How do I spend the money I earn? A sneak-peek behind the scenes of Origami Graphics

People say that if you support a corporation, you support their CEO’s profits – but if you support a small business, you’re helping a family send their kids to school and put food on the table.

Well, I don’t have kids (yet?). But I’m going to give you a sneak peek into what I do with your money after you’ve paid your design invoice – to give you some full behind-the-curtain transparency.

And hopefully some warm fuzzies, too… when you see the positive impact you’ve made.

#1: Reinvest it into my business

I work with a lot of start-ups, and some of these are my clients’ first businesses. So what they (you) may not realise is that established businesses reinvest a lot of their revenue back into the business – they can’t just pocket it all.

For me, that figure is about 25% – so a quarter of what you’ve paid me will actually go back into my business. I don’t get to take it all home as income; instead, Origami Graphics chews it up. She’s hungry!

My regular business expenses include:

  • my coworking space
  • paid advertising
  • skills development
  • software expenses
  • file storage
  • own and client data backups
  • website hosting and domains
  • security plugins
  • premium font licensing
  • stock photo subscriptions, and
  • insurance.

The past 3 years in a row, I’ve spent more than $20,000 a year on all of the above to make sure my business grows. And – this may surprise you – I had to spend a really solid chunk of time and money on advertising to get you to visit my website in the first place. That’s before you even signed on as a client (or read this blog post)!

There are seriously so many hidden expenses, and they’re all necessary because they keep my work high quality and my clients secure. So those expenses are accounted for in my hourly rate, and your invoice payment helps me continue covering them.

#2: Hand it to the tax man

My invoices include GST, which gets delivered straight to the ATO every quarter during my Business Activity Statements.

Along with my income tax (which is another 32.5% of every dollar over $45k), the government uses that to:

  • improve society
  • build infrastructure
  • distribute welfare, including JobSeeker and the aged pension
  • make energy bill cuts
  • subsidise university and healthcare
  • and anything else that comes from the public purse.

While I’m a business owner, I also tend to act like a bit of a communist from time to time; so I’m rather happy with high tax rates and spending money towards everyone’s benefit. I don’t believe tax is theft at all, and I think Scandinavia’s got it right.

…That communist thing was a joke. Sorta.

#3: Shopping at the local farmer’s market

Anyway, because I’m such a communist, I’ve also had jack of Woolies’ prices and was pretty alarmed by CEO Brad Banducci dodging senate questions about their profit margins when literally everyone in the country is struggling with rising inflation.

I’ve also taken a hit to my client base this year, because the cost of living means the price of everything has risen. Most people can’t afford everything they used to (and I’m in the same boat as you – my grocery bills are way up!).

So in solidarity with other local businesses, I’ve stopped shopping at Woolworths and Coles for fresh produce, and instead head to the Capital Region Farmer’s Market every Saturday to stock up on veggies and dairy directly from farmers. I save the supermarkets for the things the markets don’t offer, like bathroom bleach.

The markets sometimes end up cheaper, and sometimes end up a little more expensive – but it’s #worthit when most of the profits go to straight to the producers. If you go to this market too, let me know – let’s grab a coffee from Unscripted Fermentation, who makes the best coffee I’ve ever had, tbh.

#4: Saving up to visit and support my partner

Anyone who’s stuck around with me for a while knows I went on a big European adventure at the end of 2022. I’d had a huge life change, was sick of being indoors during COVID, and had given up on being able to buy a home for at least a decade – but that’s another story.

While I was there, I met my now-partner in Morocco – so I’m about 15 months into dating someone who lives on the literal other side of the planet.

Immigration fees are expensive, as are airfares, education, and accommodation – so I want you to know that when you pay your design invoice, you’re not only helping me to travel, but actually directly benefiting another person’s entire life, family, and future prospects for generations to come. What an investment in the future.

What happens if you need cheaper design work?

You’ll get the sense during this article that I’ve got a lot of reasons for charging what I do, and some of them are key to my life, future, and overall wellbeing. So if you ask me to lower my rates or tell me I’m “too expensive” – instead of taking personal responsibility to re-examine your requirements or seek an alternative business – I’m more likely to take it as a personal insult.

Because even Australians that are not well off are more affluent than the average Moroccan, my work is literally designed to increase your profits, and my income is helping to support two people.

So, if you’re really budget-focused and can’t afford custom work right now, I’d recommend taking a look at my Grab-and-Go packages – I’ve specifically crafted these to be as accessible as possible without badly biting into my bottom line, so you get to start bringing in clients ASAP using a service that doesn’t destroy my bank account. 😂

If you’re more interested in my regular packages, there is also zero shame in asking about a payment plan (and, in fact, I’ll ask you about it during questionnaire phase). I often find that breaking expenses up into smaller portions makes things more manageable for me, too.

If neither of these options work? You have my complete blessing to work with someone who suits you better! Depending on how tight your budget is, a design student looking to grow their portfolio with some part-time extra work might be perfect for you. Reach out in your city’s community Facebook group and see if any student designers are willing to take your project on at a more affordable rate.

#5: My mum

The thing about my mother is that she took a really big chunk of time off work in her 40s to raise me and my sister, and sacrificed about 10 years of her superannuation to do so. This is a huge flaw in the superannuation system, and helps contribute to that insidious gender pay gap.

If I’m paid well in my late 20s and early 30s, I can cover some of her expenses so she gets to treat herself more often in her golden years. We all want this for our mums, right? 🥺

#6: Me and my life

Having my own business means I have heaps of freedom, but a lot of responsibilities and hard times too.

When you pay me to do design work for you, you’re helping me continue to live my dream, follow my passions, travel the world, save some money towards (maybe one day) a home, make positive contributions to society, and pay other small businesses for their own services.

Canva cannot do this. AI cannot do this. The designer on Fiverr charging $5 for a logo cannot do this because they’re priced that cheaply due to desperation. And that Fiverr designer’s superannuation account – the one they haven’t made a contribution to in 3 years, cause they needed the money to cover their rent?

It’s not looking good.

How to get the balance right

Despite society’s expectation that business owners should compete to price as low as possible, it’s actually not a bad thing to want enough money to live comfortably and happily. That’s why I hold really firm on my rates, and don’t accept requests to lower my fees – unless:

a) you’ve asked extremely nicely, and
b) have a very good reason for asking, like being a charity or not-for-profit who can’t make the project work otherwise.

That’s not to say I rip regular clients off – I absolutely don’t! Several clients have recently told me that I’ve come in underbudget for the work, or that my rates are “really reasonable”. And in fact, if we work together and I find you’re an excellent, respectful, dedicated client who meets all their deadlines and saves us time, I’ll often discount you totally voluntarily or throw in a few extras for free.

I’m also currently running a deal where existing clients can get $150 off their next project – if they leave me a business review. 😉

I care about what I do, I care about your business, and I care about being able to do a good job. In keeping my rates reasonable (for me), I’m giving myself the space I need to work creatively while saying a big F-you to the perception that art is not valuable.

There’s also a perception that female-dominated industries should price lower to be nice…

Nah mate. We shan’t be doing that. Not when the IT guy is on $250 an hour.

Has this article left you with questions? Interested in hearing more about my philosophies, my travels, or my business investments? Leave a comment and let’s chat!

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