WTF to do when everything costs more.
This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from website marketing specialist Tom Garfield. He says:
“Life costs so much more now!
Fuel, heating, food, clothes, EVERYTHING is way more expensive. I shudder every time I hear the letterbox clunk, wondering what bill is coming for me next.
I don’t want to dip into savings or reduce my pension payments. That feels like a bad plan… Do I raise my prices to keep up instead? Can I use the cost of living crisis as justification??
Other than pulling my kid out of nursery, living life as a recluse and doing nothing at all (I’ve had quite enough of that, thanks covid!), what’s the best way to keep financially afloat when the water just keeps rising? Heeeeelp!”
Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.
Here’s what was said in this episode:
Comments on the previous episode:
Hi there! We wanted to put in a trigger warning at the beginning of this transcript. We do talk about losing a parent and if you don’t want to be reading about that right now, we totally understand that. So at 2 minutes to 6 minutes, please feel free to scroll along.
[00:00:53] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie, and this is Steve.
[00:01:03] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one. It was a while ago, but we were talking about how important a name is for farmer/countryside coach Rachel Middleton.
[00:01:19] – Frankie
[00:02:07] – Steve
Yeah. Oh, well, it’s nice to be back with such highbrow content. Oh, man…
How you doing?
[00:02:16] – Frankie
I’m all right. I’m all right. If you’ve been following anything I’ve been posting on Facebook or Instagram, you will know that my mum very sadly died about six weeks ago. So, in fact, it was a week or ten days after our last episode went out, so we were late kicking off the year, and then that happened, and so we disappeared for another six weeks. So this is only our second episode of 2022.But we’re here, we’re showing up, and we’re going to hopefully now be a bit more regular.
[00:02:46] – Steve
Until the Easter holiday starts!
Well, it’s nice to see you back. And you know what? I was thinking about it — your mum has had many a mention on this podcast. She was obviously a cool, inspiring, self-employed person, right?
[00:03:05] – Frankie
She was fucking great. And the world is worse off without her.
[00:03:10] – Frankie
I’ve been thinking a lot about, well, not even thinking a lot… I’ve been living it. I hadn’t accounted for death. And how that relates to being self-employed. I don’t know… When I always think about insurance and stuff, I always consider, like, me dying from my family’s perspective, or me getting long term sick or, like — I use my hands to do my job. If I broke my wrist, for example, and I couldn’t do my job. I have thought about all of those things and I have some protections for some of those things.
But, yeah, she died and I couldn’t do any work. And it was… I don’t know, I hadn’t, like, thought about… I didn’t have a backup plan. You know, I just literally had to email my clients. I was emailing them at 11:00pm, the day she died, going, “this has just happened. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to work again”. And amazingly, my clients are brilliant. I’ve got really lovely people who I work for and it was fine. But what if they hadn’t been fine?
[00:04:13] – Frankie
It’s just something I’d never considered. And then I literally couldn’t work for weeks. Like, I was not in any state to do any sort of work and that had an impact on my finances. And there was just a lot of practical, emotional and financial things that were triggered by — whoever it is in your life, a close friend, family member, whatever — if somebody suddenly dies and you’re coping with that… I feel like I need my business to be a bit more robust if that was to happen again.
Or maybe I’ve made it more robust in the fact that I do have clients who are understanding. I mean, that’s the first hurdle, isn’t it? Working with people who were like, “yeah, no problem, however long you need”. But it’s just interesting because Rob took time off to take me to London and had to look after the kids and blah, blah, blah. And that was zero issue with his business. They have, I don’t know what you call it, ‘bereavement time’ or whatever — where you still get paid and you don’t have to go to work. So he just triggered that and that was it.
[00:05:19] – Frankie
And then I’m there, even though I wasn’t working, I was worried about the fact I wasn’t working and I was worried about the impact that was having on my clients.Because my clients are amazing, but they’re also other small businesses with kids, and the work I’m doing for them is integral to them earning money and stuff.
So, it’s complicated. I don’t know. I felt a responsibility to them and myself, and I just feel like worrying about money and work is, like, the last thing I want to be doing if that was to happen to me again. And I don’t know what I need to do to make that happen. It was very obvious and stark how vulnerable I was, as a self-employed person, dealing with that. I feel like there’s an entire episode in here, to be honest.
That’s been my world, how are you doing?
[00:06:08] – Steve
Well, first of all, I missed you.
[00:06:11] – Frankie
I missed being here too.
Our answer to this week's question:
[00:06:50] – Frankie
Our question comes from Tom Garfield of www.tomgarfield.co.uk, who is a website marketing specialist. Hello, Tom.
“Life costs so much more now. Fuel, heating, food, clothes, everything is way more expensive. I shudder every time I hear the letterbox clunk, wondering what bill is coming for me next.
I don’t want to dip into savings or reduce my pension payments. That feels like a bad plan. Do I raise my prices to keep up instead? Can I use the cost of living crisis as justification?
Other than pulling my kid out of nursery, living life as a recluse and doing nothing at all, (and I’ve had quite enough of that, thanks COVID). What’s the best way to keep financially afloat when the water just keeps rising?
