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Lesson 29 from: Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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29. Finances

Next Lesson: Finances Q&A

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I know that a lot of speakers and teachers will get up and we'll sort of talk hypothetically about oh here's how to maximize your album sales here's had to do this and here's how to do that but nobody actually kind of lays bare their financial state and says listen, this is what it costs to live this is what it costs to be in business this's where I'm struggling this is where I'm having problems and if I can't be completely honest with you that I am absolutely no use to you in any way shape or form so if you do have any questions even if their personal questions please feel free to ask them during this section I'm here to help you you know come back next year and be stronger and make more money and not have to worry about retirement and not have to lay awake at night and think what am I going to be able to do this? Yes you know those fears are very, very very normal in business but if hopefully some of this can help you take a little bit of the edge off that would be great. So the firs...

t thing I want to talk to you about is business and personal funds you know do you mingle your business funds with your personal funds and for me the answer is no absolutely not absolutely never ever, ever, ever in the world no part of it is because I don't want to pierce the corporate veil in an accounting sense by using my business funds to pay for my personal life second of all, how in the world can I budget for my business or budget for my personal life if the funds are intermingling right? Part of it is because I have to think about my business as a job yeah it's a business that I own and I'm my own boss and I'm the one who sets my hours and all of that, but I need to bring in a paycheck, right? I need to not just go to the business account and just take money whenever I need it, so I actually pay myself like I'm an employee I budget for both my business and my personal funds I don't just take money and spend it whenever I feel like it because I think that that's a sure path back, you know, into credit card debt or into failing or into needing to take out a loan. And I want you guys to be able to do this without those sort of heavy money burdens and I don't mean to like sound like dave ramsey so quickly after lunch, but you do need to be very mindful of your finances or like your workflow if you're not careful to stay on top of it it's going to eat you alive you know, I need to be mindful of how much money is coming in and how much money is going out because I have to plan for my taxes, and if we're talking about actual numbers every time I paid quarterly taxes that's four times a year and spending over twenty thousand dollars in taxes, I write a seventeen thousand dollar check to the irs every single quarter and the more money I make, the more money they get from me and I am not even remotely going to start talking to you about politics or the way that I feel about taxes or our government. We're just going to say it is what it is and move right on planning for the future, you know, it's not enough to think of my profitable right now am I making enough money that I can put it away for the future? Do I want to shoot weddings until eventually die of a heart attack in a pew? You know, before the family formals? I mean, I don't, I don't I'd like to travel. I'd like to see the world. I'd like to spend more time with my husband. I would I would like to actually be able to retire like a normal person does, but nobody's matching the funds I'm putting in my four oh one k nobody's going to give me a pension when I retire, I have to do it myself. I'd like to help my children with their education. I'd like to make sure that they're set up nicely in life and I would like to be comfortable, so I have to plan for all of these things for now as well as in the future. Okay, so you took a look along the side. This is how much it costs to be me, and I'd like to bear in mind that I do live in new york, I live in new york city and to be really specific, I go back and forth between a home in brooklyn and a home in new jersey. The reason why I do this, if any of you really want to know, since we're talking very candidly, my ex husband, my children are in brooklyn, my husband has the same situation out in new jersey, we cannot move or emerge or anything like that. So we go back and forth, which means two separate households, which means two businesses in two different places, so we have to stay right on top of it. And when I am looking at all of these numbers even married, even if I were living with my husband full time all the time and had been for years, I still want to make sure that I can support my family by myself. Not because I don't trust him not because I'm planning for some inevitable divorce of some kind, but because I would like to know that I can care for my family as the breadwinner um I spend forty three thousand eight hundred dollars a year in rent that sucks it sucks a lot um it's new york city where you live will determine how much you spend toe live where you are I'm not living in a palace I don't own my home I rent it's a better financial decision for me to be a renter instead of an owner based on my long term plans living in new york all down here you can see what I'm spending on my internet you can see that I put twenty four thousand dollars a year away from my retirement you can see what I'm spending for my business insurance, what I have for my car payments and my car insurance and kid things and all of these things and I came up to the total of one hundred forty three thousand two hundred thirty dollars needed