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What to Consider When Buying a House When You're Self-Employed

Bold & Pop : What to Consider When Buying a House When You're Self-Employed

Disclaimer: This post is based off my own personal experience to help you think through some of the important pieces of buying a home. Definitely consult a team of professionals if you’re planning on buying soon!

I don’t have to tell you twice that starting a business is a series of unexpected twists and turns and you feel like you’re shooting in the dark half the time. That’s why Anna and I try to be so open and share everything we learn along the way. So why would it be any different when it comes to areas of our personal lives that are directly affected by our business?

I recently bought my first home over a 2 month period. No joke… I decided to actually buy in the beginning of July, put in an offer in August and closed the first week of September! So I had to learn ALL the things in a short amount of time and now I’m here to share that with you!

Finances

This is obviously the biggest part of buying a house as a self-employed individual and was definitely the scariest part for me personally (I’m also single so extra EEEKKK!)

The first thing I did was look on Zillow to see what I could get in my area for different budgets. (Full disclosure: I’m in North Carolina where real estate is much less than other areas of the country making this much more attainable for me) I used the built-in mortgage calculator to get an idea what my monthly payments would be with different down payments and price points. Based off this information and my own personal budget, I narrowed in on the price point I was comfortable at.

One thing most people don’t talk about in the home buying journey is how much closing costs are and I had no idea how to even figure that out. I knew I needed a down payment (ask your lender if you qualify for any down payment assistance programs! I was a first time homebuyer so I was able to put a lot less down! But don’t forget you’ll have PMI (private mortgage insurance) if you put less than 20% down) but I didn’t know what everything else cost. Luckily I had some friends that already own so I asked them what to expect. One told me to expect closing costs to be about the same as your down payment which actually ended up being pretty accurate in my case!

You can actually get a cash-to-close estimate from the lenders you reach out to during the pre-approval process which is extremely helpful and much more accurate than assuming it’s the same as your down payment. You want to make sure you know this ahead of time because if you don’t have enough cash to close then deal won’t go through and you’ll be wasting your time and potentially money… which nobody wants!

Interview Lenders

Not all lenders are created equal! I read somewhere that majority of homebuyers only contact one lender but you’d be surprised by how much they differ… especially if you’re self-employed!

The biggest difference when buying a house as a self-employed person is when lenders calculate how much you can be approved for it is based off your net income, not your gross. They average the last 2 years of business (so if you haven’t been in biz for 2 years this could get tricky!) to find your qualifying monthly income. They can add some of those expenses back in to boost your income a bit but if you take a lot of write-offs this could be a little tricky for you. I read that if you’re planning on buying as a self-employed person, you should take less write-offs for the 2 years leading up to buying (I know, let’s all roll our eyes collectively at how ass-backwards that is). Luckily I don’t take a ton a write-offs so I was fine which could also be the case for you as well!

If your most recent year was amazing but the previous wasn’t as great, you might want to ask the lenders if they can just use the most recent tax return. I actually had a lender say she could just use my 2018 income without averaging it with 2017 (which would have dropped my qualifying monthly income). There are definitely options and some lenders can accommodate you better than others!

Here are the documents I provided to the lenders and you’ll likely need to provide to your lenders as well:

  • Last 2 years of tax returns (personal and business if you’re a partnership or LLC like Anna and I) including your K1s as well

  • Last 2 months of bank statements

  • Year-to-Date Profit & Loss statement (this is not included in calculating your qualifying income… it’s just to make sure you’re not making less in the current year)

You may need to provide more but these are the main documents my lenders asked for. You’ll also likely have to write a letter of explanation for large deposits and withdrawals to your bank account and any other pieces of information they need an additional explanation for. Basically keep documentation of all large transactions because they will ask to see that paper trail and that includes paying yourself!

