Where Do I Spend Money on My Microbiz Until It’s Successful?

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The #insidemymicrobiz experiment has generated a lot of good questions from readers, so I’ll be sharing these Q&As on Fridays. Got a question? Hit me up on Twitter or email me: [shanna] at [this domain].

Hi, Shanna,

I have a question for you. You stated it takes three years for a micro biz to be running on all cylinders. In the meantime, how do you manage the abject fear of spending money on your biz when there’s no payoff in sight?




Hi Trenda!

Thanks so much asking this. It’s an issue in the early phases of any business. Okay, so the three year thing is more like a rule of thumb. (Just so you don’t think I’m quoting scripture here).

Two things; first I said “self-sustaining and successful” which I admittedly didn’t define, but I mean that your business isn’t just in a state where you’re making money reliably, but also that if you have a slack month, you know why, and you also know exactly what marketing actions to take to rectify the situation.

It’s kind of like when you first have kids and you don’t know what they’re screaming about now. And then some time passes and you know automatically that they’re screaming because they had too much fun at a birthday party this afternoon and they’re overstimulated, so you need to lock them in a quiet room until they take a nap. In other words, it’s the kind of state that you can ONLY reach through experience, and the actual income you’re making has little to do with it.

The second thing about the “3 years rule” is that it depends on your specific business. Some businesses are slower off the ground than others. Most of the time, I build businesses that are self-sustaining in 6-12 months. I don’t get the marketing worked out for a while longer, but I simply discard the businesses I can’t get off the ground quickly, because I have a mortgage to pay. A business like Abby’s paintings could take 10 years to establish, if ever. (Art is such a weird world).

But what I think you’re really asking me is how you justify spending money when you don’t know if or when it will pay off?

The answer is: that’s entirely individual.

I’m sorry that that isn’t more helpful. It depends how close you are to the financial brink, it depend how comfortable you are with risk, it depends on your personal philosophy on money, and to a certain extent, it depends on the ROI. For example, Change Catalyst is not a 6-12 month business, and I knew it going in. But I also knew that when, eventually, I succeeded it would be way more personally rewarding than any other business I owned.

[Tweet “How you justify spending money when you don’t know if or when it will pay off?”]

I saw you post on Facebook, so I know that you create little replica dolls from various series’. Like cosplaying, but for dolls, yes? So what I would say, from knowing absolutely nothing more than that is that you will need to create a brand around YOUR work. I mean, look, this guy was on Buzzfeed, and Reddit. He doesn’t have any for sale at the moment, but I bet they go for about three times more, just due to name recognition and a bigger following.

You have to work on every aspect of your business, of course. But the efforts put into marketing tend to amplify the efforts made elsewhere in your business. Although it seems absurd, a young business would do well to spend 30-50% of its time on marketing and promotion. Not because it’s the most important thing– but because it’s the best way to amplify whatever you accomplish through your business, and the amplification is what brings you success. Which is what brings you money. Which is what frees you from having to agonize over investments that will pay off, if only you can spare the money right now.

Thanks for introducing yourself!



Trenda Plunkett creates original, hand-painted collectible dolls. Check out her work on Etsy or eBay.


2 thoughts on “Where Do I Spend Money on My Microbiz Until It’s Successful?”

  1. Wow! Thank you, Shanna! Your words of wisdom are so helpful and encouraging. You’ve given me much to ponder. I definitely need to spend more time learning about marketing. At the moment, I am only promoting my dolls on Instagram and Facebook.
    Thank you again!

  2. tren73 You can’t fight a multi-front war. (at least, not easily). Focusing on the one or two platforms you like the best is going to do more for you than haphazardly plastering six of them.

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