to come in to get me through the year now I realize that there are probably some things that I have left off of that just some intangibles things that arise emergencies what if I you know that cut type of car I drive if I blow one tire I have to actually replace all of them which have known that when I bought it but I need to be I need to plan for things like that because I don't want to put that on a credit card and I don't have to go to my savings account in tap the money out of that I would also, you know, maybe like to take my kids on a vacation during the year and I'm not talking about anything crazy. I'd like to take him to disney world that would be pretty cool or, you know, when I'm done here in seattle, I'd like to stay an extra week all my kids are busy on a road trip and visit some friends and aids and food and I don't want to put that on credit I want people to pay for that, so I take that hundred forty three thousand dollars number and just so you know, just a stress myself out, I just raise it up to two thousand two hundred thousand dollars so let's say I want to bring in two hundred thousand dollars after taxes. I know I do want to clarify for those of you who might be joining me for the very first time I'm not an accountant, not a financial expert I don't have a degree in finance or business or anything like that, but I do have a very practical head and a pretty decent amount of common sense and this is what's getting me through so far so if I want to bring in two hundred thousand dollars I need to remember that that's post tax money that sucks so I need to factor in the taxes that I'm going to pay throughout the year so if I'm going to do that I'm gonna conservatively estimate that I need to bring in two hundred and sixty thousand dollars a year so that I'm left with two hundred after taxes well I don't know about you but when I look at this this makes you want to go back to bed and kind of cry for a little while and then watched bad tv because this is very, very very intimidating and what I don't want to happen is they don't want you guys to get into the chat rooms and be like, well she could probably pay less for her internet or if she didn't save so much for the future she wouldn't have to make so much our oh well well like poor first world problem you want to go on vacation every single year but I'm trying to put together an ideal world for me I'm not saying that I need this much to live but I want to make a million dollars a year because that's not reasonable but if you're looking at where you need to start pricing yourself you need to figure out what you need to get through the year however your life is structured you need to lay out those numbers and you need to really look at them so yeah and a lot of people look at this and they're like well but you know you got married so don't you you know, don't you want to work a little bit less partly because of what our situation is no, I mean we still have this duel household thing which is going on and partly partly it's personal partly I want to show my children that their mother can raise them by herself if she had two I want my girls and my stepdaughter's when they grow up to realize if you want a nice pair of shoes you don't need your husband to buy them for you you can buy them for yourself so I'm trying to be a role model to my children more than anything else to show them that your mom can take care of the whole family by yourself. So you know, now that I've said that we take a look at how many weddings can I shoot per year? How many weddings do I have to shoot per year to make that amount of money that's really daunting? So that's you know, the first place that I go so that I look okay to, you know, two hundred sixty thousand dollars here I can't even sit I have to pace home talking about this like I'm making this is the first time I'm being completely honest with you this is the first time in three days that I've actually been nervous talking to you because I'm telling you about my personal finances and you know that's a level of sharing that I don't normally do with people but if I'm honest with you I can't help you so so I look at how many weddings I want to shoot a year and I say okay, I'm looking at new york and I'm looking at how many we're coming in and how many I could maybe viably book and let's say I only want to do about forty weddings a year okay so what forty weddings a year a two hundred sixty thousand dollars in take home I've got to break it to you have left after my cost of sales and everything I have to have sixty five hundred dollars left after each wedding after I pay my assistant after I pay for my post processing you know after I buy the album that I need is my final take home from that sixty five hundred dollars well if it's not what in the world am I supposed to do can I shoot more weddings? Luckily I can like I can get to fifty weddings a year and you can do the math on what might take home needs to be at fifty weddings a year to get to that number or is fifty weddings a year just simply not feasible where you are? Do you get to your number? And you say, like in sarasota are, you know, in kentucky I can't do fifty wedding is a year and this average is insane. I can't do that. Then you took take a look at two things, maybe your number in your left hand column is a little unreasonable, maybe you're, you know, maybe you're pushing for a little bit too much, too soon. Maybe you need to scale back in some ways. Or maybe you look at your business and you think, you know, I should really diversify maybe I want to open a portrait side of things, maybe I want to do head shots or maybe I want to specialize in boudoir now I teach and I'm not gonna stand up in front of you and say that I teach for free. I do make money off of teaching or else I mean, I'm thrilled to help