Now how to compare lenders and make sure you’re finding the right one for you! I actually Googled and complied a list of questions to ask the lenders I reached out to. This not only helped me compare them but it also helped me learn more about the process. These included (in no particular order):

  1. Do you have experience working with self-employed individuals?

  2. Which type of mortgage is best for me?

  3. How much down payment will I need?

  4. Do I qualify for any special mortgages or down payment programs?

  5. What is my interest rate? (ballpark)

  6. What is the annual percentage rate? (ask to explain the difference)

  7. Are you doing a hard credit check on me today?

  8. Do you charge for an interest rate lock?

  9. What will my monthly payment be?

  10. Is there a prepayment penalty?

  11. Do you have an origination fee? What other lender fees are there?

  12. What are my closing costs?

  13. How long does closing typically take? What could cause a delay?

  14. What documents do I need to get pre approved as self-employed?

  15. Is there any way to get the monthly payment lower?

  16. Will escrow be included in my payment?

  17. What services can you provide beyond my mortgage?

  18. Do you sell your mortgages? If yes, do you still service them?

My decision actually came down to 3 factors: Interest rate, cash to close estimates, and their communication with me/how easy they were to work with. (Note: Some lenders actually have no lender fees meaning lower cash to close. That’s something to consider if you have less cash to put into a home!)

If you contact a lender and they tell you that you can’t get approved for what you want, definitely contact another! I had one lender tell me I could get more money than I said I wanted (this is why it was important for me personally to decide on the price point I was comfortable at.. the higher end of my range would have been doable but stressful during potentially slower months) and then another tell me I could only get approved for $40k less than what I asked for. If the one that wanted to give me less was the first person I contacted, I probably would have stopped my search right then and there thinking it wasn’t attainable at the moment.

Other Things to Consider

Once your offer is accepted you’re going to have a TON of information thrown at you especially when it comes to financing. Keep this in mind when you start this process. There were several times where I said, “buying a house is a full-time job”. I was either running out during the day to look at a house or reading contracts midday after my offer was accepted. Luckily I had Anna to hold down the fort but this might be something you want to consider if you’re a solopreneur!

As I mentioned before, my decision came down to the interest rate in part. The lender I went with actually already had a great rate compared to the others but you can also buy what they call points to get a lower rate too. For example, I could have lowered my rate .125% for $265 or .25% for $1127. This really depends on your goals for the home in the long term and your current financial situation.

Another thing to be mindful of is they’re going to need a lot of paperwork from you, especially as a business owner. One thing I found odd is I provided my tax returns to them but they also needed the tax transcripts directly from the IRS. Your lender will just have you sign a form allowing them to request the transcripts on your behalf but make sure they get both your personal and business transcripts. Mine didn’t have my business (and I didn’t realize they needed them) and 2 days before my closing I was scrambling trying to get these for them.

Which brings me to… yes, they should have known that and yes, I had a meltdown days before closing. And all for nothing. They actually could close without them and while I was having a nervous breakdown everyone else was all “ohh this always happens”. So listen to me when I say… it will happen and it will all work out. Everyone involved wants the closing to stay on schedule. I know this won’t make it any less stressful in the moment but just try to remember that!

These are my biggest takeaways when it came to buying a house but if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to give you information on my personal experience! Happy house hunting!

P.S. Exciting news! We launched the free #GoingBold Facebook Group and would love for you to join us! Come on over!

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Why it's Important to Make Time to Work ON Your Business and not Just IN it

Bold & Pop :: Why it's Important to Make Time to Work ON Your Business and not Just IN it

Have you ever heard, “make sure you’re working ON your business instead of just IN it?” Let me start by saying there’s a reason people say this… it’s true! As business owners, we often start our businesses with BIG goals and this dream big picture in mind. Then things get busy and our unending to-do lists cause us to lose sight of that a little while we just try and stay caught up on work. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working IN your business, but if you want to keep working toward those big goals then you also need to make time to work ON it too.

Can you guess what is often the biggest reason business owners say they don’t get around to working on their businesses? You guessed it… time! That finite resource that feels like we never have enough of. Something I’ve learned in the almost 5 years of being an entrepreneur though is it’s alllll about priorities and planning ahead! It’s amazing how much time you didn’t think you had can appear when you add something to your schedule as a non-negotiable, must-get-done item. When I first heard the idea I thought it was silly… but once I started doing it I saw firsthand how planning ahead could help me prioritize tasks and be more productive so I could have that time for our business.

