Cash Confessional Business: a week of spending for a 25-year-old professional photographer

Cash Confessional Business: a week of spending for a 25-year-old professional photographer
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Our Cash Confessional series is proudly presented by Bank of America. Lean on their Small Business Community and check out resources on cash flow management to help your small business grow.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Lauren at

This week, we’re mixing things up a bit and gaining some insight into the inner workings of professional photographer Julia Murray of Julia Fay Photography. Here’s what it takes to keep her business thriving:

The basics

Your age: 25

Your gender: Female

Industry: Photography. I specialize in branding and visual strategy. My typical shoots throughout the week are for local businesses and brands using imagery as a big piece of their online marketing.

How long did it take you to go from thinking about your business idea to opening your doors?

It all began at 19. At first it was a creative outlet, and a pretty smooth way to make cash for spring break – ha! Fast forward a year and a half and I graduated college early to pursue my business full time. (Yep, I had to raise those prices a bit…) I’m almost six years in and I’ve only ever worked for myself.

What’s the first thing you spend money on when you make a profit? 

When earning a profit from a photoshoot, it first goes into my business account and business savings. After that, I pay myself personally.

My priorities are to set aside money for quarterly taxes (the IRS and North Carolina collectively get around $3,ooo from me each quarter) and to save for business expenses in case a camera emergency were to happen. Saving in general as a solopreneur is crucial because if any kind of personal emergency/family emergency calls for me to be out of work for weeks, no one else is able to step in and continue making the money.

I have no employees or partners in my branding photography business, however I did start a new and separate company with co-founder Meg Seitz of Toth Shop at the start of 2019. That business is called Toth + Fay. We help businesses tell stories! It’s rad.

What’s your most unexpected expense?

Probably the different types of insurance/licenses we have to obtain to photograph at specific parks or venues.

What’s the most fun thing you spend money on? 

New toys! AKA new camera gear.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve spent money on?

When I used to photograph a lot of kiddos and families, I bought this thing called a “shutter hugger.” It was a monkey that wrapped around my camera to sit on top of it to make children smile.

If I mentioned the name of your business around the people closest to you, what would they say?

Mom and Pops would smile real big, probably call me out on shortening my middle name (it’s actually Fayette), and they would pretend they get this whole “branding” thing. Jokes aside, they’ve been extremely supportive.

Most of my best friends were around the day Julia Fay Photography was created. I think they would say they are proud and happy for me for sticking with it. My favorite is when they ask me, “Jules, what do you think about how I edited this photo?” Or “How do I get better engagement on Instagram?”

If you could go back in time and create a business that currently exists, what would it be? 

Pop Cereal Cafe. 

One great thing about your business and one challenge your industry faces: 

It introduces me to so many hardworking inspiring people – getting to help those people tell their stories through visual branding is just so fun and interesting to me. I could sit over coffee with someone and talk about creative marketing strategies for hours.

A challenging thing would be that there are people out there that don’t value the time and talent of a full-time professional.

I will occasionally get emails from influencers or organizations wanting to “trade” services for exposure on their social media platforms or a tag in an article. While that exposure or experience may be something newer photographers are looking for, a lot of us that get hit with those requests laugh out loud behind-the-scenes.

Think about it. You wouldn’t say to your dentist, accountant, or hairdresser, “Can I just make an Instagram story about my visit and have this one comped?”

What are your goals for 2019? 

  • Start saving for retirement.
  • Grow the online course me and my biz partner have created for business owners and brands.
  • Keep learning from others.

What about a “beyond your wildest dreams” goal?

Be able to take a long break from work/reality and live in Hawaii for three months with no agenda.

I wouldn’t call this wild, because it’s something I would actually really love to do in the next 5 years, but I’d like to start some sort of foundation or scholarship to help give students or new business owners camera gear/relief of photography expenses to help get their passion and business off the ground.

The expenses

Recurring monthly expenses include:

  • Adobe Creative Products (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere)
  • Online gallery hosting
  • Business insurance
  • Online calendar that clients use to book shoots
  • Quickbooks
  • Paying my second shooters/assistants at weddings
  • Photo editing assistance
  • Virtual assistant for client management
  • Phone bill
  • WiFi
  • Office supplies/software
  • Parking in the city for shoots/meetings
  • Photoshoot props
  • Meals/coffee for meetings and consults
  • Co-working space

Recurring annual expenses

  • Accountant
  • CPS (Canon Membership for camera checkups, yes they are children and get checked out and cleaned twice a year)
  • Cloud storage
  • Website hosting
  • Website builder
  • Graphic designer
  • Blog
  • Client gifts
  • New gear (this can range from 1k-5k)
  • Workshops to continue creative education (can range anywhere from 1k-3k a workshop)

A week of spending


Today started with a photoshoot at Amelie’s. I bought myself a coffee and breakfast for $11.13, and then a second cup of joe later in the afternoon before a meeting ($4.63). Two payments were cleared automatically this afternoon, one for a GSuite payment of $15 and the other for a contractor (virtual assistant) for $112.50.



Today I traveled to Greenville to record an interview with an industry friend. Filled up on gas for $25.36. Bought a soft taco at Taco Bell for $3 . The night ended with more tacos and brews, but I didn’t classify that as a work expense.



One branding shoot today, spent $11.26 at Smelly Cat for a prop for my client and a hummus/pita chip snack for me. Payment of $30 cleared for my monthly Adobe Suite.



Not a dang thing business wise. Pats self on back. Packed lunch and went to co-working space, Hygge Co-working.



Early morning shoot. Bought a coffee at Starbucks for $4.44. Spent the afternoon working with a friend at Suffolk Punch, spent $32.35 on my coffee, her coffee, my salad, and a beer.


Saturday and Sunday


Total spent: $249.67

What I learned

Guilty as charged, a lot of my average weekly expenses are spent on coffee and eating out, which is the slack thing for me to do when I am on the go shooting throughout the day. Prepping my lunch helps with that, but isn’t my strong suit!

Overall – weeks definitely range as an entrepreneur – just depending on when you’re paying what and when contractors bills are due!

Need 1:1 guidance on getting your finances in order? Schedule an appointment with a Bank of America Small Business specialist today or stop in your local financial center.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Lauren at

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