Sabrina Hounshell's Story
Sabrina Hounshell, 25, owns her own photography business in Lexington, Ky. Her parents always encouraged their daughters to pursue their interests, which led artistic Sabrina to photography, but they also preached practicality, ambition and self-sufficiency. Those values serve Sabrina well as she navigates being a small business owner while leaving enough time and money for her other passion: travel.
OYO: How did you feel about money growing up?
Sabrina H: My family wasn’t rich by any means, but I never worried about money. My parents told me I could do anything I liked if I could afford it. When I was 15, I wanted to visit my best friend in Minnesota, so I got a job at a restaurant so I could buy a plane ticket. That really sparked the way the past 10 years of my life have been. I’ve always traveled a lot and worked for my own travel.
OYO: Did those experiences affect your spending habits as a teenager?
SH: Absolutely. I learned to place a greater value on experiences versus things.
OYO: When did you feel financially on your own?
SH: In January 2013, when I went full time with my business. I had a full-time job after college to have stable money coming in. That was good, but incredibly stressful. I’d work all day and then come home and work on my photography for another eight or nine hours. When I’d booked enough weddings for that year, I took the leap into full-time photography. I felt good about it, like I could do it.
OYO: What’s the worst money experience you’ve ever had?
SH: I spent a lot of money renovating and buying things for my studio. But I mainly shoot weddings and portraits with natural light, and I travel quite a bit, so I realized I was throwing money down a black hole because I wasn’t utilizing the space.
OYO: How did you learn about tax implications and how to pay yourself versus investing in the business?
SH: Setting up a business was overwhelming in the beginning, so I hired an accountant. There is no guide book on how to get a small business up and running legally. Those procedures even vary from state to state, so having an accountant assured me that my taxes would be taken care of properly. When it comes to investing in my business, I have always told myself that if the business needs something – like an equipment update, software, etc. – that I will not cut corners. I always invest in the business first and pay myself a base rate every month. If I have a really busy period and have extra money, then I reward myself with an extra paycheck or reinvest in the business. It's a balance that is getting easier and more stable now that my business is in its full third year.
OYO: Do you keep your living and business expenses separate? And do you keep a budget?
SH: Yes. I keep everything separate. I have bank accounts and credit cards that are specifically for business and others that are specifically for personal use. That way I know exactly where my finances stand for each. I pay myself a stable amount every month for a paycheck to cover monthly expenses and also allocate a small amount from every paycheck into savings. For my business, I invest in new equipment or gear as needed and budget the next month’s paycheck based on those business needs first.
OYO: What’s your personal philosophy about money and success?
SH: I have learned that success is going to look different for everyone and that money doesn't necessarily mean happiness. I am so thankful to be a small business owner with control and flexibility over my work schedule and how I define success. My definition of success at this moment is that I can travel a few months a year and live a simple happy life on a daily basis because my basic needs and bills are covered without worry.