5 Secrets to Growing a Profitable Creative Business (while working 3 days a week)

Practical Steps to Making more Money

Make Money

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One of my most favourite and least favourite topics to talk about is money.  Money, Money, Money. In my very first year of business, running my floristry business, it was nearly as if I chose to deliberately never ever look at the money side of my business just in case I realised I was failing. I didn’t want to know if I was failing because I was having so much fun and was definitely preferring doing what I was doing! July came around, it was tax time. I went and showed my teaching income and didn’t even bother showing my business income. I told the taxman about my business and he asked me if I was making a profit and I confidently said no. I didn’t look at the figures, I really had no idea if I had spent less than I earnt, but I just assumed I hadn’t. And it was probably true. I was still teaching at the time, so I wasn’t really taking on too much work. The next year though, I had to face the taxman for real this time. (And when I say taxman, I mean a tax accountant. My lovely accountant Charles will probably laugh if he hears me calling him the taxman!) I was shaking in my boots, I had next to no paperwork. Didn’t keep one receipt and didn’t even know if it mattered whether I had. All I had was my bank account and the transactions in there to prove that money was coming in to my business and there was, most definitely, money going out. 

I hand over some things the accountant asked for and stumbled across why I didn’t have or forgot the other documents they needed. I left the accountant feeling deflated and stupid, not knowing what all the jardon and lingo was about. I was winging in big time in my business and it’s hard to hide that from an accountant. A week or so later, once the accountant had done all of his fancy work, I got the sheet from the taxman that said I had made $8,000. Ok, $8,000. I felt deflated, I worked like I should have been earning $100,000, not $8,000. I was doing all the things I could think of to create an income – I had bath salts, I was doing markets, I was doing flower deliveries, flower subscriptions, weddings. For all the painstaking effort, I made $8,000. Now, $8,000 isn’t a disaster in your first year of business. Don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t going to pay for the mortgage and it definitely wasn’t going to give confidence in my decision to leave a salary job. I have worked with a lot of creative business owners who have done the same. Increased the amount of clients, increased the amount of work they’re doing, just to find that at the end of the year they haven’t made anything at all. I know some of you are probably listening to this and saying to yourself “how?!” How is it possible to go for so long and work so hard without making any money or to know what is happening with the finances in your business?! Isn’t that the point of your business in the first place, to make money?! And yes, that may be the point, but that usually isn’t the REASON why creatives start a business in the first place. Usually they start a business to have more time, to escape another looming 9-5 job, to take care of their families or some other ulterior motive then to “make money”. And because of this, the way we make decisions in our business is based off measuring sticks like “Am I enjoying this?”, “Is this giving me more time?”, “Am I doing a good job?”, “Is my work beautiful and do clients love what I do?”. We don’t like to ask the question “Am I making enough money?” or “Am I charging the right prices” or “Am I maintaining a decent wage?” or “How much am I paying myself”. 

So, after feeling the burden of tax time, having a reality check with the numbers in my business, it was then that I determined in my mind that next tax year would be different. Firstly, I would get myself together! I would understand my numbers. I would understand my pricing. I would understanding exactly what was coming in and what was going out. I would regularly check in and see how my finances are going so I would avoid the rude shock. Secondly, I would find a way to replace my teaching wage. It just had to be done. There had to be a way, and I was going to find that way. After a gruelling year of research, podcasts, books, courses, coaching and more, I figured it out. The next financial tax year I went with confidence, knowing my numbers, and low and behold, I replaced my teaching wage. Hooray! I remember the excitement. I remember the feeling. It was exhilarating. It made my business all the more rewarding. Yeah, I was enjoying myself. Yes, I had more time in my life. Yes, my creative work was getting better and better. BUT on top of all of this, I was making money and giving myself a wage.  For someone who thought money was scary and that I didn’t really care about it, all of sudden money became one of the most exciting aspects of my business. It became a talking point for me. I wanted to tell everyone how much I had made. And I know that some people are listening and they’re thinking, “it’s not like you made 6 figures!”…but for me it was a success. I had replaced my teaching wage and I was working on average, 3 days a week. I was investing my time heavily into church ministry and doing the things that I love. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy year, but it was a rewarding year.

So how did I do it? It has been my mission ever since, to give every creative the experience that I had with the money in my business. I want every creative to feel the freedom and joy in making money. I want every creative to get rid of the guilt that surrounds making money. And I want every creative to know that their time is valuable, their gifts are valuable and they deserve to be paid, just like everyone else! 

Just this year I went to a doctor. I met with them for 15 minutes. They gave me a referral for a blood test and I paid $78. Why is it that a doctor’s 15 minutes is worth more than my 15 minutes? OK, maybe it’s because they spent a gruelling 7 years studying. Ok, I get it. But if their 15 minutes is worth $78, then my 1 hour is definitely worth $50? Atleast, right. It has to be worth something. 

