For Financial Planning Month, we’re sitting down with some of our awesome clients to talk about personal finance, business finance, and entrepreneurship. Our first post in this series featured the wonderful Avery Swartz. In this second post, we are going to talk to Marie Poulin.

New School of Finance (NS): Marie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?

Marie Poulin (MP): I’m a digital strategist and designer who started The Digital Experience (I helped Shannon brand The New School of Finance back in the day when I was a sole prop!), and most recently I co-founded Oki Doki with my partner Ben, where the majority of our work is focused on helping people bring their digital product ideas (ebooks, courses, coaching programs, etc) to life. We help them validate their ideas, plan out their content or curriculum, do customer research, and learn how to confidently market their digital products. Oki Doki is Incorporated. 

Together we also created Doki, a software platform to help people with the delivery and sales of their courses.

So we’re part consultancy, part implementation; we basically help people create really exceptional online product and service experiences!

NS: What has been the most challenging part of owning your own business (financial or otherwise)?

MP: For me, the most challenging part of owning my own business is managing so many moving parts on my own. Managing several projects and clients at the same time, and balancing working ON the business with working IN the business. It’s a lot of self-management and self-leadership, which I think takes a long time to learn!

You have to know yourself so well: your habits, energy, strengths, weaknesses, needs, desires, etc. A lot of that you don’t learn until you’ve bumped up against uncomfortable situations and burnout!

NS: What did you wish you knew about being a business owner before taking the plunge?

MP: Start with a separate business bank account. There were so many bookkeeping mistakes I made along the way because I just didn’t know what I was doing. I probably should have hired an accountant for a consultation before I started. I didn’t think I could afford it at the time, but it would have saved me so much money (if only Sole Prop School had been around back then!!) 😉

NS: What has been the hardest financial lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?

MP: DO not borrow against your taxes!

One year I did really well and excitedly paid off all my student loans. Woohoo!! Then tax time came around, and I hadn’t put enough money away. Some personal things also happened that reduced my ability to work as much as I’d hoped, and suddenly I found myself using credit to catch up. It took me a long time (years) to truly recover from the domino effect of that mistake. I thought I could “catch up.”

These days, as a corporation, we pay ourselves a consistent salary, and taxes are taken right off our paychecks. I wish I’d done something like that as a sole proprietor, where I would take the taxes off immediately and pay myself a set amount each month. It would have made bookkeeping and budgeting so much easier.

NS: What has been the best financial decision you’ve made as a business owner?

MP: Haha, probably letting my partner handle the business books!

He is super organized and meticulous, and knows every penny that’s coming in and going out. I’m a lot more laid back with my money, so it has been so helpful to have a partner that doesn’t procrastinate when it comes to checking in on the books!

Otherwise, hiring an accounting firm to help out sort out our books once we co-founded our company. Between my messy sole prop (hey, sole prop school didn’t exist back then!) and personal taxes, Ben’s US company, and his personal taxes… it’s been worth every penny to have a professional educate us, keep on top of things, and handle our taxes each year.

No more tears at tax time; my time spent is reduced to 5-10mins now! Best money we spend each year!

NS: Do you have any favourite money management tools?

MP: I’ve been a fan of over the years. Every now and then I also try YNAB, but I haven’t really stuck to anything consistently (in terms of personal money management).

Our business finances are all handled through Freeagent which we love and have used happily for years. It’s what I used all through my solopreneur years, and highly recommend.

NS: What money management tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

MP: Do not procrastinate if you know that your books or taxes are outdated.

Do regular weekly bookkeeping sessions to make sure you’re on track and know what’s coming in and out. The longer you avoid getting things in order, the more it’s going to hurt! Get ahead of the game, and even pay quarterly instalments instead of yearly if you can – it will really help with your budgeting!

NS: Thank you so much for answering our questions, Marie! And hey readers, if you’re on Twitter you can follow Marie, Ben, and Oki Doki.

Are you a Canadian sole-proprietor? Check out our Sole Prop School. Run your business like a BOSS and make sure you’re up to snuff on all the important biz shiz. Click here to see the full course description.

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