Are you starting a business?
One of the most important aspects of starting any business is making sure you’re business is set up legit. Business licenses, permits, bookkeeping and everyones favorite…taxes! These small business tips are all important steps towards creating a legit business. Without proper planning before you begin your business, you’re putting your personal and business assets at risk. It seems scary, because it is! Once you’ve started charging people money, if you earn more than $400 in a year, you should be reporting your income and paying taxes on that income.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice or be used to make business or financial decisions. You are advised to consult a tax, financial or legal professional to address your specific needs.
Separate your finances
I would argue this is probably the most important part of starting any business. If you’ve been paying for your business expenses out of your personal bank account I literally want you to stop what you’re doing and head to your bank. You don’t need any special documents to open another bank account, so there is literally no excuse not to have things separated!
I made a separate bank account and got a debit card (not a credit card) for my business. This way, any transaction I had went through one account. If I needed to purchase something with my personal funds, then I would save my receipts and issue myself a reimbursement check with my business bank account, but don’t make a habit of this. It’s crucial to keep your assets separated.
Get a business license
In order to LEGALLY operate a business (at least in California) you need to have a business license. For photographers, if you are selling prints, albums or other physical products, you need to have a Sellers Permit. Depending on your business location and how you deliver your product/service, you may have different tax rates or rules to follow. Click the link to go to the CA website or just contact the business department of your city and ask them for help.
Hire an accountant
I honestly cannot believe I waited so long to hire an accountant! This has been, hands down, the best investment I have made for my business AND my personal life! I’ve always had a CPA prepare my taxes for me, but as far as bookkeeping and accounting, it’s been me keeping track of things with Quickbooks. And that’s definitely not my forte and not my favorite thing to do either.
Working with an accountant has allowed me to take full advantage of categorizing my business income and expenses. I can see with each type of photography I offer what the business is spending versus bringing in. This allows me to see where I can cut back, where I need to focus my marketing efforts, what the business is making, and the overall profitability of my business.
It’s also allowed me to ensure that I am paying quarterly taxes on time, budgeting appropriately and getting my CPA the right information so we can file our taxes accordingly.
Handle the Legal Stuff
I’ve met so many photogs who don’t use a contract. I’ve even had photogs hire me to second shoot with no agreement! To me, that’s crazy. It’s so important to get a handle on the legal aspects of your business from the beginning. If you’re in a service based business, you need have contracts with your clients.
A contract does not need to be this big, scary thing. It’s simply to outline what each party can expect from one another, and ensure that both you, and your client, have a mutual agreement. As a photographer, my contract includes things like package details, payment dates and details, delivery timelines, travel expenses, meals, cancellation policies, etc.
I also have contracts for second shooters, regular lifestyle sessions, boudoir clients, model release agreements, and print release agreements. You can google all you want and find tons of tips online, and I could talk to you about this until I am blue in the face. But until you have an actual attorney review your contract, you could still be leaving aspects of your business unprotected.
If you need to hire an attorney, I recommend Desiree Nguyen of Desiree Nguyen Legal.
So there’s a few little tips to get you started with setting up your business!
**Hey PHOTOGRAPHERS and other CREATIVE business owners, check out the tools I use to streamline my business here**
Let me know what you thought of these tips! And just remember, I’m not a business pro, and I’ve definitely made mistakes along the way. It’s not easy to build a legit business, but if you’re going to do it, do it right! I’m just a small business owner trying to help other small business owners. I welcome any feedback you have on how I can make this article more helpful for small business owners, or your thoughts on how the process was for you! I would really love to hear your story.
*Stock image cover courtesy of @KateMaxStock