6 Ways to Master Creative Business Finances as an Entrepreneur using QuickBooks Self-Employed | Atlanta Wedding Photographer

Being an entrepreneur calls for having a lot of grit, discipline, and ultimately requires you to wear many hats. In addition to being an expert in your industry and providing excellent service for all of your clients, you must also be in charge of running your social media campaigns, project management, contract negotiation, networking...The responsibilities can seem endless! One of the things that I often hear is that many fellow creatives don’t categorize themselves as “business savvy”, meaning, that the responsibility of bookkeeping, taxes, and profit margins are not their forte, which is understandable.

Having gone to business school (and still being in it!), I’m so thankful to have been taught the mindset you need to have about money in order to thrive and be financially successful and have a business last. It’s so important to know your numbers: your revenue, profit margins, expenses, and what you should set aside for taxes so that you can be faithful with what you have and strategize different ways to make more.

 

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As an entrepreneur, one of the most valuable assets anyone has is time. And sometimes, it can seem as if the daily operational tasks can take away from the things that you do best and the things you love the most. For many, it’s bookkeeping, the numbers. If I’ve learned anything during my time being a student and a wedding photographer, is that it’s so important to invest in products and services that will allow your business to flourish and be efficient.

Quickbooks Self-Employed has been one of the best tools that I have ever used for my business as a photographer. It’s allowed me to grow my business and has saved me a lot of time in a number of ways by streamlining my finances and creating a workflow that serves me throughout the year, setting me up for success for when April that rolls around each year. In short, Quickbooks Self-Employed is my personal, virtual assist, serving as my bookkeeper, invoice system, tax preparer, and mileage tracker.

It’s been my bread and butter, my saving grace, and has allowed me to master my freelance finances with ease.

 

1. Tracks Business Expenses

When I first jumped into life as an entrepreneur, I did not keep every receipt and I used the same card to make personal and business purchases. When April rolled around and I had to fill out my 1040, trying to go back and remember everything that I had done for my business and what the costs were was a nightmare. I had to go through an audit each of my bank statements and write down what I had purchased. After nearly 3 days of racking my brain and wanting to pull out my hair, I knew that this method had to change. The next day I went to the bank and created a business account after creating an LLC for myself.

Doing this not only saved me the headache of trying to figure out which expense should be categorized (because now expenses were separated), but I then registered for Quickbooks Self-Employed. after joining, I started to realize exactly where I was putting my expenses every single month. Direct reports were available just buy a simple click of the button. I was able to set realistic expectations for what I should be doing and make sure that I was making more than what I spent.

 

 

When April rolled around the next year, I was able to fill out my 1040C quickly within an hour. Because of Quickbooks Self-Employed I was able to make sure I maximized my deductions. Quickbooks Self-Employed users find an average of $4,340 annually in tax savings!

 

2. Bookkeeping is automatic

Quickbooks Self-Employed Has drastically cut down the time that I have to spend categorizing my transactions because the system allows you to connect your bank account to their platform and automatically transfers all of your expenses and income to their platform. The system records each transaction and their source and also allows you to set up “rules” so that recurring transactions are automatically categorized for you. This is super helpful for when I go to the post office, or need to order supplies on the regular (like film!) because the program will categorize each transaction for me. Huge time saver! :)

In addition to the seamless way that QuickBooks Self-Employed categorizes everything for you, they have also just introduced a system where they will transport all of your receipts into their system for free. All you have to do is email the receipt to them and it’s put on file within minutes. if you have a physical receipt, all you have to do is take a photo of it with in the app. Quickbooks Self-Employed has made it so easy to stay on track and on top of all of your finances. It’s definitely saved me a lot of headaches when going into meet with my accountant! My accountant has always been super impressed with how organized and efficient I am able to be. Plus, having all of this already done will actually cut down on what your accountant will charge you when they prepare your taxes!

 

3. Mileage Tracking

 image courtesy of QuickBooks

image courtesy of QuickBooks

As a wedding photographer in Atlanta, I’m often in the car driving. Driving to sessions, weddings, various meetings with clients, and to the store to get supplies. It’s so important to track mileage because you are able to cut down on a lot of what you would be paying in taxes!


