When considering expenses, the key is to balance spending and investing.

-- CEO Coach Jill James*

With all sorts of economic uncertainties floating in the air, it's easy to think this is not the time to grow your skill set or your business. I certainly bought into that line of thinking when I first started freelancing. When business slowed or the economic wobbled, I slashed spending on everything, including things that had real strategic value.

Assessing strategic value

But my view evolved when I started consulting with start-ups. I learned a lot more about spend from helping my clients justify burn rates to investors. I noticed that certain expenditures and costs gave investors heart burn, and others didn't. The differentiator was often strategic value. I used that knowledge to make the case for why I wanted to be paid in cash instead of options-only.

When you spend intentionally on marketing programs, improving your systems, expanding your leads or sales potential, getting new skills, that’s investing. For your business to grow to a place of financial sustainability, you’ll need to make thoughtful, intentional investments of time and money. 

-- CEO Coach Jill James

Investing during a downturn

When the tech bust rolled around in 2003, I put the lessons into action. You better believe I looked at every line item to see where I could cut. But I made a new category -- investments -- and allocated funds for it without freaking myself out for things like:

Each of these decisions helped me offer new services and reduce risk for our existing clients and get more work and referrals from them. I realized later that these activities also made The Word Factory look stable and confident during turbulence, which increased our customers' trust in us. (I think about that last stuff as inferred ROI).

And I'm not the only one. I saw a major uptick in people seeking writing coaching when COVID layoffs began. Some wanted help with their LinkedIn profiles or cover letters. Others were making a longer term bet, seeking to strengthen their writing skills to make them more valuable to their employers, to advance in their careers, or to make a move to another functional area or industry. Smart!

Creating a new line of business

So here we are again, facing rising inflation and interest rates and maybe teetering on the edge of a recession (or bagel, as we call it around here thanks to The West Wing -- see below). During our mid-year quasi test-close, I'm looking at where we can curb spending and negotiate costs -- and fixing to invest in a new certification to create a new line of business for my writing coaching.

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal

I've decided to apply for a certificate program in narrative healthcare -- a cool discipline that's a confluence of my work in writing coaching, healthcare content marketing and therapeutic horticulture. It's an investment of both time (it's a year-long program) and money that I believe will pay off in the near and long term, and create some inferred ROI, too.

In the meantime, I'm reading this great book by an authority on the topic and taking myself through the process using the recent passing of first one dog and 3 months later the next as the grist.

Investing in yourself or your business

Now it's your turn. What can you invest in?


  • If you own your own business, I'll put in a plug for working with a coach like Jill. She's really effective. (Get more of Jill's excellent advice investing versus spending here.)
  • If you desire to be a more effective communicator, work with me!

And about that bagel....

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