Stop Treating Your Business Like a Hobby: 5 Starter Steps for Getting Real - Christine Kane

I call it “The Empire Mentality.”

What it means is that you act like the owner of a major empire even before you have the clients or the bank account to prove it.

And guess what? When you take your business seriously – miraculously, so does everyone else.

Here are five starter steps for making your business real…

1 – Get a Business Checking Account

Do you let your money just flow in and out of the same account? Are you paying for groceries and web design from the same checkbook? At the end of the tax year, are you frantically trying to determine which expense is business and which is personal?

Yes, yes and yes?

This must change immediately. Make it a priority TODAY. Get a checking account for your business.

This may sound like Biz 101, but I meet too many self-employed women who work in this kind of accounting chaos year after year. It’s guaranteed failure.

2 – Pay Yourself a Salary

Lack Mindset Symptom #143: You don’t pay yourself a salary. You just grab what you can at the end of each month and hope for the best.
When I meet women who do this, they try to convince me that they’ll change once there’s more money coming in. No they won’t. It works in reverse. Value yourself and treat yourself like a real business first – THEN the money comes in.

Now that you’ve set up a business checking account, here’s your next step. Choose an amount to pay yourself each month or week. Then set up a system and do it. (No, it doesn’t matter if it’s $25 or $2500. What matters is that you do it.)

Money does what you tell it to do. As such, it needs to know where to flow. Once you set up an exact amount for your salary, you’ll be amazed to discover that this amount always seems to be there each month.

3 – Set up a Business Entity

If you’re still a sole proprietor, you’re probably paying way too much in taxes. Self-employment taxes are among the highest taxes you can pay.

Whether it’s an LLC or an S corporation — you need to have both the tax benefits and the legal protection of a business entity. Choose a name for your company, and research the options available to you. Find a reputable local attorney who can help you make this happen.

4 – Get an Accountant

I’m willing to bet that you suck at accounting.

I’m also willing to bet that every single year, when tax time rolls around, you feel like throwing up.

Fact #1: Dread eats energy.

Fact #2: Every minute of time you put into QuickBooks is a minute that you’re not doing your genius work. (The stuff that MAKES the money!)

Fact #3: If you don’t have an accountant, the chances of you facing an IRS audit increase by about 7000%.

(Yes, I said 7000%. Now you know why I have an accountant.)

Entrepreneur, take thyself seriously. Get a great accountant, and happily pay her the hundreds (or thousands as you get more successful!) to ensure that your taxes are done professionally. You’ll sleep better and you won’t throw up.

5 – Set Boundaries with Friends and Family

If your friends or family don’t take your business seriously, it’s an issue of communication.

People who have never had their own business simply don’t understand what you do! They often won’t take your time or space seriously. They might call during the day, drop in when you’re on a call, or accuse you of not being a good friend when you can’t just pick up the phone.

All of this can be prevented with some communication on your part.

But first, you must be clear about your boundaries. What are your hours? Who do you work with? Do you do pro-bono work for friends? (I strongly suggest that you don’t!) Does family get discounts? Do you hire family or friends? What will you/won’t you tolerate?

Take some time to get clear about what most needs to be communicated to the people in your life. And then, honor yourself and your business enough to share these boundaries in a clear, proactive manner.

Then, it’s up to you to enforce your boundaries!

QUICK! Before you talk yourself out of it!!

In the comments below:

1 – Tell me which one of these action steps you’re going to do NOW – and,

2 – Share the very first step you will take to make it happen!

  • Sheleia

    Going to set up my business checking account.
    Thank you. Christine

  • Marcy Heim

    I have always done what you have said to do before I even had anything to use it with. It’s always worked. Thank you, Christine. Just sat at my pool with Barbara…someone I met at a CK live event and we will be working together. I told her the real testimony to your greatness – it’s been a few years and my mindset shift was PERMANENT. That’s real change. My family thanks you.

  • Dru Duffey

    I’m going to pay myself $100/month

  • Cheryle Yin-Lo

    I have set up my business Creative Traveller Enterprises and my bank account .i am also getting income from my last workshop I made $800 and am planning another in August .how much should you pay yourself ?

  • Cheryle Yin-Lo

    I have set up new bank account for my business and now will set up paying myself but I’m also starting to get income from clients in that account.
    How much should you pay yourself?