The Quickbooks Self-Employed app is included with all subscriptions and features automatic mileage tracking. The platform shows you how much deductible mileage you have, which will not only make your April’s seem a little less heavy, but it’s super rewarding to see the dollar amount you have left over. In 2017, I had over $5,000 in deductions just through my mileage. Goodbye driving log!

 

4. Easy Invoicing

Quickbooks Self-Employed offers and easy to use invoicing platform with rates that are far cheaper than most card processing systems. Because I use Quickbooks Self-Employed on a daily basis, it made sense to also implement invoicing with in the platform. From there I can track invoices that I’ve said, invoices that are due, and invoices that are being paid.

 

5. Quick & Simple Financial Reporting

On the homepage of every account within Quickbooks Self-Employed is a graph which shows you your net income every year. sometimes, it’s just easier to understand all the numbers when you have something visual in front of you. Quickbooks Self-Employed does just that. This is super helpful for when you are preparing your annual taxes. Within the platform you can select different types of reports to view and generate. you can do you a report of all of your different receipts, your profit and loss statements. Your tax summary with all of your deductions and each of your expenses categorized, and prepare 1099’s (with TurboTax) to send out for various contracted work. It has been a huge help to me!

 

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6. Quarterly Tax Estimates and Payment System

Within Quickbooks Self-Employed, at the very top of the client portal is information about when the next quarterly tax payment is due, and the system also provides estimates for what you should pay. it will send you reminders as well as provide a way for you to pay within the system. as someone who is a busy business owner, and who has accidentally forgotten to pay a quarterly payment, having this feature is priceless.

At first, implementing a new system for your business can seem a little bit overwhelming, and perhaps like something that is a little out of your league. For me, in the beginning, it was definitely overwhelming. However, the staff at QuickBooks Self-Employed are some of the most friendly, and helpful people that you will ever have the pleasure of working with. They are eager to help make your experience perfect, and quick to respond.

Since using Quickbooks Self-Employed, I have been able to understand the financial aspects of my business better than ever, and I have been able to set goals for what I want my business and my life to look like. Taxes are never a surprise, and I know exactly how much I spend each week simply by spending 15 minutes each week to review and analyze my growth compared to past month. I’m so thankful to have had Quickbooks Self-Employed as a part of my journey as a creative business and entrepreneur! It has been such a necessary tool as an entrepreneur and something that I believe all freelancers should have. I can truly say that because of this wonderful platform, I have been able to make sure I am confident with my finances and it’s allowed me to ensure that I can put myself through school debt-free and I’ve also been able to purchase a 2018 Toyota Corolla with cash.

Quickbooks Self-Employed has been gracious enough to extend a 50% off discount for the first year to all of those who are considering the platform.

 

 

I know that you won’t regret it, and I highly recommend you look into it. I’m more than happy to help and would love to answer any questions that you might have. it’s my greatest desire for all creative business entrepreneurs to be financially successful and for them to know exactly what their numbers are.

7 ways to work through creative burnout | Atlanta Wedding Photographer

I vividly remember the morning this year that I woke up and I said out loud “I don’t think I want to be a photographer anymore. I think I should be done and do ___.“ Saying those words out loud terrified me and confused a lot of people. But I felt defeated, heard by few, misunderstood by many. Ultimately, I was burnt out. 

It took months of being honest with myself and wrestling with my mind. Reflecting and asking the hard questions. What is my worth. Why did I start. The world is so much bigger. I have a heck of a lot to offer. Do the things that I do truly serve other people best?

I experienced a level of anxiety like I’ve never had before and my doctor, during a wellness checkup, suggested medication and therapy as answer without truly understanding my situation. I don’t think that’s the only way to truly heal or grow or overcome. Thankfully, I’m in a much better place now. But it took a lot of work. It took a lot of learning what self-love truly is, re-patterning my thought process, saying no and stepping back, trusting myself, speaking and reading truth, a lot of prayer, and a few other things that you might not expect. 💕

Below are a few ways that helped me get through my season of burnout:

 

 eve yarbrough

 

1: Take yourself out on dates alone

As an entrepreneur, you give so much of yourself to serving others, answering to others, putting yourself out there in front of others, and it’s really easy to feel like you aren’t yourself anymore. Being deliberate and taking the time to be alone at a restaurant to think and recharge was something that I did probably once a week. This is when I could get real with myself, work through the hard questions, and also treat myself to the self-care I needed.

