Why You Have to Pay Yourself…Today!

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If you read that headline and you are NOT a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you probably just said “Huh?” Because not receiving a salary for your hard work seems illogical and crazy, right? But that’s exactly what so many small business owners do, and they think they’re making a smart move for their company.

If you are one of those small company owners, particularly for a creative business like interior design, some of you may be saying: “Pay myself? Really?! I can barely pay my bills!”

But let me turn the questions around to you and ask: “Who is your most valuable employee?” YOU are your most important and most valuable employee, and you need to treat yourself just as you would any other staff member who’s important to the success of the company. And I feel pretty confident they wouldn’t work for free? So why are you? And really, if you never make any money in your job, what’s the point of doing business at all?

This is what separates the people who are operating their companies as a hobby versus of as a real business. Not paying yourself a real salary and just assuming that you will use whatever profits are left at the end of the year is a very dangerous game of smoke-and-mirrors. Because if you are just making enough to pay your bills, or fooling yourself that the $10,000 left over at the end of the year is a job well done, then you don’t have a good grasp on your financials and you don’t have a clearly defined path to profitability. Basically, you don’t have a sustainable business model.


If that’s the way you’ve been operating, then you’re just one income issue away from disaster. Not good. And if you are one of those many people that think “one day” I will have the money to pay myself, you’re wrong about that too. That magical moment of “now I have enough” will never come. If you don’t value yourself and your business enough to pay yourself today, you will find all sorts of other reasons (excuses) that you need the money you are earning for growth or employees, or expansion or other. So trust me…Today is the day to pay yourself.

Still not convinced? Here are my top reasons that you absolutely have to pay yourself, and how:

1. This must be a business, not a hobby! This is worth saying again. If you’re subsidizing your business by not paying yourself, then your company isn’t in good financial health. Too many small business owners think they should be the last to get any money when they’re starting or growing a business. But that isn’t true! You have a better chance of starting on the path to a real and profitable business if you have a salary included in your overhead from the very first day of business and you make a plan to cash flow your operations including your salary.

2. You can’t ever hire if you aren’t paying the ONE employee you have now! That would be you. Think about everything that you do for your company – all of your responsibilities and tasks. Wouldn’t you pay someone else to do all that work? Exactly. But it’s going to be tough to add someone to your overhead and come up with the money to pay them, if you’ve been just “volunteering” for your company all this time to complete those same tasks. You have to be able to afford employees as your company grows, and you can only do that if you have a budget line for salaries. If you haven’t been paying you, I doubt you have money earmarked and ready to pay others.

3. You have to pay yourself in order to keep the passion for your business alive. I’ve already asked this, but if you aren’t making anything out of this business, then what’s the point of doing business at all? No, really, what’s the point? Running a small business is hard. I know from experience that if you haven’t already, you will soon find yourself managing people and tasks and you will have very little time to do the thing you started this business for to begin with. And if you are working for free doing these tasks you don’t love it’s even worse. You’re going to burn yourself out and you’re going to be angry and resentful about your business and lack of funds. That isn’t exactly a great mood to be in if you want to attract more clients and more business. And it’s just no fun. Your dream was to do what you love AND get paid well for it. And if you aren’t paying yourself for that work today, (I’ll say it again) you never will.

4. It’s a great incentive. If you do want to attract more clients (and I know you do!), then what better way to motivate yourself to work harder than you already do than to give yourself a paid incentive to bring in more money. If you’re really being disciplined about your finances, then you know exactly how much money you need to make each month to meet your overhead. And you should then know how much more you need to make in order to give yourself a raise. And realizing all the things you can do with that money from taking your family on a vacation to saving for your kids college funds, can be a real reason to work even harder and put some more of that money in your own pocket.  A great incentive, indeed!


Okay, so now HOW do you pay yourself? I’m not saying you should start out with a $100,000 salary (unless you really are doing that well financially), but even just paying yourself a few hundred dollars a week can help. And of course you can give yourself a raise as your revenues increase. So I suggest mapping out what it would take in revenues to cover your business overhead AND pay you what you want and deserve and reverse engineer that into your sales goals.

