Episode #11: Managing and Investing Money as a Freelance Photographer, with Mariah Texidor
Learning how to manage and invest your money can be difficult for anyone, but especially for freelance photographers and other creative people, who often have irregular income flows. In this month’s episode, Mariah Texidor talks about making money during the pandemic, being the first in her family to graduate from college, and learning to budget and invest her money — no matter how much she makes each month. Mariah is a portrait photographer and fine art printer in northern New Jersey. She recently joined forces with her fiancée, a videographer, to start a photo and video business called Studio AbdelaTex (the name is a combination of their last names).
A quick note: This is the last episode of Creative + Moneywise’s first season. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I launched this podcast! Thanks to all of you listeners, especially those who have reached out to me. I appreciate you. I’m not sure when the next season will start, but in the meantime I hope we’ll stay in touch. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also sign up for the new Creative + Moneywise newsletter.
LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
Mariah Texidor’s website
Mariah’s camera basics course
You Need a Budget
Personal Finance Club investing course
Cinematic Orchestra Cello Loop by Wanderexplore
Happy Upbeat Cello by Audiokraken
Odyssey by Kevin MacLeod with a Creative Commons License
Looopster by Kevin MacLeod with a Creative Commons License
Swimming by Sound of Picture
Dust in Sunlight by Sound of Picture
Balloons Rising by Sound of Picture
FULL TRANSCRIPT from 01:27
Laura Hi, Mariah. Thanks so much for joining me on the show.
Mariah Hi, Laura, I’m really happy to be here.
Laura So Mariah, I first found out about you on Instagram. I don’t know exactly how, but I became really intrigued by your feed. And you talking about the different things you were doing with your business. One of the interesting things I learned about you is that you are a master printer. So I’d love to hear a little bit more about your business, which is like photography and printing and also teaching.
Mariah Yeah, absolutely. So I am a portrait photographer and alongside that I am a master printer. I do fine art printing, which for any photographer to anyone who doesn’t know, it’s just printing artwork or art with like specific types of inks. It’s relatively straightforward process, but then the skill really comes into when like the color matching and corrections and stuff like that. So, I print artwork for other photographers, for any type artists. I do reproduction. So I photograph paintings and things like that. And then I do professional archival reproductions. So, I’ve been printing for at least, I wanna say five years at, at minimum, but, and I’ve been in photographing for over 10 years. So I really grateful I have multiple skills and I try to teach those things along with just general how I run my business and, and giving guidance in that aspect.
Laura The pandemic affected a lot of people’s businesses and I know it affected yours too. How did you adapt your business to the pandemic?
Mariah Yeah, so as a photographer, when the pandemic started and everything was coming under lockdown, I couldn’t photograph other people anymore. And at that time I didn’t have studio. So, when I did photograph people in a studio setting, it was in my apartment and there was no way I was going to have people in my apartment during a pandemic, like strangers and stuff like that and clients. So, we pivoted really because necessity.
And prior to the pandemic, I was working full-time at a photo gallery as a print specialist. And so, unfortunately the doors closed on that place right at the beginning of the pandemic. And I really transitioned into teaching online. I had done workshops and had experience teaching through the gallery. They really allowed me to get my feet wet and host workshops and people come and take them and, you know, people paid for them and everything, which was great. So, I’ve always wanted to convert that to be online. I just never really made the time for it.
And when the pandemic hit, actually some, one of my good friends, she knew, she knew I wanted to make the classes online. And so she really helps me kind of, I want to say, hold my hand, but she really just helped me keep me accountable to making the course as easy as possible. And I did it in like a five-week live format so that it didn’t give me a lot of time to get in the way of myself, of making lesson plans and ahead or whatever like that. So, I made a course and about DSLR basics – really just like mastering your camera and shooting in manual mode, photographing, learning your camera. All the technical side of it, if you will. And that’s kind of how I started making a little bit of income at the beginning of the pandemic while they couldn’t photograph.
Laura How did you market that course?
Mariah I had a network of people who I met through the gallery from my full-time job. And then my friend who helped me make it, she’s like a network wizard and she sent it out to her folks. I’ve had maybe about 10 students total with the course because I’ve ran it live. And then I made it evergreen in a way. I used the recordings and now have it available for purchase on demand so that you don’t have to be live to take it or learn from it. So it’s really just, you know, actually it’s not like perfect or anything, but it’s out there. And I’m really proud of that because it’s so easy to get in the way of myself and not things out there if they don’t quote unquote look perfect.
