*this post contains gifted products and affiliate links
Next month will mark my one year anniversary of taking the leap and becoming self employed!
I can’t believe how quickly the time seems to have flown and, while it’s not quite been the smooth sailing I’d hoped for (trying to balance a masters degree and running my own business wasn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever had!) I’m really proud of how much I’ve achieved in my first year.
I completed my master’s degree with a Distinction, getting 87% in my oral viva; a really big deal for me as my autism makes communication difficult, especially if I’m in a new or stressful situation.
I set up my graphic design business Smush, and have been working with some amazing clients on their brand identity and marketing assets.
I’ve already nearly hit my income goals for this year, and I’m slowly starting to find my confidence as both a designer and a business owner.
So since it’s coming up to my one year anniversary, I wanted to share some of the investments I’ve made in both myself and my business that I’ve found invaluable.
I was really hesitant to invest in memberships when I first started out, especially as there are so many to choose from and some of them can be quite expensive.
But one thing I’ve learnt this year is that having a group of supportive people around you as a business owner is invaluable.
People who you can ask for help or advice, bounce ideas off of or even rant to when things don’t go to plan.
As tempting as it can be to avoid spending money when you’re first starting a business (something I’ll admit I was guilty of!), investing in a membership or coaching program is something I would really recommend.
The Independent Girls Collective
Run by the amazing Julia Day, without who’s help I would have had a huge meltdown when trying to file my first ever tax return!
This was the first membership I ever signed up for, and I can’t imagine ever being without it now.
Every month you get a new course which is about a different aspect of running your own business: launching a new product, filling in your tax returns and managing your money are just a few that I’ve found most helpful!
On top of
The expenses tracker has been a lifesaver and made filing my tax return so easy as it breaks everything down into easy to see sections.
I’m all for anything that makes my life easier these days!
There are also monthly workshops held by members in the private facebook group (I’ll be hosting one on Pinterest in October!) and also monthly mastermind sessions related to that month’s topic hosted by Julia.
When I first joined I was too scared to join in with these so I just watched and read what other people were commenting, but everyone is so kind and encouraging that I soon worked up the nerve to say hello and join in the conversations too.
If you’re interested you can find out more information on the IGC website.
Grow & Glow
Run by the straight-talking Vix Meldrew and her awesome G&G Team.
I’m proud to be a founding member of this site (a.k.a one of the original 100 members who joined back when it first launched) and I can’t explain how helpful it’s been for my blog, social media and
It has so many features I could talk about, but the main ones have to be the email templates, workbooks, video training, live group mastermind calls and the database of contact details for brands who want to work with bloggers and influencers.
There are some pretty big names on there too like Zara, Canon and even Google.
In fact, this months bundle is actually in collaboration with Pinterest, and we’re getting a free workshop with them later in the month!
Again everyone is so lovely and last month I actually managed to speak in the monthly mastermind call – which I’d been too anxious to do previously.
But I was riding on the high of starting up my design business + graduating from my masters, so I had a rare moment of
Not only did everyone celebrate with me, but I came away from the call feeling really confident and motivated!
It costs less than three decaf caramel lattes a month to join, so make sure to have a look at their website if you’re interested in learning more.
If you’re interested you can find out more information on the Grow & Glow website*.
While I’m a huge bookworm and will read pretty much anything, I’ve always found business books to be something I avoid. They never seem to speak to me and after just a few pages I’ll feel my attention wandering.
I can re-read a page 10 times and still not have taken in a word of it!
However, I was lucky enough to be gifted a selection of fantastic books from LID Publishing, which I’ve really enjoyed reading.
The Strengths Workbook, The Entrepreneur’s Book, and The Zone Of Connection are just some that I’ve found extremely helpful recently, as they aren’t like traditional business books.
They’re easy to read, informative, and include lots of exercises and questions to help you apply the lessons to your own business.
I also have some great graphic design books that were a lifesaver when I was setting up Smush.
Logo Design Love and Work For Money, Design For Love are the two I couldn’t recommend enough, as they include lots of real-life examples and experiences.
There are also a huge selection of eBooks available too, written by creators and experts in pretty much every field.
They’re generally very affordable and full of
Also, most local libraries will have a decent collection of books which would be useful for business owners, so definitely take advantage of that if you have one local to you.
Investing in your website is probably one of the most important things you can do, especially if you’re an online business.
When I was setting up my website for Smush, I decided there was no way in hell I was sticking with the hosting company my blog is with.
Siteground has been less than helpful whenever I’ve needed them, and at this point, I swear they just pull a number out of thin air when it comes to your renewal costs – mine has gone up nearly £100 in one year.
Instead, I decided to go with LyricalHost* and it was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
The interface is easy to use, you get access to a detailed Knowledgeable full of tutorials and guides (perfect for someone like me who has broken her website 3 times just by trying to change her theme…) and their customer support is fantastic.
I was raising so many tickets when I was first trying to set the site up, but they were so patient and didn’t make me feel daft for not knowing how to do basic things – which I’m really grateful for!
Best of all the prices never go up so you always know how much you’ll need to pay, which makes budgeting and planning so much easier.
I’ll be switching my blog over to them as soon as my current hosting runs out in March, and I honestly can’t wait.
My Smush website runs a lot smoother and quicker than this one does, and I’ll be able to finally set up a domain extension email address – which is going to look a lot more professional than the one I currently use!
If you’re thinking of going with LyricalHost yourself (which I would definitely recommend) you can use the code JADEMARIE10 to get 10% off*.
Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to test one of Snug Designs themes before they launched, and I fell in love instantly.
So, of course, I had to pick one up for Smush once they officially launched!
They are more pricey than most other themes I’ve seen, but with how customisable they are I would say they are worth investing in. Plus I was given a personal discount code as a thank you for being a tester, which I was very grateful for.
I also plan on switching this blog over to one of their themes soon too, as I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really not a fan of the theme I currently use.
It’s not “me” at all and to this day I’m not actually sure why I bought it!
Since your theme is the first thing someone is going to notice when they land on your website, it’s something I would definitely recommend investing in and giving a lot of thought to.
Places like Creative Market and Etsy can be great places to start looking, especially if you don’t have the money to invest in custom design.
Although there are also a lot of independent designers out there too so it pays to spend some time looking around.
Don’t just buy the first theme you like the look of, as you’ll almost always end up regretting it later!
While it can be scary to invest money into things, especially when you’re first starting up your business and money is tight, I don’t think my business would be anywhere near as successful as it has been without the investments I’ve made.
What have been the best investments you’ve made in your own business? Let me know in the comments!