Reinvesting in Horkey HandBook: How I Decide Where to Spend Money

This post may contain affiliate links.

I’ve learned how to spend money in my business really well. For example, last month has to be my highest expense month yet.

My total expenses for February, 2016 came in at $9,321. That’s just shy of half of my gross income ($18,654).

A year ago, my expenses rang in at like 10% of that ($978). Of course, my income was less too ($5,272). But I thought they were high then!

Who spends over $9,000 on business expenses? What the heck am I buying? Nothing physical really (well, this month I guess I did purchase a new computer, which ran me $800).

The Breakdown

This is what last month’s expense breakdown looked like percentage-wise.

  • Tools (Subscriptions, Books, Training): 14%
  • Advice (Coaching, Marketing): 23%
  • Support (VA, Writing, Website): 31%
  • Affiliate Payouts: 17%
  • Fees (PayPal/Stripe): 4%
  • Miscellaneous (Travel, etc.): 11%

I thought it’d be kind of fun to dig into a few of the categories in more detail. Some are more self-explanatory, while others you might be really wondering about.

Affiliate payouts ($1,545), for example equals the 40% commission I pay out on affiliate sales of my two courses. And fees ($386) are what I incur when I collect money from clients or on product sales. They can be lessened to some extent, but it’s virtually impossible to eliminate them completely.

How I decide where to spend money in my freelance businessTools

Here’s what appeared in the “tools” category for February, 2016 (much higher than “normal”):

  • $20 for normal FreshBooks account (which actually saves me money when clients select “PayPal” as the payment gateway).
  • $149 for Drip (my email service provider). The downside of building a successful email list!
  • $159 for a LearnDash plugin license. I’m switching my courses from email delivery to a courseware hosted on my site.
  • $120 for an annual Tailwind membership, which allows me to schedule pins to pin on Pinterest (and is paying off as my Pinterest traffic is growing).
  • $250 for my half of a brand new product launch tool (hoping it more than pays for itself with saving me time!).
  • $475 for my half of RainMaker, which is what we’ll be hosting The Course Course on (super slick and worth it!).
  • $125 for a SSL (secure url), because I’m switching from PayPal to Stripe on my sales pages.

Total: $1,287. January’s “tools” equated to $119, which is more “normal.”

Worth it? Yep, I’m preparing for the next level with courses. Trying to make it a better experience for students and allow me to do some fun new things too.

Makes me want to throw up? Yep, just a little! 😉


Advice is coaching and marketing help. I’ve been working with some sort of marketing specialist for over a year and until recently have been in a coaching relationship, basically since I started freelancing.

  • $2,000 for conversion optimization and landing page help. Basically, Carlos helps me with all things marketing. We started working together in the 3rd quarter of 2015 and my course sales have double or tripled since then. He also helps me implement content upgrades and other list building strategies.
  • $99 for a one-off marketing consultant call. It was money well spent and even though I’m just getting started implementing some of the strategies, I was enlightened to say the least. Really cool and out of the box thinking!

I’m taking a break from working with my regular coach, Carrie for the time being, basically because I don’t have ANY spare time. It started with trying to contain my schedule while we were away in Texas, but even though I’m back, I’m feeling very time challenged. I’ll likely revisit after I finish up a couple of large projects I’m working on. Carrie’s the bomb and has done a ton for my freelancing career!

Total $2,099. Average going forward.

Worth it? Hell yeah! I can’t imagine what shape my business would be in without it.


Support encompasses help from my (now three) VAs, paid guest posts, technology help, etc. Here’s the breakdown for last month:

  • $800 for writing. This includes both paying for guest posts on Horkey HandBook, as well as subbing out some writing work for my courses or other projects.
  • $2,100 for virtual assistance help. As I mentioned, I now contract with three different VAs to help me with different things. Mickey helps me with formatting blog posts, my beautiful images and more. Erica is helping me get the second version of the VA course shipped by mid-April (it’s SO good you guys!). And Lucia just started doing some syndication and outreach work on my behalf. All of these are things that I don’t have time for, am not good at or should help me build my business in a capactity I’m not able to.
  • $146 in miscellaneous support. This includes the person that does Pinterest marketing on my behalf and some pretty minimal tech help (it’s been much higher in past months). 😉

Total: $3,046. Gulp!

