Big visionaries behind small businesses share their insights and experiences in this series. Learn how to share your brand story here.
I was having a coffee talk with a group of entrepreneurial business women (AKA women who started a venture and ran it) in my small town of Beacon, NY, which is 60 miles north of New York City. We moved here from NYC after we got married and were pregnant, thinking that life in "the burbs" would be more appropriate for raising a family, two cats and a dog. To be fair, we don't live in "the burbs", because Beacon is a hipster town that is now being populated with Brooklyn and Manhattan expats who all had the same idea.
One of the women in the group raised her hand and asked if anyone at the table paid themselves a salary. Most of the women did not. Half of the women were young and not married. The other half were women who were married and did have children. I fall into the second camp.
I did not have kids when I launched my first business, Katie James, Inc. It was a passion project and did not pay my bills. My day job funded it. I lived in Manhattan as a single girl, and quit my day job as a website manager of a national non-profit to hang my shingle as a web designer and SEO writer, under the DBA: StudioPixelated. I had time to develop digital packages that I could sell, I could write website proposals, I could design and teach classes to other small business owners. This had to pay my bills, and has ever since. That was in 2005. My accessories business got a little dusty, and remains dusty. This doesn't even take into account Tin Shingle, which Sabina and I started working on in 2008 - the year of my wedding (I type this as Sabina is now getting married in 2013 - meaning her budget needs will be changing soon too...)
Back to salaries and pricing. My answer to that salary question was: "Yes. Yes, I pay myself a Shareholder's Draw because my income changes month to month, and I use it to pay the bills and live my life." Paying yourself from your business earnings is crucial. It helps you build a properly priced and budgeted business. My lifestyle budget is drastically different now as a mom living in a house, then it was as a single gal living in NYC. Which shocks even me.
I've shared with you the basic must-have budget items of my family. My husband does work, and we're a two-income family. If you're a single gal, or a guy with no kids yet, you can build a business and charge very little for it because your own expenses are very low. Fast forward to family life, which requires more money and you're available less of the time, and it's a different story.
Note: These budgets do not include: clothing, vacations, cleaning service (how I wish!!!), credit cards, vet bills for my 3 animals, savings, IRAs, stocks, you know, grown up stuff).
Note: Sometimes you'll pay these items once per year, so it's a big lump. This budget saves per month for that yearly payment.
- Rent: $1850 (rent increased 3-5% every 2 years)
- Renters Insurance: $0
- Daycare: $0
- Electric: $400
- Water: $0
- Cable: $150
- Phone: $100
- Car: $0 (then boyfriend now hubby had a car, but didn't impact my budget)
- Gas: $0
- Car Insurance: $0
- Subway Ticket: $140 for 30 day pass (now is higher)
- Health Insurance: $150 (via Freelancers Union)
- Health Insurance Dependent Premium: $0
- Doctor Visits: $0 (yeah...didn't go too often)
- Groceries: $200
- Pet Food: $100
- Life Insurance: $0 (what's that?)
- TOTAL: $3,090
BUSY MOM (this budget is for a family with no big medical bills):
- Mortgage: $2650 (city taxes can increase by X% depending on who is mayor; includes $100 extra payment to principle to lower interest payment over time)
- Homeowners Insurance: $91 (this increases at whim to "keep up with construction costs")
- Daycare: $1,720 for 5 days with 2 kids (that's $430/week)
- Electric: $650-$950 (depends on heat or air conditioning usage)
- Water: $100
- Cable: $135
- Phone: $95 (not including hubby's)
- Car: $439 (my minivan...hubby's car now paid off)
- Gas: $200 (doesn't include hubby's gas)
- Car Insurance: $200 (paid in $600 chunks x2 drivers)
- Health Insurance: $0 (on with husband)
- Health Insurance Dependent Premium: $100 (paid in $600 chunks 2x/yr)
- Doctor Visits for Family + Medicine: $175 (includes 4 yearly deductibles of $395 each + 10% co-pay after that)
- Groceries: $800 (includes diapers, cleaning products)
- Pet Food: $200
- Life Insurance: $185 for hubby and me (less for me b/c I started younger)
- TOTAL: $8,040
So it almost tripled. And those are the required monthly payments. Not vacations, birthday gifts, teacher gifts, bottles of wine, Christmas, haircuts/color, etc.
So yes. Please value what you provide and pay yourself a salary. Because when you want or need these things in your life, you won't want to have to suddenly increase your prices.