  • Claudia Fulshaw

    Hi Christine. Ok. I just did it. I set up an auto transfer to move (pay myself!) $500/mo. from Art Wanders, my creative retreat biz, directly into the account that is paying off the mortgage for the small retreat venue we built on our property. Eeeeek! I guess I was sitting there feeling good about watching the checking account, slowly but surely grow for Art Wanders but instead your email arrived in a nick of time to save me from myself. Thank you!

  • Patty Palmer

    Thanks for the great information, Christine. My “hobby” has been up and barely running for a little while now. It is definitely time to get an accountant. The perceived struggle or barrier is cost. Any guidance on choosing an accountant would be greatly appreciated.

  • Dussn

    Get a business checking account and pay myself.

  • Darnita

    These are great tips, I just started a blog and working on creating products but I am going to start by opening a business checking account. Thank You

  • Pat

    Thank you Christine.
    I just started my own business, filed all the necessary paperwork and am registered with the federal and state governments… so this information will be put to good use …

  • Gail Inferrere

    1st will get separate account for the business. – doing that today
    2nd pay myself
    3rd cut out family that are not supporting the goal
    already have an accountant.

  • Dianne K

    Getting my business banc checking account and paying myself….

  • Dorotcatherin Thomas

    Thanks for the wake up call….I have had my child care business for 18 yrs. I moved into a building about 2 years ago and I have not paid myself since…doing what you mentioned grabbing whatever I could😑. I realize it’s not a good idea and not making me happy for sure…so I will lay out a plan to pay myself. I started with an accountant first 2 years of the business…then started doing the taxes for 16yrs. You are right I just went back to my old accountant after all these years and it was the best decision…I even got a better return! Boundaries…I just had to terminate my husband’s niece from the business 10 months ago…wow best decision ever took me 2 and a half years to realize it was not a great decision. She did well for 1 years but that last 2 and half was horrible ! Phone calls from mommy are hard too she gets hurt feelings when I cant talk to her…gotta make calls switch to evening times again. I thank you for opening my eyes wider.

    DorotCatherin Thomas

    • Christine Kane

      Great self-awareness on all of these points Dorot! And this is why I have always had coaches and masterminds to lean on…otherwise, it’s so easy to go back to my old habits and ways! Keep the accountant – and always trust your instincts with letting someone on the team go.

  • Natalie

    Chrisitine, all great points! I feel bogged down by the investments that i kept making and never launching, never getting the product out or giving anyone a chance. I feel like a car that got stalled in the mud. Hence, any additional big expenses make me doubt that i will ever 🚀 launch.

    • Christine Kane

      So Natalie – What’s a first step you can take based on your insights here?

  • Carol McClure

    Set up my business account and put in my first “paycheck”!

  • Christy Thomas

    Set boundaries for friends and family for time and cost

    • Christine Kane

      Christy – a great first action step: Set an “hourly” rate for yourself that’s higher than you would normally go. Like $1000/hour at first. Then, treat yourself as if you are LOSING that amount every time you violate your own standards for how you’re spending your time.

  • Jeanette

    Christine, do you have any words of wisdom in regard to investing your own money in a business. I have invested $2000 in my business and only recently withdrew $250 to “pay myself”
    It has been less than 12 months so I know I need a mindshift

    • Christine Kane

      Jeanette – If you aren’t bringing in enough clients or money yet, then the investment should always be something that will directly impact that number. So – my first coach, for instance, was a major forcefield to get me up and out of old patterns and stuck spots… so that investment paid off. Not immediately – but after about six months – i could see the shifts and changes. However, if you mean “i bought business cards and a website” and those things don’t bring you clients, then they aren’t great investments. Does that make sense? I’d rather see you get your first clients then, say, have a perfect website or logo.

  • Lisa

    As an Accountant I totally agree that it is important to be paying yourself and to have an accountant. The money it cost for a good accountant, one that us going to be there to help you grow and make sure your numbers are in order is nothing compared to the time, stress, aggravation and headache that having a good accountant will save you.

  • Carolyn Witt

    I’m so excited! The only one I haven’t done yet is 3 – Set up a Business Entity. I just texted my accountant. Thanks! 😉

  • Kim

    Thanks Christine for the inspiring article! I love reading your stuff when I need a motivational boost.

    I am going to start paying myself a salary. I already have a separate account that I use for my business, although it is not technically a business account. I think I will also look into creating an official business account.

  • Kari

    I have a bus acct, bus entity and good boundaries w friends and fam, so I’m going to start paying myself a salary next. Excited!!

