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Don’t Let Fear of Money Drive Your Business: Why I Waited Until I Was Debt-free to Take My Side Hustle Full Time | Nashville Branding Photographer & Business Systems Educator

Wondering how to make your side hustle a full-time job? Take a peek into my real-life story to see exactly why I urge other entrepreneurs to wait until they are debt-free to take their side gig full time. Spoiler alert: it’s about a lot more than just money.

Black and White Photo of Dolly DeLong Photography at her College Graduation at Harding University in 2007

(oh and if you are wondering…this is me-on the left-with my best friend and roommate, Jenna, at our college graduation in May of 2007 because this is where my financial journey began) 

When I graduated from undergrad in 2007, I had accumulated some student loan debt. I went straight into graduate school and my loan debt grew significantly. I didn’t understand the negative aspects of accumulating student loan debt. Like a lot of people, I just assumed student loans were a necessary evil and that I’d be able to easily pay them off once I started working.

Boy was I wrong! My first job, once I had my master’s degree, paid around $36,000 a year. I had racked up over $150,000 in loans. You don’t have to be a financial wizard to realize that math just doesn’t add up. At the time, I was doing photography on the side, in addition to my full-time job, to try to make ends meet. I knew from the very beginning that I loved photography. I desperately wanted to make photography my full-time job, but I knew it wasn’t the right time, and honestly, I thought it was just an unattainable dream which I could never get! 

My husband and I eventually paid off all of my student loans, through a lot of hard work, budgeting, and sacrifice. (You can read a more in-depth account of how we paid off our debt here.) And I waited, sometimes impatiently, until we were completely debt-free before taking my photography business full-time.

So why did I wait so long to make my passion my job? It all comes down to why I want to be a photographer and how I want to serve my clients. See, the most important part of my photography business is serving my clients with a humble spirit. My entire business is built on principles of serving, and it’s hard to serve others when you’re fearful and desperate. 

I didn’t want to hustle for business and frantically book any client who would hire me. I didn’t want to cram my calendar full of photo sessions so I could afford to put food on my table. I wanted my photography business to be about connecting with my dream clients and providing them with timeless, radiant photos that capture their joy and love at a specific moment in their lives. And that wasn’t possible if I was constantly worried about money.

a woman walking against a floral backdrop in downtown Nashville TN

Now that we’re debt-free, I am able to focus on my clients and create the business I always dreamed of having. I can take time off to spend with my son without feeling guilty that I’m not earning enough. If you’re wondering how to make your side hustle a full-time job, my best advice is to wait until you’re debt-free (other than a reasonable mortgage!) to quit your job. 

You can develop your skills and start building your dream business while it’s still a side gig. Put your profits toward paying off your debt and you’ll soon be in the perfect position to take your passion project full-time! You can’t serve your clients well with the fear of making money hanging over your head. Do yourself and your dream clients a favor and wait until you’re in a position to serve from a full heart. I can tell you from experience that the wait is absolutely worth the results.

If you are ready to dive into streamlining and automating the numbers of your business,  check out this resource I have created to serve other small business owners in understanding how to confidently track the numbers of their business so that they can continue to grow and scale (This is the SAME bookkeeping template I use in my own business, and let me tell ya…it’s a game-changer!)

The Bookkeeping Template For Creatives by Dolly DeLong Education

PSA: I know that I am in no way, shape, or form a financial advisor, so please be certain to seek wise counsel and financial advice from an established source you know and trust when you are making bigger decisions about your small business. But I do hope that my own personal story helps encourage someone today! I am trying my best to use my platform to help encourage other small business owners, so I hope whoever is reading this knows I am rooting for you and that I am giving you an interwebs fist-bump and high five! You’ve got this! 

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Meet Your Friendly Nashville Branding Photographer & Workflow + Systems Educator

a dad mom and toddler son are all smiling at eachother at a lavender farm by Erin Fox photography in Nashville

Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based family & branding photographer and a creative business owner who educates on all things Pinterest, Dubsado, Lead Magnets & Email Marketing (aka pretty much all the fun automation stuff centered around those business systems)!  Dolly loves serving families, and business owners with her timeless, radiant photography. 

She also has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of tools like Pinterest, Dubsado, email marketing, and business systems with new creative business owners in an encouraging and supportive way because she believes that even muggles can become automating wizards!

Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.

Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), loves eating way too many sweets, and listens to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography LLC, please email her at thedollydelong@gmail.com or fill out her contact form here.

Interested in learning how to best automate your small business but have NO clue where to start? Click here (or on the image below) to get started with learning the foundations of automating your business with Dolly DeLong Education!

learn how to automate your small business with Dolly DeLong Education

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