7 Money Management Tips for Photographers

August 18, 2021

By Susan Stripling

© Susan Stripling

Staying on top of your money management, understanding your cash flow, planning for the future and creating a savings strategy will all help you stress less about money and let you spend more time doing what you came here to do—photography!

Updated 1/7/2022

I can’t think of a single person who starts a photography business and thinks, I can’t wait to learn to manage my money! Most photographers I know became photographers because they are creative, leaning into the art and away from the spreadsheets and money management.

Over the years, I’ve learned to love managing money, realizing that knowledge about my finances brings me freedom instead of fear. If I don’t have a complete picture of my business financials, I am stumbling around in the dark, wondering if what I’m doing is profitable and helpful. If I have a clear picture, I know what’s working and how to fix it if it’s not.

[Read: The 4 P’s of Passive Income for Any Photographer]

Here are seven tips to money management for photographers:

1. Understand all your costs.  

It’s not enough to have a loose idea of what it costs to run your business; you need to have a complete picture. You also need a complete picture on what it costs to run your life outside of your business. After all, if you don’t know what your living costs are, how can you possibly know what amount you need to make to pay all of your bills, much less run your business?

2. Understand how your money moves.  

I filter my income through multiple bank accounts, each one with a specific purpose. I have accounts for taxes, business expenses, personal expenses and more. However you choose to segment your income, make a plan for expenses and savings and stick with it.

3. Set goals. Then set rewards once you meet those goals.    

I love having income goals with little treats along the way; it gives me incentive to keep moving. 

[Read: How Susan Stripling Creates Portraits that Pop—Free Webinar]

Do rewards not motivate you? What does? A vacation? A tangible item? Find something that brings you great joy and use it as the proverbial carrot on a stick.

4. Talk to a CPA or accountant in your country sooner rather than later. 

It took me a few years to hire someone to do my taxes and books for me, and we realized pretty quickly that I’d made some errors in my past bookkeeping. This ended up costing me way more money than it should have! 

Now I do my own bookkeeping, and I have my CPA do my taxes once a year. But it took a while to get this system set up. Don’t be afraid to work with your finance pro to get set up in the best way for your money management, whatever you decide that is.

5. Meet with financial planners as early on in your career as possible to discuss money management.  

I love photography, but I don’t want to do this as a job for the rest of my life. At some point, I’d like to retire, and you can’t retire without savings!  

I met with a financial planner over 15 years ago, and he helped me lay out a savings plan that would grow with me and my business over the years. Thanks to his help, I’m on track to retire when I want to, and it’s been very, very helpful to have a trusted source to lean on for advice.  

[Read: The Wedding School Joins Rangefinder+WPPI as Part of Emerald’s Photo Group]

If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your local chamber of commerce, ask other businessowner friends, or ask your accountant or CPA who they would recommend.

6. Separate your business and personal funds now.  

Yes, right now. From the very beginning of your business, you need to have your personal and business funds entirely separated. If you haven’t been doing this all along, start now!

7. My biggest tip for money management for photographers? DON’T BE AFRAID OF MONEY.

Yes, it can be super scary to admit that you don’t have a handle on your finances. It might be hard to face up to being in debt or struggling with your business expenses. I guarantee that not knowing is much, much worse than facing it all head on and devising a plan to get back on track.

Staying on top of your money management, understanding your cash flow, planning for the future and creating a savings strategy will all help you stress less about money and let you spend more time doing what you came here to do—photography! Getting out from under your worries about your business life will enable you to work more creatively, and it will let you be free to truly explore all the beauty of whatever artistry you’ve been called to create. 

Susan Stripling is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a frequent WPPI speaker and holds the prestigious Grand Master title at WPPI, where she shared her tips with attendees this year on managing money. She is also the founder of The Wedding School, which Rangefinder’s parent company, Emerald, acquired earlier this year.