Q&A: Tara Jones- Williamson on Financial Success for Solopreneurs

Tara Jones-Williamson is the feminine Financial Success Coach and Lifestyle Designer behind Your Pretty Pennies, an online financial lifestyle brand dedicated to helping women pay off all of their debt in two years or less. She spoke with us about the philosophy behind her strategies, how single motherhood brought her into financial education and how beginners can create a foundation in their business to achieve their lifestyle dreams and financial success. 

GROW: Finances are intimidating for a lot of first-time entrepreneurs. Even with a lot of the education that is out there, a lot of people don’t yet have the financial vocabulary to fully participate and flourish.

Business owners hear a lot about how they need to keep their business and personal finances separate from the beginning. Can you talk about why that is important and what that looks like, especially if you are bootstrapping and might not be generating revenue yet?

Tara Jones-Williamson: It is really important to separate them from a legal standpoint because if your business and personal finances are co-mingled and if something happens, the IRS can look at both your personal assets and your business assets. You need a business checking account and a business line of credit. Use those accounts for your business. Don’t fall into the trap of, “my business isn’t making a lot of money right now, so I am going to use my personal account for this.” If you start doing that, you will do it all the time. The reality is that you need to pay yourself, even if it is your personal money you are paying yourself with. So you need to build that paper trail of money from your personal account going to your business account to pay those expenses.

GROW: You talk about creating a business and financial plan to help support your desired lifestyle. Once people get into the nitty-gritty of solopreneurship, it can be easy to lose the big picture of why they started in the first place. Can you describe the philosophy behind your approach?

TJ-W: I work with a lot of women who are creating their businesses because they are passionate. Once they get into business it’s, “I have to hurry up and make money.” Or, “I have to do all of these mundane tasks.” They get into what I call “Entrepreneurship Poverty,” where their business is sucking all of their money. So every dollar they make, whether from their 9-5 or their business, goes right back into the business vs really creating a financial plan that supports the lifestyle they desire. I always tell women, “There is a person behind your business. Your business should work to support the lifestyle you desire, otherwise, just work a 9-5. ”

I am always highlighting how important that is. You have dreams, a family, a life, and you need a business model that supports that.

GROW: You talk about creating daily, weekly and monthly habits and routines to make book-keeping easy. How can someone who is starting from zero get started with those habits?

TJ-W: I want to start by saying that even though I love finance, I didn’t start that way. I was a biology major in college, and I thought I was going to go to med school. Yes, I liked math, but I didn’t have a background in accounting and bookkeeping. You don’t need to be amazing at numbers to keep your accounting easy and organized. I use QuickBooks and spreadsheets that I created myself that are very easy to use and understand (at the end of the webinar, I send out a link to the spreadsheets).

Those habits, rituals, routines, the weekly check-in with your money is a game-changer. When you go to a business class, they talk about clients and overhead and your KPI. All of those things are very important, but you also need very practical, day-to-day actions to stay on top of your accounting and booking keeping, especially if you aren’t in a place to hire an accountant.

There are a lot of things you can put on autopilot to where you can just check in and make sure things are running smoothly. Again, a lot of us do not need a complex system to where it is overwhelming and daunting. You just have to build it into your routine.

I am mostly looking forward to people taking away confidence in managing their money. My goal is that by the time people are done hearing my voice and seeing my face, that they feel confident enough to know that financial management is a skill that can be developed.

GROW: How did you come to start your business, Your Pretty Pennies?

TJ-W: It started with my financial journey, which started when I was 21 and in the middle of my college. I had my daughter, so I was a single mother in college. When I went back to school, alongside my biology degree, I started taking finance classes because I knew I needed to learn how to manage my money.

When I had her, I had $0 in the bank because I needed to buy everything I needed for when she was born. I became diligent about learning how to manage money. I got a minor in finance, which helped a little, but it was really all of the self-study I did. I looked into how to master savings, how to pay off massive amounts of debt, increase income and credit repair — all of these parts of personal finance that I was oblivious to. It was a learning curve for me. After I graduated college, I made a financial plan that allowed me to pay off $50,000 in debt in two years, all on my own income.

I made it my mission to help myself. It transformed into creating a blog to share my story and knowledge, then I helped people at my church with budgeting, saving and paying off debt. People started asking me to coach them, and I didn’t know anything about building a business. No one in my family had ever started a business, so that was a learning curve all on its own. It was very organic with my desire to help other women in the financial trenches, and being the person I needed all of those years ago.

GROW: What do you want people to take away from your webinar?
TW-J: I am mostly looking forward to people taking away confidence in managing their money. My goal is that by the time people are done hearing my voice and seeing my face, that they feel confident enough to know that financial management is a skill that can be developed. I want people to feel confident to be diligent and approach their finances without fear, shame or guilt. I want people to get excited to create the lifestyle they desire with their business.