Laura So now it’s over a year and a half, since the pandemic started, about what percentage of your income would you say is actual photography and then printing and then this class, or just teaching in general?
Mariah I would say teaching definitely has the smallest percentage. Photography is still my main source of income, I would say about 75 to 80%, followed by printing, which is, I would say a good 10% or so. And then the smallest would be the teaching. So either my course being bought, you know, outside of my own marketing, just because it’s like really accessible and available and to buy any time. And then I also accepted a short-term teaching position at the International Center of Photography where I’m teaching a virtual digital photography class.
Mariah Thank you. I’m really grateful because it’s a young adult class and it’s for folks aged 19 to 24. And it’s in part of their community partnerships with an organization in the Bronx, which is where I’m originally from. And it just feels very much in alignment for me. And I feel like kind of like childhood goals coming to fruition in a way.
Laura Ahhh, that’s so cool. Do you want to give the name of the community organization that partnered with?
Mariah Yeah, so it’s called The Point in the Bronx. So, it’s a community development center and they offer all kinds of photography classes. So, I highly recommend people check it out because even if you’re not in the Bronx physically, they do offer virtual stuff since the pandemic.
Laura You’re from the Bronx when you were growing up there, what did you learn your family or your neighbors about finances or about the possibility of being an entrepreneur?
Mariah I think the only entrepreneur I ever saw was probably like my bodega owner, like the store owner, like the corner store owner. But like I do not see him in that light, you know, then as a kid and I know this might sound that very PC, but like drug dealers, you know, it is what it is. They’re humans too, and that’s a business. So probably those are like the entrepreneurs I would immediately think of from growing up. But I didn’t really learn all that much about entrepreneurship in terms of money. We were really tight. We were always on a budget. And so I always associated things like budgeting to be being like frugal and really stringent and kind of like trying to make money last and stretch as long as possible.
Cause we, you know, even though we knew we were getting some at the beginning of the month, it didn’t, we had to make it last to the end of the month. So yeah, things were really tight. I didn’t really grow up very well-off or anything like that. So money was always kind of a source of contention in our house. And I, I was raised with a single mom and my two sisters and my oldest sister is 11 years older than me. So she helped my mom raised me and my younger sister. So, she really worked a lot and just to help my mom and support us. So, I just signed that, like, you gotta work really, really hard or hold a crap ton of jobs to make ends meet and, you know, hopefully cross your fingers it works. That’s pretty much like that was like the mindset around money that I could think of from growing up.
Laura Yeah. It’s interesting. What you just said about your sister, your older sister, working to help support your family. So I know in quite a few immigrant families in the United States, there’s an expectation that you’re going to kind of give a hand back. And how about your family when you can, do you feel like you had that expectation in your family?
Mariah Yes and no. Not necessarily at all to the degree it would’ve, if my sister didn’t work so hard to help that not be the case for myself. I got to be the first family, first person in my family to graduate from college and get my bachelor’s degree. And I really owe that to my sister sacrificing a lot in order to help us. After I moved out of the Bronx and went to college and then moved in with my dad in Jersey after graduating, that also wasn’t really the case either until like times were hard at one point. And I had to like help with things like rent. And that was fine. But I can’t say that I had the same strains or pressures as someone like my sister, who really had to do what we had to do to survive, that kind of thing. And I’m grateful for that because I wouldn’t, I don’t know that that would have been the case if she hadn’t worked so hard.
Laura When you decided that you wanted to be a photographer, what did you think that life was going to be like? Both the professional side of things and then how it would kind of impact your personal life?
Mariah I don’t know if I really felt all that much into it. I just thought like, oh man, I really love this thing with the camera. I mean, I started out with disposable cameras. I remember going to a Duane Reade, like a little drug store to pick up my mom’s prescription once. And they had like a huge bin of disposable cameras on sale. Like they were dirt cheap. I want to say like $4 or something like that. It was like wild. And I was like, oh my gosh, I’m going to get a whole bunch. So I got, I don’t even know how many, I just got a whole bunch of them. And at that point in my life, I was going through like teenage upheaval because my mom kept threatening that we were going to move to Florida and I couldn’t fathom us leaving the Bronx.
Mariah And I was like, no, this is my home, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I wasn’t an angsty teenager or anything like that. Or like I didn’t really give my mom a hard time, but I was, it definitely took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. And I didn’t know it then, but photographing with those disposable cameras and documenting my friends and like the parks I hung out at was my way of like processing the possibility of us leaving. And, we never moved, but that way of processing stuck with me.
