New Year New Business: How We're Tackling Growth and Business Expenses with Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed
Last month we signed a lease for our first ever commercial studio space. I've already learned so much in this short time, and one of the biggest learning curves has been how to budget and track all of the new expenses. When Intuit QuickBooks asked if I was interested in trying out their Self-Employed service that works directly with Turbo Tax Self-Employed I was extremely interested! Talk about perfect timing! This post is sponsored by Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed and all of the opinions are my real experiences using this fantastic product. If you're self-employed and looking to get a better handle on tracking your expenses and preparing for taxes, this is a product you'll definitely want to check out. Here's a link for 50% off for your first 9 months! Gotta love that!
I'll be using Quickbooks Self-Employed over the next few months and diving deeper into the features as we move into and through tax season together. In the new studio we're purchasing all new equipment, which comes with the full gamut of emotions. It's exciting to buy legit production level equipment (hello biggest kiln yet!) but it's also scary because those items come with big price tags. We've also been expanding our inventory of Suite One Studio designed items that we produce through partnerships, not in house, like our glassware and candles, and even the vintage we source. These items position us as buyers instead of makers and there's different tax paperwork to prepare to properly track those purchases and the eventual profit they later generate for us.
All of this growth and change has me reflecting on my first years in business and how important it is to establish good habits when you're nurturing a fledgling business. One of the best habits I set early on was to save receipts diligently.. okay, maybe obsessively. Not gonna lie, they often ended up in twisted piles on my desk in those early years but at least I had them! Now I have proper folders and files, and even keep notes for each receipt just in case the printed receipt doesn't clearly show what I purchased for the business. There are so many necessary expenses that can be written off when you really start paying attention! My advice: Save those receipts, jot down a couple words to remind yourself what "500 PK BRT WT" was months later-- oh yea, 500 pages of bright white printer paper for printing our packing lists, got it.
Quickbooks Self-Employed makes the tracking process as easy as you could hope. You can even link your business bank account directly and track on the go with their user friendly app! You can even link your business bank account directly and track on the go with their user friendly app! I expect this feature will be especially helpful as we move beyond our inspiration and planning board into this purchasing phase for the new studio.
I've only just begun my journey with Quickbooks Self-Employed and I've already had a handful of these leaning into the computer smiling, "Wait. What? I didn't even realize that was a write-off" moments! Want to try this service for your self-employed business? The 50% discount here covers your first 9 months and the rates are probably way lower than you're guessing-- How about $5-$12 a month? Come join me as we grow our businesses together with Quickbooks Self-Employed!
Sponsored by Intuit Quickbooks
Yesterday we announced the big news over on instagram: We got the keys for our first commercial studio space! What does this mean? Oh gosh, where do I start? It means so many things are about to change! It also means that yes, from 2009 when I started this business up until now, we have not had commercial space because I've managed to squeeze a tiny studio into my home this entire time! Let it be known, it can be done. But we've reached a point in the business when this isn't the right option for us anymore. The frugality of staying put was beginning to overshadow our potential for growth. So here we are, keys in hand!
Signing onto a commercial lease is scary. I'm not going to pretend that it isn't and only share the celebratory side of this with you. Kim and I have spent countless hours creating lists and spreadsheets, and we toured several different spaces starting way back in 2015 before finding this space that felt really right.
Continue reading for our studio wishlist, what we actually found, and the photos of the new space right when we got the keys!
Setting Up Shop: What I've learned about designing a product I don't (and can't) make: Suite One Studio Glassware
I took two semesters of glassblowing in college and the best thing I made was a lopsided 3" vase, as heavy and dense as a rock the same size. If it didn't roll it could at least be used as a paperweight. It's purposeless other than to serve as a physical reminder to me that I can't champion every challenge the way I may initially plan. I studied glassblowing because I hoped that I'd be able to make exquisite glassware to accompany my ceramics. It almost makes me laugh out loud when I read that now.
