Self-financing your startup, using your time wisely and tips from a serial entrepreneur.

Part 2/8 in a series for early-stage founders. An interview with Miami's top nightlife guru turned investor Shaun Gold and how to navigate time and money in starting.

Greetings and a big welcome to the 29 new readers since last week. I’m honoured you are here.

For context: You can read any post from this newsletter individually and find tools that will move forward in your business, but right now we are also in a series on early stage company building. Each of the eight parts includes a ‘think’ piece followed up with additional reading and Q&As with experts on the topic the week after.

Today we are building on last weeks’ post: How to find the time and money to start your business.


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Did you know that the majority of businesses are funded by the entrepreneur’s personal savings? Source.

As I explained last week I have built The Ask using a combination of my own savings and income from consulting startups on talent and recruitment.

It would be my preference to just earn money from the business itself to pay the costs but in the first few years that isn’t always possible. Because it costs money to start, and be successful.

My business is a very lean operation; I’m one person, and do not need physical goods or premises to operate from. In theory I don’t have to pay money to coach because the skillset comes from my brain, rather than equipment, and I can do this online without a need for fancy offices. But the costs rack up.

Here’s a breakdown of what they’ve looked like so far.

Essential expenses I have had to pay for

  • Insurance (legally required to do business)

  • Accountancy fees and bookkeeping software (to keep the tax man happy)

  • Google suite (to send emails)

  • Dropbox (to store files between devices)

  • Domain and web hosting (to have my website)

  • Data management and protection

  • Registering the business via Companies House

  • Coach training for 6 months

Optional expenses (but have pretty much been essential to see growth)

  • Client management software to track client contracts, invoices, leads etc (to stay organised and reduce time on manual tasks)

  • Co-working space (my home Wifi is terrible and I need to be around people for sanity reasons!)

  • Fees to be part of communities (helps with networking, referrals and learning and camaraderie)

  • Mailerlite email services provider (for email tracking, segmentation, promotions)

  • Trademarking The Ask® so the name is protected

  • Branding and website design support

  • My own business coaching (to shortcut my learning and overcome blindspots)

  • Courses and professional development to improve my craft

  • Coaching supervision (to get feedback from experienced coaches)

  • Virtual assistance and freelance support to help scale

There are many more but you get the picture.

I share this as an antidote to the trope that encourages you to simply quite your 9-5, make $10k months overnight and be on your merry way. It ain’t quite that simple.

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So my advice here is to begin with a good money mindset, know your numbers and, crucially, expect to invest in yourself if you want to see returns. I’ve spent £15k+ on coaching to ensure I have the support I need to be in the right mindset, overcome my biases and stay focused on my business so I can see results.

Wondering what some of the other typical startup costs are? Check out this post from Nerdwallet for more examples.

Shaun Gold, is known as a polymathic strategic thinker. He writes, fundraises, founds companies, speaks, lectures and advises companies in the startup world.

I could ask for no better guest this week. Having started numerous ventures and projects, Shaun knows full well what that takes from a time and income perspective.

His Instagram YouTopian Journey is described as the “The world's first self-help comic”. He’s attracted thousands of followers with his depictions of the struggles of charting your own path and his newsletter also explores themes like “Hell Is Other People: How To Protect Your Dream” and “Normalcy is Mediocrity: Aim To Be More”, so you know it will be an entertaining read.

Read & subscribe to Shaun’s newsletter here.

Shaun first cut his teeth in the world of entertainment in Miami working his way up to becoming a staple in the nightlife industry with major brands, celebrities and high-net worth individuals.

Today he consults, speaks and writes for the modern founder/entrepreneur, helping people on their path to building something meaningful. His book Better Be U: Entrepreneur Crash Course 7 Powerful Lessons to Survive and Thrive shares top principles for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to prepare themselves effectively.

Shaun is high energy, hilarious and full of pearls of wisdom for anyone embarking down the road of entrepreneurship — but be warned the road is not all glitter and gold. From a man who’s lived the high life in Miami Shaun knows that the yachts and fast cars you get from success are not ultimately what matters; the real goal is to be able to say no to working on a Wednesday.

Hear Shaun talk about why many people go into business the wrong way, the right time for starting, why it often takes two years to make most things work, the sacrifices you may have to make along the way in money and time, why you have to be happy with your suffering and be worthy of being defeated. It’s a fun one!

Listen to the interview with Shaun here

I recommend listening but if you’d rather read my notes you can do so here.


How are others managing their time and finances in startup building?

On finding the Money

  • Do you know how much runway you have financially? Try this personal runway calculator from BudgetBabble to calculate yours and see what leftover money you can really put aside for your business.

  • Wondering what other costs might incur as you start out? This list from Investopedia gives an honest account of the realities.

  • Do you feel like your overall money situ could do with some work before you launch a company? Get your money in order and know the keys to building wealth with Ramit Sethi’s hilarious no BS book I will teach you to be rich and podcast.

On finding the Time

  • Steph Smith, You Don’t Need to Quit Your Job to Make, argues how we have more time than we think. If we stopped imaging “me time” as relaxation time, and used it to focus on your goals then if one day your goal is become an entrepreneur, a significant portion of your “me time” should be invested in getting there. Steph explains how the compounding of time means you have more time than you think and you don’t have to quit your job to have a business.

  • Where is your time going? Find out with this handy time calculator and Steph has one of her own too designed to ‘Make Yourself Great Again’. No more excuses now ;)

  • Need examples of others who are building a business alongside their jobs? Look no further than the archives of Indie Hackers blog, you can filter by people who are working on their projects on side. The filter has been added for you in this link here. You’re welcome.


Got the time and money but lacking the clarity and confidence?

Reach your goals faster via coaching and community.

1-1 Coaching: I coach early stage entrepreneurs to develop a solid plan and strategy with their business and feel more confident in their new role as founder/CEO. If this sounds like something you need you can Book a free no obligation consultation with me to see if there is a fit and what you’d like to achieve. 2022 is three months away and we can get a lot done in that time.

A community for startup ceos and cofounders: You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you surrounded by others doing great work? We’re bringing together startup founders for intimate peer-learning circles. Apply here and learn more.


Your time is precious so thank you for reading. I spend a day a week writing this, if you find it valuable and feel inclined you can always Buy me a coffee or the ❤️ button is free.

Next week we are looking at clarifying your north star and designing your vision and mission so stay tuned for part three.

Ellen Donnelly, Founder + Chief Coach, The Ask.