 

2: Go out and talk to people outside of the industry that you’re in or who have changed their careers in a similar fashion

When I was in the season of life, the only way that I knew how to cope with this was by going to people and asking them about their stories and hearing their thought process. I asked about how they reached the point where they realize that they needed to take a step back and how they were able to work through it themselves. I think that approaching it this way, rather than trying to share my of the story helped me understand my own thoughts and convictions about what I should do, better. 

From there, talk to those who know you best and who've seen you in different phases of life over the years. They will be able to tell you if you are acting out of character, and truly see and understand you. They have your best interest at heart.

 

 3:  Spend your time doing something else

I needed a way to do something with my time that wasn’t related to my business, while also feeding my desire to use my hands and be creative. For me, this meant going back to the piano and playing, picking up a pencil to draw and sketch, and going as far to update my resume and apply for other jobs for the sake of it. 

The last thing might sound a little strange, but being able to devote my time and my energy to feeling like I was pursuing something else was the thing that I needed to do to realize that perhaps it’s not my time yet.

 

4:  Be thankful for the bills + realize that no time or money is ever truly wasted

For me personally, one of the hardest things I have always had to work through and one of the biggest things that I dislike is the feeling of wasting time and wasting money.

In my case, one of the biggest stressors of this season was due to me feeling like I was not producing enough. It can be scary because as an entrepreneur and as a student in business. You’re taught that a lot of businesses go out of business within the first five years due to declaring bankruptcy and other financial issues. 

I had to actively work on realizing that bills are a blessing, and that expenses are not necessarily my downfall. I had to realize that my ability to have expenses associated with my business means that I am making money, and it also means that I am fortunate enough to have the money to pay them. The investments that I’ve made over this last year, while perhaps not reimbursed by new clients, are such a small amount to pay in terms of my entire lifespan. Even if I decided to take a step back, I could say that I had a business that was successful. 

In these dark months, I thought that if I were to take a step back, that I would’ve wasted the last five years of my life pursuing something that would mean nothing. 

I had to retrain my thoughts and realize that I have a lot to offer, and a lot to give, and I am good at what I do. I had to really preach to myself that I am valuable, and that I am capable, and that if this chapter were to close that it wouldn’t mean that I’m a failure or that I would lose my identity but rather, it would mean that my path is just different from what it once was and that my direction would be to serve a greater purpose than I thought possible.

 

5: Outsource

When your heart and mind are in other places, it’s best to outsource the little tasks so that you can focus on yourself and your own wellbeing and healing. If you’re burnt out, you need less time being attached to your business! Even outsourcing little things like e-mails or editing serves you so well.

 

6: Practice Generosity + Gratitude

In a season of life where I felt like I was lacking and not myself, I made it a point to combat that and try and be as generous as possible and focus on others. With my time, with my resources, and with my love. I made it a point to focus on the little things to be grateful for, down to the tiniest of details- if the person at the restaurant got my order correct, if the birds were singing, if there was sunlight streamlining into my room…it’s the little things.

Not only was this the way to take the focus off of myself + my situation and serve others, but it was also one of the biggest ways for me to realize that life is so much bigger and they’re so much joy even when it can be super confusing and discouraging.

I went out of my way to serve my family better and help at church. I made time investing in my friendships that I had. I said no to the things that drained me and stopped doing projects and work that I wasn't excited about.

In a season where I did not feel like I was personally abundant, I had to practice abundance and realize that there is always enough, and that I have enough. I had to practice gratitude

 

7: Place your emotional and spiritual health first, above all else

I feel like there should be something that should be a no-brainer, but it was definitely something that fell to the wayside for me when the pressure came. I was not actively taking steps to preach truth to myself and pray often because I felt like I had to put my business first. 

