I’ve been taking photos for as long as I remember. When I was a kid, my dad picked up photography as a hobby—and I still vividly remember looking through his Canon lenses with wide-eyed curiosity. Eventually, I would follow in my father’s footsteps and pick up a camera too. I haven’t put it down since and here I am: The owner of a Toronto-based photography business.
Throughout high school, I was known as “the guy who takes photos.” Whether I spent the day at the park or by the lake, I’d have a complete photo album to share on Facebook (and my friends grew to expect it every single time).
When university rolled around, I switched gears and studied graphic design in Greenville, South Carolina. However, the mumblings of my photography still followed me wherever I went. It’s funny because, within a month’s time of finishing university, I booked to shoot 8 or 9 weddings just through friends and word-of-mouth.
At that point, it really dawned on me: “I should make a career out of photography.” That’s when I decided to make the leap and start my own business, Cleland Studios.
When I first started Cleland Studios, as you can imagine, I knew little about how to run it—I was simply the guy who loved photography and wanted to make a career out of it.
My first awakening was at tax time. When it came to business taxes, I didn’t know I was supposed to side aside money, rather than sit and expect a hefty return. I was completely shocked to find out I had to owe money instead. I guess you can say I missed the memo.
Next came business expenses and payments. With my busy schedule, I opted to dedicated all of my time to photography and neglected to keep track of my business expenses or who paid me. Every day, I was losing money I could have gotten back, simply because I didn’t have an organized system I could rely on.
It was at that point that I realized I needed change. I felt like a fish out of water and I needed a solution, fast. At first, I turned to Excel, hoping it would keep me on track. It was a quick solution for the time being, but required a lot of attention and upkeep to stay on top of things 100%.
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I was listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast one day when a FreshBooks advertisement started to play. In the past, I tried a couple of other accounting solutions in addition to Excel, but never found one that was truly built for me.
Finally, I decided to give FreshBooks a try, and stuck with it ever since. What made me hang around was the simplicity of the platform and the reassurance that I didn’t need to be a finance or business guru to figure it all out. Over the last year, the service has allowed me to make better and wiser business decisions.
As a photographer, I’m always on the road. With the expenses tool on FreshBooks, I’m able to log into my account and save my business expenses wherever I go. (I even once logged my expenses from an airplane.) Expenses is so simple to use and has helped my business stay organized over the last year—especially at tax time.
Half of my business is dedicated to wedding photography. That means I get paid months in advance from soon-to-be married couples. Before FreshBooks, I didn’t have a streamlined way to document who paid, who didn’t and who sent a deposit 10 months ago.
Now, all on one page, I’m clearly able to see when a client has paid—or even viewed the invoice. It’s a simple way to keep track of all my invoices, without needing an awkward follow-up conversation.
I only recently started using Reports but, let me tell you, it’s been a game changer. Especially since I have a broad range of business expenses, it’s easy to keep track of where my money is going and how much I’m bringing in.
With Reports, even my accountant thanks me. I’m able to provide the information they need to crunch numbers come tax season.
As a FreshBooks customer for just over a year now, I can’t even count how many times I’ve recommended the service. I finally found a platform that’s built for the type of work I do, so I recommend it to any small business owner who’s just starting out and trying to get a firm handle on how business works.
I’ve been their shoes before: As a solopreneur, you’re hustling so much at the start that any free time you get is absolutely precious. The last thing you want to worry about is billing and accounting. With FreshBooks, I’ve been able to spend less time on the behind-the-scenes mechanics of my business and focus on growing my business instead—camera always at hand.
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