The way to make more money is to bring in more business, and/or to raise your fees. Most of you are NOT charging what you’re worth, which is a whole other conversation, but that’s probably your biggest challenge to paying yourself. So you need to get a strong handle on your finances so you know exactly what your overhead expenses are, what your revenues are, and what you need to be making every month to not only stay in business but earn a profit. And you need to be absolutely sure that you’re charging enough for your services to hit these numbers.

I know it’s tempting to not pay yourself when you are afraid you can’t pay your bills or your employees. But if you ever stop paying yourself, it will be almost impossible to start it back again. So I suggest instead of cutting your salary as a payroll savings, spend your time and energy increasing your revenues and launching diverse revenue streams that will help you afford yourself and your business. Again, it’s really the ONLY reason to stay in business.

I know getting serious about business and making money can be tough, especially for creatives, but it’s critical to getting your company into great financial shape and operating it like a real business should so it can afford you your dream life. So get out that checkbook and write a check to yourself TODAY! And leave me a comment below and let me know if this is one of the things you struggle with in your business and if you’re willing to make the leap towards valuing yourself as the key part of your business right now.  You can do it!







PS – If you want my help in getting your financial house in order, and learning to charge what you’re worth, check out my online business courses in Tobi U! There are specific modules on those very topics, as well as ideas for attracting your ideal client, putting together a winning marketing strategy, and MORE!

And a few weeks ago we asked you to enter to win a FREE semester of Tobi U – and the winner was Angela Palmer! Congrats, Angela! I know Tobi U is going to rock your world and your business!

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Saturday’s Secret Sauce: Don’t forget to Celebrate!

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Happy Saturday Friends! It’s an especially happy one for me because while I am shopping the showrooms at the Dallas Market buying gorgeous things for a few holiday photo shoots later this year, my fabrics are debuting in style on the streets of Paris. YES, PARIS!  As in France. They are looking bright, bold, and tailored in Duralee’s Pop up shop on Rue Jacob as a part of the Paris Deco Off trade show.

This is definitely a “pinch me” moment. This girl from South Arkansas has designs in Paris, wow! And that brings me to today’s post. We so often move from thing to thing in our busy and stressful lives, without even a moment of CELEBRATION when we reach our goals. This is especially true for Type A, high achievers like me. We mark things off our list and move right to the next goal. It’s not like in Monopoly. There is no passing go, no collecting two hundred dollars and no trip to Park Avenue. Being driven is great in some ways but seriously, (Type A) people like me…what’s the deal? Somethings got to give! Why don’t we take just a teeny tiny moment for acknowledging the big wins in our lives?


So this weekend, while I am busy planning for lots of exciting things to come later this year, I have decided to take a bit of time in Dallas with my mom and my daughter just to raise a glass to the exciting things happening in my life and career right now–like my Tobi Fairley for Duralee Fabrics showing in PARIS! After all, these are the things I’ve dreamed about. These are the things I’ve worked for, and these are the things coming true right now that deserve some major celebration.


And while working hard and celebrating may not always seem to go hand in hand,  sometimes it is possible to have your cake and eat it too. Just like we did from the delicious Cake Bar at Trinity Groves tonight when we celebrated my “news of Paris” after a long hard day of work. And yes their homemade goodies are full of sugar and fat but you know what? Life is too darn short not to enjoy the people we love and celebrate the BIG moments with a yummy piece of cake. I hope you are celebrating your big moments in life too. It’s the secret sauce to living a fulfilled and happy life.

Cheers y’all. It’s time for cocktails and cake!








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What Is That Color? The Right White

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It’s interesting, but ever since Benjamin Moore named a white as its color of the year, I have had many magazine writers and newspaper reporters contacting me to ask me what my favorite white paint colors are. Most people might assume that I almost never use white paint, since I’m known for working with color, but I actually love white as a nice neutral backdrop for the pops of color I put into a room!

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One of my favorite whites (and I actually have quite a few) is Sherwin-Williams Shoji White. It’s a softer, creamy white that’s warmer, with beige undertones, so it keeps a room feeling cozy. I knew it would work well with the red that I wanted to use in the dining room featured here, and that it would give the room an updated traditional look.

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I also continued with that same paint color into the entry for the trim and the ceiling, giving the rooms great continuity. You can really see the warmth of this white in the photo above.