That being said, this summer we held our first Co-founders retreat and it was focused on justttt this topic — working on our business. So the concept is fresh on the brain! We already do quite a bit of planning and goal setting in our business but during our retreat we wanted to take a step back from our typical metrics and look at things a little differently. So in today’s post I’m breaking down our process and some things that you may want to consider when you spend time working on your business.

Having a Plan

First things, first. Make a plan! If you want to make the most of your time, having an outline of things you definitely want to cover will make the process so much more efficient. During the course of business, Mallory and I randomly will come up with different ideas — some of which we talk through the basics and others we add notes about in Asana and shelf it for later. In fact, we have a few Asana boards dedicated to these ideas. So when we were planning our retreat, we checked in with those lists and prioritized talking points from most to least important to us. We gave ourselves almost a full day during our retreat for planning but the reality is this type of stuff takes a lot of brain power. So try to focus on what’s most important first and if you don’t get to everything you can cover the next topics in your next session. For things like this, you really want to be at your best and not skim over on things so having a plan will really help.

Break Down the Big Picture

Like I talked about above, I’m sure most of you have a big picture in mind when it comes to your business. It’s probably part of what inspired you to start your business in the first place, and the thing you daydream about while you’re working your booty off. Over time though, your dreams and big goals may change which is why it’s important to have check ins! Are the things you set out to work towards 3 years, 1 year or 6 months ago still serving you? Now is the time to think about it! And guess what, if things have changed, you make the rules so now is the time to think about those things and see where any adjustments need to be made.

Something we did on our retreat was break down our big picture goals by things we wanted to accomplish by the end of the year, the next year and then 3 years down the road. Sure, some of those are still somewhat current, but the key was identifying tasks we needed to accomplish that will keep us on the path we are headed on. We did this by getting a posterboard and then using sticky notes in different sections to write our goals on. The stickies were great too because we could color-code (because you know me and organization) as well as move things around.

This exercise was SO eye-opening for us, especially because we were able to not only talk about our business goals together but also our personal goals and passions and how those could impact the path of our business. One of the reasons Mallory and I work so well together I think is that our big picture has always been somewhat similar, even through ALL of the changes we’ve both gone through during that time. Which is a miracle in itself considering we both live in completely different states and are in different parts of our life than we were when we started our business. This also allowed us to step out of having metrics tied to all of our goals and just talk things out a little more too which led to some reallyyyy great brainstorming and ideas we didn’t see coming too. Some of our best ideas have come from impromptu brainstorm sessions and by giving ourselves time to actually run through our ideas, we are able to really strike some gold!

Think About the Work that Brings you the Most Joy

This one also piggybacks off the point above about your big picture. During your time, I recommend taking some time to reflect on what type of work brings you the most joy (or lack thereof). Is there one of your services you look forward to doing more than others? Or are there some things you just dread doing these days? Now is your time to think about those things. You’re the boss lady so if you hate doing something… don’t do it anymore or at least make a plan to phase it out. This was really eye-opening exercise for us too because it allowed us to take a look at the work we’re doing now and evaluate what we’d like to do more or less of in the coming years and what we’d need to do that. Not only that, but we also discovered through our previous exercise that we both have some individual passions that would be awesomeeee additions to our offerings in the future. So take some time to reflect and Marie Kondo your biz offerings if needed!

Evaluate your Systems

Beyond looking at the work you’re doing and where you’re headed. Look at your systems. Are they serving you the best they can? Could your onboarding use some improvements? Would you be more productive if you outsourced some of your work? How about your client experience? This is the perfect time to take a good hard look. We’re all about making consistent adjustments to improve systems in our business and to do so you need to do regular audits.. Some of our big decisions in this section have been hiring our accountant (shout-out to Countless — Brittany is the BOMB!), adjusting our client experience for design projects, tightening our design contracts, and signing up for Asana. All of which at the time seemed like big scary decisions buttt have ultimately been some of the BEST decisions we’ve made in our business.