  • Deborah Burks

    I’m going to get a business account. I have to wait until tomorrow since the bank is closed today. Thanks Christine for the advice!

  • Mellissa

    I’ve got the account, and am working on having it stocked regularly with funds NOT coming for me! One step at a time….accountant is next on the list. Great article!

  • Cindy

    I’ve done all of these things except pay myself a salary and set up a business entity. I do have a DBA, but my accountant actually advised me AGAINST setting up an LLC or anything more formal because he said I would pay MORE in taxes. Hmmmm…. As for salary, I work on commission, and there’s not much at that, so if I do as you suggest and only take a $25 per week or per month, then that leaves several thousand on the table that is also MINE. If I take more than that, then in all likelihood there will be months with NO salary, because I only get paid when the commissions get paid by the suppliers. So how do I work around that? I don’t want to leave money just sitting in my business account. Because THAT MONEY is what all this work is all about — I started this business to have THAT MONEY to do with as I please. I have very little overhead, I always leave enough of my commissions to cover my expenses, and the rest is my “profit”. So how do I take a salary from that without leaving money behind in the company?

  • Tracy Taylor-Davis

    Thanks!! Set up business checking and pay myself a salary! 🙂

  • erin harris

    I have a call scheduled today to speak with an accountant, and talk about next steps for my business. I’ve had “set up QB” on my list of things to do and keep putting it off. This post couldn’t have come at a better time!

  • Vanessa Gillette

    Setting up a separate checking account STAT.

    Logging into my bank account now to see what my options are 🙂

    Thanks, Christine! Great article.

  • Fiona

    I have only been going a few months but I have been meaning to (1) get a business account and I can then (2) pay myself a salary – although I have been doing this in my head anyway. Then I will (3) get an accountant – I have a little more time for this given that the tax year end is a little way off yet.

    My first step is to look around for suitable business accounts and then I can go from there.

    Thanks for the call to action Christine!

  • Shawnee Kilgore

    I declared that I would set up a business bank account, but before I could do that I had to go register my business with the county clerk. Done! Welcome LET THAT SONGBIRD GO Music and Photography! I have never felt so grown up in my whole life, though I was giggling the whole time 😛 Almost immediately after I got my business account activated (and deposited $1, because that’s exactly what I had) my purse was stolen, including my wallet and my camera. I grieved heavily the first day and then decided it was an amazingly powerful thing to basically lose your identity and still remain absolutely who you are. I decided it was a great time for a new beginning, and since then my wonderful friends and family pitched in to surprise me with a new and better camera, and I’m shopping for the perfect new wallet and purse that will suit my new business self! 🙂 My next step is setting up my salary, which I’m not totally clear on. A regularly scheduled bank transfer? An actual check? I’m ready! Thank you Christine!

  • Andrea

    I’m going to look into what I need to do to change my business from sole proprietor to LLC.

  • Amanda Young

    First, I want to have a few clients, then I’m all for setting up the LLC or S corp. Is that okay or am I just going to perpetuate the waiting. I have the bank account, know more about taxes than I should but still have an accountant, and need to pay myself a salary — which I’ll start doing since today is the 15th. I’m also going to set some boundaries, and focus on my marketing consulting work.
    My blog listed here is more of a hobby that includes a book… with four more in waiting… but that’s my side hustle. Baby steps as I uplevel several parts of my life. Thanks for inspiring me!

  • Christine Kane

    Congratulations Shilpa!!!

  • Shilpa

    I got myself a business acount and paid myself a salary. it feels sooo great. Thank you Christine .

  • shanae

    im going to setup a business account. Going to the bank on Tuesday and looking for a reasonable bank institution not just the one i bank with. just want to compare options. Is going through legal zoom okay to do? I already have my business name and went to my city clerks offic to get registered as llc but was told i needed to go to the State to file, get a number then come back to them. uggh too long of a wait for that,6months to a year.

    • Tanya

      You may be able to do both of these things online, and it may take much less time than 6 months to a year. That’s the case in my state, anyway. Good luck!

  • Lisa

    I’m going to pay myself a salary! I have a business account, got my LLC last summer, have an accountant and a bookkeeper who will do the quickbooks for me. I think I have set boundaries for friends and family…but I still feel guilty and apologetic at “my day job” when I don’t work Fridays so that I have 3 days to work on the business…I DO WORK on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. I have to be more clear about that. And pay myself a salary!!

  • Yarrow Summers

    Thank you Christine. Great advise for anyone starting a business. I really like the idea of telling your money what you want it to do. It is so much more powerful and proactive than the wishing, hoping, etc. that most of us do.

