During the first few years of my photography business, I gave away more sessions than I charged for. My net loss was far greater than my net profit for a LONG time. And I invested a lot on the front end with the hopes of setting my business up for success. Camera gear isn't cheep y'all! Some photographers who are just starting out have almost overnight success - or at least that's what it looks like from the outside looking in - but this is how I started and I truly think it helped me to build my portfolio. Saying "yes" gave me a wide range of experience.
I'm sorry... what??
Fast forward a few years and I was still calling this my side hustle/hobby. To be honest it was for a long time... but looking back I now realize that this thinking kept me small. And it kept me from making necessary changes that would grow my business and simultaneously better serve my clients. This all came to a screeching halt when I received a letter in the mail last summer from the Texas Comptroller. Holy.Crap.Y'all. I have only experienced stomach-dropping anxiety like that a handful of times in my life. And it scared me to death.
A few weeks later, I sat in the auditor's office weeping uncontrollably (like ugly cry with hiccups, tissues and all!!). "But ma'am, I pay taxes at the end of the year! I thought I was doing this correctly." She clarified my confusion by telling me that I was supposed to be paying STATE sales tax on all of my sessions. She also told me that I was being audited for the past 4 years. Four years worth of sessions. Four years worth of side hustle/hobby income that the state had a right to. 8.25% of to be exact. But I'll never forget what she said during that meeting. I will never forget it.
I've come to learn that God often grows me the most during seasons of hardship, or pain, or through my foolishness. The things the suck the most are often my best teachers.
I can now say that though this was one of the most challenging seasons of my life, I am better because of it! The audit forced me to sit down and take account of my BUSINESS and to treat it as such. I traded with a stay-at-home mom to help me get my books in order, I switched CPA's, I signed up for some online services that were previously "too expensive" but now worth every penny, and I decided to let this experience push me in a direction or growth instead of into ruin. Being a business owner is hard, but I am SO THANKFUL I am learning the Kingdom principles of stewardship now rather than later.