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Should You Pay Yourself a Salary?
August 30, 2022

Does your startup seem stuck in first gear? You’ve got your business off the ground, but sales and profits aren’t where you hoped they’d be. You’re putting what seems like 24/7 into the business—may be still working at a day job or a part-time gig to make ends meet. You reinvest every penny in the business, but you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

Maybe the problem isn’t that you need to work harder or put more money into the business. Maybe the problem is that you’re not taking your business seriously enough. “How can that be?” you say. “I’m devoting my life to this business!” Yes, but are you treating it like a business? I recently interviewed a woman entrepreneur who’d been struggling with her startup business for three years. She was frustrated and not sure what to do differently. Then an advisor urged her to start paying herself a salary—even if it was a tiny one. She resisted at first. She didn’t think she could afford to pay herself. But the minute she started taking a salary, she told me, “It was a huge turning point.” Suddenly, her business felt “real,” she felt more motivated, and growth began in earnest.

The salary you take out of your business needn’t be huge, but it should be meaningful to you. Maybe it’s enough money to cover the dues for your child’s sports activities or the payment on your car. Make it something tangible that you care about. Then, when you’re working late on a proposal or an order, you can think proudly that the money you’re making is going for something that really matters to you.

Taking your business seriously as a business whose success or failure matters—not just a hobby that might or might not take off—affects the way you think of it, the way you act, and the way others respond to you. Do what you must to make your business real to you. Not sure how much to pay yourself? Your SCORE mentor can help you come up with a figure that’s enough to be motivational but not enough to slow down growth. 

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