When you’re running a tiny business by yourself, it’s so hard to spend what little money you make, but sometimes it’s more stupid not to. I’ve come to realise that my time is my most valuable asset so it’s worth investing in things that can make my business more efficient and free up my time for more fun tasks.
Here’s ten of the best things I’ve bought for my business over the last ten years, in no particular order.
1. Thermal Label Printer
Let’s start with my newest purchase – a thermal label printer. I had been pretty happy printing postage labels on my laser printer but once I moved to Click & Drop, the A4 labels were so wasteful. It was hard forking out £200+ for this printer but it doesn’t need any ink and the labels are free from Royal Mail. Since Click & Drop is also proving to be much quicker to use, it’s really going to pay for itself over the busy Christmas period.
2. Professional Web Hosting
I’ve always paid for web hosting because why hand control of your website and domain name to a free service that might vanish or change completely overnight just to save a few pounds a month? Last year I finally got around to consolidating all my sites into one professional account at Media Temple and it’s been amazing. Moving multiple websites and domains was pretty painful but now I barely have to look at it and the uptime and customer service has been excellent. I would include my Shopify monthly fees here too except I joined up so early that I don’t ever have to pay any. I totally would though.
3/4. DSLR Camera + Studio Lighting
The windows in my current flat are huge so I can usually get decent lighting, but it’s been too gloomy and rainy this year. I bought some soft box lights and they’ve made such a difference! I can take a perfectly good photo on rainy days and at night so I no longer have to wait to share things or put up with a bad photo in a rush. I recently upped my game even further by investing in a DSLR (i.e. a fancy professional camera). My compact camera (which I reviewed, previously) is great for traveling but it was not cutting it for product photography any more. The photo quality is so much better, especially with a tripod. My whole setup cost less than £500 and now I no longer have to drop everything when the sun comes out. They do take up a lot of room, but everything packs down quite small.
5. Silhouette Portrait
This was kind of a random purchase at the end of the tax year but I love my paper cutting machine. It’s a little more trouble than I imagined so never led to much in the way of saleable products but it’s been great fun. I still play with it a lot and it’s given me plenty blog and social media content, so it was worth buying. I certainly wouldn’t have created a whole year of paper craft projects without it.
6. Not on the High Street membership
Not on the High Street approached me quite early on but I couldn’t see the point of paying hundreds of pounds to join a marketplace when there were new free ones popping up every day. I held out until the prices dropped but £150 still seemed like big investment. It was well worth it though and I had the most profitable Christmas ever. I realised then that I was paying for promotion and NOTHS have a big audience through their TV advertising, catalogues etc. The site does have a lot of problems and they take a big chunk of commission off every sale but I should have done it sooner, even at twice the price.
7. SumUp Card Reader
When I think back to all the sales I lost at craft fairs because people didn’t have enough/any cash on them, I could kick myself for not investing in a card reader. I may only do one or two craft fairs a year now but it’s easily covered its costs. There’s a few different readers to choose from, and they all seem to get good reviews. I went with SumUp as there’s a great deal through Folksy and it’s so cute (even without a happy face) and easy to use.
I used to be a total miser about software and hated spending money on it but if it makes my job so much easier, why should I grudge paying for it? Luckily, I get a free Adobe Creative Cloud account from my p/t job but if I lost that I wouldn’t hesitate to carry it on myself – I rely so much on Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. And after years of complaining about Microsoft Office, I downloaded a trial copy to finish my ebook and discovered it was now so much better than Apple’s versions that I promptly signed up for a monthly account. Who even am I any more?
While I do mostly use it for reading comics (sorry, Tax Man), it’s been great for my work/life balance. I turned off all my work-related notifications on my phone so I don’t get distracted by sales and Etsy messages and the bigger screen on the iPad makes it easier to deal with business stuff when I’m on holiday. The Apple Pencil has made it even more worthwhile as I can doodle ideas and try out new styles.
10. Badge Making
I used to make all my badges myself but came to loathe the task so much that I dreaded getting orders. Now I have them made for me by Awesome Merchandise and I couldn’t be happier. I do have to plan ahead and sometimes I run out of stock, but it’s a much better solution for me.
Obviously, everyone’s businesses and priorities are different, but hopefully some of these ideas can help you as your business grows. I’ve included links (some affiliate) to the actual products I bought so you can find out more.