How I Manage My Money, Start To Finish

As a photographer, sometimes I get paid months before a job happens. A lot of creatives have this dilemma. For the first few years of business, I’d spend all of the money before the session or wedding happened. Then when the wedding/session arrived, I felt like I was working for free. In reality, my client paid and I was a bad steward of the money. I have a mantra now:

My biggest step in fixing my bad money habit – I made a holding account where EVERY photography payment I received went straight into. We nicknamed it THE VAULT, because I thought it was a funny (and accurate). It’s the DON’T TOUCH IT (until you do the job) bank account. So sometimes we have $4 in a our Family checking account and like $4,000 in the Vault.

As soon as I get paid Honeybook sends me an email telling me how much that client paid, then I go to the calendar appointment of whoever booked (I never take payment until the date is booked) and I add ‘$300 PAID’ in the Note section of their appointment.

Honeybook keeps my bookkeeping numbers but my calendar is where my active dollar amounts are.


+ Someone books a date, I save their appointment in my calendar
+ I send them an invoice where they’ll pay the first half of the session
+ Get paid via Honeybook (that payment automatically goes into my Vault account)
+ I don’t open that email notification until I’m ready to put the amount into their calendar appointment
+ Once I photograph for the job, I get out my percentage budgeting journal and write out where I want my dollars to go. (Make sure to account for credit card fees).

+ After I have it all written out, I make the transfers into the specified accounts and checkmark as I go
+ Go back into the calendar appointment and mark DONE in their calendar appointment.

Here are the checking accounts I have within my one bank account:

When I need to spend someones deposit before the session:
Despite all efforts, sometimes life happens and I need to pull a little from the Vault to pay for something. First I make the transfer from the Vault to my Family Checking Account. Then I’ll go to a calendar appointment with a deposit to write under the PAID amount ‘$80 transferred for Groceries’. Now when I go to pay myself after the job is completed, I know I can only deduct $220 from that session. I try to avoid this AT ALL COST.

It’s like I’m taking from my future, hard-working self when I spend the money early.

Our debit car connects to our Family Checking act. I beg you, don’t have a debit card for your Vault. That money needs only one way out (by bank transfer) so you don’t accidentally spend money without writing it down. Otherwise you’ll be doing jobs in a year from now with $0 in the vault, AKA working for free.

Overdraft protection isn’t your friend. Don’t let it draft from other accounts without YOU doing it manually. It’ll transfer from other accounts and before you know it, you’re at a ZERO’D savings account without realizing what you did. It’s better to feel the burn of $0 in your checking.

That’s how I do it! It’s been 12 years of trial and error. Hopefully you don’t have to error as much as I did! 

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