2021 is officially coming to a close, and I can’t tell if I feel like it went by fast, or dragged on. I somehow found myself thinking, damn, already December?! while simultaneously wondering, damn, only December…?
I recently joined #MarketingTwitter, and as I was procrastinating scrolling through, I saw a tweet that said “The year has come to a close! Reply with your accomplishments!” and it gave me an idea — sharing my accomplishments is great and all, but that doesn’t really help anyone else. What if I shared all the things I invested in instead?
(I’m nothing if not a great self-proclaimed #freelancelife influcner.)
Aaaand now here we are. I’ve combed through my expense tracker, and I’m telling you about all of the *new* (big and small) investments I made this year—in no particular order—and whether or not I recommend purchasing it yourself.
Keep reading to find out ~all the best things~ I invested in for my freelance copywriting business during 2021!
Oh, and of course I’m rating them for you and sharing the price range.
I’d been wanting to make this purchase for a while, and the second 2021 hit (literally—I purchased it at 5:45 in the morning on January 1, after a less-than-stellar birthday the day before and my child waking up at the crack of dawn), I knew it was finally time.
Due to an unfortunate toddler incident a few months back, my MacBook has seen better days. She’s cracked diagonally down the center, her web cam doesn’t work, and she’s more than likely on her death bed, but technically she functions okay for now, so I didn’t want to purchase a second laptop.
However, the iPad Pro is basically a computer (side note: their website copy literally says “your next computer isn’t a computer”—genius!) once you add this keyboard case, and now I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to laptop life! I use my iMac for my day-to-day, but when I want to work somewhere other than my garoffice (garage office—not aesthetically pleasing, but effective), the iPad-keyboard-case combo is perfect. Plus, I can read, draw, and watch TV on it.
Rating: 10/10 would recommend.
Price Range: expensive AF when you add the keyboard case and pencil. Like, more expensive than my iMac.
The CMS of my dreams. Before using Dubsado, organizing my client projects was low-key chaotic. I was literally using a paper pad, AirTable, and my brain. I told myself I’m organized enough for this, I don’t need to pay for something! I used to be a secretary, I can manage clients in my sleep! But the truth was this: I was spending sooo much freaking time sending proposals, crafting invoices, making to-do lists, manually filling out due date calendars… the list goes on and on.
Simply put: I wasn’t being efficient, I was being stubborn. And January felt like the perfect time to get my @$$ in gear and sign up for a system that could do the heavy lifting for me. This is where Dubsado comes into the story. The platform definitely has a big learning curve, but it’s so helpful to have everything in one place. To read more about the pro’s & con’s of investing in Dubsado, click here.
When you sign up for a year-long subscription, you get 20% off your entire year, which is why I chose to pay in full. I typically always choose the pay-in-full option, because who wants a monthly charge? And signing up for a year of something (if you know you’re going to use it for that long) is always worth it—we love a discount! (Speaking of, use this link or code “BTLCOPY” for a discount on Dubsado!)
Rating: 8.5/10 would recommend.
Price Range: kinda hurts, but when you realize how much time it saves you, it’s worth it. If you add on Dubsado setup, it DEF hurts—like, an audible “ouch” from your wallet—which I do not believe is worth it for everyone, especially if you’re a DIY-er at heart. (However, if you’re interested in having someone set up this CMS for you, I recommend Fran from The Passions Collective.
Speaking of Dubsado… she’s ugly. Not gonna lie. You have to really customize your materials for Dubsado to look cute enough to be confident in sending to a prospective client. Luckily for us all, Dubsado gives you the ability to do so, if you have the know-how. Which I don’t.
So, after seeing my client Wilda‘s proposals—and their sheer beauty—I sprinted to this website to buy the same template. (Which she had to customize for me, because, like I said, I don’t have the “it” factor, or the patience, required to do so myself.)
Rating: 9/10 would recommend, but only if you are willing to put in the work to code that shit. Or pay to have someone else do it for you.
Price Range: stupid expensive. But sometimes, ya feel like being stupid for the sake of the aesthetic. (Like me, on a manic afternoon in October.)