  • Patricia

    Great advice. You sometimes need to see it in writing to get you going.
    I’ve spoken to my accountant and we are setting up a S corp.
    Don’t know what to name the business though.
    Any ideas?

    • Christine Kane

      it looks like your biz name is Digital Bloggers. Is that right, Patricia?

      Why not that? 🙂

  • Amy

    I’m going to start paying myself a salary.

    I KNOW you’re onto something because I’ve noticed for years that for every bill/expense I plan for, the money to cover it always appears just when I need it.

    When it comes to paying myself a salary, I’ve always paid myself with what was left after the bills are paid. Sometimes, it’s a pretty decent pay day, but more often than not, it’s nowhere near what I would like to earn. I can’t believe I didn’t think to plan to pay myself “X amount” as if it were any other expense. Thanks so much, Christine!

  • Cindy Briggs

    I really like Christine’s idea’s, energy and focus. I have great products but get stuck on how to sell my art, books and lessons to make money online, continue my teaching and coaching creative people. Life just gets in the way. I am hoping to shake things up this year after surviving cancer, selling my house and getting a restart. I will start paying myself a salary, even if its small, have done most of the other things. Thanks for the ideas and encouragement.

  • Frauke

    I’m going to pay myself a small but regular salary, since I already have a business account. Last year, I made the first profit ever. I’m still list-building and creating content, as I’m turning my local EFT-practice into an international online coaching business. So the salary will be small, but it will be all mine to have fun with.

    (I’m still working part-time in a day job that takes care of food and rent and such.)

  • Amy Jo Wheeler

    I need to do #2, 3, and 5. Tomorrow, I will take 50% of intake for my salary! Thank you, Christine!

  • Jeanne B

    I think I’ll pay myself a salary. Even $5 a week is a start (for those of us still digging out), with the goal being to earn $1,000/month from my art this year. If my bank will let me, I’ll open a second account just for the yarn and art. (I’m sure they will, they are a great bank.)

    Tell your money what to do… OK, money, earn yourself!!! 🙂

    • Nneka, Working Mystic

      I was going to give myself a quarterly distribution of half my receipts, but I’m going to consider this method of paying myself a nominal amount twice a month. Oooh! That feels really good!

  • A. E. Starkey

    The picture of your dog made me smile. (I tried putting glasses on my cat once. Never again.)

    Next steps:

    1 – I am going to open a business checking account.

    2 – Honestly–and this may seem meager–but the very-very-very first step was to go online, see when my credit union was actually open, and then schedule a visit into my calendar. (They’re open till 6 on Thursdays, so I will be taking a trip to the bank after work tomorrow.)

    Thank you, good call to action.

  • Devon

    SUCH funny timing because I literally JUST set up my biz acct last week!!! On the list for tomorrow: set up my salary payment! Woot!!!

  • Wendy

    I am going to set up a business checking acct (been promising myself that for a couple of YEARS now– but this time, I am going to do it! AND pay myself a salary.

    Christine, I have been so locked in fear for so long, and I am SICK OF IT! So far behnd in the Uplevel Your Life, but that is going to change too.
    Thanks you, thank you, thank you!

    • Christine Kane

      Wendy – you are NOT behind! There IS no behind in Uplevel Your Life! It’s a LIFETIME program! 🙂

  • Fonda

    How do you open an account with no money? All of this sounds GREAT however im not really sure how to continue with my clients. After a while of not growing my business…I began to go flatline! I need help!

    • Christine Kane

      So Fonda, it sounds like you are at the stage where it’s all about your marketing and getting the word out there and generating some income. And that’s a very normal stage in a business. Focus all of your time and attention on creating marketing systems and habits and being clear in your message and offer!

  • Kimberly | New Spark Coaching

    Business Checking Account (check!)
    Business Entity (check!)

    My next step is GETTING SOME CLIENTS so that I can pay myself a salary and have some money for that accountant to help me manage! Just launched my coaching practice and I’m in the steep learning curve of learning how to market myself. Choosing to enjoy this process and trust that the clients are on their way to me!

    • Christine Kane

      Excellent Kimberly — so your focus has to be all on your marketing and client getting activities. It will happen!

