|Today’s guest post is from Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon. Figuring out her finances took her a while, too.|
Marketing and promoting others is easy. Of course you want to talk up the projects your friends are working on. You’re proud of them and you want them to succeed. Marketing yourself, however, is trickier. Marketing yourself feels icky. The idea of setting money aside just to market your book or your profile feels selfish.
Still, you need to do it. Here’s why.
- What you are effectively doing is creating a “business of you.” Setting aside money for marketing and promotional purposes helps cement that in your head. It forces you to see what you’re doing as a real and serious enterprise and not just a hobby that you’d like to “go pro” with someday.
This doesn’t stop with you. Separating out your marketing budget and business expenses from your personal finance helps others draw boundaries between the you that is their friend/parent/spouse/neighbor and the you that is a successful author/artist/entrepreneur.
- Setting up a marketing budget helps you make sure you always have enough on hand to pay for promotional needs. That way paying for things won’t feel like “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.”
- Your taxes will be much easier. Remember: Money that is spent in the name of building and marketing your brand is often tax deductible. By separating your expenses, you can keep your professional taxes separate from your family’s personal taxes, which will save everybody at least a few migraines.
So how do you do it? How do you create this mythical marketing budget for you and your projects?
Figure out how much you need
This is going to depend quite a lot on what it is you are doing and what you’re trying to promote. If you’re trying to promote a book, you’ll want to have professional author photos taken. You’ll want to make sure copies of your book get into the hands of reviewers and book clubs. You might even want to set up a small book tour. Spend some time finding out how much all of that will cost.
Come up with a “if I could do everything I want to do” dream number. This is your goal.
It’s a start!
How to come up with that money
Because you’re so used to funding your own projects only after you’ve bought the groceries and paid for someone’s braces, your professional expenses are probably completely tangled up in your personal finances. You have to separate these two things. Here is how you do that:
Set up a separate bank account for the money your book/project and its peripheral merchandising earns. This is easy and usually requires very little money. You can do this at your current bank. Make sure, though, that this bank account is something only you can access. This is where everything from book sales to sales through your blog’s merch shop to donations taken through your blog will be sent.
Every month, look at what you’ve earned and set half of it aside for taxes. Then set aside a decent percentage of it (at least 10-20%) for marketing and promotional expenses. Then pay whatever other professional fees you might owe (agency fees, etc.), and then – if there is anything left over – you pay yourself.
John Scalzi has a really great blog post that details how to survive as an author and where the money he earns as an author goes and why. It’s geared for a US audience, but the principle is sound internationally. It’s also long, so maybe have a snack on hand.
Obviously there are a lot of ways to reduce your marketing and promotional expenses so they don’t cost as much, but that’s a topic for another time. For now, just focus on separating the personal from the professional. You’ll feel so much better and more focused when you do!
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