you, but if I'm going to give up all of this time to be away from my family or for me to go to a convention or I'm gonna teach a workshop and be away from my kids in away from my business, I have to be financially compensated for that. But when I'm looking at the numbers that I want to make every single year, I'm taking teaching out of it entirely because I don't ever want to rely on that as a source of my income I do teach that does help me it is been very, very, very generous to me and it's very humbling how generous it's been to me, but what I mostly tried to do to make up maybe a little bit extra little bit on top is I try to up sell my clients in the collections that they've purchased you know I try to make their album a little bit bigger most of the weddings that I shoot have one to two hours of overtime a lot of people to engagement sessions where they add on the photo booth, I have a pretty good rate of taking even if it's just the seven hours and files collection and getting it to nine hours or maybe they add something or maybe they come back later and they eventually buy a book I've got a pretty good return on what I'm getting from these people these are prices don't shock me they're right here thes air what my collections are you can screen shot this and read it all day long it's not a world trade secret it's my price list I can show it to you all day and it's not gonna help you do anything other than no my price list my base collection is seven hours of coverage by me I do bring an assistant I usedto have the s isn't listed on my price list seven hours of wedding day photography by susan stripling and an assistant but it was really confusing people and they were thinking that that meant and a second shooter so I took that off and if they do ask do you have an assistant I tell them absolutely but the coverage is by me and me alone the seven hour collection also and I can recite it by memory a private password protected online image gallery for easy viewing and reordering of prince I said it so many times what that means is that's yours in folio gallery it goes up and it stays up like forever I tell them that I guarantee it for a year I have not ever actually retired a gallery because I'm using it for online backup and I don't I don't need to retire them and they get their wedding day digital files I include their files in their collection I do not charge additionally for their files I understand that it might be very different from a lot of photographers but I view their files as a final product they have been sent off they have been massaged and loved and you know edited they haven't been insanely retouched but there are beautiful gallery of images and I think that in this day and age, maybe half of your about to log off after I say this, but your digital finals could be a beautiful final product. When I got married, I have my images on my phone, they're on my ipad there on my computer, we're going to make an album I've got prints in the house, but the digital component of it to be ableto have them with me when I go to me that's important and to a lot of people that's important, and I think that it's a product and some of my friends and I go around and around and around on the files I don't give the files away at fifty five hundred dollars for seven hours of coverage they've bought their files, then we step up from there collection to gives you another hour of coverage. It also gives you a nine by twelve album with sixty five images for eight thousand dollars. Then you can jump up one step above that you get another hour of coverage. You get a bigger book with more images you get to individual parent albums, your parent albums or not clones of your albums, they're not clones of each other, their individual you can order them for your parents or they khun do it on their own and those are the three collections I have. I also have add on items say you want to do collection three, but you want to go out on a parent album you can absolutely do that if you want to set a four by six proofs, we can put that in your package engagement sessions day after sessions photo booth reprints upgrades I keep this toe one sheet because I don't want to overwhelm people I wanted to be very easy and very cut and dried, and if they're flipping back and forth between multiple pages and a price list, I feel like it really starts to confuse them or if there's multiple like many, many, many packages, it gets to be a little hard to understand. So these are these are my prices, any questions about the structure of my collections or why? Or we're just we're just want to let you know we're getting a ton of feedback from the internet I'm just thanking you for being so honest and up front or they all crying that the rent is really our way let me live with them that will also be cool. Yeah, just tons of, uh carrying chang, I love you for being so honest and such a wonderful strong role model for your daughter's um, kudos for teaching this just thank you so second daughter's okay, and now we're quits now I'm gonna get a guitar and sing you a song yeah, these were these were my prices and this is what I've come to and and if you have any questions about why I put the collections together this way michelle collection number three is at fifty five hundred so are you saying, like, based on all your calculations, that's the minimum? Because other than paying your assistant right on that? Oh, no, I guess what's your gross margin and my take home yes, with with the and again there's gonna be people who are like, oh, you're not taking to account x y and z my only like hard costs with that are the money that I pay my assistant and the money that I pay postproduction, right? Everything else when I think of but I have to break down per wedding, what the gear costs and what my website costs and whatnot. I