How to Properly Invest in Yourself and Your Business

It’s the end of the year, and that means tax time is right around the corner.

Let’s assume it’s your first time filing as a freelancer or business owner.

Even though you’ve done your own taxes for years, you’ve decided to hire a professional accountant this time. After all, you’ve made some decent money from your web writing, and you want to make sure you’re taking the right deductions, so you don’t pay more taxes than necessary.

You worked hard for that money!

So, you do some research online, and find two qualified CPAs in your area. Before making your decision to call one, you take a look at their websites …

John’s website looks like a school project. Half the links don’t work properly, images are running into the copy, and there are more colors than the rainbow in the design.

Bob’s website is clean and professional. The home page clearly spells out that his accounting firm specializes in small business and solo-professional taxes, and allows you to fill out a form to schedule a free consultation.

Which do you choose?

The two accountants could have the exact same experience, same reputation, and same ability. Heck, John, with the lousy website, may even be better — and a tad cheaper!

But, the professional feeling you got from Bob’s website set your mind at ease. He’s your man.

Good thing Bob decided to invest in having someone else do his website. He knows that clients who find him online will need confidence in his ability to do the job. And, since his website is the only opportunity he has to sell himself, it had better close the deal.

Investing in yourself and your business is not a choice …

Investing in your freelance career is a necessity.

You already know that in order to grow your writing business you need skills. You need to appear professional. You need to keep improving so you can continue to raise your fees.

And, the only way to do all that is to invest.

Now, I’m not saying to run out and spend $2,500 on a website, business cards, and a four-color brochure. You have to pick and choose your investments, just like you would with investing your money for retirement.

(Although it should be noted that investments in yourself have the potential for a much larger return than the historic 9% average investments in the stock market receive … and vastly larger than the 2% of recent times.)

So, how do you effectively invest in yourself?

First up, decide what to invest …

The first thing that comes to mind when you think about investing is money. But, there are actually other things you can invest …

For example, you can invest time to learn something. By reading this e-letter each week, you’re investing 5 to 10 minutes to gain insight into writing better copy, and growing your copywriting business.

You can invest your skills in exchange for something else. Maybe you write the copy for your graphic designer’s home page, in exchange for her designing a custom logo and header for your website.

You can invest in your business by working on spec when you first start out. If you’re looking to break into the health supplement market, but have no experience or past clients, consider doing a few things on spec to quickly build your portfolio. And then, turn around and use that portfolio to get more clients — paying clients.

You can even invest by simply changing a situation, or removing a barrier. Last year’s $10K Challenge Winner, Roy Furr, invested in himself two years ago by quitting his full-time job shortly after returning home from Bootcamp, so he could invest more time into growing his freelance business.

Investing in yourself — as with any financial investment — is basically taking a risk in exchange for a return. The key is to find a return that balances (or exceeds) the risk …

What are some good investments for you?

Hopefully by now you’ve already started investing in your skills. Maybe you’ve decided that you want to write autoresponder copy, and have purchased Jay White’s Autoresponder Apprentice.

Or, you want to get the skills needed to become a paid web copy specialist, so you’re planning to attend the 2012 Web Copy Intensive.

AWAI Wall of Famer Pam Foster once told me her biggest investment in herself was in hiring two coaches at different times throughout her freelance career. Both were instrumental to her progress, and the one-on-one mentoring she received is still being put to use every day.

And, this year’s $10K Challenge Winner, Mindy Tyson McHorse, says her biggest and best investment to date was joining AWAI’s Circle of Success. Says Mindy …

“If I hadn’t invested in myself early on, when I first decided to become a freelance writer, I don’t think I would have taken myself seriously. My first big investment in my career was over $7,000, for AWAI’s Circle of Success. I actually took out a small business loan because, I reasoned, anybody starting a bricks-and-mortar shop would take out a loan (and nobody would question it), so why not get a loan for my own small business (me)?

“Every month when I made my payments, I was reminded of my commitment to succeed as a copywriter and got reenergized to find work to pay it all off. I’ve since paid off the entirety of the loan, though I estimate the value I’ve gotten in return goes far beyond doubling my investment.

“If I had to put a dollar amount on what I actually got in return for my $7,000, I’d say it has paid off well beyond the six-figure mark … and that number is still growing.

“Now, I’m quick to invest where I see an opportunity for my business to grow. This includes signing up for e-newsletter subscriptions/membership sites, hiring web designers and graphic designers, and purchasing research materials. I know they’ll pay off tenfold — or more — in the long run.”

There are many ways to invest in yourself … you just want to make sure the return you’ll make on that investment (ROI) is worth it.

So, what kind of ROI should you expect?

There is no right answer to that question, as the ROI can vary based on your personal needs and risk sensitivity. The only thing it must be is realistic.

In the past, I’ve shared with you a little about my life as a freelancer, and how I once hired a business coach to help me make some strategic decisions. Before we started our sessions together, I determined I needed to make five times my investment.

Because that’s what made the risk — both the money and time I was investing — worthwhile to me. Anything less simply wasn’t worth the investment.

The key is to filter out investment opportunities that will only give you a tiny return.

For example, people who come to the Web Copy Intensive each year invest $5K because they want to make $50K, $150K, and more a year. They know their investment is going to continue making them money year after year. (Some have made it to all four Intensives, and are already registered for their fifth this coming February!)

Says Intensive alum Henry Bingaman …

“The hardest part of starting my freelance business was learning how to invest intelligently. I'm kind of an information addict. As a copywriter myself, I read through most sales pitches that land in my inbox to see what they're doing and how they're doing it … and as a consequence, I get sold on a lot of products.

“But, about six or seven months in to my new profession, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time and money on things that were only increasing my ability to earn money in very small increments.

“So, I've slowed down and become a lot more careful about what I invest in.

“Before I buy anything, I have to be convinced that the product has lasting value.

“For example, I won't buy a product that teaches me how to make money on Twitter, but I'll consider a product that teaches me how to use networking to find new clients … because the principles behind the latter are fundamental and will hold true in any medium.”

How can you evaluate an investment?

You have to think through the input and output. How much does it cost? What time do you have to commit? What are your potentials for output? How fast will you breakeven?

Let’s look at a couple of examples …

Jay White’s Autoresponder Apprentice program costs $500. But, you can make that back with your first project. And, it only takes a weekend to learn. So, breakeven is after week one. Let’s assume you land only one project a week for the first month. You’ve made three times your investment in a month.

With four projects under your belt, you’re golden. The return on that investment will increase 10 times, 20 times, and 50 times throughout the course of the year.

Now, let’s look at a bigger investment like the Web Copy Intensive. That’s $5,000! But, the skills you learn can have you up-and-running as a paid web copy specialist when you leave. And, if you make $75K throughout the remainder of 2012, that’s a return of 15 times your investment!

One last way to evaluate an investment is by savings. Wealthy Web Writer is a great example. You pay $47 a month. Yet each month, there are at least five webinars that would sell for at least $79. So, each month you’re automatically saving $348. Then, when you add in the unlimited content, free feedback, roadmaps, and more, that savings can grow up to $1,000 a month before you know it. Not to mention the Job Board, member forum, discounts, and more …

Autoresponder copy expert Jay White has invested in himself and his career a lot over the years. And in his opinion, “Investing in yourself and your career is not throwing money away — it's throwing money into a huge machine that spits out MORE money in return.

“By investing, you're taking a big step … a step that 95% of others will never take. It means you have the guts to move forward and actually make something happen. And, believe me — if you follow the leads of other successful entrepreneurs and invest in yourself, you'll reap HUGE rewards. It's the safest bet you'll ever make!”

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Published: November 28, 2011

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