How a 23-year-old built a lucrative career as a wedding photographer

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The Grace Torres photography business is more than a passionate project that has transformed into a career. For the 23-year-old, it represents financial freedom.

After being obsessed with photography at the age of 13, Torres spent years recording a Sweet 16 party in New Jersey for a small fee and buying a $ 500 camera device at Chick-fil-A. While she attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, she earned cash with some clients – but wasn’t sure the photos could pay after college. did.

Then she learned that successful freelance photographers often start by investing in high quality equipment. So, after she graduated from college in December 2020, Torres invested in new cameras and lenses and gradually took her photography side hustle full-time.

Anyway, Torres says he spent about $ 45,000 to get the business on track. In 2021, she made $ 177,000, according to a document reviewed by CNBC Make It. And today, she earns over $ 10,000 a month.

Torres says he can be underestimated as a young entrepreneur, but it’s worth doing what she likes.

CNBC MakeIt’s Jonathan Cortizo

“I’ve always had multiple jobs across the university, so it’s a great blessing for me to be able to do one job by creating my settings, my time, and my schedule. “Torres tells CNBC MakeIt. “I wake up every morning and am very excited to work with and do what I love with the clients I work with.”

This is how Torres turned his hobby into a side hustle and then into a six-digit full-time business.

From hobbies to side hustle

Torres purchased his first camera, the Canon Rebel T3, in 2012 prior to his family’s expedition from New Jersey to Colorado. Along the way, the family stopped at several national parks, and Torres was obsessed with capturing nature from behind the lens.

“Even at the age of 13, I considered it an investment,” Torres says. “I bought [it] With the money I saved from my birthday and Christmas. “

Torres was obsessed with photography at the age of 13 on a family expedition. Last year, her photography business generated $ 177,000 in revenue.

Courtesy of Grace Torres

Initially, her plan was to pursue science in her life after graduating from college. So in high school, she focused on scholars, spending her time enjoying her portraits and birthday parties, and sometimes earning $ 100 from a four-hour job.

Later, her side hustle gained momentum at college. At the age of 20 in 2019, she earned about $ 2,000 through freelance photography and graphic design. She started thinking about what a full-time photography gig would look like.

Investing in passion

Initially, Torres said the outlook seemed bleak. She had already done a couple of jobs throughout the university, primarily to help buy camera equipment. However, after following her other photographers on her Instagram, she realized that if she balanced the cost of her own equipment with more shoots, she would have a chance to live her full time. I did.

She increased availability and started booking gigs every other week instead of every other month. About a year later, she graduated from Southeastern University and she was a paid part-time nonprofit organization to supplement her finances until she was able to gain a position as a full-time freelance photographer. I took a time internship.

This year, Torres will be filming 34 weddings. Next year she wants to dial that number up to 27.

CNBC MakeIt’s Jonathan Cortizo

“I’m not a big risk taker, especially when it comes to finance,” says Torres. “The part-time job gave me the stability and confidence that I needed to spend more time taking pictures.”

Torres spent months studying sustainable business practices and working to acquire customers through social media. Five months after graduating from her college, in May 2021, she did a full-time photography business.

Fighting Burnout Syndrome

Over the past year and a half, Torres has delegated some of her responsibilities. She invests in legal services to support her contract, hires a certified accountant to teach her how to file her fledgling business tax, and has a contractor to help her edit her photos.

Most days she says she feels like she’s living her dreams. But the other day she reminds her of her challenge of being a young entrepreneur.

Last year was the year of the wedding flag, following the 2020 national Covid-19 restrictions – and Torres says he certainly felt pressure. She filmed 46 weddings in a year, 10 of which were a month.

To fight burnout, she means sacrificing her income, but learned to schedule less weddings. This year she commits to 34. She plans to limit her next year’s count to about 27. She also outsourced some of the services from her home office in Lakeland, Florida, and asked the contractor to edit the photos and manage the bookkeeping.

The more work-life balance she can build, the better, Torres said.

“I want to build, grow and expand my company, and I have more opportunities to work with really connected couples and travel to where I always want to go,” she says. Says.

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