And so then I realized, like, I kind of want to keep doing this forever. And, and I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what a photographer’s life really looks like or anything like that, but I knew I could study it in school and that would be cool. And I could hopefully make money from it. That would be cool, but I didn’t really learn a whole lot of the business stuff aspect of it until after college, or like more until the end of my four years.
And also like, I was a top-notch student in school, and I realized like if I was going to work hard for four years, I’m going to do it for something I really love. So again, I didn’t really have a clear expectation of what this was going to be like. I did obviously know the trope of like the starving artists and everything, but, but I can’t say that I had any idea what it was gonna look like at the end.
Laura When you finally started working as a photographer and making money, what business lessons were you learning that were difficult for you and what were you learning that was maybe easy for you?
Mariah Really one of the biggest lessons I was learning was like taking accountability and responsibility for miscommunication or not making assumptions. And because then you do make assumptions and then that leads to miscommunication and things going awry. That and setting boundaries clear boundaries and expectations between whoever’s hiring me or as a client or even when I was like doing freelance assisting and stuff like that, you know, being crystal clear of like what my capabilities are and standing up for myself because when you work in the industry, in terms of like assisting, it’s very easy to be overworked for very little pay. So, I think learning about things like communication and boundary setting and expectations setting are some of the most invaluable things I had to learn.
And then things I came relatively easy on the business side, really, I feel like because maybe because it’s just that we have Google. So I just use a lot of Googling and listening to podcasts you know, like this one and listening to podcasts saying like, who do people use for invoicing? And like, what is an invoice? And like, how do I do that? And those kinds of things, I like research, I guess. And I like figuring things out. So those were kind of quick for me. I wouldn’t say easy. They were more quick lessons for me to learn then hard.
Laura How do you manage your business finances now?
Mariah I use a combination of two programs. So I use a client management software called 17 Hats, which is where I like manage all my clients and projects and invoicing and quotes and all that jazz. I used them for years. I love it. And as my business has grown, I’m now finally looking into getting an accountant because it’s just… I feel like once I have too many streams of income where not too many, but like more than one or two, it, I need to be organized and it’s just becoming a little too much for me.
So, I need to hire an accountant, but between 17 Hats and a wonderful app called You Need a Budget or YNAB. I love using them because they really keep me on track of – specifically the YNAB one – of intentionally putting my money towards something. So, like intentionally putting money aside for the equipment I will eventually buy. And for the shipping costs that will inevitably come and things like that. Alongside of that, I use a system called the Profit First method. I think the creator is Mike Michalowicz. But it’s a, like a money management system, if you will, of really making sure you pay yourself first and, or at least start building towards making sure you can pay yourself. And as someone who’s now like using my photography, doing my photography and the printing and the teaching full-time, and this is my source of income to survive, I’d want to make sure that that’s happening and not only survive, but hopefully thrive, you know.
Laura Talk a little bit more about what it means, profit first. What does that actually mean?
Mariah Yeah. So, basically you’re putting money aside for taxes, for profit, for owner’s compensation and for operating expenses. So it’s four times and you know, big businesses, if you think of like maybe corporations, if you will, they have, at the end of every quarter, they get like distributions of profit distributions. And they’re like, ah, that’s usually what bonuses come from and things like that. So you’re kind of doing that for yourself automatically. And you’ve planned to have profit first, not the traditional method of like what you make minus your expenses is your profit. It’s really what you make minus profit equals what you have left to use on expenses.
Laura So it’s kind of thinking more positively about the money you give yourself instead of being like, I just get what’s left over. You say all your other expenses are what gets the leftover.
Mariah Right, exactly. Exactly. And I think what I really liked about it was it also forces you to realize, like, if you’re over spending, like you’re, you’re, you have too many costs or you really need to cut costs, or do you really need that many subscriptions? Or do you really need X, Y, and Z charge or whatever service you’re paying for? For me, anyway, it makes me have a finger on the pulse of my business.
Before I was doing my business full-time I had a job, a full-time job. That was my primary source of income. I was still doing the profit first method. And over the years that I had a job, I’ve just still followed the system and squirreled away the money in that owner’s compensation account. And haven’t actually paid myself with it.
So, when the pandemic hit, I lost my job and I didn’t have an immediate source of income yet. I was able to pay myself with that owner’s compensation and send myself money on a bi-weekly basis. Almost as much as what I was getting paid at my full-time job to help me make ends meet and pay my bills. And that was really encouraging for me because it just showed me that, you know, if you plan for it and you really do your best to budget, then it’s not impossible, right?
Laura Now you run your business full time with your fiancé. How is it working with someone you’re so emotionally tied to?
