The First Things I Spent Money on as an Online Entrepreneur
After you've reinvested every dollar, and poured more blood, sweat and tears into your business than you could imagine, what do you do with your first dollars?
While I love bootstrapping and even coach people on building lean businesses, I know sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
If you're wondering where to spend your first dollars, let me give you some insight on where I spent mine.
When I started my online business, I set it up to be profitable almost immediately. In 2012, I didn't have any clue what a blog was, and barely knew what I was doing.
But, I did know I didn't want my blog to become a money pit. I didn't want to spend my hard-earned cash on my website when I could be spending it on cigars or video games.
Setting up a website today is cheap. Compared to even five years ago, the costs have come down significantly. You can grab a domain for $10 from GoDaddy and get hosting for the price of coffee per month at Bluehost.
To get started online, that's all you really need. A way to save your stories and pictures, and an address to send people to.
So, for about $135 (I bought 3 years worth of hosting up front to get a better price), I was off to the races. I signed up for a few affiliate programs and Google Adwords, and I ready to go.
To be honest, it took me a while to make money. In the beginning, I wasn't writing with consistency and I didn't have a clear message. (If you're struggling to find your message, check out my free email course). If I'd known then what I teach people now, I could have gotten off to a much faster start.
But this post isn't about making money, it's about how to spend it once you have it.
Aside from the $135 it took me to get started, here's a look at what I spent my first money on, and why.
The first major money I spent was on Jeff Goins' writing course, Tribe Writers. I think, at the time, the course was around $300. Jeff's course taught me to write with my voice and be authentic, two things that have provided me with significant results.
If you're going to be a writer, investing in improving your skills is a must. As I mentioned in this post, every professional focuses on getting better every day. My first major investment was in myself and in improving my skills.
The second thing I spent money on was my website.
I initially set up my blog with a free theme and would recommend you do the same. When you're starting out, no need to spend money on a fancy theme, unless you want to. However, I wanted a few more options and features that my free them didn't provide. Specifically, I wanted to be able to create landing pages.
I started shopping around and eventually found StudioPress themes. After hours of research, I decided to give StudioPress and their Genesis framework a try. I'm glad I did! I've found their software to be extremely fast, and well written with efficient code.
Just by switching from my free theme to a StudioPress theme, I got a significant boost to my page load times. I saw about a 60-75% improvement in my site's speed.
I spent about $100 and it was totally worth it.
If you're going to get serious about building an online business, you need a site that looks professional and handles well. My second major investment was for improving the infrastructure of my website so I could serve you, my reader, better.
After I worked on my skills and the speed of my site, I moved on to making style improvements.
Please note, I'd been doing online business for two years and ten months before spending money on style points. It may have been a mistake to wait that long, but I learned a ton while waiting.
For $197, I purchased 10 licenses for OptimizePress. I also subscribed to their membership hub for another $17/mo. If you don't need 10 licenses, one for each installation of WordPress, you can get 3 licenses for just $100.
OptimizePress is the software I use to create awesome looking landing pages like this one, this one, and this one. OptimizePress is like icing on a cake – it takes the experience to a whole new level.
For the money, OptimizePress is one of the best purchases you can make if your business is ready for it. Since optin boxes, membership pages, landing pages and all the professional functions you're looking for are included, OptimizePress is a great value for your dollar.
Other things I spent money on:
- OptinSkin – Another one of the purchases (under $100) I made early on was for the WordPress plugin, OptinSkin. This plugin makes adding subscription forms to your site easy. OptinSkin's optin boxes are more attractive than what you'd get by pasting in HTML code form MailChimp or AWeber.
- Microphones – If you know anything about podcasting, you know good audio isn't even an option anymore. It's a requirement. When I decided to take my podcasts on the road, I bought two Audio-Technica ATR2100s for about $55 a piece. One of the best microphones you can buy for under $300.
- Recording – Along with the microphones, I needed a solid recorder to capture audio while on the go. It was a big decision to spend the $200 on a Zoom H4n, but it's one of the best options out there for serious podcasters.
- 31 Days to Building a Better Blog by Darren Rowse – This PDF ebook helped me tremendously. If you're not sure you're ready for Jeff Goins' course, Darren's ebook is a good first step. It's full of blog post ideas, ways to connect with and grow your audience, and way more. 31DBBB was a significant inspiration for my Blog Post Idea Web that I give away for free.
- Conferences – I'm a huge fan of conferences. The conference experience is always greater than the sum of it's combined sessions. New Media Expo was an eye opening experience in early 2014, and Podcast Movement in August of 2014 was just the mid-year boost my business needed. If you're trying to decide on where to spend your new businesses money, put it toward connecting with other people at conferences.
- Business Cards – Some people say business cards are dead. Those people are wrong. I have a stack of business cards sitting on my desk right now and I look through them frequently to find the email address or phone number for someone I need to get in touch with. I get my cards from Moo.com. If you use this link, you'll get 10% off your order!
- Email – I used Mailchimp for free for almost three years before deciding to switch to something else. When you're first starting, there's no need to pay $20 a month for AWeber, GetResponse, or any other tool. It wasn't until I had several autoresponders and started segmenting my email lists to better serve my readers that I decided it was worth the investment in email marketing software.
Things I May Spend Money On:
- Calendly – As I mentioned here, Calendly is my preferred tool to automate meeting scheduling. It syncs with your Google Calendar and takes the guess work out of trying to find a good time to meet. Calendly has saved me hours of time over the past year.
- Camtasia – The current version of Camtasia is getting a little long in the tooth. While I'm grateful to have it, the latest version (~$300) would better utilize the power in my computer. If you want to make professional videos and screen captures, Camtasia is an excellent option. If I knew I would be doing more video production, Camtasia would be next on my list.