Setting Up Your Photography Business In The Right Way

This post is Day 8 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

It’s a big step to go from “job” to “entrepreneur”.

When you have a job, everything is built into the structure of the work environment. They pay you on a regular basis; they take out money for your taxes, insurance, retirement; and you can count on having weekends, holidays, sick time and vacation days. Not so with a photography business.

If you rely 100 percent on your photography for your income, you are in charge of everything. Creating enough sales to provide your salary. You have to take out the taxes and forward them to the appropriate agency, find the best insurance policy, workman’s comp issues if you have employees, and set up your own retirement account. Sick time? If you have a wedding scheduled, you’ll be there no matter what you feel like. Vacation time? Chances are you’ll be checking email and communicating with clients no matter where you are.

Are you reconsidering?

Okay, that was the bad news. The good news is there’s nothing else like owning your own business. When I have a friend call up and want to do lunch, I can drop everything and head out for three hours without thinking twice. I can go on my daughter’s field trips, take my mother to her doctor’s appointments, and even schedule a massage in the middle of the day. Oh yes, and I can meet with clients and do my client work on my time – whether its at 6 in the morning, or 10 at night. I fit it all in, and can’t imagine life any other way.

But when it is your full time income, there are things you have to think about. If you set it up the right way, it will work no matter what. And you’ll be covered and won’t have to think about how it’s working – it just works.

Select A Business Structure

While there is no right way to structure a business, there are advantages to setting up a business in certain ways. Choosing the best structure for you depends on a variety of things: your specific needs, what type of business you have, how large you choose to grow, and what location you are in.  I can’t and don’t offer legal or accounting advice here – I simply talk from my own experience of starting and operating three separate businesses over the years.

Here in the US, you have access to four different business structures: sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or limited liability companies.

Sole proprietor is the easiest to form, yet has the least protection. With just a few simple forms to your local government you’ll be up and running a business in days. Yet you are at considerable more risk – your personal assets are vulnerable to creditors and lawsuits – and won’t receive certain tax advantages. Partnerships are similar in nature; the main difference is two or more persons set up a company.

Corporations are becoming the standard practice, even for the smallest of businesses. Incorporating shields you and the other originators of the company from personal liability – if a lawsuit is filed, they can only come after assets within the company, not your personal belongings. Add in the tax advantages and business flexibility, and you’ll quickly see why this can be your best path. One thing to keep in mind – you will have additional fees and paperwork to maintain your corporate status. To me, the advantages far out way the disadvantages – but its something you need to research on your own.

Learn More About It – Incorporate Your Business: A Legal Guide to Forming a Corporation in Your State

And if you are a new entrepreneur, an LLC or Limited Liability Company may be the way to go. It requires less paperwork than a corporation, yet still offers you the tax and protection benefits.

LLC or Corporation: How to Choose the Right Form for Your Business

Finding Great Resources

One of the first things you’ll discover is its harder finding the protection you need that came with your “job”. It’s up to you to find health insurance, and to cover yourself in case of long term disability. You have to file payroll taxes, and fill out extra forms for filing yearly taxes. There’s a little more work to the entire process.

But because this is a common occurrence – you’ll quickly find a whole network of people that are following this same path – resources will begin popping out all around you.

Don’t stick to your home office, and go it alone. Jump out and start networking within your community. Groups and opportunities are everywhere.

Start with your local Chamber. They have amazing resources, and you can usually work with an account rep that will guide your through the process. At my local Chamber, they have monthly networking, a year long program for startup businesses, leads groups, committees on just about everything, and even business growth groups. For example my Chamber has a BOSS group – a group that puts a group of business owners from non-competing industries together. They meet once per month at one of the members’ office, and that person conducts the meeting. It’s centered on their problems or issues, and they get undivided attention from the other members.

You can also work with international referral groups, such as BNI, or Business Network International. We’ve been a part of this group for close to six years now, and the results are amazing. It’s a group of non-competing business owners that network together on a weekly basis, and help bring in business to the other members. Through the referrals we’ve received through this group, our membership has probably been paid for the next 50 years. In addition to gaining business, you also gain access to knowledge. Because you’ll be dealing with sales people and business owners, you’ll quickly pick up on the key things you need to do to grow your own business.

Like minds think alike. And its definitely true that working together can help you in more ways than one.

Build Your Team

Even if you are in business by yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to approach business by yourself. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “1 + 1 = 11”, you’ll quickly see how true that equation is. By yourself you have only so much knowledge. But when you talk regularly with just one more personal, your resources quickly multiply.

Things may be tight in the beginning, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chat with others. By joining groups, you can learn many things from the members “for free” by networking. Talk with people on how to use their services on a limited basis. If you can’t afford an accountant for everything, talk about a basic package. Maybe you can do your own data entry, and they simply keep you on track for your taxes. With the savings and the things you’ll learn, plus the time saved allowing you to do what you love, you’ll quickly profit from this relationship.

Nothing feels better than having a friend to call on. If someone asks me a question and needs a lawyer, I have a friend I can refer. I someone needs a plumber, an electrician, or an accountant, I have a friend I can refer. And if for some reason I can’t think of someone, I can quickly find a friend that has a great referral.

That’s what it means to be connected within the business world. And as a business owner, your job is now to be connected. Get out there and participate. Take action. The more you connect, the more you’ll gain. Guaranteed.

2 thoughts on “Setting Up Your Photography Business In The Right Way”

  1. We’ve been a part of a local BNI here too. It’s been one of the marketing avenues that has done a good job actually getting additional bookings. After years of being in BNI though (actually it’s my wife who’s the active member), I think I’ve come to see that the power to land great jobs from BNI lies in the quality of the chapter members.

    To me, it seems like building up a dream team of referrers would end up being a better fit in place of BNI. Of course, that takes a long time to develop, so BNI is a good starting point I think.

    Have you been impressed with BNI so far?

    • TJ

      We’ve been a part of BNI for over 6 years now and still get referrals continuously. Not only do you gain from knowing the members, but the guests that rotate through as well. Another great source has been substituting at other BNI’s that don’t have your specialty. If you work with other chapters again and again, you’ll quickly find sources that way as well. Like any type of networking, you get what you put into it.


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