Can you start a business on a budget? I believe you can! So today’s episode is all about finances, specifically MY finances. Beth asked me on Instagram, how much do I pay myself versus reinvest in the business and allocate for expenses, et cetera. And to be honest, this isn’t something I’ve really talked about before online. Now before I jump in, I do have a FREE DOWNLOAD, a free business wellness plan. It’s a list of all the things you should track each month plus links to calendar reminders. So you can just click and add those to Google calendar and that part is done.

Now, as you can see by the title of this episode, I run my business for $300 a month. Now to be clear. This does not include the one off purchases like fonts, plugins, client gifts, travel, random books I buy on Amazon, you know all those kinds of little things here and there. This $300 is the consistent tools and apps I pay for every month that really basically run my business in the back end.

If I spent just strictly this $300 a month, that would be a total of $3,600 a year and I spend more around like $15,000 a year after calculating in all of the other things. In today’s episode I want to break down what I’m paying for and how much it costs and then I’ll also share how I pay myself and what I choose to invest in. (Spoiler: I don’t do ads. My content is what brings me clients!)

And just a quick side note. The prices I’m going to mention are rounded up. Some things might actually be like 19.99 a month and I’m just saying it’s $20 because honestly I just like even numbers better. (Also, some of the links below are affiliate links!)


So starting at the top at the most expensive and also the most used is Adobe Creative Cloud, which is $50 a month.

This is a software suite that I use every single day to design. Now since more and more of my work has moved to web design in the last two to three years, I’m using this software less than I used to, like with designing logos and books and PDFs and all those kinds of things, but even though I’m using it less, I still basically use it almost every single day.

Next on this list, is Thinkific, which is $39 a month.

This is the platform I use to host my online course Content to Clients. If you’re a business on a budget, but want to create online courses, I highly recommend it. I chose to actually use Thinkific over Teachable because I like the user interface better and even though it’s a higher per month fee, I actually have higher profits because of the transaction fees.

Then we have Social Curator which is basically the only monthly expense I have that is not an actual tool or app.

Social Curator is a $30 a month and it’s a membership community run by Jasmine Star. She has a monthly workshop and then monthly images and Instagram caption ideas.

Next we have ConvertKit at $29 a month and this is what I use for my email list.

I’m a huge fan of ConvertKit because I love to have different opt-ins for my list and love being able to segment people on my list a lot easier. And as an example, one of the ways I segment my list is by having people kind of classify themselves as to whether or not they use WordPress or Squarespace because then I can send them specific tutorials based on what they use. ConvertKit also has a ton of new landing page templates they just released in the last few weeks which are way better than the previous ones they had available.

Then, we have website hosting and I use a Flywheel for my WordPress hosting.

Flywheel is $28 a month and worth every penny, even for a business on a budget. The user interface is the simplest of all the WordPress hosts out there (along with my favorite theme!), at least the ones that I’ve seen and I have seen quite a few. They do daily backups of your site and if your site is ever hacked or infected, they will clean your site for free. (Squarespace is also a great option for websites!)

Next we have Dubsado, which is $25 a month.

Dubsado is the platform I use to manage all of my clients and communications. Dubsado lets me send contracts, invoices, questionnaires to all my clients in one single platform, so once again – great for a business on a budget. It really streamlines everything for me, which is why I decided to start using it last year.

Then we have SmarterQueue, and this is $20 a month.

Smarterqueue is what I use for social media scheduling on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. This tool is so worth it for a business on a budget, because it saves so much time. Basically I have a library of content that is a mix of quotes, tips, links to blogs and videos and links to other people’s blogs and videos. I set a schedule for each platform like post a video link on Twitter every Monday at 2:00 PM and so on. Smarterqueue does all the posting and once they go through all of the content in the library, they just start over at the top and run through all of that content again. (I have other tips for Instagram posting!)

Next we have Zoom, which is a $15 a month.

This is what I use to do my group calls in my content to clients program. It does have a free option but then you’re limited on how long calls can last with certain people and I actually will move my subscription back down to the free plan over the summer when I don’t have group calls for a few months.