have thought about that in my budget in a very different weii I'm just looking at the hard cost of producing that one wedding collection three is the only one that doesn't have a product that I have to factor in. So when I'm done with collection three, after I have paid sidecar and after I've paid my assistant, I'm left with about forty eight hundred dollars out of that before taxes obviously so yes, sir, which is your most popular collection, the second one most people, actually, what usually happens is that most people and I would say seventy five percent of my clients book the third one, and then a large portion of them upgrade to the second one by the time the wedding rolls around, by the time they've gotten past the sticker shock and put their budget together, they come back and they're like, you know what we really did think about it, it's like a twenty five hundred dollars difference to get that extra hour that we're gonna need you for anyhow and a book, and I tell people that, yeah, if you want to buy, if you want to do collection three that's great and you want to come back in a year and buy the album, you could buy the album, but the album prices are discounted when they've been put together in the collection, so you do, you know, get a little bit of a better deal if you buy it now and then that watch that price in for a year. I don't know what my own company is going to do as faras they're pricing you might come back in a year, and they might have really changed it on me, I mean, they're not going, teo, but you know that they're increments are very rational but you do want to give the client a reason to go ahead and do it now and also if they wait to do it later there's not going to do it later because they're gonna forget about it so my most profitable one when it comes right down to it is probably the second one um collection one even it ten five is still a little low for my liking for the amount of work flow that go into the products after word um but right now I mean what you guys have to understand is that you guys know who I am and the photographers that are watching this know who I am brides don't know who I am none of this means anything to them at all and if you think that if you become popular I'm staring right at you right now actually if you think that becoming popular amongst photographers is going to make you popular amongst clients you're completely insane like you're really missing the point it's a completely different market now being here looks beautiful on my resume which helps a client trust me a little bit more if a client khun see okay she's at a point in her career where people in her field are turning to her for advice maybe there's something there but nobody's going to book me because they saw me on creative life that doesn't it's just not even in the same ballpark so so related to that a little bit um we have a question from rosie how do you deal with pricing for friends and family you have a different answer. First of all I work for my family what's gonna happen like it's just not uh like if my brother were to get married I only shoot my brother's wedding if you got married on a friday or sunday or wednesday but if he picks a saturday in the middle of the summer no, I'm just getting I probably wouldn't be able to go right so I mean I would shoot my brother's wedding you know, if jen ever got married probably she jen's wedding you know, there are a few people that it would be an honor for me to give that to them but we're talking about like three people in the entire world. Yeah. You know when I shot my friend carlin's wedding my friend mary beth and I did it as a gift to her but when my third cousin rolls around and he's getting married and I am not not not giving friends a discount it is the quickest way to killed like a casual friend like maybe someone you knew from high school uh no friends and family I would actually really rather you just hire somebody else and let me come to your wedding, which I probably can't come to us I probably already have a wedding and yes, I know you're a sole prop or an s corp or an llc and this whole problem okay, no, sorry, I mean, l l c l c I'm so sorry. I was I was thinking I'm not an f let me explain why I just found on that. When I was in florida, I was an escort. I had employees that worked for me, and it benefited me. Tax wise. Better to be an escort moving to new york. I'm an llc. Um and I don't again. I don't mean to be a pair like sounding like I'm hawking my own product, but I do, out of all of the think books that I sell, one of them is entitled business, and it goes heavily into detail on what you should be in fine like, should you be a soul proprietorship? You know, how do you find the tax professionals to work with you? All of these things in, like ten times more written details, almost a hundred pages long, so it's only twenty five dollars today if you want a companion piece, you know, take a look. You don't have to buy it it's ok, but if you want to that's it's pretty sweet and it even has pictures so you don't just cry reading this nonstop we put in a few pretty pictures to look at it it's very cool and again we can you can find those on susan's site a susan stripling dot com slash shop commercial over all right wait a couple more questions really radio before you in large capital letters ask me your questions feel like it needs a big a big lead up to the neck like something like that all right so sometimes rebecca blake has the situation where clients want to add a few more hours while you're at the reception yeah how do you explain it to them that it's not free over time right like it gets madden managing expectations I have overtime on my price list we've talked about there wedding day timeline beforehand and I will tell them you know I know your reception's over at