Planning to Scale

Last but definitely not least… another subject of convo should be on planning to scale. This should go hand-in-hand with the other steps but you actually need to figure out what you need to do to hit the next level! This includes figuring out what those things are, sorting out any research you need to do in the meantime (if software or new tools are involved) and coming up with a tentative timeline for when you want to take those next steps. For us, this included looking ahead to some new services we want to offer in the future as well as talking about when we will be increasing our prices. Our goal both as individuals and a business is to continue to grow and serve our clients the best we can so having these conversations is key to making sure our efforts are consistently supporting that path!

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and are inspired to make some time to work on your own business! Even if it’s just a little time here or there, it all adds up and I promise it will have a big impact on your business in the long-run. As always, if you have any q’s hit us up in the comments or send us an email!

P.S. Exciting news! We launched the free #GoingBold Facebook Group and would love for you to join us! Come on over!

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How to Book Social Media Clients

Bold & Pop : How to Book Social Media Clients

There’s a lot of different things that go into booking social media clients whether you’ve been doing it for 10 years like us or are just starting out! Today we’re breaking down what we think is the most important and what has helped us secure new business throughout our careers.

Showcase that you Know your Stuff!

First things first, you need to be ready to show people that you know what you’re talking about! There are so many ways to do this but since you’re trying to get hired for a job in the online world let’s talk about some of the key ways you can show people your expertise there.

Social Media Accounts

What better way to show that you know about social media than seeing you in action! Plus, hiiii it’s your own brand so it’s a great opportunity to showcase that you understand the importance of branding, brand voice and creating content that catches your ideal client’s attention. Your social media accounts are also an amazingggg place to give tips and tricks about the industry to people who could benefit from them or who are interested in hiring you. The more free advice you give away the better, in my opinion! Because each tip is an opportunity to show that you GET it! Another opportunity for your ideal client to go, “I need to hire them to do my social” or for you to make meaningful connections with others. Don’t worry about giving too much away either because the reality of it is, most clients are hiring you for your expertise and because they don’t want to do it themselves or don’t have the time for it. I’ve also heard conversation from some saying, “I’m too busy working on my clients’ social media to work on mine” and #realtalk I think it’s a poor excuse. I get where the point is coming from but if you aren’t taking advantage of your own advice and skills then it’s a missed opportunity in terms of new business.

Content Marketing

Okay, so this starts with the content you’re posting on social media and it links up with your blog, email marketing, opt-in content, and Youtube channel (if that’s your thing). Content marketing is one step further to reallyyyy show that you get your ish and you have a lot more characters to explain than just social media captions. One of the best things you can do to increase visibility and improve your SEO through search is to write a blog on your website and then share it allll over the place! How do we know? Because currently, 60% of our web traffic comes from content marketing from our blog — hey that may have even been how you found this post! Content marketing is the gift that keeps giving when you dedicate time to it and another amazing way to show potential clients allll of the knowledge you have.

Portfolio

Having your portfolio accessible on your website or ready to send out if a potential client inquires is critical! People want to know not only can you walk the walk but you have case studies and examples of your work to back it up! Now, you don’t have to highlight everyyyyy account you’ve ever worked on and they also don’t have to be super long. The key is to have a solid batch of case studies that showcase the versatility of your work, what you did on each project and how your efforts performed. If you need some help on the portfolio side we have a whole blog post dedicated to this topic that will walk you through the process step-by-step.

Get Your Face in front of Potential Clients

Okay, so you’ve nailed down how you’re showcasing that you know your stuff, but how do you actually get in front of people so that they know about you?