Worth it? Absofrickenlutely! (Plus, I love working alongside other talented freelancers!)

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Most of the time this category is pretty minimal. Travel is one of the bigger expenses from the past. This is what it looked like this past month:

  • $229 in refunds processed. This is more of a rare occurance and if they’re from a previous month, then I can’t really zero it out.
  • $791 was a reimbursement from a client’s expense that I put on my credit card. I helped him design some custom hats as thank you gifts – they turned out great!
  • $127 really was miscellaneous and I don’t remember what $79 was (images, Carlos?). The other $40 was a pay-it-forward type of deal where I helped someone that was in need out with a subscription payment.

Total: $1,147. Totally abnormal expenses for the most part.

Worth it? It is, what it is! 😉

In Conclusion

Here I am once again, putting it all out there!

You can probably see that these aren’t “typical” expenses for your average freelance writer or VA. Although those are services I still offer (and that still make up a large chunk of my income), my business continues to morph and evolve.

And I’m a firm believer of both bootstrapping (not spending more than you have to and only reinvesting profits, rather than borrowing from yourself or others) and reinvesting in my business. I did the former for my first year in the business and have been doing the latter more in the second year.

Most expense decisions are a direct result of a little research, trusting the advice of others I respect and going with my gut. It’s not a scientific system, but it works for me!

I hope this post helped to enlighten you a bit with what’s behind the scenes of the expense side of my business!

What’s been your biggest business expense thus far?

29 thoughts on “Reinvesting in Horkey HandBook: How I Decide Where to Spend Money”

  1. I don’t chime in the comments section too much, but I have to today, just to tell people that working with you is a pleasure. You’re super driven yet easy-going, which is a rare combination.

    And an awesome person to interact with.


  2. Hey Gina, totally agree with Mickey 🙂

    It’s been great working with you and helping you grow your business like mad over the last six months. There’s only so much a one-person team can do. Eventually solopreneurs hit a wall.

    And to get through that wall, you’ve got to find great people to help you and genuinely share in the interest of your success.

    For those of you who might be close to hitting that wall, don’t be afraid to ask for help or invest in certain areas of your business – it will pay off in the long run and eventually help you scale to that next level.

    Have a great day!

  3. Wow! Those expenses make me want to cry but I guess I’d need to go back and look at the income. It sounds like it’s all revenue producing so that’s awesome. Congrats!

  4. This is super inspiring to me. It also helps to know that no matter your experience, you continue to ask for help and learn from others. There are some awesome, awesome courses and products offered in the internet writing community that I would love to be able to take advantage of them!

    Kudos, kudos!

  5. I love this post! I’ve always been curious about the specifics of some of your expenses. I feel like being able to see the specifics helps with ideas for how to invest in my own business in the future.

    Are you going to make this more detailed breakdown a regular part of your future income report posts?

  6. Hi Gina, thanks for sharing! I am accounting obsessed and I found this post to be very interesting! How would you say your percent of increase, per category, has changed over time? Thanks for sharing!

    • Happy to hear that Lisa. Honestly, I just started using the current categories in January, so I can’t easily tell. With some manual labor I could though. 😉

  7. So helpful, thank you! As a newbie to the blogging side of things I am still learning what’s worth paying for and what’s not. It’s awesome to see what is helping you grow your business now that you are a few years down the line. Thank you for sharing! I’ll be pinning and tweeting this one!

  8. I’ve been wondering what the budget looks like for a successful freelancer!

    It’s a crazy circle, you have to hustle more to make more so you can buy more tools so you can increase business. It’s hard work and difficult to plan if you don’t have something to look up to like this article. This gives me an idea of what could be expected if I want to grow my business. Thanks Gina for sharing this valuable post! 🙂

  9. The $229 in refunds sounds like an awful lot. Was any of that from people taking the courses? Just curious.

    • Hey Celise – it’s actually just two refunds I processed from my courses. I’ve been working hard on figuring out a refund policy that works for everyone. 🙂

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