For some reason, white can really be a difficult color for people to choose. It could be because it is the most reflective paint color, so it reacts more to light sources than many other color choices. If you go with a white that has too many blue undertones, the room can seem cold and stark. If you go too muddy, the room could look too dark or dingy. So some of my other favorite go-to whites, in case you’re looking for some that really work, are C2’s America’s Cup and Sherwin-Williams Antique White. I used Antique White in my previous house – it’s creamy and rich, and (big hint!) you may see that C2 color turning up in my new house really soon!

What white paint colors have you used that you love? Let me know in the comments section below!






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New House Diary: My Daughter’s Room

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New House Diary

When I started thinking about the new decor for my daughter’s bedroom, I realized this room would be more of a transition than just moving into a remodeled house. This year – and I almost hate to say it – my daughter officially becomes a “tween.” Yikes! So this room needs to be more grown-up, and ready to move her into her teen years. That’s both scary and exciting – probably for both of us!

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So we put a lot of thought into the layout and design of her new bedroom. And I say “we” because I always believe that everyone in the house – kids included – should have input on their spaces! After all, they’ll spend a lot of time there and they should be inspired and happy in those rooms! My daughter needed a room that would be a fun “hang out” for her and her friends, where she can study, and where she can read and be on her own. So there will be lots of storage and seating, including a fantastic window seat that can also serve as an extra bed for sleepovers. Extra-special surprise? There’s another twin bed that pulls out underneath for yet another sleeping space for friends!

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I love the nook we designed above – it will also be great for studying, reading, and just hanging out. In my original design, there were built-in shelves inside the window seat on either side but as is often the case in remodels, when we got into the “as built” space and got final measurements, these had to go. But that’s ok because the bigger priority for me are the great storage closets on each end of this wall. When we were temporarily living in this home before we moved out to remodel, I noticed these 2 corners of the room were where everything my daughter owned seemed to pile up. From games to stuffed animals to arts and crafts, these 2 corners were the catch-all areas and now all that stuff will be perfectly organized in these closets. One side will even have a desk top inside the closet (they are deep closets) for her die-cut crafting machine and all her supplies. Plus in the bed nook,  I made sure to add plug-ins too, for her laptop, phone, iPad, or any other electronic that comes along in her teen years that she wants to use in this space!

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And on the other side of the room, we also have a built-in homework station, with a desk, bulletin board, storage, and plenty of plugs for her computer and printer. We’ve also planned to add a lot of color here inside the shelves up top. Which leads me to color for the room – being my child, you know this will be a colorful space! She really loves the cooler blue/green colors like aqua and cobalt, which are great for a room that needs to also be restful. But we’ll also punch it up with coral, which she really loves with aqua. And – just like her mom – she is VERY opinionated about the actual shades of each color. She knows just what she wants!

I can’t wait to show you the finished room – and the rest of the house – later this year! Have you designed a room for your kids? What did you include, and what did your kids want in their rooms? Let me know in the comments section below!







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A Return to Traditional

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The “new traditional” look has been popular for quite a while now, with traditional silhouettes and designs softened with sleeker lines. Part of that influence came from the craze for midcentury modern looks, with their clean styling. But I’m seeing a return to true traditional design in furniture and interiors!

Part of it is a renewed interest in the art and craft of creating a piece of furniture – so there are more wood finishes coming to the market than painted pieces. And people love the nostalgia of an artisan look, like the turned legs and brass claw with acrylic ball in my London table above from Woodbridge Furniture. It’s a also a drop-leaf table, which is a very traditional look seen in many antiques. But it really fits today’s lifestyle, with people wanting furniture that can serve a lot of purposes, like a console table when the leaves are “dropped,” and a dining table when they’re up.


Attention to detail is also important for traditional design. In my Brunell table for Woodbridge (above), I took inspiration from Dorothy Draper and her love of shape and form. She called herself an “anti-minimalist,” and loved gold leaf detail and lucite.


This return to traditional isn’t about the stuffy, dark furniture that some people think about when they hear the word “traditional.” It’s more a celebration of the art of traditional design, like the deep tufting and gorgeous nailhead created by the craftsmen at CR Laine for my Aana ottoman. There is a real art to expertly upholstering a design in leather like that!

What do you think about traditional design – both in interiors and furnishings? Let me know in the comments section below! I look forward to showing you more of my traditional designs coming up for the April High Point Market!







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