“I solely work four hours a day now”
In 2008 I started photography in my dorm room. My goal was to become a professional photographer. It wasn’t easy, especially at the height of the recession, but I’m glad I never gave up.
Today, at 35, I’m a self-made millionaire running a wedding photography and education business, Katelyn James Photography. With my husband Michael, who joined us as Chief Financial Officer in 2013, we have helped more than 100,000 people learn about photography.
In 2022, we made $240,000 a month in revenue — I put 80% of that back into the business. Approximately $230,000 of our monthly revenue was passive income from online courses and training materials.
I now only work four hours a day and shoot about four weddings a year.
From $750 to $160,000 in one day
For the first year of my part-time job, I was a full-time college student, but I still worked 40 or more hours a week.
My prices started out low: $750 for six hours of photography and editing. As my skills improved, I started asking for more. And in 2013 I earned six figures.
I was fortunate to have an amazing mentor, Jasmine Star, who photographed my own wedding. I have also taken some online courses, attended workshops and taken on projects for free to build my portfolio.
But there weren’t many affordable photography courses, so I started sharing tips on my blog. About eight years later, I realized that online photography education could be a scalable business.
Through word of mouth and a consistent social media presence, I built an email list of 7,600 photographers who wanted to learn from me. Meanwhile, with the help of a videographer friend, I developed designs, designed a workbook using Adobe InDesign, and recorded and edited course content.
The majority of Katelyn’s income comes from photography classes and training materials.
Photo: Abby Grace Branding
In November 2015, Michael and I launched our first online training program to teach photographers how to edit and streamline their workflows. The course cost $397, a price far more affordable than a semester of college photography classes.
Our goal was total sales of $15,000. But on day one we made over $160,000 because of the trust we have built with our customers over time.
Bridging the Knowledge Gap in Photography
The success of my first course showed me that there is more value in making photography education accessible than just photographing weddings and constantly increasing prices.
We’ve created over a dozen downloadable courses, ebooks, and templates for various photography skills. Inspired by questions asked by our online community of over 70,000 people, our resources cover topics like posing couples and natural light photography.
We also have a membership product, KJ All Access. For $29 a month, photographers of all skill levels can follow me as I shoot events and deal with all sorts of unpredictable situations — like mud-covered wedding dresses or weather delays.
New videos are shot by my videographer, edited by me and released every month. Members also have access to a library of past videos.
Our goal is to change people’s lives
I love my job. Having complete control over our schedule has allowed my husband and I to spend more time with our three children and to pursue projects we look forward to.
This year we co-founded a school geared towards entrepreneurial families called Acton Academy West End. We focus on equipping children ages five to eight with the tools to explore their unique passions through hands-on activities.
Whether we create tools that teach photographers how to build a career that supports their families, capture wedding moments, record podcasts, or just share the ups and downs of our everyday lives on social media, we want our lives and our business to be do change lives.
Katelyn Alsop is a business coach and founder of Katelyn James Photography. Over 100,000 students around the world have used their platforms to learn about photography and entrepreneurship. She is also co-founder of Acton Academy West End. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
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