Now I spoke a little bit about the mindset behind money in an earlier podcast, so if you haven’t listened to that one, go back and have a listen to Episode number 5 “Five Money Mindset Shifts That You Need to Make”. It is one of my favourite episodes yet. But in this episode, I want to talk to get really practical and look at what we need to DO to get our money and pricing in order, and more specifically whether we should be increasing our prices? And just so you know, I have a freebie that goes with this episode and it’s called “should I increase my prices”. Some of you may have already got a copy of this free resources, but if you haven’t, go to and you will be able to get access to this resource. 

Firstly, we need to understand 3 categories in our business finances – job costs, overheads and profit. Let me break this down:

Job Costs – all of the expenses related to a particular job you do. And yes, this includes your time! 

Overheads – all of the other expenses in your business that help your business run. This includes marketing costs, subscriptions, rent, office expenses, other general expenses, bulk orders.

Profit – is what is leftover after you take away job costs and overheads. What is leftover is yours.

It’s really important to understand these three categories and know what expenses you incur in your business and which category they fall into. For example, if you’re a photographer, job costs are going to be low. What might be included in your job costs are fuel, food, labour of a second shooter and your time. Overheads would include the maintenance of your camera, new lenses, a printer, subscriptions to dropbox or storage you use for your photos, marketing etc. Let me give another example, if your an artist, your job costs may include the canvas you’re working on. Now obviously, your paints and paper are used for a particular job, but it’s hard to determine how much paint you’re actually using. So you would probably put your paints and any bulk items, like paper, into your job costs. You can break it down to determine how much you are using for each job, it’s up to you, but I recommend just keeping it in overheads. So your job costs will just be anything you purchase JUST for that particular job + your time. Your overheads will be your paints, paper, studio rent, subscriptions for website, marketing costs, photography etc. 

1ST STEP – Highlight 3 categories 

To be able to determine your price, you first need to determine what your job costs are and what your overhead expenses are and how much PROFIT (leftover) you hope to have once a job is completed. The best way to do this is to put a percentage to each of these categories. So you might decide that you will spend 30% of your price on job costs, put another 30% into overheads and have 40% left over as profit. I recommend that every creative needs to be taking home between 40 – 60% profit. For a few years now, Floral & Mineral has been taking home between 50 – 60% profit. And that 50 – 60% is what we put in our pocket at the end of the day once all expenses are paid for. 

If you already have a business a great activity to do here (and the free resource with this podcast will walk you through this) is to print out 6 months of your transactions. Now some of you probably have software programs that will tell you straight away how much you have spent in your business. I use Xero now, which is amazing, my accountant finally convinced me of it. It definitely makes finances a little easier, but I don’t regret the years I spent doing my own spreadsheets, because that’s when I REALLY started to understand the finances in my business. So I do recommend that you get a little messy with the figures in your business to begin with so you can really learn them properly. Whatever method you use, I want you to do this activity. I want you to print out 6 months of your business (bank account) transactions. Print them out. Have them in front of you and go through each line carefully and determine whether the line is a job cost, an overhead cost or income. So I recommend getting out 3 different coloured highlighters. One colour for job costs, one colour for overheads and one colour for income. And then highlight every single line and categorise it. If you’re just sitting at home doing nothing (which is highly unlikely I know, but if you are) I want you to pause the podcast right now and go and get some highlighters out. 

2ND STEP – Calculate totals

Once you have highlighted everything, I want you to then add up the 3 categories. I want you to add up all of the pink (job cost) highlighter lines. I want you to add up all of the orange (overhead) highlighter lines. And I want you to add up all of the green (income) highlighter lines. Then write down how much you spent overall on job costs, how much you spent overall on overheads, and how much you earnt overall. 

3RD STEP – Calculate Profit

Now I want you to see how much profit you made. So you need to take the total income and take away your job cost total from it and your overheads total from your income. What is the final figure? See it’s actually really easy to determine how much money you make. But often what I find creatives doing is looking at their price, then taking away ONLY the job costs. They don’t account for all the expenses associated with running their business. So when they go to price, what they do is just calculate how much they will spend on the job and then put a mark up on their price. Then what happens is that anything they spend ON their business, like marketing or subscriptions or more education seems like its coming out of their own personal money. And the reason it feels like it is, is because it is! They haven’t given themselves any margin so there is money to spend ON their business and the growth of their business. So what we need to do to fix this, is determine how much of our PRICE (the price we charge customers) are we going to put back into our business and the running and growth of our business. Is this making sense!? That leads us to our next step.

