1. Register for an EIN Number
What is an EIN? The Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or the Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to business entities operating in the United States for the purposes of identification.
If you are running a sole proprietor type business, you can use your SSN as your EIN, but in my opinion it is better to separate YOU from your business entity as soon as possible to avoid further confusion down the road. Applying for an EIN is not difficult and you will need to reference this number throughout your business life cycle, so save yourself some headaches and go ahead and apply for one.
You can apply easily online HERE.
2. Register with your State/City
Registering your business with your city/state or both is going to look different for every single city/state. Some states don’t require you to register with the city, just the state, and some it’s vice versa. The requirements differ all over the country. If you do some simple google searches like, “how do I register my business in ______”, or “starting a business in _____”, you should find plenty of good web-sites that will explain the exact process for where you live. Either way, it is VERY important that you complete this step once you have decided to run your own business.
Treating yourself like a business owner and taking the appropriate steps leads to further con dence in yourself and perpetuates others taking you seriously as well.
3. Get Setup to Pay Sales Taxes Appropriately
One of the biggest confusions I see out there amongst brand new business owners...they are confusing having to pay sales tax back to their city/state with paying income taxes to the federal government. these are two separate things, so be aware of the difference when others talk about “paying taxes.”
In some cities and states you are required to charge sales tax on your various products, services etc...AGAIN, these differ from city to city and state to state so you will need to research your local area to figure out how it works where you live.
However, if you live in a place where you are required to charge sales tax on what you o er, then you will need to remit that sales tax that you collected BACK to the government in your location. There is usually a standard process that you follow and normally you have to remit the tax back to the government quarterly. Again, this process is different across the country so do some research to find out how it works in your local area.
**Tip. Reach out to an established small business owner in your area and ask if they can give you some guidance on how it works, and/or call your city or state government and ask if they can explain the process to you.
4. Open a Business Checking Account
I can NOT stress enough how important this is. Separating all of your business expenses from your personal makes everything about
a MILLION times easier when it comes time for taxes! Even if you don’t think you are “big enough” or “official enough” to have a business banking account, trust me, there is no line you have to cross in order to do this. All you need is an EIN and then the minimum amount to open the account...that’s all it takes to be “big or official” enough.
I really can’t stress this enough....trying to gure out business expenses/income when they are mixed all in with your personal stuff is HEADACHE CITY. When it’s all separated, your life will become 10000x easier in this department. If you only do ONE thing from this list...do this one, I promise.
Get your booty to the bank and open up that business account. You will NOT regret it!
5. Get Insurance
This is definitely something a lot of new business owners put off because they feel like they can’t afford it when they are starting out. Not when shiny new lenses are calling their name, right? ;-)
Seriously though, not having insurance for your gear and general liability for your overall business can end up costing you so, so, SO much more in the long run. It is such a smart move to invest in as early on in your business as possible. Simply having the peace of mind as well is so beneficial to you as a business owner. And it’s not nearly as complicated or horribly expensive as you think it might be.
Especially if you use a company that specializes in covering photographers and videographers. I highly recommend Hill & Usher Package Choice. They will cover your gear even if you drop it (a lot of carriers won’t) and their customer service and rates are really great. Just do it. Quickly.
6. Understand Exposure
Being able to understand correct exposure along with the ability to use and understand your manual settings on your camera is pretty important when you start taking peoples money.
Photography is much more than just “having an eye” and getting a “fancy, grown up camera”. When you put a business hat on and start charging people money, you should have a basic understanding of how your camera works, how to take a properly exposed photo, and how the changes in the settings will give you different results.
With most things in photography, your knowledge of this will grow and grow and grow, but once you represent yourself as a business it is important to understand the basics about what you do.
Read: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
Some would argue that you don’t NEED a website to run a photography business and I guess in some ways that’s true, but this business is VISUAL. You need a way to show people easily what you do and the type of work you produce. And I’m going to be bold and say it, a facebook page just isn’t enough.
The internet is ingrained in our daily lives and having a professional website should be a given for any business owner. Having a professional looking space on the internet will only serve to support your confidence as a business owner and communicate that to potential clients as well.
If you want people to take you seriously, you need a website. It’s not rocket science to get one set up, you can go from zero to website on Squarespace in under a day so you really have no excuse. Just get it done.
This is non-negotiable. I know a lot of photographers brand new to business forgo the contract or think contracts are only for weddings. This could not be further from the truth. You need a place to spell out the basics: what your client can expect from you and how they can expect it to be done. It doesn’t have to be intimidating and full of legal mumbo jumbo it needs to set expectations. SO many issues can be avoided by taking this one simple step. It’s better for your client and it’s better for you!
9. Business Plan
Drafting up a simple business plan doesn’t have to be complicated when you are first starting out on the business side of things. Write out what you want to accomplish ( nancially, technically etc...) and then write out how you plan on accomplishing that. Start simple in order to not get overwhelmed. The plan can grow with your business!
10. Image Delivery
Once you have determined your business plan or model, you will need to determine how you will be delivering images to your client. Will you be simply handing over the digital files? If so, how will you do that? Will you be selling physical products? If so, what will you sell and for how much? I currently provide digital images through Shootproof for mine and I also sell physical products.
Most new photographers don’t want to deal with the “fuss and complication” of selling physical products or providing more of a service to their clients...they are more focused on dealing with the session and editing and then they just want to give the images and receive tons of compliments. At first, this will likely happen because people you are likely serving know you, but haven’t known you to be a photographer so this new skill you have will be fascinating to many.
However, in time, you’ll start serving people who simply expect you to provide a service. You will hand over images and get no feedback. You won’t hear back from clients after they get their link. Or if they have to choose images from the link, it will take weeks and weeks and you will find yourself following up with them again and again. Your process for image delivery will likely change over time and that is OK. You aren’t married to any one idea forever, that is the beauty of running your own business!