  • Shawnee Kilgore

    Ok. At my last bank I had the “Rockstar” account, but never got to the point that I was really utilizing it properly. I will now open the “Let That Songbird Go” account, and link it up with my Paypal account. And I just had a really fun thought, that if I start paying myself a salary, I can rely on that salary coming, even if I don’t technically know where, or who, it’s going to come from (before it comes through ME! 🙂 How about that raise, Shawnee?….Do it girl! 🙂

  • Lee

    I’m going with the “setting boundaries.” Step 1: mail invoice to friend-of-a-friend *and* send formal fee agreement with a retainer required if she wants me to do any other work. I was in danger of scope-creep. That stops now.

  • Nneka, Working Mystic

    I told my friends that for the next 2 years, they can think of it as a graduate program. They got that immediately. They completely understand it now when I say that I’m working on my business. Now, they are starting their own endeavors. So, we are in it together:-)

    • Jeanne B

      I like that! Think of it as a graduate program. Yes.

  • Angela Patnode

    I’m going to call today to set up an appt. with an accountant. I’ve been putting it off, and your comment about spending time on quickbooks – which I do while gritting my teeth – is right on. I want to celebrate that I’m an LLC, I pay myself monthly, I have a business account, and do not do trades anymore in my business with friends – all a celebration!

  • Nandi Shareef

    I’m going to get a business checking account. I still work for someone else full-time, and I am only dipping my toes in the water (taking professional pictures, hiring a web designer, etc). However, that doesn’t mean I can’t begin to take myself more seriously and set myself up for success. This article is a winner! Thanks Christine!

  • Amylia

    Excellent advice, Christine. I think all five of these are such huge game changers–not only are we telling ourselves to take ourselves and our business and gifts seriously, we’re telling the universe too. I’m going to pay myself a salary–and it might be $50 at first, but you’re right–just putting the system in place and honoring my intentions and myself enough to do that is huge. Call in about becoming a LLC right now too!

  • Barbara

    Money does what you tell it to do. For weeks I’ve been asking to see more clearly the limiting practices in my life that keep me in this power struggle with money and understanding the obstacles. It’s not surprising that it begins with me! Thanks for the clarity.

  • Elizabeth

    First, I want to commend you on your FANTASTIC articles!

    I would like to set the boundaries but am having difficulty sticking to them. Any additional suggestions?

  • Tanisha

    I’m going to set up a business checking account and pay myself. Great tips, thank you!!

  • Stacey

    Throwing up isn’t fun. I’m getting an accountant.

  • Cena

    Pay thyself – How can I pay myself when I’m paying everyone else and digging out from the debt I created to re-brand and launch? Why is this so difficult to do?

    • Christine Kane

      Pay yourself first and see what happens, Cena! Plan it out. Set an amount. (even small is fine.) And tell your money what to do. Not the other way around.

      (And come to my next big training webinar – announcement soon. It’s called The Money Master Class – and it’ll be eye opening for you! 🙂 )

      • Jeanne B

        “Tell your money what to do, not the other way around.” Now, there’s a mindset shift for you. Money and I need to sit down and have a little chat, methinks.

  • Jessica

    I am getting an accountant for the first time (Already done the other steps – Woot Woot!) Still working on the boundaries thing.

  • Nayna

    I am going to start paying myself a salary! I just never thought of doing that 🙂

  • Evelyn LiVoti

    I am going to pay myself a salary!

    Christine, thank you for sharing this important list. I took a small business development course before starting my business. They advocated setting up your BAIL team – banker, accountant, insurance agent and lawyer.

    While I have my team in place, I have not paid myself a salary – until now!

  • Alexandre L’Eveille

    Of course, first, the dog…love the dog. I have talked to my accountant about corporate structure and switching from sole-proprietor to S-corp. The plan was to do it the first of this year, but here it is Feb. already! So that is my first action step.

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Alexandre. (I just posted her on Pinterest too since we got so many responses. Dogs always make eZine readers happy, don’t they?) And yes, the year slips by before you know it. That’s why I put stuff in my schedule and do everything in my power to hold myself accountable.

  • Justin

    Great article! How about a financial planner 🙂 ?

    • Christine Kane

      That’s a fabulous idea Justin! Though when you’re just getting started, there aren’t always many finances to plan. 🙂

  • Kay Williams

    Oh, and I LOVE the picture of your sweet dog! I think I will take a picture of my 2 boys with their favorite food, butternut squash, and post it with my (becoming famous) curried butternut squash soup recipe!

    • Christine Kane

      Thanks Kay! Let us know when the account is set up! 🙂

  • Kay Williams

    Going to set up a business checking account!!

    Thank you, Christine.