Hi there, I'm Manali! A wedding & portrait photographer serving DC, VA & Worldwide. Click through for all my favorites from recent sessions, adventures and travels, as well as tips & tricks for clients! Grab a cup of coffee, relax, and feel free to connect with me elsewhere as well! Cheers to you!
Manali Photography is a wedding & couples' photography business based out of Washington D.C. and Charlottesville, VA. When she's not making couples laugh or editing for the fastest turnaround time you ever did see, you might find her with family & friends at a vineyard with cheese & rosé to share! Cheers!!
As I kept second shooting more weddings, no matter how exhausting or difficult the day was, I still had a love and passion for it! So about a year and half ago after graduating from UVA, even though I had the kind of job that I should have been really proud of after graduating with a C.S. degree, I was, to put it mildly, really freaking out about my future. I knew in my gut that I wanted to eventually become a full time wedding photographer but didn’t have the momentum or the gear to go right into it after college. I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like balancing building the business with a full time job. Also, yes I was freaking out about this BEFORE I even had a real business but I really KNEW this was exactly what I wanted to do. So with that in mind, I set a reminder on my phone to wake up every morning to that simply said “I will go full-time with photography within 1-2 years.” This is probably one of the smallest changes I made for myself, but the one with the biggest impact. This became my motto, the strongest goal I’ve ever set, and although it was something that I initially doubted I could make happen, after waking up to every single day for a couple of months, became something that I truly believed was possible!
Initially what I viewed as a setback in my “life plan” starting work later than most other graduates, turned into one of the biggest blessings for my business. My start date with the company was set to November which is really, really late when you graduate in May. However, this was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. This gave me a solid set of time to set up systems in place, revamp my website & marketing materials, update my portfolio, and start showcasing the fact that photography was something that I was still really serious about! Despite not having a “real full time job,” I spent 40-50 hours each week on photography as if it was my full time job and I think this helped me start to really take it seriously and go full steam ahead with it. I started to pour the money I was making from photography back into building up my set of gear and investing in photography education to take the business and marketing aspect of it to the next level. For every dollar that I started reinvesting in the business itself, I started to see more growth out of it.
Even as I started with Accenture in November, time outside of work was either dedicated to dance or pushing photography forward. This is when I really started getting my ducks in a row. I started budgeting, figuring out what I needed to make on a monthly basis to live in Ballston in my apartment to approximate how much money I would need to make each year. From my first paycheck, I started saving half of each one towards that yearly amount so I could have a years worth of living expenses as a safety net before I made the switch to full time photography. That way, in my first year being full time, even if I didn’t make a dime, I would be covered. This meant that if my money wasn’t going towards coffee or food, I was most likely transferring it to savings. Did this lead to some FOMO as people were traveling all over the world, buying nice work clothes, new tech? Of course, but this meant more to me than anything else I could buy with it. There were two exceptions to this:
Coffee to get me through 12+ hour work days with the full time job and then photography work after coming home was an exception haha!
Purchasing my car. Thankfully, we got a REALLY good deal on it (perks of driving stick!) and I’m very grateful that my dad paid for half (I joke that he gets the passenger side of the car). Although the car set me back several months of saving, it was better than having to pay reoccurring payments with interest and definitely very useful for traveling to shoots and weddings. So all in alll, I’d say it was an investment worth making.
I waited until January 2018 to start the business legally, because taxes, but after that it only motivated me to take the business even more seriously. I got insurance, a solid contract, started using a client management system called Honeybook, systematically tracking my expenses and income through Quickbooks, invested in the Creative at Heart workshop and other equipment/gear that I needed. I got too legit to quit. Were there days that I wondered if all the work was worth it? Of course! And then I would realize not only how much time I had put into it over the years, but also at that point, the amount of money. Building and running a photography business is not exactly the cheapest but most definitely WORTH it!!
Well that’s all for part two so far! I’ll be back for the last post of the series next week 🙂
Here’s the whole rest of the series to binge read!