Looking back at last year, what brings you good memories versus not-so-good ones? If you’ve had time to reflect and decide what you want to repeat versus never repeat, then you’re one step ahead of most. I don’t believe new year’s resolutions really work. I believe in envisioning what you want your life to be like and deciding what you need to do to accomplish that vision. To achieve what you want in life, you need to take the time to reflect on what has worked versus what hasn’t worked so far, and know how to make plans to accomplish that life. Making plans also involve creating a budget to accomplish (and protect) the life that you want, as inevitably, I find money is the tool that allows us to make those big changes that we want. While the word “budget” makes many cringe, it is just a tool that allows you to be more deliberate with how you spend your money. With that, I want to share five key areas that I encourage everyone, including business owners and professionals, to plan and budget for to make this new year a great one:
#1 – Estate Plan / Exit Planning – Always have a plan in the event something happens to you, the primary bread winner, founder and/or key employee in a small business.
Examples of budget: To do a standard estate plan for a couple with kids can average about $800. This may seem expensive, but what’s the cost for not creating a legal document to protect your children, assets, and medical wishes and allowing the courts to make those decisions? To do an exit plan, for most small businesses, expect to spend on average $1,500.
Real Example: I knew a family who lost the husband/father in a car accident and all the bank accounts and assets were frozen until the courts determined if there were any outstanding loans that needed to be paid off. The wife/mother could not get groceries or pay the mortgage until this was sorted out, causing undue stress as she coped with the unexpected loss and having to raise a young child on her own. Also, because the courts had to be involved, legal fees were taken out of the estate, which meant less money for the mother and daughter after everything was sorted out.
#2 – Training / Conferences – Regardless if your company will pay for your training, seek out training and attend conferences that will build your skill set and expand your network. Given the automation and technological innovations that continue to re-define and displace jobs each year, I believe everyone needs to stay on top of their industry needs and always be seeking to gain new skills that will keep them employable and not unexpectedly replaced by machines.
Seek out to attend the one or two conferences each year that have both the content and network, including influencers, that are relevant to your industry. Being a contributor and participant in conferences can expose you to colleagues and influencers who can have a major impact on your career and business.
Examples of budget: Plan to save money aside in an Education Fund to pay for the registration fees, airfare/transportation, hotel, food, and any childcare costs to attend the conference. Many of the conferences that include influencers and big keynote speakers usually span over two to four days, so an example of a budget for a four day conference could include:
- Conference fees – $250
- Airfare – $300
- Hotel – $150 x 3 nights = $450 (*Note – I know many who share rooms to decrease costs)
- Food – $30 x 4 days $120 (*Note – Some meals are usually covered by the conference)
- Childcare costs – $40 x 4 days = $160 (*Note – Budget for extra costs to either extend daycare hours or hire someone to drop-off/pick-up kids if you are the one who normally does this.)
- Total – $1,280.
Real example: When I started my business, I was recommended by a colleague to attend an upcoming financial blogger conference. I have attended every year since then as I have found the benefits have far outweighed the costs. The first year when I could drive three hours to the conference, use hotel points for my stay, and buy snacks/drinks from the grocery store, my costs came out to just under $500:
- Conference fees – $350
- Airfare – $0
- Hotel – $0
- Food – $50
- Childcare costs – 90
- Total – $490
- *Note – Drove to conference: 308 miles x $0.575 mileage reimbursement rate = $177.10
#3 – Professional photos – Take time to evaluate your brand and determine if you are projecting the image that you want your company and clients to have of you. One way to manage your brand is to pay for a professional to take head shots for your LinkedIn profile, company page, and other social media. People make judgements of you and your company based on the images that they see online, so invest in getting a headshot that allows others to get the best first impression of you.
Example of budget: Depending on if you want outdoor or studio photos, a professional headshot photo session can cost on average of $100 for several touched-up photos, or an entire CD of all your photos.
#4 – Line of Genius – Plan to work in your expertise, aka “line of genius”, and outsource the rest to others who a) are good at the stuff that you don’t want to do b) can do it quicker and more efficiently and c) can do the work for cheaper than what you can earn per hour. Often, business owners and professionals spend too much time on those “$10 tasks,” where they could have spent that time building their business or career. Think about the projects that you’ve been putting off or spending too much time on, and hire someone to complete it and allow you to avoid the burn-out and focus on building a profitable business or career.
Examples of budget: You can hire a freelancer on sites like Upwork to do data entry (i.e. $6.50 / hour), build web pages (i.e. $10.00 / hour) and create custom graphics (i.e. $15.50 /hour). For career professionals, consider hiring someone to help with housework or meal prep for $10 – $15 per hour, allowing you to focus on your job and family.
#5 Sponsorships – Look for opportunities to build and invest your business, and not spend all your hard-earned money on just the normal day-to-day operating expenses. Consider becoming a sponsor for conferences and key events that will get you in front of your ideal audience and target customers. Ideally, you get a few minutes to speak and address the audience with the selected sponsorship package. You can also gain media exposure as usually big events will have media coverage in addition to their social media and website.
Example of budget: Keynote sponsorship fees can cost $750 – $1,000. Also, budget for designing a print ad and providing gift/prizes for door prizes and raffles depending on the event.
After reading this, what will you add to your new year’s plan? How many of you have already done all five of these suggestions? If so, great! I’d love to hear what’s on your plan for this upcoming year.