Then we have a few expenses left that I just want to run through a little bit quicker because honestly they’re just not as interesting.

  • So Hover, that is what I use to buy domains. This is about $12 a month.
  • Google Suite is $10 a month and that’s what my email’s through.
  • Typeform is also about $10 a month. This is a platform I use for reader surveys and my website inquiry forms.
  • Audioboom is $10 a month and this is what I use to host my podcast that you’re currently listening to.
  • Dropbox comes out to $8 a month to pay for all of the extra space I need in my Dropbox account.
  • Quickbooks is $5 a month and that’s what I use for accounting and you know all that fun stuff.
  • And then Tailwind is a tool I use to schedule pins on Pinterest and I get a really big discount depending on how many users sign up under my affiliate link. So right now it’s anywhere from free to $5 a month.

While running a business on a budget, my very last expense in business is actually also super new and that is a VA. I hired a virtual assistant to basically just load my new clients into Dubsado and then hit send on the contract and invoices. This is such a quick task. It only costs me about $10 a month or at least that’s what it costs in March. This will vary because she’s hourly and it just depends on how many new clients I get each month.

So that is the rundown of all my monthly reoccurring expenses and budget.

Again, that does not include any fonts, travel, all the miscellaneous expenses that aren’t really required for running my business. Those miscellaneous things can vary for any business on a budget.

So let’s move on and talk about paying myself. Now, when I quit my job five years ago, I was lucky enough to already have clients on deck. Three weeks after I quit, my client waitlists began forming and I’ve been lucky enough to have a waitlist ever since. So when I quit, I was able to pay myself the same amount that I was earning at my day job. I actually just set it up through my online bank so that my money would go ahead and automatically transfer from my business account to our personal account every two weeks to pay myself like normal.

Then as I’ve been able, I give myself a little raise here and there. If you remember from the beginning of the episode, I said that Beth had asked me about my finances and the reason she asked is because I actually shared on my Instagram stories that I had a really good February, so I gave myself a bonus and paid off our car a year and a half early.

Now, is that something I can do every month? Absolutely not. It’s literally the first time I’ve ever been able to do that. There have been times I’ve been able to give myself like a $300 bonus here or there to help pay for something extra, but nothing like I was able to do last month.

One of the things I did with my finances from the very beginning was not pay myself all of the money I make each month.

Back then when I started that may have only meant like $100 was leftover, but I kept it in that account and this helped build up a savings account of sorts for my business. I use this excess money to help pay my quarterly tax payments and make new investments like courses and hiring coaches.

And this leads me into the final point of our conversation, how to decide what to invest in and what to spend money on.

I’m gonna be really honest and tell you that I do not actually have a literal budget for my business. Should I? Probably. If I’m wanting to make a bigger purchase, like I want to buy a $3,000 course, I’ll look at what my bank account is sitting out. How far away am I from making another quarterly tax payment, like if it’s going to happen next week, I might hold off on investing.

How far out am I booked with clients and what are those project fees? Because the monthly income will be really different if I’m designing five PDFs this month or if I’m designing three websites. There are also two main questions I usually ask myself about a purchase.

First, how quickly can I make this money back? Like how many client projects do I need to “pay” for this? Second, how will this purchase make my business better? Will it help me scale? Will it help me streamline? Will it make me a better designer? Will it increase my visibility? If I can’t see how it will impact my business in one of those ways, I don’t usually invest. But I take all of these things I just mentioned into consideration and that’s how I make a decision if I want to invest in something.

The last thing I want to say is that I am a saver, not a spender and more often than not I probably talk myself out of purchases. I also know that since I have excess in my account from not paying myself all of the money I make each month, that it makes it easier for me to make investments because I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. And obviously I am not a financial planner of any sort. So I want to go ahead and recommend the book Profit First, which I found to be a really good read for business owners. I actually do not set up my business finances like he recommends specifically, but it was still really valuable information. So that is a summary of my finances and how I pay myself and invest in myself and my business. If you have questions, if I left anything out, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram at Jess Creatives and I will see you all next week.