I am SO PUMPED to bring you this occasional series of interviews with women in business. Why all the money chat? Because we still have a LOT of shame around our cash. Because we can tell ourselves a shit load of stories about who is making what money and how. Because we can be really limited by our perceptions of how success meets money management. I’m lifting the lid with some trailblazing entrepreneurs who are generously sharing their shiz.
Tell us about you, and what you do…
I’m Clare and I run Essex Marketing Services. I help small businesses navigate their way through the complicated world of digital marketing through consultancy, online courses, workshops, a supportive Facebook community and lots of other resources launching soon. My main areas cover branding design, website design and build, search engine optimisation, email marketing, social media marketing and lots more. I am passionate about helping small businesses succeed and LOVE to see how businesses can make a difference by implementing my advice!
Ok, we are here for the money chat, let’s dive in…
What did you get paid in your first ever job? Did you like it? Was it enough?
I did lots of random things before getting a ‘real’ job. I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. My first ever job was when I was 14, working at a local hairdressers. I was a bit of a guinea pig and had some TERRIBLE hairstyles. I was paid £20 a day, 9-6, although did do very well in tips too. I guess it was enough, but probably because none of my friends had jobs at that age. I remember going shopping every lunchtime to places like Select and New Look and treating myself to clothes.
At uni, I would do almost anything for money. I worked in promotions, trying to get people to come to clubs in Bournemouth, hosted Ann Summers Parties, then took that to a new level and started importing wholesale underwear from China and then selling it for a big profit on eBay.
Then my first career job (I started while I was still finishing my degree, much to my dad’s distaste) was as a staff writer on a mobile phone magazine. I earned £18k a year and it wasn’t enough to fund my extravagant lifestyle. I got into serious debt while living in an awesome flat in Kentish Town, out most nights and basically, just splashing a load of cash I didn’t have.
What’s the highest paid (employed) job you ever had and what did you make? Did you like it? Was it enough?
I *think* I was earning £45k as International Editorial Director in my last full-time role. I also had a bonus, which I think was 10% of my annual salary. I’d just bought a flat at the time, so again, no, it wasn’t enough. I still had a loads of debt that I was paying off, plus a mortgage and I remember always panicking about money, having nothing in my account at the end of the month.
What’s the money story of your business- let’s hear about money you invested, money you “wasted”, when you went from loss to profit, and what you make now…
There are so many things I could cover here. I didn’t really have to invest much because all I needed was a computer that I already had. My biggest investment was time! I also had to invest in a website and I started off with GoDaddy hosted WordPress, which was a VERY bad decision. After a few months I had to switch because it was terrible. I lost some money there. When I went to a limited company from sole trader, I also had to pay out a lot – £1k for my first tax return, which I didn’t have and had to borrow from my dad.
I’ve spent a lot of money on technology that I thought would make my life easier, but didn’t and so has been wasted, such as a learning management platform I was paying £99 a month for and didn’t work properly. But hey, I learned that there are better options out there and can now recommend to clients not to use it!
I’ve never really made a loss over a financial year, but there were months when I haven’t been able to pay myself, mostly because clients didn’t pay me on time, or business was bad. At one point, I was owed around £4k in late payments and was earning around £1k a month. It was hard, especially as I pay for the majority of nursery fees myself, as well as half the bills (loooooong story and no judgement please, that’s just how mine and my husband’s relationship works). Luckily, they were months when I had money elsewhere (such as inheritance from my grandad, not lucky that he died, but just lucky the money came in when I most needed it).
But, about four months ago, I realised I needed to make a shift in my mindset. I’m not very ‘woo’ in my work life, although have ALL THE WOO in my personal life and didn’t really believe that thinking positively about money would make a difference. Well, thinking positively about money completely changed my fortunes and before I knew it, I had £8k in my business bank account and only one late payment to chase. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t come easily and I’ve had to work hard for that money (often 45 hours a week, across 3 formal childcare days and other bits when I can fit them in), but being paid on time has made such a huge difference!
I don’t really keep track of what I earn on a month-by-month basis (because I’m terrible with tracking money in general) but it’s usually between £4k and £8k a month. This year so far, I’ve been paid £60k (I’ve actually just checked – I had no idea it was that much!). Increasingly, that’s being spent on my team as they’re doing more work for me, so that’s not all profit – about £2k a month is spent on them and other outsourcing. I also spend about £500 a month on software I need and am paying back a director’s loan I had to pay my business when I forgot to save up for tax last year. Oops.
But I’m getting there!
How do you manage your money?
I switched to Xero this tax year and it’s made such a huge difference. I now accept lots of different ways of taking payments that makes it easier for my clients to pay, payment reminders and late payment notices are automatically sent out and it’s so much easier to keep tabs on incomings and outgoings. But I still don’t check it very much – only late payments!
I’ve FINALLY set up a standing order to pay myself from my business account on the same day every month and I also have another standing order that goes into another business account for corporation tax.
I’m still terrible at managing my finances, but by that I mean I don’t really keep tabs on it. If there’s money in my accounts, it’s fine. If there’s not, I have to stop spending. As usual, I’ve just received a personal tax bill I forgot about, so that’s me short for this month. But I’m not dwelling on it – next month is a new month.
What are your money goals?
I’d like to be making £5k a month from passive income and another £7k from consultancy etc., by the end of the year. It’s not quite the £200k in revenues I was aiming for at the beginning of the year, but I’m good with that. Next year, I will get to £250k.
For me though, it’s not really about having loads of money for myself. I’ll always pay myself a lower wage than the business is earning – only what I really need, saving a little and investing in a pension.
I want to focus more on helping people, giving more work (and money) to my team and working less so I can spend more time with Ollie before he goes to school in a year’s time. I want to plan lots of adventures and go on more holidays before we’re limited. I’ve recently realised I’ve lost so much of his three years working constantly and that needs to change!
Any good money mantras?
Always have a positive attitude towards money. The more negative you are and the more you think you’re drowning in debt, you probably will be.