Fast forward seven years and I'm working collaboratively with a team of talented glassblowers here in North Carolina to create a line of Suite One Studio glasses based on my designs. This isn't my first step into product design (thank you Anthropologie!) but it is the first time that I'm independently handling the process for my own business. We released the first glass collection three months ago and I've already learned so much about navigating the world of product design! I've been asked a lot by other artists about how I'm making the gradual change from full-time maker to designer, so I thought I'd share some of the key points I've learned. Click through to read my biggest takeaways so far!
When asked about my business growth, I always mention social media. It has completely changed my life, my way of work, and provided me with a unique freedom to create and sell products.
I was recently asked by my friend, and social media strategist, Katie Williamsen what my social media strategy is. Like so many things with my business, any strategy I now have was a gradual evolution that started with me being completely clueless. I'm not someone who is easily proficient with new systems or technology, but I am someone who learns how to become proficient. Call it stubbornness, determination, or an obsession with understanding the details, whatever it is, it's a big part of how I run my business.
When I started my business in 2009, I was selling on Etsy (read more about that here), I already had a personal Facebook account, I'd heard of Twitter but I thought only celebrities used it, and a blog was in my mind just MySpace, but maybe a little more focused. My sister, Lauren (who's now a part of the Suite One Studio team), suggested I start a blog during this time and I remember thinking that was a really odd suggestion. Like why would I want to take the time to babble on about selling pottery that I made on a wheel in my bedroom and that I fired in a kiln plugged into my dryer outlet in my hallway? And why would anyone on earth want to read that?
I was fairly embarrassed by my "studio" set-up at the time, I definitely didn't feel motivated to share that with creepers on MySpace. Clearly now looking back, this was a brilliant suggestion, and I was living under a rock. But my life was making art, going to college (already five years in at that point), and working two part-time jobs. I was already at max capacity. I didn't have time for much more than emails to my friends and the occasional google search when I sat down at a computer. Oh, how things change if you make them change.
Now I spend a good deal of my day on the computer, or at the very least online on my phone. The internet is a huge part of my business and it no longer weirds me out when I hear about a new platform. Now I can almost immediately recognize a way I could use that platform to promote and grow my business. And that's not just optimism, it's a perspective I've developed from experience. New things are new opportunities, even when they don't go as expected. I have one social media platform for example that I don't love using. And others that bring me daily joy. I use each platform differently and have created a system that works for me. Want the details? You can catch my interview with Katie here.
Want to learn even more about How I Social? Come join me first hand here:
*If you have any questions related to the Setting Up Shop series, please leave us a comment. We're covering a wide range of topics and look forward to shaping this series with you!
This new Setting Up Shop series on the blog is a topic I've wanted to tackle for a long time. One of the first questions I'm asked when I tell people about my business is, 'How did you do it?' and it's the question that I struggle the most to answer, because there isn't a simple answer.
I don't think that there's a magical, one-size-fits-all strategy to starting and growing an idea into a meaningful business; or let's be honest, dependable income. I'm not going to gloss over that part of the business, because making money is fundamental to my business's growth and sustainability. Making money is why I don't have to work a traditional 9 to 5, or even a part-time job anymore. All my focus goes into Suite One Studio, and that singularity of vision has created tremendous results for me.
This series isn't going to be a guide with flashy titles or promises. I can't guarantee that any of these steps will create success for you. But I'm going to share my journey, important decisions and major mistakes I've made, and simply, what's worked for me.
If you have any specific questions you'd like to ask about my business, please add a comment here or on this same post on instagram! I'll incorporate your questions into the upcoming Setting Up Shop posts.
For now I'll leave you with this Before photo, a screenshot of my very first Suite One Studio sale back in 2010. I took this photo on a piece of particle board, on my stovetop, at night with the stove's hood light. Mortification for me... motivation for you. Proof that you can start anywhere, even exactly where you are with what you have.