3 Secrets of the Self-Employed

In 2011, I took a big risk: I left CNBC, a major network with all of the resources and big media perks in the world, to start my own production company. I felt an urgent need to reach a younger, broader audience with financial advice in plain English, and wanted to strike out to do just that on my own. But that meant taking a HUGE leap of faith…and becoming a boss and employee of one.

Working for yourself has its perks: you call the shots, lead the company, and, hey, even make the dress code (slippers, please!). But there are some downfalls, too, like costly up-front charges—and you can kiss that matching 401(k) goodbye. Here are three tricks of the trade for getting the most out of spending and saving as a small shop. Trust me: I’ve been there, too!

How to spend.

It gets expensive funding a company entirely on your own. Luckily for you, there’s a lot of support out there as well as rewards programs to help you stretch your dollar farther. Sign up for a small-business-friendly credit card, which typically offers strong rewards when you spend a certain amount of money in the first several months after opening the account. Look for one with travel perks, too; some offer even better deals than most airline credit cards. This is especially a good choice if you’re just starting out; you’re likely going to be spending more heavily in the beginning as you set up a home office, extra phone line, and promotional materials—plus travel to enlist more clients! Bonus: if and when you expand your company, you typically get additional employee cards for free.

Where to spend.

As a small business owner, you get to choose where you spend your hard-earned cash, so get picky about who gives you the best deal. We love Apple’s Business Experts, who are on-call 24-7 for your business’s tech needs no matter how big or small you are. Sign up for their small business program and get discounts on the stuff you need, from iPhones to iPads to computers. They’ll even help you make a purchasing plan so that your equipment keeps pace with business growth. Trying out some new software or formatting a new device? Make a one-on-one appointment with the Genius Bar or try one of their free group workshops to get the most out of your devices.

How to save.

No 401(k)? No problem! There are lots of other ways you can save money for down the road. The first type of retirement account worth considering is an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA. An IRA is particularly effective for putting aside less than $5,000, and you can set it up right at your local bank. If you plan to set aside more than $5,000, consider a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement, or SEP IRA. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but totally worth it, because like an IRA your contributions are tax-deductible. You can open one at any major brokerage, like Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.

No one is going to care more about your budding young business than you do; and no one else is going to take the time to do your homework and make sure you’re spending and saving in the smartest way possible. So put the legwork in now to make sure you can take care of not just employee one (aka, YOU) but employees two, three, and four—along with any other opportunities that might come your way down the road.


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