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The Guide to Paying Yourself as a Photographer

You launched your own photography business because you’re an artist, right? We photographers are creative professionals — emphasis on the “creative.” Running your own business is exciting, but the day-to-day tasks can be overwhelming. Or feel like a complete mystery. 

Like paying yourself as a photographer, for example. Does it feel like you’re bleeding money and you don’t know why? Are you paying yourself at all? It’s a common problem in our space, which is why I wanted to talk about it in this episode. Let’s dive in.


 Why is paying yourself as a photographer so hard?

I’ve spoken to so many photographers who were all about the photography side of their business when they started out. It felt like they just fell into the business side. You have to learn how to run a business all on your own. Not just run it properly, but run it so that you set yourself up for success, too. 

And that involves managing your finances, which can be tricky for so many of us creatives. You may feel like you can’t get a handle on your spending. Your expenses are high, but you don’t know where that money is going. Your schedule is packed, but you’re still not making enough to pay yourself.

Again, it’s a common problem! We business owners often put paying ourselves last on our list of priorities. But you can turn it around and start seeing money in your account again.

4 tips for paying yourself as a photographer


One of the first things you should do when you start your photography business is open a business bank account that’s separate from your personal finances. 

Unfortunately, some of us skip this step or wait until later, when we have to untangle our finances. Or, some photographers I’ve worked with have separate accounts, but they’re treating them the same! They use their business as personal and vice versa, which defeats the purpose.

I’ve made that mistake before. Sometimes, you use whatever account has money in it. But it’s important to keep them separate and treat them separate. It’s so much easier to track your numbers that way.


Pricing your services and products gets a lot of love on this podcast and blog, but it’s because pricing is that essential to your business! If you don’t price yourself strategically, you won’t make enough to cover your costs, much less pay yourself.

My biggest recommendation here is to keep your cost of sales, or COS, at 25% or less. Any other costs that go directly into creating your products and client experience need to be less than 25% of the total you charge.

I go into more detail about costs and pricing in this YouTube video if you’d like to learn more. I also share pricing tips for new boudoir photographers in Episode 66 of the podcast!


You need to know exactly where every single dollar is going in your business. It’s key to maintaining a healthy business, but it will also help you pinpoint issues and make adjustments.

You might be paying for a subscription or software that you don’t even use, for example. Or you might realize that your COS isn’t under 25%. Once you start budgeting, you’ll notice where your money is going, and you can begin making those necessary changes to keep money in your bank account.


Last but not least, I want you to pay yourself. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “How do I know what to pay myself? My income is different every month!”

My recommendation? Pay yourself a base salary and then, when you bring in extra during those good months, give yourself a bonus. Transfer that money from your business account to your personal account. If you have a base salary worked into your budget, you’ll always know how much you’ll earn every month.

Eventually, you’ll be able to pay yourself your base salary and your bonus. You’ll get there! You’ll eventually replace your full-time salary, too. But this all starts with simply paying yourself. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to replace your 9 to 5. 

You’re an employee of your biz — so pay yourself!

If you take away one thing from this post, it’s this: your photography business is a business. Treating it like a business means paying yourself because you’re an employee of your business! You deserve a paycheck just as you would at any other job.

Your paychecks may not be huge at the start, but as your business grows, they will grow, too. And when you pay yourself, you’ll enjoy working in your business even more (instead of resenting the fact that you’re not getting paid).

If you’re ready to give your photography studio the full business makeover, I’d like you to check out 6-Figures Simplified. It’s a high-level group program that’ll help you scale your business quickly and efficiently.

You’ll learn how to simplify your business systems, your session experience, and your marketing strategy so you can work on hitting six figures. You not only get support from me but also access to a community of other photographers like you! 

Don’t miss out on this program. Save your spot and join 6-Figures Simplified now!


Tracy Lynn is a boudoir photogapher for brides-to-be in the St. Louis area, and a mentor + coach for photographers looking to level up their businesses with better systems and processes.

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