You’ve got to spend money to make money - that’s how the saying always goes. As a freelancer and small business owner, I have to spend money in order to get by.
That being said, there’s plenty of ways to waste your money. I can remember very well all the things that I’ve spent money on, thinking I would get a huge return, only to end up getting very little out of them.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of business expenses that have had a huge and unexpected payoff.
Now, if you read blogs and listen to podcasts about personal finances, freelancing, and entrepreneurship, you’ll probably hear a lot about how you have to use product X or product Y. You’ve gotta try this or that. “Z is the product that will solve all your problems!”
Of course, that’s never true. Many of these products aren’t necessarily particularly revolutionary. Maybe they save a bit of time, but not much. Maybe they aren’t ultimately worth what you pay for them.
The reality is that many bloggers, aside from selling coaching services, rely on affiliate income. What that means is, that by referring you to those products, they get paid kicbacks if you spend money. They get money by convincing you to use these products and pay for them.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing! The reason that we pay for these products, ultimately, is because we want to - we think that they might solve a problem we have, or make our lives easier. These bloggers have to be upfront about using referral links by law, and they’re typically careful only to endorse good products - so that you’re ultimately happy with their purchase. You're also not paying anything more than usual, since the kickback that the affiliate marketer gets is included in the initial cost of the product. Effectively, purchasing using affiliate marketing links is just a cost-free way to help your favorite blogger get by, whether you know it or not.
There are still a lot of bloggers out there who recommend a lot of pointless crap. The recommendations are only as good as the people making them, and some people are just drawn to, well, fluff.
I’ve talked with a lot of other high level fitness coaches and bloggers over the years, and I’ve seen what they tend to personally use and spend their money on. When it boils down to it, the answer is that they don’t spend money on much that they don't need.
In fact, the single most common productivity tool I’ve heard used is the Google Drive and related Google office suite. It’s free, convenient, and widely useful. Not necessarily a sexy recommendation - after all, chances are that you’re already using it in some form or another - but it works. The Google Drive makes it easy to create and access files from multiple locations and also create collaborative documents to share with coworkers or clients.
The best things in life aren’t always free. When it comes to paid products, I’ve narrowed down the list to the three I’ve found most helpful for my own business.
Number 3: Followup.cc or Boomerang
You can schedule emails to send later, which is awesome for checking up on leads and clients without having to set timers on your phone and send emails at odd hours (particularly if, like me, you’re not in the same time zone as your clients). You can also set yourself reminders, snooze notifications on emails, see when your sent emails are opened, and more.
Ultimately, these tools are well worth the cost in terms of convenience and time saved. Followup is a bit more expensive but also has a wider range of features in my experience, while Boomerang is a bit better for personal use. Both allow trials so you can see which you prefer before spending money.
Number 2: Facebook Ads
Growing a Facebook page isn’t necessarily for everyone. Facebook ads are confusing and hard to figure out on your own, and you can easily waste a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing.
That being said, no one can read your blog or find your website if they don’t know it exists. If you run a business or are trying to gain a following, you should be trying to focus on a lot of different ways to raise your profile. This includes social media, ads, and SEO.
If you make really good content, or if you’re simply a master in just one of these areas, you can probably do pretty well for yourself. However, chances are that you're not a master if you're just starting out, and chances are that your content isn't the hottest shit around.
If you're not a genius in one area, you need to do everything you can to maximize your reach. Ads don’t have to be a tool that you use, but they work well if you know what you’re doing, and can have a massive payoff over time.
One of the best ways to get started is to find an online course on Facebook advertising. This will probably cost you a few hundred dollars, but if you’re in it for business, it’s well worth it. The program I initially learned on has since been deactivated and is no longer in use, so I can’t recommend any good ones off the top of my head. One of the problems with these programs is that the Facebook ads platform is always being updated, making it hard to make a program that doesn’t get outdated quickly.
Once you’ve gotten set up, however, the payoff can be huge. Have you had good experience learning about Facebook ads through a particular program? Let me know and I can share that info with future readers.