I’m a huge book nerd, and huge proponent of continuing education, so naturally a frequent flyer on my expense tracker was what I like to call Biz Brain Books. I wrote a whole blog post about my favorite ones for you to read at a later date, but I’ll give you a sneak peek & tell you about my favorite one with you now:
To be honest with you, I’m embarrassed that I never read this book sooner. I’m years late to the game, and I want to personally apologize to Bestie Ann, because she is EVERYTHINGGG. Whether you’re a copywriter like me, an aspiring novelist, or a [insert literally any title at all here], if you want to learn how to be a better writer, this book is for you. Stay tuned for my upcoming new blog series, Biz Brain Book Reviews, to read all my favorite takeaways from Everybody Writes.
This investment was one of my best this year, because it was an investment in myself as a writer and service provider. Whenever I read blog posts like this one, it’s always full of subscription services and office supplies and extra tools, and while those things are all great essentials, I’m a lot more interested in the investments other freelancers have made in themselves and their business development.
Rating: 10000/10 would recommend.
Price Range: cheaper than two Starbucks Venti Cups of Sugar (my go-to order, of course).
I’d been hemming and hawing over this one for a while, but in February, I decided it was a need, not a want. The lifetime membership to this *elite* SEO tool is less than $250, and gives you ALL of the knowledge you need to master search engine optimization, keyword research, and everything in between. Using the paid version of UberSuggest allows me to dive deep into research, analyze everything going on with Miss Google, and (best of all) expand my SEO offerings.
If you’re not into SEO and you don’t plan to check the site more than 3 times daily or care about accessing anything other than the keyword research tool, you don’t need the pro version. However, if search engine optimization is your thing, purchasing this is an emergency. (Side note: either way, download their Chrome extension, it’s amazing.)
Pro tip: apparently if you sign up for their monthly program at $29/mo, then try to cancel, they’ll offer you the lifetime membership for $99. Wish I knew that before going straight for the annual from the jump. Try it out and see if this little hack is true! (I heard it from a reliable source – but I still can’t verify whether that was a special scenario or not.)
Rating: 8/10 would recommend, because it could be a bit more user-friendly for people who aren’t too knowledgeable about SEO yet, however Neil Patel (the creator of UberSuggest and the Internet’s resident SEO King) has great free resources available for beginners to learn the ins & outs of search engine optimization.
Price Range: more than I wanted to spend, but felt like a deal because it was #4life.
Because I purchased this during a time where I was working in my garage, I was reluctant to invest in nicer office supplies. We moved out of that home in August, and I was trying to be a minimalist, and, I don’t know, I never found anything that felt worth it to purchase. At the beginning of March, though, I decided that I was spending way too much time at work to not love the space I was in. So, I headed down to Bureau En Gros (the Canadian version of Staples), and basically bought out half the store.
We’re talkin’ paper trays, sticky notes, packs of pens, desktop organizers, magazine holders… yeah, I went in. My favorite purchase, though, was the simple riser I got for my iMac. Adios, tech neck! Now, my computer is at the perfect height to avoid any annoying neck pain, and I can store things both under and on top of the riser.
Rating: 9/10 would recommend (if you want a cheaper option).
Price Range: you can def swing it even if you don’t make that much cash. Your chiropractor agrees that this is likely a necessary purchase.
This item was another fave on the fake-Staples trip, and it was actually what I went in for (cough cough $250 later…?) because I had been STRUGGLING to find a way to organize all of my client notes from calls.
For digital organization, I use and love both Notion and AirTable, but I’m a bit traditional when it comes to actually writing my notes. I always print out my client questionnaires, and brainstorming feels the most natural to me on paper.
But with my client roster continuously expanding (yay!) I needed a better way to keep myself organized (and sane). I had wanted a simple accordion folder, but saw this gorgeous thing and knew it had to be mine. Click here to see for yourself how beautiful she is.
Rating: 10/10 because it was affordable and makes my “I still like paper sometimes” heart happy.
Price Range: again, you can def swing it.
This one speaks for itself, honestly. Just click around my site to see how beautiful she is.
(No, I’m not going to pretend I’m humble about it. I’m a website copywriter—my site sort of has to be an example of my work. And my website designer kicks ass—scroll to the next line item on this list for details.)