eleven you've got me until nine at about eight forty five you know I'll come grab you or if you prefer I can grab your mom I'll grab you know whoever you want to make kind of the financial decision of the overtime thing whether it's you or whether it's you know your dad or whoever you need me to talk to I'll say hey guys it's a forty five you know I'm done at nine is there anything else I can do for you before I go are you want me to stay for another couple of hours no, stay for another couple of hours, then you have the every once in a while when they're like, well, I didn't realize that, you know, you stayed for a couple of hours. We didn't want to pay for the overtime. Okay? That's totally fine. I'm so sorry I completely missed, you know, misunderstood that you want me to stay until eleven? I was meant to be done at nine. Listen, don't worry about it all this. I'll just I'll dump those two hours of pictures and it's cool, like, seriously, you don't have to pay me for it. I'll just deliver the images up through nine o'clock damn it's never gonna happen. And honestly, if it did, if there really was a communication mismatch and they wanted me to dump everything after nine, I do it, you know, it's fine, but for the most part we've talked about and I've even said on the day of, you know, if you decided the last minute you want me to keep staying, I'll keep staying. You don't to pull out your checkbook on the dance floor all just invoice you after the wedding take care of it when you get back from your honeymoon I just need to get your payment before your before your products are ready nice and easy because some people don't know like some people think they want you to go at nine, but then their reception goes until eleven and they're partying super hard and they're like, oh my god, no, you can't go. You have to stay. Okay, I'll stay don't have another wedding on your day, you know? I can totally stay for a while longer. It's not a problem, all right, sean keeton wants to know what factors do you consider when you're going to raise your prices and like, how do you decide what to raise its really fantastic that you should say that because of the segway actually humorously and I thank you for the set up there. So now that I've screamed this at you, like four times, we're going to scream it again. I hate this. Just double your rates and shoot half the weddings like you'd work half the time. It would be awesome. Well, okay, that's. Fine. We'll take that fifty five hundred dollars will turn it to eleven. You know, eleven thousand dollars that's. Cool. So maybe I'll do twenty five weddings a year. Well, then I go from fifty brides talking about me and fifty venues talking about me and fifty opportunities to be published two twenty five I've only been in new york for five years, I barely scratched the surface, most people have no clue who I am, and I'm still clawing my way kind of through the ranks, and I'm nowhere even nowhere near the high end in new york at all photographers kind of know who I am, but the venues and everybody, they're still getting to know me, so I want that pool of fifty clients every single year because it's fifty opportunities to have somebody else get to know me, I just think that yes, there's some validity to be said for this, but often times it can be very misleading and maybe we'll give you another year or two of good success. But then what do you do when you've effectively next half of your advertising pool? Is that really something that will work for you? If so, do it if not, you know, maybe reconsider it loops we box up okay, so from here, it's mainly just want to talk to you for about an hour when we're talking about something like raising your prices, like when do you raise your prices? I have my comfort numbers, right? Like if I've got twenty weddings by the beginning of september, I'm feeling pretty good if I've got thirty two, thirty five by the beginning of the year I'm feeling pretty good if I'm a little ahead of where I think I should be I'm comfortable with a price experiment my last price lists only actually paige back to its he could take a look at it my last price list collection three was eight hours of photography and your files for fifty five hundred dollars so instead of raising the fifty five hundred dollars I pulled an hour out of the coverage they want eight hours now they put in an hour of overtime and we go from fifty five hundred to fifty nine hundred for what was essentially fifty, five hundred before now I could go collection three, eight hours for fifty nine hundred dollars but I'm a little nervous making a four hundred dollar jump like that so I'm going to pull something out of the collection and leave it at the same price or maybe I'm going to raise it by one hundred bucks two hundred dollars when I very first got started I was charging like twelve hundred dollars and then I went to fifteen and then I went to like twenty five and then I went to like thirty five but by the time I got up toe like four I went from four to forty two from forty two to forty five forty five to forty seven forty seven forty nine then I went to five because for me like when a client is looking at something forty nine hundred dollars looks a lot different than five thousand dollars it's just one hundred dollars, but you see that five and all of a sudden it seems so much more expensive. And then I went from five to fifty two and then fifty three, fifty four, fifty five and every time I booked a couple of weddings, I bump it up just a hair, and I'm at a point right now where I'm more expensive than I ever have been, and I'm couple ing that with a little bit of ah slow summer. I'm very slow inquiry wise, which means I'm slow booking wise, but that automatically makes me start thinking, oh, god, maybe I pushed a little too far a little too soon if