Like millions of students, Alexa Klorman faced a large student loan balance after graduating from a state college.
When Klorman graduated in 2010, she had a bachelor’s degree in psychology but over $30,000 in student loans. And while she was able to find a job right after school in advertising, the idea of repaying her student loans for ten years or more was overwhelming.
Rather than pay the minimum for ten years, Klorman decided to take action. She would accelerate the repayment period and launch a side gig to bring in additional income.
By turning her hobby and passion into a business, Klorman paid off student loans six years ahead of schedule.
Unlike many recent graduates, Klorman was determined to get her finances in a good place right away.
That’s why when Klorman started working after graduation in New York City, she lived at home for the first year to build her savings.
What’s more, she talked with her cousin, who acted as her financial advisor, about how to build her finances for a secure future.
“My cousin was the one who advised me to pay off student loan debt first before thinking of investments,” says Klorman. “He helped me do the calculations to show how much money I could save in interest by paying off the loans faster.”
Klorman was determined to pay off her debt quickly. However, she also knew there was only so much she could cut from her budget.
So rather than continue to cut corners, she decided to increase her income.
“I knew that if I cut out everything I enjoyed, like going out with friends or discovering new restaurants, I would become resentful and discouraged,” Klorman explains. “I knew I needed to grow my income instead.”
Launching a business
Klorman always loved photography.
Growing up, she took photos with her father, an avid photographer, and took pictures as a hobby for years. Skilled at capturing those unique special moments, friends and other contacts often asked her to take pictures at events.
Eventually, Klorman realized photography could be a real side business. She launched a website and did one free photoshoot to build her portfolio.
“It was the only free gig I ever did,” says Klorman. “I considered it an investment in myself to create my portfolio to get established.”
Primarily doing family portraits and newborn sessions, she built a strong reputation for herself. She began to get clients from social media, mom-network groups, and word-of-mouth.
She started small, with just one professional camera and one lens. As she got more clients and paying jobs, she gradually added to her equipment and invested in better materials. Then, over time, she added multiple lenses, flashes, and backdrops to her arsenal.
Her investments in herself and her equipment paid off. Her business continued to grow, allowing her to make serious income from her side gig.
Paying off student loans
As more money started coming in, Klorman set up automatic payments for her student loans to chip away at the balance.
Because of the extra income that she brought in from her side business, on top of her full-time job, she was able to make large payments quarterly to bring down the principal even more.
With the income from her business, Klorman was able to maintain her lifestyle. She could enjoy traveling and exploring NYC, without cutting her expenses to the bone.
Ultimately, launching a side business allowed Klorman to accelerate her payments without sacrificing the things she loved. And after just four years, she paid off her debt in full. Six years ahead of schedule.
“On a personal level, it was so exciting. My parents, my sister, my cousin–they were all so proud of me,” says Klorman. “For me, it’s a state of mind. Knowing I’m debt-free is an incredibly freeing feeling.”
With her student loans gone, Klorman has turned her photography business, Alexa Drew Photography, into the focal point of her career.
Klorman now works in advertising on a part-time basis, which allows her to spend more time with her clients in the studio. She’s done shoots throughout Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Klorman loves what she does, especially capturing special moments with families. She specializes in portrait and event photography, capturing candid moments and emotional exchanges.
And word-of-mouth continues to be her biggest source of clients. 90 percent of her clients are from referrals.
“I love doing portraits,” says Klorman. “The relationships I build with clients is wonderful. I approach each shoot with real enthusiasm, and it shows in the pictures.”
Additionally, Klorman continues to steadily build her savings to prepare for her financial future. The habits she developed paying off her student loans have helped her be disciplined and focused when it comes to her income.
“As I progress in life, I’m laying the foundation for a secure future,” says Klorman. “I’ve built life-long habits that will ensure I’m smart with my money.”
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