Side Hustle Turned Millionaire?
I read stories like these sometimes because I'm interested in stories of people that found financial success in unusual ways, but many times these stories are dull, leaving out important facts and details, or they're boring because there's nothing that unusual. Sometimes they are dull and boring because they're missing some info that would be nice to know and because there's nothing that extraordinary.
In this one, the successful side hustle of this person that made her a millionaire before turning 30 is...photography. Katelyn Alsop didn't have an interest in or take any classes on photography through high school or college but was still "artistic and entrepreneurial." She credits her start to one of her friends in college suggesting they go take some pictures of students around campus together, so 6 months later she starts a business, running it out of her dorm, and 8 years later she all the sudden was making a million dollars in profit!? "Sweet mother of goose, Jack!" How did this happen?!
I've known many, and I mean MANY, wannabe photographers. It's usually just a girl with a camera that knows some minimal editing software. For a time I thought every 3rd girl I met claimed to be some kind of aspiring photographer with a photography business, but when they offered to take my pictures they're like, "What do you want? Where should I stand? Ok say, 'cheese.'" Snap, minor edits, done. Ok, so you're not a photographer, you're just a girl with a camera! I met REAL photographers later that knew how to do proper posing, use of lighting and background, focus centering, and great, clean editing. The REAL photographers knew what we wanted, but they knew how to really make the magic happen. They direct US, not us directing the photographer on how to do their job to make us look good, because I don't know that stuff. The difference was huge. So reading this story, I was a little offended that someone with no real training and an overwhelmingly common side hustle, somehow became a millionaire doing this!?
Ok, so how? "In Alsop's first year of business, she was still a full-time college student, but she managed to spend at least 40 hours per week growing her photography side hustle: driving to shoots, editing photos and sharing the finished albums on her blog." Who are her clients?! Who's paying some random girl with no prior background to do professional photos and how many did she have right off the bat to be spending a full 40-hours a week on this?
The article gives some attention to her blog, which became a portfolio source as well as a great marketing tool apparently. THAT's what I'm more interested in now. So she quickly got busier and was able to grow and charge more for her services, probably more selective on clients too, but the real money making business came from utilizing her blog and followers to start "selling online technical courses for photographers on her website in 2015. There are tutorials on editing, posing and lighting techniques, as well as business courses, like how to market your photography business and build an effective personal brand."
"Alsop credits much of her success to the people she's surrounded herself with since starting her side hustle: college roommates who cheered her on when she cashed her first paycheck, her family and friends within the industry."
This makes me wonder what real influence her friends and family had. Were they her first paying customers that had other connections to paying clients? Or were they only just moral support like she leads on and this business building was a miraculous lucky success? Because it was so successful, her husband quit his job (only 5 years after she started her thing in college) to help her run her business because it was already so successful, and she now has several other relatives working for her as well. Wow. This photography gig is wildly profitable!
The reason I am curious about family involvement is because family money, connections, and expertise has a huge influence behind the curtain in MANY cases. For example, I read a story about an 18-year-old in my local area that was still finishing high school, but started a company, "Reselling Secrets," which was making $100,000 PER MONTH reselling shoes! What!? Article link. He did credit his entrepreneur skills to his parents, but the article never mentioned that his parents were a successful and wealthy artist and marketer that likely had a big hand in helping to start and blow up this operation. It's still a great story about a side hustle making it big, but I want to see behind the curtains more and know what EXACTLY people did to blow up and make it big. How'd you get more customers/clients and how'd you do your marketing? These articles usually just leave it at generic “they worked hard and stayed dedicated.” There’s NO INFO in that.
So in 2022, "Katelyn James Photography brought in about $240,000 per month in revenue. A majority of that, roughly $230,000, is passive income from her online courses and trainings. The rest is from her photography business: Alsop typically shoots four weddings per year, charging at least $12,000 per event."
Ok. End of story. I am surprised that the boring photography business just exploded into making millions when there are millions of "photographers" out there. I would be interested in a deep dive dissection of what all took place to make this happen.
I have a small example of my own with my wife's experience. She works as a self-employed esthetician and was VERY LUCKY to be able to share a booth with someone else for free. There ended up being some bad drama with that, but that’s for another time to tell. She only got a few clients in her first year through friends and word of mouth. It was slow. She didn't have to go in and work very much. We also spent a ton of money to create a presence online and on ads with google, facebook/instagram, yelp, and some local sponsorships. We tweaked them a few times to be more effective, but we were blowing money on ads and not getting enough hits out of them.
At the end of the year, she had to leave and rent a space at a new location. This new location had much younger partners that also had a strong number of followers for their crafts. They referred clients to my wife because it wasn't the type of work they did themselves, but now they shared a space together and referred to each other. My wife's first month at this new place was SLAMMED! She saw her own following grow profoundly. People following the other girls were referred to her, they liked her personality and work portfolio, so they started referencing her to their circles as well. Word of mouth spread and my wife's online following grew. It's very difficult to build up a following on your own, especially if you're in a new area without a lot of friends and family. No prior starting connections. This is why I think it's worth having these articles dig a little deeper to help people understand how they REALLY made it happen, so we all can have a better chance at making a better living.
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