Are you a budding photographer ready to launch your own business? It can be a bit daunting to know where to start; from taxes to contracts, there are a few legal steps you can take to make your photography business official. Whether you have a website, physical location, or both, it’s important to protect yourself and your business with the right legal strategies. This article will walk you through the seven basic steps you need to make your photography business legal and ensure your success (and protection). From choosing a business structure to understanding the relevant taxes and fees, this article will provide straightforward advice and resources that will help you navigate the legal requirements of launching a photography business. As you take each step, you’ll be one step closer to making your dreams of running your own business a reality.
Here are seven tasks you’ll need to complete in order to make your business legal:
1. Choose Your Photography Business Name
I always suggest using your own name, whether it’s your first and last name, or first and middle name. You are your business and brand. Before you finalize everything, you’ll need to check for trademarks in your area.
2. File for your LLC
As a business, you need to keep your finances separate and this is the first step. If a client ever decided to sue you, he/she could go after your personal assets in addition to your business assets if you don’t have an LLC set up. An LLC can be tricky to set up if you don’t know what you’re doing. I suggest finding someone to help you out. It will be well worth the cost for saving time and frustration.
3. Obtain your EIN
This is also known as your tax ID number. You’ll need this in order to open a business checking out. Please know this is FREE and you do not need to pay to obtain your EIN.
4. Open your business bank account
Avoid business credit cards and go for a checking account. Did you know that even Dave Ramsey does not use credit cards for his business? It’s totally possible to run a biz without building credit card debt. There are a lot of options out there. I like US Bank’s Silver Business Checking Package. There are no fees and a low minimum balance required.
5. Become a licensed photography business with your state
Sales tax…some states list photography as a service business and others consider it retail. Research the qualifications in your state, county, and city. I suggest finding a CPA to help with this step.
6. Use legal contracts
I recommend contracts from The Legal Paige. They provide lawyer-drafted contract templates for creative business owners. This may seem like a big investment in the beginning; but it could end up helping you save thousands down the road if a legal issue comes up. Having a contract will protect both you and your client and outlines to terms of the services you provide.
7. Secure photography equipment and liability insurance
Avoid bundling with your home or auto insurance, you need separate business insurance. I’m a fan of Hill & Usher’s Package Choice for photographers. Why do you need business insurance? I share a few stories in this post.
Yes, it takes a bit of time, energy, and money to set up your business legally. But trust me when I say it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Bonus tip no. 1: Don’t use Venmo, Zelle, Cash app, or even Paypal to accept payment for services. It’s too easy for your clients to dispute the charges and many of those services are for personal use only. The only credit card processors I recommend are Square and Stripe.
Bonus tip no. 2: Don’t spend a ton of money on equipment at the start of your business. All too often I see young photographers spend thousands upon thousands on cameras and lenses and have no money left over for anything else. You can absolutely run a photography business without using the most expensive gear. I did it for two years! Check out the gear I recommend for beginning photographers here. Start with the basics and slowly upgrade your equipment when you’ve saved up the cash from your paying clients.