4TH STEP – Determine percentages

So what we need to do next is determine our percentages. How much are we spending on the job, how much are we spending on overheads and how much profit are we actually making at the end of the day. What are the percentages for these three categories. I’m going to share with you how to make this calculation, but definitely grab hold of the free resource that will step you through this, especially if you’re a visual learner, which I’m sure most of you are. Ok, so listen carefully at what you need to do:

  1. Get a total of all of your transactions. Add all of them up together. What is the total. For example it might be $100,000. 
  2. Now I want you to create percentages for job costs and overheads. So the total of job costs divided by the overall total x 100. So maybe your job costs are $30,000. You will put in your calculator 30,000 / 100,000 x 100 = 30%. 
  3. Do the same for overheads. What is the total you spent on overheads? Maybe it’s $15,000. Make the calculation 15,000 / 100,000 x 100 = 15%. 
  4. So what is leftover, is your profit. You can make the calculation if you wish. Your profit would obviously be $55,000. What’s the percentage you’re taking home of profit. Same calculation 55,000 / 100,000 x 100 = 55%. 

5TH STEP – Evaluate your percentages

Now that you’ve had a long, hard and honest look at the figures in your business. I want you to evaluate everything. Maybe you have spent too much on job costs? Maybe you have spent way too liberally on your overheads. Maybe you know you need to spend more on your overheads and you haven’t given yourself a big enough budget for it. I want you to look at those percentages and tweak and change them a little to what you think works best for your business. Maybe you’ve realised that you’re only taking home 30% profit and you’d like to take home more. Then you might need to decrease your job costs and your overheads or you may just need to increase your price. Most often than not, it’s your price that needs to be increased. 

Maybe you are spending money in areas that aren’t necessary. Have a look and see what expenses you can erase in your business. 

6th STEP – Determine your needs and what changes you need to make moving forward

Then I want you to look at what you need to be making moving forward and what changes you need to make. I want you to ask yourself, how much money do I need to make this year? Or in the next 6 -12 months? What is my average client price at the moment? Do I need to increase that? How many clients do I need to take to reach my goal? Is that too many clients to live the lifestyle that I want to live? Do I need to increase my price instead of the amount of clients? There are a series of questions for you to answer in the freebie and this will help you determine whether you need to increase your price or not. So go and get that free resource.


Knowing your numbers and understanding where your money is going and what is coming in is THE most important thing to increase profits in your business. Seems simple and obvious, but it’s not. Often I find that creatives realise they’re not making money in their business so they up their marketing game. They try and find more clients. Or they try and get better at what they do. Or they create a website thinking that might help. And all of those things are good things, but sometimes all you need to do to bring more profit into your business, is to evaluate and understand all of the numbers in your business and increase your prices.

So hopefully this wasn’t an overwhelming episode for you, but I want you to get that free resource and I want you to book a date in your calendar at the nearest possible date available to you, and sit down and do all the activities and steps that I’ve outlined.

Don’t ignore the numbers in your business. Don’t be shy. With courage, I want you to face the hard facts and experience the liberation that comes from KNOWING your numbers! Trust me, this can be the scariest things to do, but the most liberating thing. There are so many benefits to knowing and understanding the figures in your business. You become more confident in your price. You’re less likely to discount or emotional price. You’ll learn how to find balance. You’ll learn what’s working and what’s not working. Sometimes you realise that the thing you’re spending the most time on, is actually the thing that is bringing in the least amount of money. It will give you confidence in your business. You’ll be able to stop the hustle and actually begin lean into the real data in your business. You’ll put your efforts and attention into the right things, the things that will move the needle forward in your business. You will stop wasting money. You will finally reach your financial goals. 

So make it happen! Grab the freebie. Get messy with the numbers and arty with some highlighters. I want you to finally tackle what scares you and experience the freedom that comes with it.

And just a heads up, if you want more guidance with the figures in your business. If you do all the activities and realise your business is not quite where you want it to be, make sure you stay tuned to my instagram, get on my mailing list and watch this space. Next year, in 2020, I am launching a REALLY REALLY exciting program, for not only florists, but for all creatives. This program is going to help you transform your business in 2020 and beyond. I’m really excited. I’ve been thinking about this program all year. I’ve been reading, learning, experimenting, doing more research. The program will be designed to transform creative businesses and give creative business owners the freedom they desire to be able to live the life they want to live. To live a life of impact, meaning and purpose. So, there is just a little breadcrumb of what’s to come. So stay tuned. 

And again, thank you so much for listening to this episode, if you enjoyed the episode, make sure you leave a review and let me know what you think. Even better, share the episode with a friend or on instagram and help a small fry in the business education world, like me, out!

Thank you and see you in the next episode!

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