I’m srsly so excited by the number of you that reach out to me about the businesses, digital brands, & blogs you’re starting. You guys are the baddest raddest women I know & I LOVE hearing about what you’re building. Many of you have asked how I managed my finances & funded Brains over Blonde when I was first starting out as an “influencer” (u know I hate the term influencer but for the sake of my point, fine.)
I want to be really clear here and I want you to really hear me: when I was first starting out, IT WASN’T GLAMOROUS. Don’t be fooled by the “blogger life” you see all over Instagram.
Here’s some Instagram realness for ya:
- Most “influencer” photos are professionally shot & edited (shooting multiple looks in one sitting) & spaced out over a month to give the illusion perfectly curated outfits every day.
- The beautiful clothes and bags? It’s likely they were either gifted or sponsored by (paid post) by the brand. The sad thing is that often when influencers don’t have too much “influence” yet, they buy clothes and bags they can’t afford in order to create the illusion that they’re a successful blogger. Don’t be fooled by this. They’re either going broke on bags or they’re just returning them after the photo shoot.
- Influencers have a LOT of help “looking perfect.” Professional hair, makeup, styling, lashes, tan, Botox, boob job, etc. These beautification treatments are often complimentary, so there’s no cost for the influencer.
- Oh, and keep in mind the photos have lots of (often professional) photo editing. Like. LOTS OF EDITING. (That’s why I keep it real & share my before photos with you.)
Influence is a big responsibility
Having influence is a big responsibility, and I take it as such. I’m very careful never to create false perceptions about the lifestyle I live or what I can afford (#tbt to when I lived in a guest room & slept on a couch next to a life-size Barbie doll this past summer.) I’m ruthlessly picky about the brands I partner with and the products I recommend. I NEVER want to mislead you guys; you’re srsly like family to me.
Because here’s the thing: the term “influence” doesn’t necessarily have a positive connotation. You can influence someone in a good way, or you can influence someone in a bad way. My goal is for everyone who comes in contact with me to be influenced in a good way and leave my page feeling better. If I don’t make you feel that way, I want you to unfollow me. And I really mean that.
If you don’t leave my Instagram page feeling better, I want you to unfollow me. And I really mean that.
Anyway – back to the original question of how I managed my money and living expenses when I first started Brains over Blonde (which rly wasn’t all that long ago, btw!) Again, hear me, it wasn’t a flashy life. I had just finished two years in business school at Stanford where I blew through all my of my Google savings from the corporate world, so I had almost no money to speak of. I had to work my ass off and made so many trade-offs and sacrifices (that didn’t feel like sacrifices bc I was pursuing my passion and doing what I love, but still, sacrifices nonetheless.)
I definitely considered trying to raise money or taking on investors, but it was important to me to have full ownership and control of my company (which is my baby), ESPECIALLY since it’s a personal brand and literally represents me as a person. So, I had to launch LEAN and really get creative with how I spent, saved, and managed my money.
Truth be told, it was the first time in my life I had to be really, really thrifty. I was fortunate to have everything I needed growing up. My parents paid for college. At Google I made more money than someone in their early twenties knows what to do with. It was a big adjustment for me, and I learned invaluable lessons about money management that set me up for success in my first year as an entrepreneur. I hope they will do the same for you!
4 Money Management Strategies that set me up for success in my first year as an entrepreneur
1. Develop multiple streams of income
Never rely on just one stream of income. You’ve probably heard that the average millionaire has seven sources of income.
I started Brains over Blonde with my longterm vision in sight: to one day be the face of modern feminism and positively impact the lives of women all over the world. Alas, I didn’t have a platform or an audience yet. So, while I built that, I made money through 1:1 coaching and consulting (I already had years of experience doing health and wellness coaching at Google & trained as a life + professional coach while in business school at Stanford.) But my pipeline of clients wasn’t exactly overflowing like it is now, and this stream of income was unpredictable at best. I had to figure out ways to supplement it.
