The day comes when you realize that your little photography hobby is quickly growing bigger. You end up spending a lot more money, time and effort in your hobby and find yourself faced with that serious decision: Should I commit to my hobby by starting a photography business?
When you decide to go with photography as a business, you are now opening yourself up to a lot more responsibility. Whereas before, as a hobbyist photographer, you would only focus on your craft and the technical intricacies of photography, now you are faced with running a business as well. It is a rare instance when you will strike a good balance between being a photographer and a business-man from the word-go. Being one will not necessarily make you good at being the other. You will have to consider a lot more aspects of the business as a whole in order to turn it into a successful one. Some of these aspects are legal, finance, marketing and management related. Paying attention to all of these and taking great photographs is a sure recipe for success.
‘Excuse me sir, do you have a license for that camera?’
Most people wonder whether a license is required to become a professional photographer. The simple answer is no. You do not need a license to operate a photography business. As long as there is someone willing to pay for your photographs, no-one will stop you doing what you do. One thing you do need to keep in mind is the fact that when you are running your business and start incurring expenses, you may prefer to declare such expenses as a tax deduction on your income. These legislative requirements differ in various countries – be sure to check yours.
It will be at this point that the IRS will want to know whether your photography endeavor is a hobby or a full fledged business which generates income. In situations like this, there is no hard and fast rule for them to ascertain if you’re running a professional service or if you’re simply engaging in a hobby. They will, however, go through your records to determine if there are any specific patterns in your finances which give an indication of your work. Consider an example where you have entered a deduction for travel to Thailand. If you have specified this as an expense incurred as part of your business, then the IRS will want to know if any money you have coming in is a result of your trip to Thailand and the photographs you sell. If it doesn’t check out, then you will have some explaining to do.
Photography Inc. – How Do I Form A Company?
These days, there are a number of different ways you can start up a company. Incorporation has evolved to a point where you will most likely find that there is a type of company for your specific business. You could even incorporate under a Sole Proprietorship and do business like that. One other, more simple, option would be to incorporate as an S Company. This sort of company greatly simplifies the work required to file your tax returns and all the paperwork that goes with it. In this type of company, you do not need to have extra or separate paperwork for filing your tax returns. All you would need to do is to include any profits or losses of your business in your individual, personal tax return. For instance: Assume that your income is about $150k and your photography business has generated you a profit of $15k. You will have to combine your income, in this case, and specify a total income of $165k. Then you will be taxed on this consolidated income. If, however, instead of making a profit, you had incurred a loss of $15k, then you would deduct the loss from your income and be only taxed on $135k. This would be one of the most ideal ways to incorporate when you are just starting out.
What if I want to start my photography business at home?
One of the primary requirements of starting your business at home would be space. You will end up saving a lot on renting another place, but at the same time, you need to ensure that you have the requisite space to conduct your business at home. If you consider photography, you will need to have space for storing equipment and chemicals. If you are working with both digital and traditional photography, then you need to have a dark room. You will need to have an office space to work in and perhaps an area where your customers can wait. One point to remember is that if you use your house to double as your work area, you may not be able to consider it as a tax deduction. This is because the law stipulates that your place of work must be used solely for business purposes.
Getting the word out – How to market your Photography Business
When you start out your business, an important aspect you will want to focus on is the marketing. You need to tell as many people about your business as possible. You need to be able to tell people what you do and what services you offer. In a photography business, one of the first things you will need to do is build up a portfolio of the type of pictures you take. As an example, if you are only in the business of wedding photography, your portfolio will need to reflect that. Then what you can do is identify the market to which you want to sell. In wedding photography, you can partner up with people offering more services for weddings: stores which have gift registries, caterers, jewelers. You can approach them and ask if you could leave your brochure and portfolio with them so that they may recommend you to couples planning their wedding. Your brochure needs to be well worded, proofread and be very presentable. It is vital that you strive to make an impact with your brochure as this will be the entire basis for which you will sell your photographs. All marketing material should be proofread and checked by someone other than you for spelling or grammar mistakes.
The preceding are just a few tips for you to consider when starting up your photography business. Obviously you should expect some initial teething problems, but these tips will generally provide you with a road map to start off with. Once you get your first few jobs, provided you do great work in a professional manner, your reputation will spread quickly and you can expect to get a regular stream of customers.
If you are keen to start a successful and profitable photography business then you need to do it right the first time. Most people don’t and most often their business collapses. That’s a shame because most people want to be successful but won’t invest in knowledge and experience. They try to ‘go it alone’ to save a few coins. The differences between success & failure are based on 3 things; knowledge, experience and action. If you are sure you’ll take action then you just require the other two elements. Learn to start a profitable photography business. If you didn’t notice, those two links were shameless plugs to my ebook. Here however, are yet more free tips on shoot preparation in this video below contributed from my mate Scotty…