One of the best things about being a photographer is that you can be your own boss.
That means that you can choose (to an extent…) who you work for, when you work, where you work, and so forth.
Granted, in reality, there are times when you have no choice but to work nights or weekends, but generally speaking, being self-employed gives you a little more freedom than if you work for someone else.
Of course, being self-employed means that you’re responsible for everything, including setting up your business properly.
Here’s a few top tips for getting the legalities of setting up your photography business squared away.
Decide on the Type of Business
By type of business, I don’t mean a photography business…
Instead, you need to set up the business as a corporation, an LLC or a sole proprietorship.
If you’re seeking funding from investors, a corporation is probably the best choice, though that requires a ton of setup and tons of paperwork as well.
An LLC (limited liability company) offers tax benefits and a more flexible business structure. There’s also far less paperwork involved. Additionally, an LLC protects you from liabilities the business might have. A corporation does the same.
A sole proprietorship, on the other hand, is the easiest type of business to set up. In fact, you don’t have to file any sort of paperwork to do so. The drawback is that you’re open to being personally liable for any of the business’ debts. That can be a little scary!
Come Up With a Name
Choosing a name for your business is just as important as deciding the type of business structure.
The business name will be the face of the business and your primary means of marketing your work.
As a result, your business name needs to be unique and memorable while also telling potential clients what it is that you do.
Here’s a few do’s and don’ts for choosing a name:
- DO come up with something unique. It will minimize the chance that you infringe on an existing trademark.
- DO conduct a Google search to see if the name you want to use is already in use.
- DON’T use weird spellings. “Excellent Photography” should not be “Xcellent Photography.”
- DON’T forget to check that the domain name is available (more on that next).
If there’s any question about whether the name you wish to use is already in use elsewhere, you can likely search state files for registered business names. You can also check trademarked names online at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Get a Domain
As I noted above, it’s imperative that as you’re brainstorming names for your business that you also ensure that a matching domain name is available.
That can be tricky with .com or .net domains because they’ve been around for so long and there just aren’t many unique URLs left.
That’s why a .photo or .pics domain name is the way to go.
Since they’re new domains, the chances are slim that the name you want for your photography business is already taken.
Better still, since they have “photo” or “pics” in the URL, it immediately lets people know that you’re a photographer.
That means you have a built-in way of communicating who you are and what you do, but with a short and sweet URL that fits great on social media profiles.
It’s also a much more professional domain name for a photographer, don’t you think? I, for one, would be more impressed with catherinejones.photo than catherinejonesportraitphotography.net.
Besides, .photo and .pics live at Uniregistry, who makes it incredibly easy to set up and manage your domain, all without breaking the bank, too!
In other words, when choosing your domain, going with a .photo or .pics is a no-brainer.
Take Care of Finances
If you form a corporation or multi-member LLC, you’ll need to visit the Internal Revenue Service website to get a federal tax ID number.
If you opt to operate as a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC, you can either get a tax ID number or use your social security number if you wish.
The next step is to set up a business bank account so that your business and personal finances are separate. This not only gives you legal protections and tax advantages, but it also easier to track business income, conduct accounting, and looks much more professional when you pay business bills with a business account.
Get more details on opening a business bank account in the video above from the Law Office of Aiden H. Kramer, LLC.
Since you’ll be selling goods and services, you will need to be able to collect taxes from your clients as well as pay sales tax on transactions that you complete.
As a result, you’ll need to get in touch with local or state agencies to determine exactly what it is that you need to do, as requirements vary from one location to the next.
Something else you’ll need to consider is if you need a business license in order to operate or if you’re required to create a DBA (doing business as) name for your business.
Again, requirements for licensing and DBAs vary from one state to the next, so it’s prudent to check the requirements in your area. For a few more details on DBAs, check out the video above from Annette Stepanian.
There’s more steps involved in the process of building a photography business, but these tips will get you started off on the right foot.