six weeks from now, to be perfectly honest, I'm still kind of slut if my enquiries pick back up, but my bookings are still kind of slow. Maybe I jumped the gun a little bit on this price increase. Maybe I put that extra hour back into the lower package. It's never ah, finite thing like you're always tinkering back and forth with how you set these things, but I'm gonna hang out here for a while, I'm okay, I have seventeen for next year right now. If I can pick up three more by the end of the month on a safe in a pick up two more by the end of the month I'll feel pretty good I haven't picked up anything then I need to start looking and seeing you know are my enquiries down are my enquiries the same but my bookings are down like what's what's the factor because if my enquiries were the same of my bookings are down, maybe I need to look at my pricing or maybe I need to look at how I'm presenting myself to people maybe that's not quite as effective as I think it isthe but if my enquiries air down, then the problem isn't my pricing the problem is they're not getting out to enough people, right? So maybe I need teo you know, increase an advertising channel somewhere or start getting back out there and maybe I haven't been shaking hands enough recently with enough venues maybe I just need to start pounding the pavement a little bit more so when things are slow, don't automatically knee jerk your prices back to what they were before but also don't make massive huge increases in your price lists. If I went from fifty five to nine, I would essentially alienate the entire client base that I have right now because when my plants were referring me to their friends, their friends are kind of able to managed t they're generally on the same like booking level, but I'm jumping up into a whole new client pool and a whole new pool of weddings that's a really risky jump without being able to back that up with something? So yeah, I mean this this whole thing is very scary, but if you're unsure about whether the time to raise your prices is now maybe bump it by just a few hundred dollars and then wait and see and there is absolutely no shame and absolutely no problem in pulling back and saying, okay, maybe, you know, maybe I was a little maybe I jumped the gun a little bit or even worse, which is the hardest thing to do, which is to look at your own work and say, am I worth that right? I am confidently worth fifty five hundred dollars for seven hours um, I confidently worth eleven thousand dollars for seven hours? I don't think so, which is why I'm not eleven thousand dollars for seven hours? You know, if you are doing your numbers analysis and I realize ok, I have to shoot forty weddings a year at nearly five thousand dollars the wedding is my work good enough or on the right level in my market? Teo bring in that amount if it's not what I do, well, then I diversify maybe I look to you, portrait's, maybe I like to do something else. Maybe you do that horrible thing that nobody wants to talk about, which is you go back to work full time. You know, health insurance is so blindingly expensive, you can imagine what it's like for my husband and I running our own businesses with children. It's really painful, but we're not going without health insurance. So what if we sit down and take a really hard look at our finances and we realize what we're paying every single month and health insurance? I could go back to work full time and I could get better health insurance. There's no shame in going back to work full time there's no shame in going back to work part time there's nothing wrong with saying this isn't working how I thought it would. I need to go back to my safety net before I'm ready to go back out again. There are a lot of people will get up here, and we'll be like, just quit your job and just go out into the world and, you know, whatever savior you believe in will help provide for you. Well, that's, I mean, unless he wrote me a business plan, I don't know what you know, praying at night, is it? I mean, yes, you have to have faith that you're going to be able to succeed in what you're doing but jumping out like an idiot with just blind faith and absolutely no safety net, no idea of what you're doing, I'm sorry you don't deserve for someone to catch you deserve to fall on your face until you figure out how to do it. So if you're thinking about, should I put my job? Are you making enough money from photography to be able to put your job? Will the time that you can spend in your photography business after you put your job enable you to and if that doesn't work, what plan do you have for taking care of yourself? You know, do if this all falls out from underneath me guys, I'm hosed like I have a theater degree in six months of waiting tables, I have nothing to go back to, so I'm really hoping this kind of works because I can't go back to my day job because they don't have a day job, but if you have a market all skill and you need some extra finances, go capitalize on that marketable skill you know, get your part time job, it teach b a lawyer if you you know where a lawyer and you left to follow your dream of photography you have to take care of yourselves and taking out credit cards so that you can keep going in this is moronic like that's just it's going to not be good for your health because you're going to totally completely stressed out. And how in the world can you even budget for something like this? And you have a mountain of debt sitting on top of that to do it, too? When I look at my finances, I have a personal account. I have a business account of a personal savings account of it is a savings account I've savings accounts for my children have college accounts for my children. I have my step ira and I have my investment account. I work with a financial advisor to help with my investment