Here’s the thing: the emails can wait until tomorrow, and you’ll still be able to serve your clients well. You’ll Still be able to meet the deadlines that are upon you. If you don’t place these in the highest priority then not only will your business suffer but so will your relationships with your friends and your loved ones.

You need to be reading and dwelling on truth (like, that you are good at what you do) - going over them in your mind and re-shaping your thought patterns. Pray more than you work and give yourself grace for this season you're in.

 

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Headshot provided by: Eve Yarbrough

Meeting Atlanta Florist Shean Strong

Shean and I met after multiple exchanges over Instagram a few years back. isn’t it crazy how social media is now one of the primary ways that brings people together? over the last few years I’ve been able to watch Shean grow his business in exponential ways, connecting with the coolest people in the industry. I think that he is absolutely one of the main florists here in Atlanta that brings so much to the table. His designs are unique, full of life, texture, and offer a sense of uniqueness that I have never seen before. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Shean over the last few years for various clients and on a number of inspirational editorials. Shean himself is full of energy, humor, and just as kind as he is talented. He is one of the few people that I will recommend to my clients if they are ever in search of a florist.

I am feeling so humbled and honored that he was able to take the time out of his day to share his story with you. Make sure that you go check out his work and connect with him on social media by following the links below. He’s also offering a unique floral workshop this summer that you won’t want to miss!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us, Shean! I’d love for readers to know more of your history. 

Thank you for sharing my story with your audience- I tell everyone I fell into the wedding industry. Doing floral and event design never crossed my mind. About five years ago, I was asked to help with a friend's wedding. She knew I was a creative person trusted me to handle her flowers. I was a nervous wreck. I literally stayed up all night with the flowers, and looking back I don't know why!

 

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I do know it jump started a creative passion in me. I booked two additional weddings at that wedding. Please keep in mind I had no idea what I was doing. I soon found myself looking for designers to freelance for and learn from- and the rest slowly began to fall into place.

What’s it like to have a one-man show? Where are you based?

You know, I've been fortunate enough to surround myself with people who love flowers, love supporting each other, and understand my big picture. I might be a one man show in name, but it really does come down to my awesome team of freelancer that help me pull of every event. I think I took the initial step to go full time when I felt confident in doing it. I took a big risk- I was getting busy with wedding season, and to be honest my other job was getting in the way. That was when I knew I was ready.

How did you come up with the name “SHEAN STRONG DESIGN” (as opposed to another fictitious name) , and what should we know about your business? (special services, your niche etc)

 

Ha! You know- I had another “alias”  and that's something we never have to bring up… :)
I found in the middle of me trying to “get my name out there” it wasn't my name- it was my companies - I wanted something that would lend itself to more than just flowers if I ever decided to branch off into something more. I like to think my name has become synonymous with beautiful and intentional designs, floral courses to educate my community  and being a reference point for brides and industry professionals.

Who is the SHEAN STRONG Bride, and what about your brand stands out in their minds or what do you uniquely offer that differentiates you and your business from the competition?

A SHEAN STRONG bride appreciates beauty. There is a refinement about her.  She is one that loves the romance candlelight can bring to a room. She's loves flowers and knows they play a huge role in creating the atmosphere of the day. She is strong, she's smart, she's adventurous. She loves being in love. She is open to design options, and trusts that her designer has her best interest at heart.

Most importantly, she is authentically herself. I love taking my brides ideas and fine tuning them to fit the happy couple. As a designer I see things a little differently- I translate your ideas and dream into something you might not have even thought of. I truly believe my clients work with me because of my transparency- in my life, in my proposals, in how I engaged with them. I always over deliver for my clients because -well I love my job, but more importantly I'm humbled that i have been given the task to create a feeling for someone on the most important day of their life.

What are 3 things that you strive to do for every single bride you serve?

1. Listen
2. Listen more
3. Execute with perfection

What can we expect to see from Shean Strong Design over the next year?

