered all my questions and told me the price. It was a stretch, but it felt right and I was ready. In that first time talking, before I had paid her a cent, she helped streamline my business and turned me in a new direction that I had never thought possible.
Now, we meet on Zoom once per week and check in on the days in between, and she helps me build my business. She teaches me how to prioritize, she encourages me, and she also shows me how to do some very specific things, like make free workbooks for my email subscribers. I cannot imagine doing my business without her! I have spent more time working on growing my business since working with her than I had in the two years prior. As a result, I signed up for a second 12-week session with her.
Working with a business coach is a game-changer. I wish I had started my business with one. It would have helped me scale faster.
In fact, I love it so much, I decided to help other wellness entrepreneurs build their business as a business mentor myself. Shoot me a message here to learn about my services!
#3 The Right Tech Tools
Friends, I realize this category is broad, but this will vary by industry and what your business goals are. However, if you think you should have it, you probably should. If it will make your life easier and it doesn't cost more than you can earn in a month, do it. A few tools that have helped me immensely:
A good internet provider with high speeds.
A project management system like Trello (the free version is all I need!)
High quality ear buds for teaching yoga classes online
A paid Spotify account for my yoga playlists
A tripod for my phone for filming yoga videos
A Stripe account to charge credit cards in a more professional way than Venmo
A website that has everything I need to run a virtual yoga studio (Wix)
A note on the website: When you are just starting out, it makes sense to build it yourself. There are many options out there that make it easy for beginners through use of templates. If you are already making money in your field when you start your business and you never seem to get your website done, hire someone. You can get the basics for a few hundred dollars or a masterpiece for thousands. You won't regret saving all the time and frustration of building a website when you are not a website developer.
#4 A Housekeeper
I know this one looks out of place, but hear me out. For you, it might be a nanny. Or a chauffeur for your kids. Or a professional organizer. Basically, what I'm telling you, is that you won't have all the time to do all the things when you are starting a business. It's absolutely okay to delegate and outsource. It's okay to do that within your business and within your home.
I hate to clean. I put it off until I'm living in disgrace and I'm overwhelmed with anxiety about the state of my kitchen, instead of using my limited energy to help a new client or serve a new student. We all have something at home that we either despise doing, or that we don't mind doing but it takes up so much of our free time that we start talking about cloning ourselves to get it done (laundry, anyone?).
So hire someone else to do it! You are not less of a woman, man, parent, or business owner if you pay someone else to get it done. In fact, you are a wise human and compassionate, because there are many people out there looking for work who would love to organize your shoes!
I hired a housekeeper over the summer and I would quite literally give up food for a month if it came down to feeding myself or paying her. I don't have to think about cleaning at all. (Okay, rarely. I still have to do the dishes.) I can devote my energy and time to the things I enjoy doing, like coaching business owners. Worth. Every. Penny.