accounts. I am not a financial advisor. Therefore, when I look in investing my money for the future, I need to talk to someone who knows what they're talking about, right? Um, so I have someone who helps me with that and that's, not my accountant, that somebody else actually entirely differently, and he helps me figure out if I want to send my kids to college, what should I be putting away every single month, if I want to retire, what should I be putting away every single month? And every single month I write myself a paycheck and how that works. I have a set amount that literally on the twentieth of every single month, auto debits from my business account and shows up in my personal account then periodically throughout the month, money just keeps disappearing from my business account, going into my savings accounts and going into my investment accounts that way, I don't have to remember to write these checks and when that money has just gone for me, it's gone and when I manage is a snack. When mike, when I managed my personal finances, I'm not even looking at my business account. It doesn't matter how much money is in my business checking account if I'm down to five hundred dollars in my personal account and I want to buy a pair of shoes, I'm not going to borrow from my business account put it in my personal account to buy shoes I've run out of my money for the month. I need to wait till I get paid again, you know, that's, just how that works for me and I I just can't. I can't view my corporate funds as a pool that I could keep dipping into now don't don't get me wrong, I get myself raises. If I realize that I'm doing really well and I should, you know, be pulling a little bit more money on my end. By all means, I'm gonna get myself a raise would be really sad if I never gave myself a raise. So I think I heard you say for sure you had a savings account for your business side. And I'm wondering if your financial advisor helped you with that. Or did you. But clearly you would have had teo list a reason of why you would, um what, you would possibly spend it on her for growth or whatever to figure out the percentage is there the way I manage each of my accounts? Okay, my personal account is what pays my personal bills. I pay my rent, I pay my utility bills, I buy my clothes, we buy food, everything that if you had a nine to five and you got your paycheck, what you spend that on is what I use my personal account for my business account runs my business, obviously, advice, my albums. It does my delivery, bols. They do have an amex card. The reason being is because the rewards are insane, but I pay it off in the end of every single month, right, it's, not like we're evolving credit like that, um my business savings account and my business in my personal savings account shouldn't be confused with my investment accounts, those air different my business savings account is the account that that I make angry fists about that I put my money in so that I can pay my taxes because the last thing in the world I want is for september to roll around and meet it just suddenly need like twenty grand extra in my business checking account, so if I know every four months I need to have twenty thousand dollars, I'm gonna automatically pull money out every single month so that at the end of those four months, I've got that twenty thousand dollars, then I go to my savings account, I pull it back and I pay my taxes if I find I have a surplus of funds in my account, I'll simply pay out of my account, and I'll just let that sit in my savings account if I don't people that I won't what's going into my personal savings account is my emergency money, because I don't want to touch my investment accounts for emergency money. I want it there in case I need to repair my car or in case something happens, and I don't know whatever it is it's emergency money is emergency money and based on the dave ramsey way of thinking you need about six months of income in your savings account so I figure out what six months of income are and I break it down and I put a portion of it in there every single month um sometimes at the end of the year that's the pot that I'll go back to to pull to fully fund myself ira which is the ira thatyou can fund with pre tax money right on and I max out my sep ira every single year part of why I'm working so hard part of why I shoot so many weddings is because I'm still relatively young and I want to fund all of these accounts as fully as I possibly can for the future so the business savings is toehold for taxes the personal savings is to sort of hold for emergencies and um to fund my ira at the end of the year and the way we came to the money for my children's savings again my children's accounts and my personal investment account is based on him doing the calculations of how much will you need to send your children to college and if you want to retire somewhere near the income level that you're at now how much should you be putting away now if you want to retire at fifty five or sixty or sixty five so I said listen look at my income now tell me the number I'll tell you if it's something that I'm comfortable putting away if he told me you know I want you to put away twenty four thousand dollars a year plus thirty thousand dollars a year into yourself ira and I knew that that wasn't going to be possible I'd say okay I understand that that's like the goal but that's not what I'm going to be able to do so help me figure out like a lower number that I'm more comfortable with and that's partly why he gets paid for what he does the way he does because he's advising me he doesn't make money if I don't make money so he's helping me figure out and once a quarter I go to my accountant and I go back to my financial advisor I go to my accountant I say ham about to pay taxes can you look