Business + Marketing

6-Figure Wedding Photography: Become a Money-Managing Master

August 21, 2019

By Ashley Beasley

© Luke and Ashley

Whenever we share that we are photographers and make a full-time living from our business, we are usually met with raised eyebrows and looks of disbelief and shock. I mean, even for us it sounds a little weird that we can support our family of five shooting weddings on the weekends.  

The term “starving artist” is one that we are all too familiar with in this creative industry. Making a full-time living as a creative is not as common as it could be. We have encountered many starving artists, those who cannot seem to get ahead and are stuck spinning their wheels. These creatives are gifted with incredible talents and abilities, but when it comes to running the business side, they struggle. Most are in debt and have no idea how to manage their budget to make themselves profitable.

In 2012, we were there. We were trying to get out of a big hole we had dug for ourselves. We were $86,000 in debt with three kids. We were on food stamps. At the time, we were desperate to find a way out. Out of that desperation, our business was born. 

Charging just $25 for family sessions and trying to pay our bills was a nightmare. We had no clue how to run a profitable business. However, after several years of hard work, mistakes and successes along the way, we have entered into our third year of having a six-figure income with our wedding photography alone.

Having a prosperous creative business does not come accidentally. There have to be intentional steps taken to manage your money correctly for you to be successful. We are excited to share what has worked for us throughout our journey thus far.

Get out of debt!

We are huge Dave Ramsey followers. We discovered his plan at the beginning of our journey. We knew that for us to have a successful photography business, we had to pay off our $86,000 debt. The only way to make that happen for us was to be aggressive with it. We took on any and every job that we could without being picky in the beginning, because our number one goal was to be debt-free. That was four years of hard work, and we paid off our last debt. The work and sacrifice were completely worth it!

As you are getting out of debt, we encourage you to set a goal for yourself and get an accountability partner. That can be your spouse, friend or even one of Dave Ramsey’s local FPU classes. Do not do this part of your journey alone because sometimes it can be overwhelming and tempting to give up. 

Know that this is just a season, and you can do this!

Create a budget and stick to it.

Budgets are not just for nerds. Creating a budget is one of the most freeing things you can do for your finances because you are telling your money where to go. When you commit to doing a budget, you feel this sense of control that gives you the drive to keep moving forward in your business.

In the beginning, when we got serious about sticking to a budget, I am not going to lie to you—it was hard. It took time to navigate and learn our spending habits. We would forget about budgeting for quarterly property taxes or business license renewal. It took time to navigate through it, but it paid off. 

Our most significant piece of advice is to plan to stick to it for at least six months. After six months, it will become more of a habit and less of a pained experience.

Pay yourself first.

This was revolutionary in our business. 

Learning how to budget, we automatically calculated expenses first and then whatever was leftover we took in for profit. But there was a problem. There was never really anything leftover. We would find bills or expenses to pay, and we would never really get in the green. It was such a headache when we would see how much money we would bring in each year and ask ourselves, “Where the heck did it go?”

A colleague of ours recommended reading Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz. This book is a must as a creative entrepreneur. I devoured it and immediately started implementing the author’s advice. 

The biggest takeaway in the book was to take your profit first before your expenses. Instead of calculating all your costs and getting what was leftover, you immediately receive a cut first and put it into a profit account. This advice can be scary because we are thinking about all those bills that need to get paid!

I love what Michalowicz says about this: “When you have less, you do two things. The first is obvious: You become frugal. That is the obvious part. However, something else, far more impactful happens: You become extremely innovative.”

This is so accurate. When we realize that we might not have enough to pay those bills, we stretch our money and find ways to make more! That is the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur: You can always find a way to make extra here and there. Taking pictures is a skill set that you can do anytime, anywhere to make money. Create a mini session, run a sale in your online gallery for your clients. You can do this!

Such straightforward advice can seem so farfetched. Implementing this piece of information has transformed our business, and now, with every transaction, we are profitable from the beginning.

Money management in the business world does not need to be scary. You cannot ignore it, cross your fingers and hope for the best. You have to take action, and when you do, you will see the benefits of doing so. 

Ashley Beasley and her husband, Luke, are a photo duo based in Virginia who run their own education platform called Luke & Ashley Education. Each month, Ashley is breaking down the stepping stones to becoming a six-figure photographer. She last wrote about feeding word-of-mouth to build business.


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