NOW Futures: Small Business and your Money
As part of Small Business Month’s Small Biz and Money Digital Residency, we’re profiling the speakers participating in our NOW Futures panel on digital literacy, which takes place October 17 at the Centre For Social Innovation.
Financial independence and autonomy were something I’d always craved, and so I got my first job working retail at 15. After realizing that I simply couldn’t earn enough to pay my bills and simultaneously have enough time to study for my university courses, I began looking at non-traditional types of work. That’s where modeling came in and taught me about the “gig economy” and having my own business.
Thirteen years and a master’s degree in teaching later, I still wasn’t ready to have a traditional job, and decided to professionally pursue my passion for food. I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2012, and since then have discovered a side of creativity in myself that I didn’t know existed. What began as guest appearances on television shows has evolved into food and event styling, creative strategy, content and recipe development, media production, and the development of my own brand via my website, camicooks.com.
Describe your side gig or hustle:
Chef, Food Stylist, Event Stylist, Creative Strategist and TV Personality.
What inspired you to start your own business?
It was a bit of a snowball effect for me — starting with the result of leaning into my passions and training, and saying “yes” to opportunities that I found fun and interesting. I’d worked as an independent contractor for 13 years in the fashion industry, and so continuing to work for myself was the only avenue that gave me satisfaction. I’d tried the 9-5 world in the past, but it was never a fit for me and not nearly as motivating.
When it comes to money, payments or cash flow, what is the biggest challenge you face in your small business?
There are several:
– Not having a proper frame of reference for what to bill for services. There isn’t a community or organization in my field that sets or shares rates, it’s a bit like the Wild Wild West.
– Finding clients who appreciate your value and are willing to pay accordingly.
– Dealing with invoicing and payment issues with clients and vendors.
– Floating my business financially during leaner months.
-Making the necessary investments in equipment and vendors to grow the business.
What is one strategy or piece of technology you use to overcome the above challenge?
Invoicing apps have made things much easier for me in recent years. Sending invoices and follow-up notes via a program rather than my “personal pen” allows for less uncomfortable communication. Keeping track of expenses, taxes, etc. has become much better this way.
What would make managing the cash flow in your business more seamless?
For me, that would be properly separating business from personal cash flow. As an independent contractor who works from home, the lines blur all too easily.
Why do you think the “gig” economy is growing?
Great question, and one that I’m appreciating a lot more now that I better understand this niche I’ve found. I think the gig economy is growing from two sides: from the corporations, and from the independent contractors. Companies want to save money (by having to pay as needed over salary) and to get the the best expertise for a particular job. For example, my biggest client is in PR/advertising and has recently made cutbacks to their inner creative team, and that’s precisely where I come in and am able to fill that gap. From the side of the independent contractor, the gig economy is appealing because of the intrinsic motivation, autonomy and flexibility it affords for one’s lifestyle, and because it allows us to lean into our particular expertise and do deep work within that. Sure, we may not have corporate health benefits for example, but we can certainly buy into such a program on our own.
What piece of advice would you share with other entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
– Lean into your natural interests and talents so that it doesn’t feel like work all the time.
– Don’t undersell yourself with rates because working with clients who don’t value what you bring to the table will make for painful work.
– Separate personal from business finances at the outset and find an app or invoicing/accounting program that works for you.
Visit the NOW Digital Residency: Small Biz and Money
Get free passes to NOW Futures on October 17th here!