I won’t lie, though… the switch from Squarespace to Showit is not for the faint of heart. Everyone makes Showit sound easy-peasy (and can be, if you’re a patient person) but in reality, it’s a lot of work. I wrote an entire blog post comparing the two platforms, if you’d like to learn more.
Rating: 9/10 would recommend for more advanced website users, and 6/10 recommend for people who hate tech (it’s a big learning curve, and you absolutely need either a website template or a website designer.)
Price Range: the same as all the other website hosting platforms. A couple hundred bucks, annoying to pay for, but necessary.
I feel extremely lucky that my Internet bestie also happens to be a kickass Showit website designer, because (warning: opposite of humility coming up) she absolutely KILLED IT with my website. I mean, the glossary on my About page? Are you kidding me?! Sarah Kleist was by far my favorite investment of the year, and I’m so excited about the final product.
At the end of 2020, Sarah had a video go viral on TikTok and because I’m addicted to commenting on TikTok videos, I left my two cents. She was hosting a giveaway with Golden Coil planners, so I headed to her website to stalk her, ya know, as one does. I loved the design, so that’s what I commented on her video. I said something like “your website is sick, website copywriter approved” (so she would know that I know my shit, #obvi.)
Unbeknownst to me, Sarah was part of the Reach Out Party (see below), and sent me a DM on Instagram a few days later, thanking me for the comment. I’m pretty sure we’ve talked every single day since. That being said, hiring her to work on my new website was a no-brainer.
Rating: 14/10, both for the website and the friendship.
Price Range: more affordable than most designers at her skill level. She needs to charge more, in my opinion. (I tell her on the daily. You’ll want to book a project with her now before she starts to listen to me.)
This one was definitely among the most different and fun investments of the year. Reach Out Party is a live, interactive 27-day course (available for $257) dedicated to learning about and implementing the art of reaching out from a place of gratitude (as opposed to the typical slimy, salesy networking). The members of ROP have collectively built more than 9,000 connections, earned hundreds of new jobs, and made lots of new friends.
My dear friend, Sarah Kleist (remember her from above?), introduced me to the party, and I decided to do something ~wild~ and join, even though I’m already very comfortable with reaching out to strangers and gratitude-focused networking.
One of my biggest goals this year is to get rid of my “I already know that” statements and replace them with more “what else can I learn about this?” questions — and I felt like the ROP was a great place to start.
So, even though I’ve had lots of success on my own in the past with reaching out (hi, Cold Pitch Email Guide), I wanted to see what this new perspective was all about.
And, as of today, I’ve received expert advice from respected marketers (remember Bestie Ann from above? Yeah, she answered my reach-out question in her newsletter to tens of thousands of people and sent me an autographed book), learned new skills, and made friendships with people who live halfway across the world.
Rating: 7.6/10, because it was definitely a good time, but it wasn’t a “need” per se.
Price Range: too expensive.
Another fun one! I’d been wanting a unique way to send personalized thank-you notes to my clients, and one Sunday afternoon on a whim, I decided to reach out to my friend Katya of Anelo Calligraphy to ask her if she could make some cards for me.
I’ve loved her work for a long time, and she has an amazing talent for hand letter-pressing. She made me 40 beautifully simple cards embossed with my logo, and color-matched, pre-addressed envelopes to go with them. Safe to say I’m obsessed with my purchase and am resisting every urge not to write on them all immediately. And now I want matching stickers.
Rating: 10/10 (if you have an extra $200 CAD to spare).
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? I know. But nothing with Chandler Holsapple is boring.
This was definitely the biggest investment I made this year—and while it wasn’t exactly an exciting one, it was absolutely a necessary one. You can read about why right here.
Rating: 10/10, because I needed it.
Price Range: expensive AF; only recommend if you can’t stomach a DIY. (Like me, sometimes.)
So next time I want to trademark something, I don’t have to pay Chandler thousands and thousands of dollars.
Rating: I’ll let you know when I actually complete the course (LOL).
Price Range: waaaay cheaper than hiring an attorney to complete the trademark registration for you. And THAT I can tell you with complete confidence.
And that’s it for the 2021 investments, friend! I hope that this list helps you decide whether or not you want to spend some of your hard-earned cash on any of the above. As I mentioned earlier, this list only included new things that I purchased this year, so I figured I’d end with a list of my regular recurring expenses…
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
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