I sold all of my nicest clothes and belongings (it was so sad you guys.) (But so worth it.) I also started dogsitting and dog-walking part-time! (And I use the term “dog-walking” loosely because Bowser, the English Bulldog I cared for, was so lazy I had to literally drag his drooly 50lb ass down the street on our “walks.”) Trust me, as much as I love dogs, I would have preferred to spend 100% of my time BUILDING MY EMPIRE. But this paid the bills.
Brains over Blonde pays the bills now, but I still have multiple streams of income (including brand partnerships, affiliates, courses, speaking engagements, and more.) That list is only going to get longer bc I always want to be diversifying my income streams – that’s how you grow your business and brand!
2. Don’t show off, show up
Don’t make yourself broke by trying to make people think you’re rich.
I see so many entrepreneurs flaunting an extravagant lifestyle early on in their career in order to portray an image of success (refer to the “Instagram realness” section above.) The early stages of entrepreneurship aren’t the time to buy flashy new cars and clothes. Successful entrepreneurs invest that money back into their business.
I never spent frivolously. I didn’t spend a dime without first stopping to ask myself, “Do I really need this?” and “What alternatives do I have?” I ate a lot of frozen meals from Trader Joe’s… like a LOT. I had no “entertainment fund” and I didn’t buy any new clothes for like six months (that was super hard.) A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t afford two of it, you can’t afford it.
Everyone around me knew I was trying to save money because I told them. I never tried to pretend as though I’d already “made it” and could afford fancy shit.
3. Invest in yourself. Know when to take the right risks and act on them
Not all spending is created equally; sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
As an entrepreneur, I’m essentially betting on myself. I’m saying, “I believe I’ll be successful despite all the odds.” Actually, I’m completely ignoring the odds (hence why entrepreneurs tend to be just a lil crazy :-P). And I’m just crazy enough to double-down on myself because I believe it will pay dividends.
Once my business started making money, I didn’t celebrate by spending it on vacation or fancy handbags. But I did spend it.
I kept my personal life thrifty and invested all the money I made back into my business (and then some; I actually took on smart debt.) I identified spending opportunities that would help my company grow and become even more profitable in the future.
For instance, I recently invested thousands of dollars to learn and get certified in new coaching methods so that I can bring even more value to all of you.
Some people say the best way to make money is to save it, but I say frugality won’t make you rich. Have the wisdom to spot financial investments that will help you make more money in the long run, and have the ovaries to act on them.
4. Refinance your student loans
If you have student loans from college or grad school, financing your own company can be especially daunting. The good news is, you can relieve some of that stress by refinancing.
When you get a student loan at age 18, you’re considered “high risk” and issued especially high-interest rates. However, once you’ve made payments and have shown consistent income, you can refinance your loans and get better rates based on who you are now, rather than who you used to be as an 18yo freshman.
Refinancing your loans gives you a chance to refresh and start anew.
There’ss one company who refinances student loans that really stood out to me: CommonBond. CommonBond will pay off your old loans and replace them with a smarter, single loan. This can lower your monthly loan payments and help you pay off your debt faster, relieving some of the financial pressure of starting a company.
What drew me to CommonBond were the awards their customer service team had and their focus on actually helping students. You may still make payments for years on your student loans, and you want to make sure you are working with a company that has a history of being helpful and having your back. They only focus on helping students and even fund the education of a child in need with every new refinanced loan. (To learn more about refinancing your loans with CommonBond, click here.)
Financial knowledge matters, but your behavior matters more
Any of my friends from business school will tell you that Finance was my least favorite subject… besides Accounting. Building my “financial knowledge” was just never that interesting to me honestly. But what I’ve learned through starting my own company is that financial knowledge matters, but your financial behavior matters much more.
By sticking to these four money management strategies, Brains over Blonde became profitable within 6 months. I’m not going to lie, it was scary at times! And I had to get scrappy. But it was all worth it because now I own 100% of my own, thriving business.
To all my entrepreneurial sistas out there, I see you. I know what it feels like to have 100% of your personal AND professional financial stress resting purely on your own shoulders. I also know that there’s nothing sweeter than coming out the other side. So don’t fake it; keep it real. Be savvy. Don’t avoid looking at your bank account. Practice these money management strategies (don’t start tomorrow, start TODAY!) And please share your own tips & strategies with the B/B fam in the comments below!