Mariah I’m such an emotional person. Oh, I very much am. I’m like a highly sensitive individual as well, but it’s pretty great. My fiancé is a videographer and a photographer, so it’s pretty awesome that we really get what we do for the most part. I mean, I would say he gets more of what I do then what he does since in terms of video I’m not all that great with video. But it’s all in the same wheelhouse. Right. And actually, now we’re officially joining businesses in a way like services and making a joint studio. It’s called Studio AbdelaTex, which is just a combination of our last names: his last name is Abdelaziz, mine is Texidor. And it just feels really good. We’re just really good at communicating with each other and we’ve only grown together in that sense, you know, cause obviously it doesn’t mean that we don’t argue or get frustrated with each other or things like that. But I think we have a really good energy when we’re around like my clients and on sets and things like that. And so, it really just kind of works.
Laura Since both you and your fiancé are entrepreneurs, and now you’re running this business together. It’s not like you can rely on one another’s health insurance from your employer or life insurance from your employer. So how do you deal with insurance? What have you chosen to have and not have and why?
Mariah Yeah. so in terms of insurance, I actually never had an employer pay for insurance before, except for like what my very first full time job. So, I was always on things like even growing up, I was on stuff like Medicaid. And now there’s like the marketplace to like health insurance marketplace within the state of New Jersey and like the country in the U S. So that’s what we each have health insurance through. And in terms of like general liability insurance, we each have it for our separate businesses and that’ll eventually combine to just one bill of insurance once we make the official LLC formation for our joint venture.
Laura Do you foresee yourself getting other types of insurance, like life insurance, car insurance, disability insurance?
Mariah Yes. Oh my gosh. Especially like, I keep hearing things like, like the disability insurance and like umbrella insurance and like all these other things I definitely want to, and that’s going to be like an in the pipeline. We have car insurance, we pay our, our own car insurance. So, this is like all stuff we talk about, which is like, obviously not that super fun, but it’s a necessity, right?
Laura Yeah. I remember the first time I paid for gear insurance and it was combined with liability insurance and it just felt like so much money, but then I thought, okay, what if I’m shooting a wedding and someone at the venue sues me for, I don’t know, knocking or something like, I will be so glad I paid this several hundred dollars for my insurance, but yeah, for me, at least at the beginning, it felt like this is too much money.
Mariah I agree. Like it’s again, fairly recently in my career that I’ve been paying for it. And I’m like, God, it’s so much, but it’s a necessity. I didn’t take my business as seriously as I did as I do now. You know, like I didn’t see it in the same way as I do now.
Laura What made you finally take it more seriously?
Mariah I think realizing that I really wanted this to, to like sustain me, not just survive, but like really build the lifestyle I want. I’d like be able to also make a future for like my future family and have money aside for if, and when my kid goes to college, just money aside for planning for a child, like in general, cause kids are expensive. Right? So….. And I feel like there are things I can do, like investing and saving and learning about those habits, you know? Cause I didn’t grow up with them and instilling them as early in my life as possible so that I can do my future, you know, lineage better than what I had.
Laura You just mentioned that you’ve learned about investing and saving — it sounds like as an adult possibly. What have you learned? Because that is something that not everyone learns when they’re younger. What’s the main thing you’ve learned recently?
Mariah Oh, my got investing with index funds. It’s like wild. It sounds so like, huh. Like you don’t know what it is, but I’ve been following this guy on Instagram called Personal Finance Club and he has this really affordable course on like investing with index funds. I just invested like $500 for the first time in an index fund. And I’m hopefully…. I can’t safely say right now that I’ll be able to do $500 every month. I’m going to do as much as I can while making sure like my bills are paid. Whatever extra money I have, I want to put it towards that. So that even in 40 years from now, I will almost be a millionaire and that would be really fricking cool. I just want to be financially independent, you know, and I really want my business to help me get to that. And also, being mindful of energy, like how much that takes a toll on me and, you know, use my energy wisely to make money.
Laura You’ve brought up this term financially independent and financial independence. And that means different things for different people. For some people, it means that they don’t have to work for money at all because they have enough invested or saved somewhere. What does this mean for you?
Mariah For me it means being able to choose to work, not because I have to work. I would love to get to a point where I work because I love what I do and it’s a choice and if I’m unwell or if I’m going through a hardship or I’m be trying to be there for my family or taking care of family, I don’t have to decide between taking care of my family and having to show up to work. I love what I do. I love photographing. I love being around photography. I love that world and I want to always be a part of it. I just, there’s always a stress when you’re relying on, on it to make money. And I don’t want to have to feel that.