I’m constantly looking to bring my community into the creative world. I often teach floral design courses and its a way for people to get out of their comfort zone and do something they might not ever do.  Summer of 2018 i'M hosting the one of our most anticipated workshops yet- Its collaborative and interactive 2 day course that is going to truly expand how you see yourself, your work, and how relationships with photographers can dictate the tone you set for your clients.

This is something i've been dreaming up for a while now and I can't wait to share it! We are going to be discussing, color, shape, movement and lighting- we are going to create centerpieces, and talk education- we are going to design a large scale installation and together we are going to close out our night enjoying food, music and each others company.
 

Website: http://sheanstrong.com/

Workshop: http://sheanstrong.com/upcoming-events/

Facebook: Shean Strong Design

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheanstrong/

In between phases

Realizing more clearly than ever that I have so much to give, so much to offer, and that my career has far more potential than what I've allowed myself to dream. It's an interesting (and a little terrifying!) journey to learn how to allow yourself the permission to take a step back, take a leap of faith forward, and everything in between. I'm so thankful for the ones who are present and lend me their ears as I process, the friends who lend me their hearts as I plan and take risks, and the loved ones who are steady, selfless, and always there. left feeling so expectant, hopeful, and grateful for this season and everybody in it.

Lately, I feel like I have found myself in this strange, in between phase. Having to work through the mindset I'm realizing that I am not defined by my business, by my businesses success, Or by my business' failures has been tough. I had to wrestle through a lot of questioning what I should be doing with my life and what my purpose is. It is a really difficult place to be in. This is because as an entrepreneur, you are constantly tied to your business and have an entrepreneur especially in the wedding industry, you're selling yourself:  you are your brand. 

As a fine art film photographer in the Atlanta area, It's a really busy and full Industry to be in. You can barely cast a stone without hitting another photographer in the area. After being in this business for two years, I'm realizing that at the end of day, I first became a photographer not because of Me wanting to be my own boss, but it was truly because I love serving people and photographing life's sweetest moments. I have the privilege of photographing tons of weddings in Atlanta as a fine art film photographer, and I've learned so much about what it means to be An entrepreneur, what it means to trust Him, and what grit it takes To get up every day and be faithful.

It's definitely strange, I get to graduate from Kennesaw State University in December and it's something that I Just Haven't really left crossed my mind. It's almost surreal feeling. And I feel like I'm in a place where I have so much I can offer and give. So many of the people that I've talked to who are trying to become entrepreneurs, they have had the experience what it's like to be in a corporate position, and they are aching for The opportunity to see what it's like to be your own boss. And I am so blessed, Because of the fact that I've been able to be my own boss, to be a photographer, to be an entrepreneur and chase my dreams. This job has a lot me to meet so many incredible people, and it's allowed me Go through school as my only source of income. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm wondering if I will possibly regret Not at least trying to see What my life could look like if I did go into a corporate position, doing marketing, or even just doing something in the creative director position. I think that it would be so wonderful an opportunity that I shouldn't pass up because of how young I am. And I might find out that I really like it a lot, or I might find that Being a wedding photographer Trudy is my calling in that should be my only calling. I know that I'm in a season of life where I forget that I'm so young, and I have so much time in so much opportunity to make mistakes and so excited to see what happens. 

Why You Should Hire a Designer for Your Wedding Invitations

I was able to interview Cindy about her design process and I think that her wisdom is invaluable for brides looking  or a custom design element for their invitations on their wedding day. I cannot thank her enough for being willing to take the time to answer these!

 

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Invitations, oh my! So many brides are overwhelmed with details of the wedding day and might not understand the benefits of hiring a designer for their wedding stationery. What are 5 benefits to hiring a designer and why are these important?

Invitations are not only the first things you guests get to see that truly represent the look and feel of your wedding, but they are also one of the only things you’ll get to keep as keepsakes of this important day in  your life! Stationers come not only with design knowledge, but they also know all the logistics that come along with them:

  1. Where to get the best paper and materials

  2. Where to get the best print quality at the best price

  3. What information you need to include on your invitations

  4. What your reply by date should be

  5. How many you should order

  6. How you should address them

  7. How much postage you need

  8. How and when you need to send them out

  9. What day-of details you may not have thought of & how to make those designs cohesive with your invitations!

  10. etc!

