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How I paid off over $20k in debt and started my own business in less than 5 years

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

I'd be lying to you if I said the title to this blog didn't shock me... In fact after typing it out I had to sit back and reflect on how challenging, yet incredible the last 5 years have been leading up to this point. Before I jump in and share all the juicy details of how I paid off over $20k in debt (not including student loans, let's be very clear on that. I'm still chipping away at those.), it's important to understand where I was...

5 years ago I was 20

Working a part time job, part time internship, going to school full time, running my photography business AND taking on freelance graphic design clients. Excuse this next part... But what the f$$k. I could never do that now. 😅 But it's important to acknowledge my life was that for a few years. Was my mental and physical wellbeing looking good? Absolutely not... But all of this did help me in paying down my debt. Please note that I am not a financial expert, nor do I guarantee that this information will provide you with the same results I had. Everyone's situation is truly unique to them and this is my personal journey shared.

Where I am now

Today I'm 25 and am officially the owner of Eclectic Designs .CO - A brand and website design studio. But at 24 I, like many others lost their full time corporate position due to COVID-19, it felt like such a drastic thing at the time but it was essentially the push I needed to go full time with my business. Now I have services that sustain a work life balance and are priced to not only help me to pay the bills but are within the ethical price range for my ideal clients.

I wouldn't be where I am today - having paid down over $20k in debt and running my own business full time - without 3 very important lessons I've learned along the way.

1. Set up a realistic, obtainable and wise budget

Budgeting is some serious Financial 101, if you don't know already how to set it up, I highly suggest spending some time to learn. Here are some budget tips that helped me get started and I continue to practice in my business now.

I look through my bank account from the last couple months and note the following:

  1. Income per month

  2. Bills owed

  3. Subscriptions

  4. Money spent on NEEDS (Gas, groceries, etc.)

  5. Money spent on WANTS (Shopping, eating out, events. etc.)

Then I compare 1 with the sum of 2-5. Is my answer positive or negative?

  • Positive: I take that number and divide it into three. (Put a third into savings, a third into any debt (Just student loans for me now) and left a third for any additional spending.)

  • Negative: I don't panic! There are just a few things that I might want to change. I evaluate my subscriptions and "WANTS" spending. Then I take away at least 2 things that are unnecessary at the moment. Rather that be cutting down on eating out one less day a week or when I go to the store I ask myself, "Do I REALLY want this?" or maybe I just don't want Hulu as much as I thought I did. (One time I had Hulu for 6 months and used it once to binge one show! Then I completely forgot I was even being charged for it. Ops! 😆)

I evaluated my budget at the end of the month for an entire year and let me tell you, it changed my life! By changing just a few "WANT" habits I was able to pay off ALL of my debt (minus student loans) in under 5 years. My debt was mainly high interest credit cards and I was super upside down in my car at the time. Today I have the freedom to not stress about the bills that are needed to be paid every month and no longer carry any debt other than my student loans. As I continue to make financial decisions, I practice mindfulness with my spending habits and how they might effect me moving forward. Some examples include:

  • Buying a used car that was way under my initial budget.

  • Saving for larger purchases such as new tech for my business compared to putting them on a credit card.

  • Living within the means of my needs compared to my wants. (But that doesn't mean I don't have fun with my money! I still travel and go out with friends often.)

Now remember that for 3 years out of 5 that I was busting my a$$ to make as much money as I could 24/7. I don't suggest that to everyone, but it is a way to pay off any debt quicker.

2. Understand how to price out your services/products

This lesson was truly a make it or break it for me, because deciding to go full time with my business was a highly strategic move on my end. When I was let go, I already had a lot in savings. When I was working full time, I had still been taking on freelance clients and would just put that money into a separate account and not touch it. I also was able to apply for unemployment, so while I was working on getting my business to be full time, I still had some sort of income coming in. This in depth planning truly is the foundation of where I am today in my business and I wouldn't be living off my service based income if it weren't for knowing my financial situation fully, before going all in. But now that my business is the only income I have, this is how I learned about pricing my services to be sustainable: I invested in a business coach: Kait Visser.

I wish I could say I'm the expert behind learning how to price my own services, but I was FARRRRRRR from it. When I was just taking on freelance, it seemed easy to throw around prices and hope for the best. But now that I'm full time, I need strategy behind everything I decide to do. Hiring Kait was the third best investment I made when going full time with my business. (I'll make a blog about the other two here soon.) She helped me craft my signature offer and evaluated what other services I would essentially benefit from going forward. My prices are based around 5 key elements:

  1. My budget: What I need for bills.

  2. The quality of my services. I've worked hard on ensuring my clients get exactly what they are investing in + some.

  3. My ideal clients current financial situation (Yes, I evaluate that. Knowing your ideal client is no joke.)

  4. Time vs. Investment: How long a service takes to complete.

  5. The life I want to build with my business.

Looking for more ideas on how to accomplish this? Check out this Instagram post I made: HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO CHARGE?

3. I set up my client experience to be comfortable around the topic of money.

Money was always weird for me to talk about, but once I opened the door for my clients to freely talk about money, the conversations started to get easier each time. Something I knew going into running my business was that I didn't have time to be waiting for invoices to be paid. Here are a few things I do to ensure I get paid AND on time.

My potential clients have all the right information Invoices are included in their proposal and payments begin as soon as our contract is signed. I use a management tool called Dubsado where all my packages and payment plan options are templated. Their invoice always includes:

  • My Information

  • Clients Information

  • Invoice Number & Date it was sent

  • Service name, description of the services, price of service, total amount, amount due for invoice.

  • A pay now button

  • Terms & Conditions (I have this stating that everything per our contract has been completed, if they are late on payment there will be an overdue amount added to their total, and if there is failure to pay, per our contract I can take legal action.)

By implementing this process into working with potential clients it has taken off so much stress and I always get paid immediately compared to waiting around and having to chase them down. If a potential client does not make a payment, then their project simply will not be booked on my design calendar. (I clearly state this before sending their invoice and send reminders to ensure it's known.)


Recap & Note

The top three lessons I've learned about paying off debt and running my business include: Budgeting, service pricing and ease in sending invoices. While it's super exciting that I paid off over $20k in less than 5 years and now run my own business - the journey to get here took a lot of work and everyone's journey is going to look different. I also want to be fully honest and let you know that I'm not always financially secure. Running my own business has been filled with learning curves. Some months I make over $5k and other months I only make around $400. But my success is focused on the process - practicing being grateful, mindful and patient with where I am now. Because if I can do all that in just 5 years, imagine what I can do in the next 5!


Thank you for stopping by the Eclectic Blog! 💜

Have any questions for me? Reach out!


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