The Business of Photography: Developing a Startup Plan

A passion for photography and a need to generate some extra income are a fabulous combination. However, there is much more to starting a photography business than simply the ability to take a good picture. As with any business venture, getting organized and putting together a plan for success are essential.

Here are some tips to starting your own photography business:

• Choose a name. Many photographers have garnered much attention using their own name for their business, such as John Doe Photography. Others choose something catchy like Picture Perfect Photography or Snap! Go to your state’s corporations division website and search fictitious names to make sure the name you select is not already being used by someone else. Once you settle on a business name, register it with the state corporations office so no one else can take it! A small fee is typically required.

• Obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN). Many photographers work alone, but you still need this federal tax ID number to do business. It will be requested by your bank, state and local regulators and possibly some customers such as schools. It costs nothing to obtain and can be requested online at the website.

• Register your business. Each state has it’s own set of rules when it comes to registering, but these can all be found with your state’s corporations division. Before visiting this agency’s website, take some time to research the different types of corporations and decide how you would like to structure your business.

Check out this article on “Different Types of Corporations: Advantages / Disadvantages of Corporations” to help you decide. Many photographers choose to file as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to protect personal assets from business debt. Once you decide, most states allow you to file online as a corporation. A filing fee is required and varies by state.

• Obtain a local business license. Some counties or cities may require a business license. Check with your city hall or county licensing office to find out if one is required.

• Open a business account. Take your corporation papers and EIN (tax ID number) with you to set up a business checking account at your local bank.

• Register with your sales tax authority. Unfortunately, even photography is subject to state sales taxes. Be sure to register your business with your state’s Department of Revenue and you will be supplied with all the tools you need to file your sales taxes either monthly or quarterly, depending on your state’s guidelines. Many states allow you to pay theses taxes online.

• Set up a filing system. Keep track of receipts for meals, car expenses, mileage, customer orders, donations, and printing costs. You will thank yourself at the end of the year when you need deductions for your business.

• Advertise. Get your photography business noticed by advertising. More on this in “The Business of Photography: Marketing Your Company.”

• Set Some Goals. Decide where you want your photography business to be in one year, five years, and even 10 years. Put a plan together with realistic goals. Read your plan at least once a week to stay focused on achieving your business goals!