Eleven years ago, when I was 27, I reached one of my proudest financial milestones: I had amassed more than $100,000 in savings — and I did it in just three years.
One of the biggest things that helped me accelerate my savings was taking on side hustles. I highly recommend everyone consider starting one at some point, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
I’ve done just about every side hustle you can imagine, from selling Avon products to my mom’s friends to starting an online retail store for bridal accessories.
But Onada Photography, the wedding photography business that I started in my early-20s, was my longest-running one. I did it for seven years, and it earned me the most amount of money of all my side hustles.
In one particular year, I made more than $70,000 total. A chunk of that money went toward my savings.
Growing up, my dad was always taking photos of our family. As a result, I developed an interest in photography.
But the idea to turn my hobby into a business came about during a trip to Jamaica for my friend’s wedding. I had just purchased an inexpensive entry-level DSLR camera, which I took with me.
(From the author’s wedding portfolio | Credit: Bola Sokunbi)
As luck would have it, the photographer was running late on the wedding day. My friend then turned to me and asked, “Would it be all right if you took a few photos while we wait for him to arrive?”
I was more than happy to do it, and photos I took turned out better than I expected. More importantly, my friend loved them. It was then and there that I decided to make some money out of my photography skills.
Getting started was the biggest hurdle. I was nervous to put myself out there, but I knew that if I didn’t try, I’d never know if it was something I could be successful doing.
I created a simple website using the photos I took at my friend’s wedding, set up my first ad on Craigslist and asked everyone I knew to spread the word.
I had so much to learn, and I really needed to expand my portfolio, so I decided to shoot the first wedding for free.
(Pictured above: The author, Bola Sokunbi)
To further build on my skills and knowledge, I read books, watched videos, took workshops and practiced taking photos of my friends and family.
Once I had a solid portfolio, I felt confident in charging clients for my services. I charged $300 per wedding. But as I did more events, my client base grew and my services became increasingly in demand.
So I finally upped my rates to between $2,000 and $5,000, which was — and still is — pretty standard. Some photographers charge up to $10,000, but it really depends on factors like shoot duration and location.
If you’re starting a side hustle, it’s important to take things slowly so you don’t operate on a negative balance. It took me about two years to turn a decent profit.
My goal was to build a business with zero debt, so I opened a business savings account. Once I paid my business taxes, I invested the rest of the money back into Onada Photography (e.g. purchasing high-quality equipment, better editing software, travel expenses).
With better quality equipment and better skills, I had mastered the art of photography. My dedication earned me solid reviews and several awards.