How To Build Wealth As A Photographer

This post is Day 28 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

I attended an interesting meeting last night on wealth in America. The distribution of wealth in America has changed drastically over the past 60 years. Right now, statistics show:

  • 34 percent of all wealth is controlled by the top 1 percent of America
  • 38 percent of all wealth is controlled by the 90-99th percentile
  • 26 percent of all wealth is controlled by the 50-90th percentile
  • 2 percent of all wealth is controlled by the bottom 50th percentile

Shocking right? Over 72 percent of all wealth in America is in the hands of the top 10 percent. So what does that mean for the rest of us?

Right now, we’re seeing that wages are increasing at about 3.4 percent on average per year. That is if you happen to be lucky enough to be in an industry that is currently giving raises. Add in the fact that job security is at an all time low – will your job really be there next year? And expenses are growing at a much faster pace then our income could ever hope to keep up with.

Okay, I’m not using all of this to bring you down. Just the opposite in fact. I’m using these numbers to bring you up.

See statistics also show that the only way to build wealth right now in America (and the rest of the world too) is to start and build your own business. When you are in control, you also control how much you bring in. You can continue to learn and grow as much as you desire. And tax laws favor owning a business. You don’t pay “income taxes” in the same manner as the person with a JOB. You can do so much more!

Once again I head back to my favorite quote:

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

During these few years of growth, you have to learn a few things along the way as well. In order to build wealth, you need to accomplish five steps.

1. Pay down your debt.

Its difficult to build wealth if you are still relying on credit cards that you are paying 20, even 30 percent interest on. Your money isn’t going towards the stuff you buy; it’s going to build the portfolio of another company. Question yourself first: “do I really need this?”

2. Create a cash reserve.

If you don’t have a cash reserve to rely on, you can quickly get back to the credit card system. One broken water heater, or a car that ends up in the shop can set you back by months. Statistics show you should have four to six months of cash in reserve in a liquid account – savings account or other easy access account – that you can make withdrawals from immediately as needed.

3. Start a long term savings plan.

If you are from the JOB world, you may have had a certain percentage pulled out and put into a retirement fund. You may even have had a matching program. When you move into the start up mode of a small business, that disappears. Which means your savings for long term disappears unless you do something about it. Start up an automatic withdrawal into an investment product. Start small and build over time. Make it a part of your normal business practice.

4. Create cash flow.

If you have a JOB, you have to work at that JOB to receive income. And for many small business owners, that mentality doesn’t change. As a photographer, you still have to photograph clients, or you won’t receive an income. One of the key pieces of the wealth puzzle is finding ways of generating income without having to work for it. Investing in a rental property is a perfect example. You buy a property, find a family to move in, and they pay rent every month. As long as they are paying you more than what the mortgage on the house is every month, you have a positive cash flow. Get enough positive cash flow coming in and you no longer have to “work” for your income.

5. Start and grow your own business.

I put this as number five, because it is really an accumulation of the other four. Once you accomplish the other four items, you can put what you learn into the growth of your company.

The key emphasis here is also on growing your own business, not just creating a job.

If you only want to photograph a few families a month, create a little extra cash so you can stay home with the kids, and have enough to go out to dinner and the movies on Saturday night, that’s not a business. That’s simply replacing your JOB.

A business means you reach forward and create something that moves beyond the JOB mentality.

You start with what you know and love – photography. And then you morph it into so much more. And your business becomes a way to pull in income from a variety of different sources, in many different ways.

Don’t worry. This doesn’t all come to you the moment you say, “I wish I could photograph for a living.” It morphs over time.

As a professional photographer with 25 years in business, income sources could come from:

  • Clients – you shoot on a regular basis for a solid income stream.
  • Patent – you’ve created a piece of camera equipment that is sold through the major stores and brings in a small income source every time one is purchased.
  • Royalties – you’ve created a successful book series that sells regularly, and brings in a five figure income source every year.
  • Consulting – you speak and provide consulting services to other photographers throughout the world. You provide your expertise to help the next generation along.
  • Investments – you’ve invested in a few rental properties, both commercial and residential, that bring in a solid income source every single month. You also have a stock portfolio that provides dividend payments on a regular basis.

If you work at a JOB the rest of your life, your salary is all you can rely on.

But if you start your own business, your learning curve takes on an entirely different path.

You start photographing and you love what you do.

You become good at photography, and others start looking up to you as a mentor.

You have a high referral rate, so clients come easily through the door. No more heavy marketing because what you do works.

You begin thinking about other opportunities.

You find people to partner with that can help you move into another income generator. You are approached to put your name on a piece of camera equipment, and that starts the royalty process.

And so on.

It’s easy to stand back at the beginning, look at a mentor that has found success and dream of achieving it all – today. Yet that’s not reality.

Instead its baby steps. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run.

You have to start out with the dream first, and make the plans for the future second.

You have to commit today to becoming the best photographer you can become, and learn everything you can to move you to the next level.

Don’t worry; things will come as you accomplish each step. It’s as if you move down a hallway and the next door appears. You couldn’t even see it in the distance before, yet now it’s clearly in front of you.

Homework:

1. Get out of debt. Work as hard as you can – sacrifice – and pay it off as quickly as you can.

2. Start up a savings plan. Even if you can only put in $10 a month, it’s the discipline of doing it. You’ll build quickly and see even more benefits over time.

3. Commit to building your business. Photography has so many opportunities, but you just have to do it. Do whatever it takes to make it succeed.

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • Great Post. I think that for many people building wealth is like losing weight, we all know we need to do it, but its the discipline to get started we lack. So get started and be in the 10% of winners not the 90% of losers.