Laura What kind of plan do you have for reaching financial independence? Because I read a lot of these blogs of financial independent people and they, they usually have goals like by the time I’m 40, I’ll have $2 million saved. Do you have this kind of very specific goal?
Mariah I don’t. I think the only like consistent goal I’ve had for years is in terms of like leading towards some type of financial independence has been like, I aspire to be debt free by the time I’m 30. And that includes my student loans. I graduated with about $40,000 in student loans and I want that gone. I have no credit card debt. Thankfully I got rid of that. So, I want to…. You know, the next thing up for me is student loan debt.
Laura Yeah. Many people have a lot of college debt and it is a huge weight on people. How much of your $40,000 college loan do you have left?
Mariah Oh my god. Like 35. It’s a lot. So, since the pandemic they put pause on federal, all my loans are federal loans with the exception of one that I’ve been paying since I graduated. So, I guess the one plus is that during the pandemic, while I’ve been putting budgeting the same amount of money that I would pay to my loans, but I haven’t had to pay it. But I’m ready for when they do start unpausing payments. They haven’t been collecting interest for the past year and a half, which is great.
Laura What is, what is a recent financial achievement that you’re really proud of?
Mariah Oh my God, the investing thing, I think I, I like being able to invest money has been awesome. And then also surpassing like having a month where I brought in easily, like it was like easy $3,000. That was awesome. That felt really, really awesome. It was nice to see that money come in. And it was because we were working my fiancé and I were working together. That was also very encouraging. So
Laura That’s good. So it means your business together, your joint business is off to a really good start.
Mariah Yeah. Yeah. Cause we’ve been offering a lot of like photo video services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. So that was pretty cool to be like, yeah, we’re a joint package and it’s this much. And that was pretty cool. That’s cool.
Laura What financial worry keeps you up at night?
Mariah I feel really grateful to not think of something that’s actually a worry, but rather I suffer with anxiety. And so, because of my upbringing, I have this fear of all my money disappearing. Like someone’s just going to take all of my money and say, “You have none. Good luck.” And that’s like not gonna happen. Let’s hope so. So, but I it’s very much stemmed from my anxious thinking and survival mode and growing up in poverty, like that kind of thing. So…. But if I think of like an actual financial worry… Right now, I have a lot of like starting a family on the brain. And I think my biggest worry is putting, like having my kid go through what I went through and I don’t want that. And I think this is also a real a realistic conversation I had with my fiancé of like worst-case scenario, if business goes downhill or whatever the case is, or if this business stuff is no longer serving us, right. Like it’s no longer what we want to do. Like we’ve talked about those kinds of things. We’ll just go get a job. Go get a job.
Laura I think that’s a good attitude to have. And I think for photographers or just creative people in general, that can be hard to think of doing something else because you feel like your artistic talent, it’s like part of your very being, but in the end, if you need money, you need money.
Mariah I know there that is always a possibility that it, my business may not be able to pay the bills. Like, I remember when I was first looking for a job out of college it took me over a year to find a job actually in my field. And, and that was so discouraging because I went through, you know, all the schooling, et cetera. I worked at a cashier at like a stop and shop supermarket, you know, like I didn’t really care. I did whatever to, to just be able to pay bills and you know, it’s just temporary. It doesn’t have to be forever. That’s what I had to tell myself. But I tell myself that if this is no longer working for me, then I give myself permission to figure out something else.
Laura What is your overall attitude toward money? Like how do you feel about it and what do you hope it’ll do for you?
Mariah I think my overall attitude about money right now at this point in my life is that it’s a means to an end, but it isn’t everything. And I hope, and I work towards not giving it too much energy or too much power over me, I guess, if you will. When I think about my life in general, what makes me happy is like the people that are in it. What your mindset brings to the table with how it’s going to affect you. Like how money will affect you. So even something like budgeting, I’m working on budgeting, not from the deep-rooted fear of like, “oh my god, someone’s going to take my money.” But rather like budgeting from the feeling and the mindset of, “I’m so grateful I have this money and I can then prepare for my future and like live a life,” like pay for things like clothes that I don’t often invest in. But like when I do they tend to be expensive. But they last me a long time. So, I’m okay with, you know, like things like that.
Laura Thanks for all your stories and your insights, Mariah. This was really great. I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Mariah Oh, you’re so welcome. I know I ramble. So I hope like some of it was somewhat helpful for somebody.
Laura Definitely helpful. Thank you.
Mariah You’re very welcome.