at my income for the year let me know if what I'm paying is still you know, in line now I've done some speaking engagements and I saw some products and as I've told you before I'm not here for free so if this spikes my income I need to go back to him and I need to say hey, listen I had a good weekend let me know how this is gonna affect my taxes for the rest of the year because I don't want tax time to come around and because I'm an over attentive I never file extensions I always do it right on time I don't want to actually look at me like, no, I want to know, like I don't want tax time to roll around in owe a ton of money that I didn't know that I was going toe oh, I would be on top of it, I would actually rather over pay, and then if I have money that's supposed to come back to me at the end of tax time, I'll just apply it into the next year's taxes and not take a refund excited rather just put it, I mean, you're gonna give it back to me and give it back to you like, why would you do that? So I am incredibly aggressive about how much I saved because I am very mindful of the future. I love taking pictures, but when you take the taking pictures part out of it, I'm a small business owner, which is not an easy thing to be right now. Our economy doesn't really love us all that much, right? I mean, taxes are brutal, so I have to divorce the camera and a dream part from the business and the reality part, which is I can't just be floating month to month, I've got kids, even if I didn't have kids it's my job, right, you know, and I need to treat it as such yes, so that paycheck that you give yourself every month is that based on your personal breakdown that you showed us in the beginning and you say, okay, I'll take about twelve of coal and the second part of the world, I mean, it's, exactly. The same is like, if you were going to go get a day job right now, how much money do you want to make is a salary, right? It's kind of along the same things, and as things go up, like as my kids after school goes off, I have to go back to my business and think, can I afford to give myself a raise right now? Okay? And then and then in terms of percentage, when you're talking about things like gear and, you know, you always say I buy if I have the cash, um, how do you determine that? Is there a benchmark you're looking at or it is just like when I buy, like you're on buying it out of my business funds and for me, it's simply sitting down and looking at how much is in my account, you know, have I had a really good month in june, I've had an extraordinary month, I would shot eleven weddings. It was phenomenal, but then I have to look ahead and say, ok, december genuine february, you're going to be kind of light a smart thing to do in those months would be to bank that money and put it away like put a bunch of it away so that when I need to pay myself my salary in those quiet months that I have the money to do so now when I break that all out like, you know my salary for the entire year, which if you really want to know, is eighty five hundred dollars a month just when I put my personal account, um, what did I tell you? Everything when I look at my business account and I say, okay, like maybe it's september and I've got enough money to pay myself through the rest of the year and then some, um, I now ok to make a purchase and that's something that you have to figure out your comfort level. I have a comfort level in my business checking account. I don't like my business checking account to dip below twenty thousand dollars because for me that's my emergency fund in my account that's it every single client hit me up right now to make their album, and I had, you know what I mean? And I had to, like, spend a lot of that's just it's my comfort number and part of it is because I figured it out as my cover number part of it is because it's just personally it's where I feel good um so then you have to look at okay above and beyond your comfort number can I continue to pay myself for a while and I now then comfortable making a purchase out of these funds and I can't tell you when that is I'm just asking you to analyze all of your data before you then make a move and if your answer is not comfortably yes I can buy this in cash I don't want you to buy your gear on credit like don't that's going to stress you out like that's not it don't do that yes yeah we have some great ones uh bring leo wants to know do your collections there the price list include tax or his tax? In addition they do not include tap okay great and you have to also I'm I'm begging you to make sure with your state if you actually can include tax in your collection in new york, new jersey you have to break it out it has to be a separate line item okay as faras tax goes do not tell me that I'm doing it wrong I know I'm not doing it wrong and the way it goes where I am my businesses based in new york if you have all collection three, it doesn't matter where you live or where your wedding wass. Your final thing is a digital download. I'm not giving you a final product and fedex and you nothing, no matter where you are, there's, no tax on that, then you step up to a physical product. It doesn't matter where your wedding is. It matters where I've sent your physical product. If I'm sending you your album to the state of new york, I have to tax your whole collection. I am not making sales tax. I am not earning sales tax. I'm not charging you sail sex, I'm collecting it for the state of new york. I'm a middle man, so if anybody gets mad at me, about seven point eight percent sales tax, they can get mad at new york instead, I'm not keeping the money.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Gear List.pdf
Susan Stripling Presentation Slides

Ratings and Reviews


Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.

Student Work