Learn From My Fail: The $500 (Or Less) You Must Spend On Your Business

I have learned too many lessons the hard way during my first year of being a frugalpreneur.  I’m hoping this article will keep you from making those mistakes and instead will help you make money.  What I’ve stumbled through (ahem, learned) can be summed up in three parts:

  1. If you only have $500 or less to spend on your business, spend it on image.
  2. That image should be perfected by professionals.
  3. If you can, barter or ask a friend to save money but don’t go it alone with D.I.Y.


So, what’s the big deal about image?  Take it from me- having the right image will help you capitalize on the short amount of time we all are given to impress potential clients or enchant readers with the 2.35 seconds we have to make our visual pitch in an internet space.  First impressions are vital- and online you have even less time to make the impression stick.  Visual presentation is everything.


[highlight]Here are a few things you should always hire a professional for:[/highlight]

  • Printing.  Just because you can print your business cards at home doesn’t mean you should.
  • Photography.  Remember, you’re asking people to give you their time or money, not friend you on Facebook.
  • Logo design.  You know how you decide whether a local food joint is “authentic” or just “sketchy?” same applies here.
  • Website design.  The time you spend tinkering with a free theme could have been spent making money.


If you only have $500 or less to spend, dedicate it to making a good first impression.  Think of it this way- if a website is visually appealing, you spend some time perusing the posts-  you don’t get that far if the logo looks slapped together in Microsoft Paint & the formatting of the post is so hard to read your eyes hurt, you bounce.  If it goes well, you then lead yourself to the “about” section to hear more about the owner/creator of the site, and finally, you move along to purchase, subscribe or bookmark.


The sales funnel is relatively easy to follow if you don’t scare away potentials at first blush.  

If your website looks sloppy and your head shot looks more like a mug shot, you just bottlenecked your sales funnel.


Luckily for me, when I first started out- a friend of mine bartered for me with one of his contacts to have professional photos done for my website.  After a few months of blogging, I made enough friends of my own to network to find a good designer and negotiated a discount, and I also paid some of my friends (who actually are design professionals, not just dabblers) to do some work for me.

You don’t have to cold call for design work, utilize your network of friends and warm contacts.  Several friends have offered to redo my sites for me, but sometimes it’s better to stick with the professionals who become friends, not the friends who become “professionals” when we’re in a pinch or they want to be helpful.   You’re not looking to hire your bestie because it’s easier, you’re hiring someone to build your brand and it’s an investment.

If you don’t have friends that can help you with professional headshots or a solid logo design, start to make connections, and after connections are made- barter.  If you’ve worked hard to build a brand for yourself, use your network or audience to reward discounts or perks.


In your first few months of setting up shop-  invest in a professional photo, and a simple, but polished website design.


[highlight]Killer content must get noticed before it makes money.  Sexy design leads people to stick around long enough to invest their trust in you. [/highlight]

Case (Mistake) In Point Numero Uno  after redoing my personal blog FrugalBeautiful.com in late April 2012 with a professional design my traffic consistently improved almost instantly.  Additionally, when I pitched potential companies for reviews/giveaways to be featured on the sister siste, BeautifulGiveaways.com  my response rate improved dramatically.  It was an excellent investment in money and it paid out in a better ROI on my time.

Granted- the first design “wasn’t bad,” but it didn’t have the impact I desired.  I invested a few hundred bucks in hiring a designer and suddenly my user engagement was up, and the stats reflected that as well (yes, and the site became more profitable as well!)


The site before the redesign..not bad, but not great either


The updated version

I try not to see “learning” as a mistake- but this is exactly what it was- I could have saved myself hours of headache and probably gotten more traction with advertisers, readers & general street cred much sooner had I just hired a professional- but I was scared.  I ended up paying a few hundred bucks for this design and it’s paid for itself in just a month.

[highlight]Learn from my fail- don’t cut corners on your business (or cut your own business cards)[/highlight]

Case (Mistake) In Point Numero Dos-  The logo was designed by a professional (albeit a contact who does design for a living) but the cards were taken to a crappy printer and yes, *slams head on desk* hand cut by me to save money for a last minute gig.

I paid $26 (ripped off) for these cards to be done by a printer near my old job.  Sure they did it in a hurry, but I ended up wasting time and money cutting the cards myself. PLUS, the cards were not the color blue I asked for (or what was on the flash drive) and they looked like crap on a cracker.

I cringe when I see my original cards. I put plenty of time and thought into my appearance and the original cards were the equivalent of showing up to a networking event in jeans and a hawaiian shirt…they look sloppy and homemade.  I understood the importance of looking professional (even if it meant wearing the only slacks and button up I owned) but I should have bit the bullet and invested in cards since these nixed any professionalism of appearance I might have had:

Last year, I actually got a Klout Perk that got a free pack of mini Moo cards and I now use Moo for all my printing- it’s not expensive.  This quick fix could have really helped boost my confidence and made the networking I did in person really go off without a hitch.

I’m much happier with the cards below:

New business cards


I am never wasting my time again with design-  I’m not good at it and I’m wasting time and money…PLUS destroying what leads and headway my other talents created by doing what weakens my business in the name of saving a buck.

[highlight]Being broke sucks, but staying that way because you don’t invest your time/money where it counts sucks even more. [/highlight]


When I had my first professional photos done, I was too broke to even buy a new outfit for it and despite my nerves, they came out great.  Know your paid hires may not be perfect, but it’s better than burning the bridges you build with your other talents.  My websites are far from perfect, but don’t go for perfect- go for polished.

Spend your money & time playing up your strengths- hire out anything else that could weaken your finished brand image.  Pay now and you will earn it back with greater ease than slogging through it yourself.

If you only have $500 to spend on your business-  give your brand a makeover and do it fast.  Don’t worry as much about wasting money as you are wasting time.  If you avoid paying now, you’ll pay later on missed profits, qualified leads and the momentum that comes from having a solid (and appealing) brand which must build over time.

Your $500 is enough to build a solid foundation for a brand if you put it in the right design!

  1. May 22, 2012
  2. May 27, 2012
  3. May 29, 2012

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