[00:07:32] – Steve
That is a brilliant question.
[00:07:35] – Frankie
He put it very well, by the way.
[00:07:36] – Steve
Everything is more expensive. More than that, though, everything is going to get more expensive. Lots of companies have already made that warning. Even McVities.
[00:07:46] – Frankie
[00:07:46] – Steve
Yeah. And so it is a genuine thing, right? If you charge exactly the same this year as you charged last year, let’s say, hypothetically, you do the same amount of work and you earn the same amount of money, you will actually have less money to play with because everything in life will cost you more. So you will effectively lose money if you just stay the same as last year, right?
[00:08:11] – Frankie
Yeah. You’re losing money by default.
Are we starting off by talking about the rates thing? We’re going straight into the rates thing. Is that what we’re doing? Looks like it.
Personally, I think you can use the cost of living crisis as justification to increase your own rates. Everything in your business is costing more.
Somebody messaged me on Instagram last week talking about a product based business and she was like, “as a product based business, there is no should I, shouldn’t I? The things I buy, that I use to make my products and sell on to somebody else are costing me two or three times as much. I can’t just not raise my prices because then I’m not running a viable business”. That’s it.
And the same should apply as a creative, service-based business. Your electricity is costing more. All the things you are doing around your business, equipment that you use and the software that you use, all of that is costing more. Put them up, put them up, raise them rates, put them up, put them up!
Particularly, for me, I don’t know about you so much, but a lot of my clients are one woman/man bands like me who are facing similar higher prices in their life.
[00:09:20] – Frankie
So I don’t want to be another burden on them.
[00:09:23] – Steve
It’s like an economic domino, isn’t it? Everybody ends up putting their prices up.
[00:09:27] – Frankie
So if we all do it, it’s fine. Is that what we’re all agreeing on here as a community? If everybody does it?
[00:09:31] – Steve
Because what else are you going to do, right?
When you’re thinking, how much should I put my rates up? Really do the maths, because here’s your opportunity. You don’t want to get this wrong.eally figure it out and then add a bit more. Don’t burden yourself by just going to the amount that you need. I think building that safety cushion and put it up another 5% or 10% or whatever you feel is right. Don’t be conservative about it.
[00:10:01] – Steve
Tom also mentions not wanting to dip into his savings or reducing his pension payments. That’s interesting, actually, because I was looking at my pension payments…
[00:10:08] – Frankie
Thinking, shall I reduce them?
[00:10:10] – Steve
[00:10:10] – Frankie
For balance, I need to be putting my pension payments up, not the other way around.
[00:10:15] – Steve
[00:10:16] – Frankie
[00:10:16] – Steve
And you don’t want to dip into your savings. I mean, I dipped into my savings during COVID.
[00:10:20] – Frankie
[00:10:21] – Steve
Here’s the thing. This is why your prices should be going up, so that as well as existing savings, you can have that buffer of cash. It’s so important to have.
[00:10:31] – Frankie
It feels like now more than ever, you need to be working to have that.
[00:10:35] – Steve
And to bring it back to what you were saying at the beginning of this episode… savings helps, right?
[00:10:40] – Frankie
[00:10:41] – Steve
And so I’m kind of in this situation at the moment where I’m trying to rebuild the savings that I drained during COVID when I was at home looking after the kids instead of working. It might work for that short term emergency period. And even then, you should kind of treat it like you’re loaning yourself some money and you make a note of it and you pay it back to yourself. I think, anyway.
But this is not a short term thing, right? This is simply a way of life for the next however many years.
[00:11:10] – Frankie
That feels so fucking hard to do, like, for someone like me. I have no savings. I’ve occasionally had some savings in my life, one when I was made redundant and started freelancing, and then I had some savings pre-COVID, again. Gone. Just totally gone. I had to stop working completely. Yeah. So while I know I should have some — even more so now — it also feels like an impossible time to start building them because my outgoings are going to be so much bigger.
[00:11:41] – Steve
But that’s what I mean. This is why you have to factor, I think, savings and pension…
[00:11:47] – Frankie
…into that price rise.
[00:11:50] – Frankie
This situation is going to be really hard and it’s not going to go away. If you’ve been thinking about putting your prices up for a long time, if confidence is holding you back, use the cost of living crisis as an excuse to finally do it. If it’s not about ‘I’m great and you should be paying me X’ and that’s why you haven’t been putting your prices up, that’s one thing. But if you literally need to pay three times as much to keep your computer on, that is the reason to put your prices up today, tomorrow, next week, whenever. I challenge you, in the next 28 days…!
[00:12:22] – Steve
Or the next 56 days before the next episode comes out…
[00:12:26] – Frankie
You know what actually, it is literally the next financial year in what, three, four weeks? This is a great time to say ‘my prices are going up’. I don’t think you even need to explain to be honest. But it depends on who your clients are.
[00:12:37] – Steve
I don’t think you do.
[00:12:38] – Frankie
And if it makes you feel better, you can say because the cost of things are rising.
