Achieving Financial Freedom

Charmi Patel Pena.jpg

Charmi Patel Peña/
2018 Speaker Series

"I want us photographers to think about our present, our future and our relationship with money so we can start making our money work for us instead of letting it lead us!" - Charmi Patel Peña

I think we creatives need to revolutionize our relationship with money. I’m a planner by nature.  My idea of fun really is Netflix, a weighted blanket and spreadsheets! (Ok, I love dancing, too, but that’s not helpful right now!) As far as photography goes, we all LOVE this thing we do - capture memories and bring joy to people. We know whether we are capturing the best times of some one's life or the most difficult, we are immortalizing their story.

That's all great, but every year I see TONS of creatives, photographers specifically, struggle with money in ways that let’s the money lead THEM.  “It’s the end of the year, what should I buy to use up my money?” <— every year. “I can’t afford to outsource.” “Should I raise my prices? I’ve been doing this longer than that new guy!”

None of those address the big things I think money can do for us. Take CARE of ourselves and our families in the present and in the future. Money can also grant us privilege, so we can help others. Here’s what I wish more of us asked ourselves so money isn’t controlling us.

“How much money do I need to make this year for us to be ok?”
“When do I want to retire/semi-retire?”
“What do I want my life to look like day in and day out?"

I want us photographers to think about our present, our future and our relationship with money so we can start making our money work for us instead of letting it lead us! 


Here are 4 quick tips to get us moving in the right direction!

1) Get out of debt

Starting a business is expensive!  Even photography where the barrier to entry is lower, as soon as you get hooked, the lenses, flashes and ALL-THE-THINGS are so appealing! Try not to let yourself get too sucked into must-have-it-itis. Renting gear or a great lease is an option for must have gear. And don’t buy equipment on a credit card unless you can pay for it right away.  Debt keeps us tied to a place where we can’t dream as big as we want.  I know, I’ve been there.

2) Calculate how much money you need to make every year

Courtney, another Real Life Conference 2018 speaker, offers classes about the inner workings of financials for photographers called Homeroom.  She dives in well beyond cost of goods, into time and regular expenses and more.  Figuring out how much you REALLY take home from your business every year. This will help you figure out what you REALLY need to make every year and how many weddings/portraits/projects you need to take on. She can also help you do the math to see if renting/buying equipment is the right thing for you at any given stage in your business.  If you can’t get to Courtney’s workshop, grab a spreadsheet and start tabs.  Monthly expenses, per job expenses, hours of labor per type of job, that sort of thing.  Give yourself the data to know what you’re dealing with.

3) Plan for retirement

There is an element of privilege in telling someone to save for retirement.  Not everyone has the option to put away money for savings. So after taking on STEP 2 and you see you are able to save for retirement, you MUST.  Retirement deserves a post (or a book) all it’s own, but the most important way to look at it is, if you have money left over pay your future self first. Think of it as buying yourself FREEDOM.

Here is a great read on this very topic!

4) Accountability

This is key for me.  Find yourself someone that is in a similar stage in their business.  Pair up and hold each other accountable.  Have a monthly, or weekly Skype meeting to go over what your financial goals were/are and where you succeeded and can do better.  Accountability is the single most useful way for me to do all of the rest of the steps.

The more comfortable we are being in control of our own finances, the more comfortable we’ll be charging our worth, buying time back from ourselves and so much more.  The more you practice talking about money openly, the more it just becomes a regular part of how you think; about how you’re spending it, saving it and earning it.  Bottom line, we are MASTERS of harnessing creativity. If we can learn to control our money the way we do our light, there is SO MUCH we can do for the people around us.  Because as much as we LOVE what we do - we should be working to live not living to work.

Related LINKS:

Mary Moore