Number 1: Chromebook
In late 2015, my old laptop was giving up. For work on the go, I was using an old laptop I had inherited from my younger sister, who had purchased a new one and didn’t need her old one. It worked just fine, so I used it as my primary laptop.
In 2014 when I started using it, I was travelling a lot. I worked jobs in 4 major cities in that year alone. As a result, the laptop had to be my workhorse, and I used it both for work and for video games.
Ultimately, it struggled, overheated a lot, and started very quickly going downhill. By 2016 it still functioned, but was so slow to boot that it would often take a half an hour to get working. This was unfortunate, since at the same time I was focusing on developing my business for the first time and needed a lot of use out of it.
I didn’t have a ton of money at the time, so I wasn’t able to upgrade to a full laptop. However, by 2016 I was settled down and was able to set up my old desktop, which served as my primary home work station as well as for entertainment. So, I figured it was fine if I shelled out for a cheap Chromebook to work with on the go - because I didn’t need it for anything but work. This purchase ended up exceeding all my expectations.
A Chromebook is a wonderful value. It’s light, small, and very portable. It boots quickly, and works very well at one task at a time. It holds a charge practically forever - I was usually able to get a whole day’s work done on a single charge without having to take my charging cord with me or worrying about running out of juice. After two years of using it, it’s just as fast as it was the day I started using it, even though I’ve seen most laptops break down much faster.
That said, it’s not a perfect device. You can’t run Windows software on it, so you’re limited to what you can do with a browser. There’s some storage on it (16gigs), enough for documents and images, but not a ton - you can’t store a ton of videos, for example. Without wifi, the Chromebook becomes next to useless, since about all you can do offline is edit documents. I’ve also noticed that if you tend to keep a lot of tabs open at once, individual tabs start to crash, causing issues. The Chromebook works best when not trying to juggle too many tasks at once. The webcam is extremely basic.
However, it has been absolutely indispensable for work. In fact, sometimes its un-usefulness is actually a benefit - since it’s hard to multitask on and your options are limited, it works great for keeping me on track and keeping me away from social media.
Aside from that, it’s served beautifully in many other ways. It’s worked as an e-reader, as a device for watching videos while I wash dishes or cook, as a document editor while I’m watching TV, as a work tool for my kids, as well as accompanied me in visiting five countries and working all over the world. The work flexibility that this cheap laptop has offered me is absolutely perfect, and I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another at a moment’s notice when this one starts to break down.
I purchased a Samsung Chromebook 3 with 2GB of RAM in late 2015 for just $199. For a little more, you can upgrade the RAM to make it even faster, something I haven't found necessary. The price of the model I purchased has fallen since then, but there’s a newer version of the Chromebook that is still supremely affordable, and actually a bit cheaper.
Sometimes, what is needed isn’t expense and a ton of fancy products. What’s needed is just a basic, affordable tool and plenty of work ethic. Is my Chromebook the fastest or most useful laptop in the world? That’s a resounding no. But I can say that I’ve done more work on this Chromebook than anything else in the past two years.
There’s a common saying: don’t put the cart before the horse. All the fancy bells and whistles, all the investments you can make, won’t mean anything if you don’t back it up with good work. Ultimately, you can spend your money wherever you want, but the best investment you can make is the time you put into making your work the best quality you can. Focus on what matters, and don't waste your money where you don't need to.
- Often, you have to spend money to make money. But, don't waste your money on things that aren't useful.
- Many freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners I've spoken to are actually quite frugal with their money, and don't spend a ton on fancy bells and whistles.
- The three most effective products I've used are an email management service, Facebook advertising, and a cheap Chromebook.
- Of those three, the cheap Chromebook has served me the most by far, and has been a fantastic return on a very small investment.
- Investments in your business should be about finding the basic tools that enable you to do your best work.
Are you interested in perfecting your deadlift and building legendary strength and muscle? Check out my free ebook, Deadlift Every Day.
Interested in coaching? Inquire here. If you don’t have the money or interest in purchasing long term coaching, consider donating a small monthly amount to my Patreon, which also nets you a copy of my book, the UpLift Method. You can also subscribe to my mailing list, which gets you the free GAINS exercise program for maximizing strength, size, and endurance.