Using Social Media for Networking

Get your booty networking on social media! Facebook groups and networking on Instagram are two of our absolute favorites. Since you work in social media, you already know that successful social media strategies are built on building relationships and your new business strategy should be no different. One of the ways we signed many of the first clients we had on our own were from connections we made in Facebook Groups. And we’re not talking the posts of people just asking for recs for social media pros or website designers… although those don’t hurt either. A lot of our clients and people who are in our #GoingBold community are people who we shared our advice on one of their posts and just had genuine conversations. Yes, it takes some time but when you’re willing to just help people out with a thing here or there or share your insight it goes a long way in building your credibility. And 6 months down the road when someone is in need of someone, they’ll likely remember that you gave them some solid advice.

Another thing that is huge for us is engaging with others on Instagram. You’ve heard us preach on the topic of engagement a time or two because we know how important it is! There’s a difference between having 15k followers and having 15k followers who really care about your content, as well as having a solid group of people who you regularly engage with. Posting your content and ghosting just isn’t a strategy that’s going to bring home the bacon. If you want to increase visibility of your brand, get in front of your ideal clients, and for new people to actually see your content, then you need to get out there and have a proactive engagement strategy. The more people who know about you, the better and by networking online you have the opportunity to not only connect locally but globally!

Local Networking Events

Now we’re moving to the real life side of things because local networking events are another great way to get your business seen! You need to look at these events beyond just pitching the people who are coming too. Again, that relationship thing! Local networking groups can be a great way to become more involved and visible in your community. Plus, the key here is the people you meet may not need your services now (or even ever) buttt you don’t know who they know. You know that time, when your friend was working on something and in casual conversation they asked if you had recommendations for something or knew someone who could help with that? Well, those simple conversations spark more new business leads than you’d think. It’s definitely not usually a short-term strategy but you’d be surprised how just attending an event or two can really benefit your business in the long-haul.

Press Opportunities

Another great way to get your name out there? Press coverage! We also have a blog post on this topic too (we write about a lot of things if you couldn’t tell already 😂) Here’s the deal though, getting quoted in an industry related press feature, doing a podcast interview or having a guest post published is another great way to get your name out there and boost your credibility. Plus, by securing these kinds of opportunities you’re also tapping into brand new audiences.

Nailing Your Pitch

So we’ve talked about getting in front of people online and meeting in-person to build relationships but what about when you want to pitch someone you have nooo prior connection to? Oh yes, cold-pitching. This used to scare the crap out of me (and still does sometimes) but it’s a strategy that can really work. There’s definitely a method to the madness though and if you’re going to do it, do it right! You can read tons on this topic and take a bunch of different courses but here are my thoughts — It’s all about being thoughtful, specific and keeping it short!

Be Thoughtful

Don’t just copy and paste the same pitch, send it to 50 potential clients and expect your inbox to fill up… If you really want to make a connection with someone then you need to write personalized and custom pitches. Sure, you can have a base template so you don’t have to start from scratch every time but in our experience, it’s the pitches that we really cater to their businesses that actually get responses. It’s not hard to understand why too! Building relationships… ding, ding, ding! I see a pattern here. If you’re setting up a first date you don’t ask them to marry you right away… so work on introducing yourself and offering a little more insight on how you could maybe help instead of just going for the hard-sale.

Be Specific

Sure, you may be able to help their business with everything under the sun but is there something specific that you think could benefit them the most? Tell them! Now I get it, sometimes you need to be a little careful on how you word things. No one wants to feel like they’re being told how much their stuff sucks, but if they aren’t posting consistently, maybe you could recommend your content calendar services. Do they have a great following but could benefit from influencers getting their hands on the product? Recommend a micro-influencer campaign! Maybe their photos aren’t as great of quality as they could be. Boom, you could offer photo styling. When you get specific, you open the door by letting them know you really looked into their accounts, thought about it and genuinely think you could help.

Keep it Short

Unlike this blog post, keep your pitches short! Nobody wants to read a novel sales pitch and one of the reasons you may be pitching them in the first place is they don’t have the time to do everything. So don’t drown them in a longggg pitch. Let them know who you are, how you found them, how you think you could help them and close it with a call-to-action.

