008 - Bootstrapping Your Studio
Visionary Rising celebrates 6 years this month!
I’m extremely proud of this milestone because most businesses don’t make it to year 3. If they are fortunate enough to make it past year 3, then the rarified air of year 5 and beyond belongs to an even smaller few. Add a 2-year pandemic that led to an economic downturn, and the chances of making it here were slim to none. It is not lost on me what this milestone means and as I’ve been reflecting on my early years of leading the business, I’ve been reminded of how difficult it was doing this solo with little financial support and nary a logistical blueprint.
Fast forward to today, and I have a supportive network of collaborators, partners, mentors, and investors all committed to seeing the vision of the agency come to fruition.
Starting with today's newsletter, I'm going to break down the tips I've learned along the way en route to scaling the agency from 0 to 7-figures in the last six years.
This week's tip: how to budget and maximize the benefits of your resources to bootstrap your studio.
In the beginning, I relied heavily on my intuition which was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allowed me to move quickly and make decisions without much analysis but on the other hand, there were countless times when I made impulsive choices that cost me dearly. Looking back, if there’s one thing I could’ve done differently, it would have been to develop a better system for budgeting and making the most of my resources.
One of the key mistakes I made early on was failing to plan accurately and take into account paying myself while taking on projects. I thought that working with artists meant that I had to keep my services below $2,000 in order to make it affordable, so I launched with a $1,500 offer which was my 'breakeven' point.
That year, I was one of the most sought-after agencies in the area but ended up taking on 100+ projects in order to pay collaborators and have a bit left over for myself. This feast or famine mentality also meant that I spent a lot of time working in order to keep up with the projects and I eventually worked myself to burnout. I took a few months off and sought out a mentor to help me navigate this phase of entrepreneurship.
If I were starting the agency today, I would do three things differently:
Clearly define my ideal customer and value proposition upfront
Clearly defining my ideal customer would've allowed me to take time to determine the type of customers who were right for me and the value that I could drive back to them. This is essential when it comes to budgeting because you want to make sure that you're allocating your resources (time, money, etc) in a way that will be most beneficial for your business. Instead, I ended up taking on more projects than I intended and devaluing the work because it was accessible to everyone.
Launch with a higher initial offering so that I could pay myself what I’m worth and attract higher-paying projects.
The agency's initial service offering was a website with 3 additional consulting sessions that customers could utilize over a 3-month period. Our current offer is a much more comprehensive service that includes an ongoing quarterly retainer with a minimum spend, which allows our team to work with fewer clients and focus on delivering high-quality results. The additional time I don't spend working with clients is spent working in the business and expanding our opportunities for growth. This shift has been the single greatest change in the business than any other element.
Ask for help much sooner than I did.
I was very fortunate to have a great group of friends and family who were supportive of my business venture, but I didn't have any formal mentors or collaborators when I started out. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided had I had someone to turn to.
I was raised to be independent and self-sufficient, so asking for help didn’t come naturally to me. As a result, I spent a lot of time trying to figure things out on my own which often led to frustration and feeling stuck. If I could go back, I would’ve asked for help much sooner in the process.
There are a lot of people who have been in your shoes and have gone through similar experiences. Connecting with them can save you a lot of time, energy, and money.
In conclusion, if you're starting your own business or working on a new project, be sure to budget for yourself and make the most of your resources. Define your ideal customer, launch with a higher initial offering, and ask for help when you need it. These three tips will set you up for success from the start.
See you again next week.
Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:
Love + Light,