The reason why all wedding vendors are worth their value is because they are experts in their field and they make your life easier and your vision come to life!

What are 3-5 common misconceptions about custom wedding invitations that you think all brides should consider? How will preparing for these things help make their experience enjoyable/stress free?

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  1. Don’t leave your stationer as your last vendor to hire! Start on your invitations early! So many couples come to me asking for rush jobs but they are simply not possible most of the time. Long timelines are not only due the entire design process, they also include the time needed to source materials (handmade paper may take weeks to make), to print (may take up to 4 weeks), and to assembly and address! Not only that, but your stationer is giving you a buffer incase anything happens (i.e. misprints, paper shortages) because they’ve been there before and know that these are the type of emergencies that short timelines cannot handle! Starting early = stress free both you and your stationer

  2. If you’re going to do custom invitations, it’s worth it to do letterpress and/or foil. Digital may save you a small amount of money but the look and feel of your invitations suffer more than it’s worth in my opinion. Unless you have watercolor-y designs, upgrading to letterpress or foil is always worth it. You didn’t hire a stationer to get something you could find anywhere—you hired them to create something beautifully unique and luxurious! Spending a little more on printing & paper = avoiding possible disappointment later.

  3. The bulk cost of invitations are going toward printing and materials. Sometimes couples have sticker shock but they may be even more shocked to know that the materials and printing fees are higher than the design fees! At the end of the day it’s likely that less than a third of what you’re paying is what your stationer is getting! Understanding these costs means that if you’re looking to fit within your budget, you’re really looking to lower your material costs, not design costs!

  4. Calligraphy addressing is an incredibly time consuming process. You’re not paying for someone to write like normal. Not only do I spend time preparing materials, I also have to warm up my hand to the script style before each session. It always takes me at least 5 or so addresses to get the centering of the script correct. Once I’m finished addressing, I spell-check each address twice and then redo the mistakes. This is why calligraphers usually only allow 1 round of revisions and charge a re-setup fee if you need more after that (for example, if you added people to your guestlist.) Start collecting your addresses ASAP and make sure to triple spell check so you can give your calligrapher the final document to avoid any extra costs or delays!

What are some trends that are being overused? What do you foresee as being popular in the future/what do you think brides should try more of?

A lot of the things I see on Pinterest are overused because couples use the platform a lot to plan their weddings. Mostly these trends are kitschy and rustic instead of elegant and timeless. I personally think being timeless isn’t super important as long as it makes you happy! I think doing whatever you like is what you should do—just find the vendors that fit your vision so you can execute it WELL! :) My number one recommendations that couples should try more of is GET A PLANNER (if you don’t already have one.) Take it from someone who tried to plan her own wedding and it was a hot mess until I hired planners to make it so much easier and amazing! If you plan your own wedding and it becomes a disaster, there are no redos… so why not hire the experts to do it right the first time? Believe the hype of planners; they are worth their weight in gold! Planners also make my life easier and will help guide me towards your vision and help you stay in budget (especially when it comes to what day-of details you should get or pass on.)

Any tips on how a bride can have her invitation suite be an extension of her personality and who she is on a wedding day, or how to not have her invitations that look like every other bride’s aesthetic?

I once heard an artist say, instead of copying someone else’s work, she writes down exactly what she likes about the work and then creates her own based off her notes. If you want something that is unique to you, it isn’t about copying what you see on the internet, it’s about understanding WHY you love what you’re seeing and translating that for your stationer to create. The process is much more organic, free, and exciting!

Do you have any tips of encouraging words for brides who are in the wedding planning process and who might feel overwhelmed?

I find myself overwhelmed when I look at things as a whole. Break down your to-do lists in chunks and aim to accomplish these goals on a daily/weekly basis. You’ll chip at it little by little and before you know it, you’ll be done! Don’t jump from one unfinished task to another because your list will always stay long and overwhelming. Good luck!

Website: http://owlpostcalligraphy.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/owlpostcalligraphy

Instagram: http://instagram.com/owlpostcalligraphy