[00:12:43] – Steve
As with every other company in the world, my prices are going up.
[00:12:46] – Frankie
But you’re fucking great at your job. You’ve been doing it for however long — you should be putting your prices up annually anyway. And if you haven’t been, now is the time. No one’s going to bat an eyelid, I promise you. And if they do, then in my experience I’ve got better clients from the people that pay me more than the people that want cheap and dirty.
[00:13:10] – Steve
Also, this is actually a great thing about being self-employed. We get to decide what we charge.
[00:13:18] – Frankie
Good point. Yeah.
[00:13:19] – Steve
Because some people will be going to their bosses…
[00:13:23] – Frankie
…and saying, I need a pay rise. Yeah.
[00:13:24] – Steve
And yet their bosses are like,”’oh well, it’s very difficult for the business at the moment. Not sure we can do that”. Blah, blah, blah.
[00:13:30] – Frankie
If you have a contract… well, If you don’t have a contract, consider getting one!
If you have a contract, build in something around obviously your pricing. But say, if you want to do it annually,“my prices increase every April or whatever at X percent”. You could build that into your agreements if you’ve got recurring long-term retainer clients and stuff — build that in and then it’s like a no brainer basically.
I’m sure it’s on the raising your rates episode or something. Maybe it was COVID as well. But like, if I’m not making enough money in my business — how do I make more money? One way is to up your prices, the other is to decrease your overheads.
And that can be personal things like Netflix and whatever that you don’t necessarily use for your job, or that can be things to do with your business. I mean, I’m going to recite the… How many times has it come up in the Facebook group? Cancel your Adobe Creative Cloud! See what happens. 99% of the time you get offered a cheaper rate, which you wouldn’t have got had you just sat on the continuing contracts. There are so many things like that.
[00:14:33] – Steve
Even like your mobile phone contract. Do you know what I realised the other day? Tesco Mobile, maybe lots of people are already with them and I’m only catching up on this, but Tesco Mobile is actually O2’s network, but you pay more to be on O2 than you do to be on Tesco Mobile.
[00:14:47] – Frankie
That sounds like a Martin Lewis tip. Like it.
[00:14:49] – Steve
Check if your phone is coming out of contract. Don’t just get the new handset, maybe switch to a SIM only deal. Check the amount of data you actually use compared to what you pay for.
[00:14:58] – Frankie
It’s amazing what you can save. Even if it’s a couple of quid for that one thing, if it’s a couple of quid for 20 direct debits, that all adds up.
[00:15:06] – Steve
It massively adds up. Yeah. Or when your kid says, “oh, can we sign up for this app?” And just to shut them up, you say yes and you subscribe. But what do you know? A week later, they’re never reading that same story book app that was so urgent.
[00:15:22] – Frankie
After lockdown, I had about £50 a month of direct debits for twelve different iPad apps which they weren’t even playing with!
There are other ways, like, yes, changing supermarket suppliers that saved us money, but doing the whole… properly doing meal planning, bulk cooking, freezing stuff — all of those things will save you money if you’re not doing them already. There are millions of resources out there on ways to scrimp and save when it comes to being a family in the modern world and not paying for stuff unnecessarily. But a lot of the time, it’s the time and energy to make those changes. And I appreciate…
[00:16:00] – Steve
But I reckon right, you just take a morning — look at all of your overheads, look at your bank statement, and just, god, it will feel good!
“Other than pulling my kid out of nursery”. That is interesting, though. Imagine how much money it would save if you took your kid out of nursery one day a week?
[00:16:16] – Frankie
[00:16:17] – Steve
But you have to balance that with…
[00:16:20] – Frankie
…how much money you make during the time they’re at nursery.
[00:16:22] – Steve
It feels like a drastic option, right? To take a child out of nursery one day a week, but do the maths. Could you maybe switch to working on a Saturday and your other half taking on childcare? It’s totally situation dependent, isn’t it? But you’re never going to regret spending that time with the child. So you’re going to save money, but nobody ever goes, ”I wish I hadn’t had that extra day at home with my kids”.
[00:16:47] – Frankie
And it’s a fair point because right now, as far as I can tell, the three biggest outgoings this year are going to be where you live; whether that’s rent or a mortgage. Your energy bill and your childcare costs if you have them — if your kids are in private pre-school, childcare and stuff or even after school clubs and all that jazz. Those are the three biggest things that we have to pay for on a monthly basis.
Currently, we don’t have an awful lot of control over our energy costs unless we do have money to install solar panels and whatever. I definitely don’t have any control over how much my mortgage costs every month. I don’t think many renters have much control over how much they’re paying to their landlords.
But childcare is something, yeah, that is something you have some more control over. I mean, I’m not about to tell you to shop around for your child care because your child has to settle. It’s a bit more complicated than switching from one energy supply to another. But, yeah, that’s a good point. Is that a conversation you need to have in your family about other changes you can make in terms of childcare costs?
[00:17:54] – Frankie
Ultimately, there are some things you can control, some things you can’t. So be really mindful and proactive about reducing what you’re spending on the things you can control.