'Tis always the season to express gratitude. And, to really boost your business in 2017, I suggest showing appreciation 365 days a year. Since day one with Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors, I have made it SOP to hold client events, offer gifts and write thank you notes. These personal expressions may seem basic, but they are a key part of referrals and long-time relationships that make a positive impact on my business.
In my networking days, I learned so much about the power of saying thank you. I built Polka Dots & Rosebuds on this principle and have found gratitude to be worthwhile personally and to the bottom line. If you are just starting out and need to be cost-conscious on your offerings, that's completely fine.
There are many budget-friendly stationery and gifting options and the time to write a thank you note is free. Here's my advice for three ways to make clients feel appreciated:
1. Handwritten thank you notes
Our team sends notes after every initial meeting. We have made it a policy to write notes as soon as we are back at the office, so the potential client feels appreciated from the get-go. Branded stationery, notecards showing your hometown and/or state, and cards representative of your industry are options to consider.
We have an annual dinner to thank clients in our hometown of Lexington, KY. This event is a good way to see clients we may not have worked with in a while and show them we are still thinking about them.
2. Client appreciation events
We were honored at this spring's event when a busy CPA told us he felt it was important to take time out from tax prep to attend the dinner with his wife. We have done several projects for this couple and, through forging a genuine friendship, we hope to do more work as their needs change. During the dinner, our team gives a small gift, often branded, for the attendees. Again, just a small token to keep Polka Dots & Rosebuds at the top of mind, such as a branded notepad.
We have clients in more than 25 states, so it's not possible to see every client at our annual dinner. To thank one of our main referrers, a Greek Housing company based in Tennessee, we host their team every fall at the Kentucky landmark, Keeneland Racecourse. This event has become a fun tradition to which everyone looks forward. In addition to the day at the races with lunch and drinks, we also host a couple of dinners and provide gift baskets for attendees during the weekend.
3. Annual gifting
We send client gifts out once per year. It's appropriate to do so at the beginning of a new year in order to avoid being lost in the sea of holiday gifts. We have found the gourmet apples from Mrs. Prindables to be a welcome gift. Logoed Tervis Tumblers are also a gift that it is useful year-round.
If you have an intern or extra staff, ordering and/or wrapping shipments is a good chore. And, many gifting sites have online services for order arranging that you can set up months in advance.
Here's to making your clients feel appreciated.
Three years ago, I made a deal with myself - I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I'm 25. But I didn't mind if it didn't happen until the day before my 26th birthday.
One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.
My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.
For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K to go!
I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I'm white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.
But my parents didn't raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We'd sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they'd always ask me was: "How much can you contribute?"
I've been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I'll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here's how I'm getting to $100K.
- I side-hustled
This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.
2. I started investing early
Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn't contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn't planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA.
3. I negotiated salary offers and raises
Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.
4. I've automated my savings
Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you're saving just doesn't exist. I have 26% of each paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account, so I'm less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This "set it and forget it" level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for -- through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.
It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!