Our business is still very young but we've been able to grow slowly and turn a profit since we opened our virtual doors in January of 2016. We've had some questions on this so we wanted to share some of the factors that have helped us and are still allowing us to grow authentically and at a steady pace!
1. Keeping our overhead low: Obviously, the goal of any business is to make more than what's spent. What has helped us earn a profit since the early days has been to keep our expenses as low as possible. We work out of our homes, we already had access to the design software we use when we started and we've traded our design services for things like professional photographs (thanks, We, The Light Photography!) My husband is an accountant and helps us keep track of our expenses free of charge (you're the best, sugar!) and we know we're lucky in that aspect but chances are, you have many talented people in your life who would be willing to do something for you, especially if you offer to return the favor in another way.
Statistics show that the main reason businesses fail is because their expenses are too high. We've tried to be very creative in thinking of solutions that help us keep our costs low and it's really paid off. When we went to New York, we used the Hopper app to help us find the cheapest airfare possible, stayed in a low-cost AirBnB and volunteered for the conference we attended so we could go for free. When we do need or want to spend on something, we do a lot of research to make sure the return on on investment makes sense and that we've found the lowest cost option that will accomplish the goal of the spend.
2. Utilizing free resources: Advertising and marketing don't always have to cost a lot of (or any) money. Referrals have been our best source of work and in order to get those referrals, we are committed to providing the greatest service we possibly can, which has helped us grow our business quickly and more importantly, led to client relationships that have turned into friendships.
Social media is another awesome source of work for us and so far, we've landed more clients through our regular posting than through the couple of paid ads we've tried.
We also try to talk about our business as much as we can. You never know if your Lyft driver, grocery story cashier, real estate broker, etc. might need your services. We have found advocates for our business and clients in the most unlikely places and we have a goal to give out an ever-changing number of business cards each month to remind us to share information about PBC.
3. Investing where it counts: Even though we are committed to keeping our costs low, we recognize the importance of spending when the opportunity to make your money back and more is present. We spend hundreds of dollars a month on our favorite app, Thumbtack, to quote and win clients looking for our services but we make that money back tenfold so it's worth it for our business. Investing in your business is a balancing act and it's important to set a budget from the beginning (that will grow as your business grows) so that you can invest in yourself thoughtfully from day one.
4. Having a steady source of outside income: This has been so key for both Jenna and I. When we started PBC, it was truly a side hustle that we only worked on in the evenings and on weekends. As our client base grew and workload increased, I was able to go part-time in the corporate world to spend more time on our business. However, continuing to have that steady stream of income has allowed us to keep the stress of making money off ourselves and our business. We've been able to give our clients an extra level of service because our drive to grow our business doesn't rely on the financial aspect.
5. Working based on passion: Jenna and I absolutely love designing. We were always the kids that would volunteer to create the PowerPoint in group projects and those who edited friends' papers, not only for content, but to make sure their font choices were cohesive. So, when we've had slower weeks, we've been able to hang in there because we just enjoy spending our free time on the computer, creating. We don't mind "working" weekends, coming home from our 9 to 5's and jumping on our computers to dig into design projects or posting and answering emails on our vacations. Sure, we realize the importance of taking time off and stepping away, but the point is we just enjoy our business and this kind of work so much! Mark Twain's quote, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, really resonates with us so our advice is to find something you enjoy so much that the extra time you'll need to spend growing your business won't make you feel stressed out and overworked. That's been the true sweet spot for us!
Thanks for reading, friends! Happy business building!