Make it Easy for Potential Clients to get More Info on What you do

Okay, we’re moving and grooving! This may sound like a no-brainer, but an easy way to get better qualified leads is to make it easy for potential clients to get more info about what you do. Not only that, but also actually make it easy to contact you! Scavenger hunts can be fun, but not when it comes to figuring out if someone you want to hire is a good fit! You don’t have to include everythingggg but it’s a good idea to list out the different types of services you offer right on your website (plus it’s great for your SEO). This is also really important when it comes to allll of the points above we talked about because the goal is to get people to your website to see what you’re about and hopefully set up a call or book you. So make sure they can actually find that info easily when they get there.

We’re also big fans of actually putting your pricing on your website (at least your base pricing). Sure, maybe you do custom quotes and you can say that as well but doing so will free up your time from replying to leads that aren’t a good fit. For example, you know the social media industry is a hot market to work in so pricing is alllll over the place. So if your packages start at $1k/month but your potential lead doesn’t want to spend more than $250/month then you’re probably out of their budget right now anyways. So by listing your prices you’re saving yourself from answering 10 emails from people who you’re not a great fit for right now. Which I know a lot of people stress out about pricing in general, so if that’s you, you’ll def want to check out our blog on why your competitor’s prices shouldn’t freak you out too. Guess what else, by providing more info on your website you’ll have less of the same questions coming through that you have to answer. Andddd less time spent on email frees you up for more time networking or working on other things.

Have your Processes in Check

Yes, this step comes once you’ve actually signed a new client but your customer experience can also play into signing future business too! How so? It’s all in making the process as easy and smooth for your clients as possible right from the beginning. By being organized and having a system set up, you’ll assure your new client they are in capable hands. This is important for a few reasons.:

  1. You want to start the relationship on a positive note and making that process as easy as possible, especially during onboarding, will score you major bonus points.

  2. I’m sure you’ve heard stats about how it’s much harder to seek out new business than keep the clients you have and your time starts now! You’ve sold your new client on the goods and now it’s your turn to make some magic happen! By taking great care of your clients you’ll have a better chance of them renewing your agreement or repeat business down the line.

  3. Client referral business can end up being HUGE in your business! In fact, last year alone over 40% of our business was repeat or based on referral. So if you kick butt for this client, they could potentially refer you 3 more clients in the future. It’s all a snowball effect and when you treat your clients well and do good work, it will be more likely that this will happen.

So what does this entail? We’re talking about having a step-by-step thought out process that you do for clients from first inquiry to signing with you and you taking over their social media. Will these systems change over time? Probably, ours sure has, but it will make your life wayyyy easier than winging it. This can include having starting templates for:

  • Proposals: Yes, you will be customizing these for each client but for the components that stay the same, like the types of services you offer having a template is going to speed up the initial process tremendously. We provide pretty thorough proposals that are custom designed, but having templates allows us to send them to our leads much faster.

  • Agreements/Invoices: Build out templates for your invoices so you can easily plug in your client’s info and make that process super fast and easy.

  • Workflows on Project Management Software: If you repeatedly do the same steps for all of your social media projects then saving your workflows will save a ton of time. We’re big fans of Asana, and have templates built out for all of our services.

  • Social Media Questionnaires: One of our first steps for clients once they sign with us is completing a social media questionnaire. This gives us further info on what they’re looking for and other key details that will be integrated into their strategy. Having a base template allows us to send them right after clients sign their agreements which allows us to jump into work faster. Which btw, you can download the one we use fo’ free over here or at the bottom of this post.

  • Social Media Strategies: Last but definitely not least. Having a social media strategy template will also save you a ton of time! Yes, you’ll have to do research for every client and fill each of those sections in accordingly but by having the sections it will be way easier to dive right in. Which, you can also get your hands on the base strategy we use too!

As you’ve read from this post, there are a TON of different ways to book social media clients and seal the deal on leads you have. The key is to get out there and take action! Don’t just sit around hoping people will find you. Instead, stack the deck in your favor and get to work!

P.S. Exciting news! We launched the free #GoingBold Facebook Group and would love for you to join us! Come on over!

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