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March 10, 2008

Wallet Mouth? How You Spend Speaks to How You Want To Be Seen

The title of this really cool blog Wallet Mouth and it's tag, "Your Wallet Is A Mouth.  When You Spend Money, You Tell The World How You Want It To Be" speaks volumes about how and why we spend the way we spend.  But more importantly, for the solo practitioner it speaks to how they want to be seen by their clients and their colleagues, friends and family and reflects their own self-image.

And because being a solo practitioner is all about creating something from nothing, they get the huge bonus of really defining their presentation and image.  When you work for another, you are accepting or adapting to your employer's creation and their 'image' based upon the way their wallet speaks.

For instance, I've dealt with clients who intellectually understand the value of low overhead but emotionally need to go the more traditional route and will take on the associated expenses of creating a second wave law office for very sound personal reasons which have nothing to do with servicing their clients.  It has more to do with the way they are choosing to live their lives which includes cultural and sometimes ethnic perceptions of success, a need for a prestige which other solos may not deem as valuable.  But it's not about other solos.  It's about that individual and their personal creation. And I'm not here to stop them.  I'm here to advise them of the pros and cons of their choice, but it is always their choice.

And in that choice, the way their wallet speaks, talks about their own self-perceptions and the world they wish to create.  Some believe in outsourcing paralegal or administrative tasks only to local, U.S. tax-paying vendors.  Others go overseas.  How they spend their money shapes their values, their vision of the world and the footprint they wish to leave and I'm not sure it's totally on a conscious level, either.

Some may say, "my wallet has no voice because I'm broke. The way I currently spend has nothing to do with image, but necessity."  I disagree.  Money has passed through your fingers before today.  How did you spend it?  Why are you broke?  Your wallet has spoken to your values.  Your values may certainly change.  But how you have spent your money reflects your values, age, circumstances at the time your wallet was speaking.  Did you invest in your education and/or a wardrobe of designer shoes?  Stretch yourself to buy a home, put your children in private school?  Values are reflected all the time. Your wallet has spoken.

The concept is complex and fascinating and if I turn the spotlight on myself, I can clearly see how my wallet has spoken for some time. I'm not a competitive consumer.  I will, however, spend money on experiences such as travelling, education, events. I'm totally of the philosphy 'less is more' and not being a slave to 'things.'  And when I do have to purchase, I purchase at the quality level which will permit me not to have to purchase that item again, for a long time.  I believe in purchasing value...the value I attribute to it. My cars will be at least 10 years old before we part company.  Was I always this way?  Yes and no.  But that's the beauty of evolving.

So, How does your wallet speak?  Are you invested in the 'trappings' of being a lawyer or in the latest technology to streamline your work?  Or both? How does your wallet speak for the practice you have or will be creating?


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Jim Aspell

Interesting Post, Susan. As for my practice is concerned, I take a middle of the road approach now. When I first started from ground zero, I was working from home. I knew as far as meeting clients and reestablishing myself as a solo though, that this was not going to fly with clients for long. Besides, it's not that great of an idea for your clients to know where you live. I got myself set up is a space sharing arrangement about 4 months after setting out on my own and althogh it costs me some money, it has worked out wonderfully. Mine is a spacious office, nicely furnished in suburban Hartford. The clients like it, I am comfortable, and I am able to share work with the woman whose space I share.
On the other hand, I still use a virtual assistant to handle the substantial transcription I do every day. While a brick and mortar assistant would be nice (and in fact I am strongly leaning towards getting a part-timer) the virtual secretary saves me hundreds every month in overhead that I am able to put towards marketing and other practice building ideas.

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