- The Challenges of Real Estate Photography
- What You Need to Do Before Taking a Single Real Estate Photo
- General liability insurance, which covers damages caused by you to your client, their property, or a third party.
- Professional liability insurance, which covers you in the event of errors or omissions. For example, if your memory card fails and you lose all the photos you took of a client’s property, professional liability insurance would protect you against claims for that error.
- Equipment insurance, which, depending on the policy, will ensure you can quickly replace or repair gear in the event of a fire, flood, accidental damage, and so forth.
- Real Estate Photography Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
- How to Get Started in Real Estate Photography
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In an earlier article in this series, I discussed some of the higher-level tasks that need to be accomplished when building a real estate photography business.
That discussion included an examination of what needs to be done to create a solid business plan as well as an exploration of different types of business structures for your photography business.
This time, we zero in on some smaller, yet equally important tasks you must undertake when starting a real estate photography business: getting permits and licenses, establishing business finances, and getting insurance.
First Things First: Get Required Permits for Real Estate Photography
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This is a bit of a tricky subject for real estate photographers because the requirements for permits and licenses vary from one city to the next (and from one county, state, province, etc.).
The purpose of having a business permit is twofold: first, to ensure that you’re collecting sales tax and passing those funds to the government, and second, as part of the process of forming an LLC or corporation.
A business license, on the other hand, is often required by the city in which you work as a means of identifying your business (and keeping you accountable for the manner in which you operate). It’s important to note that if you work in multiple cities, you might be required to have a business permit in each city in which you work.
photo by AleksandarNakic via iStock
Fortunately, photographers in the United States are not required to have a federal professional license, as photography is not regulated by the federal government. And, in some states, having a professional photography license is not required, either.
Remember that a business license is different from a professional license. A professional license is required for some lines of work (i.e., psychologists) to ensure professional conduct and to demonstrate that workers have met the criteria established by the government to provide competent services.
If your business is in the United States, before you can proceed with obtaining a business permit or license, you’ll need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
An EIN is used by the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes. More specifically, an EIN identifies taxpayers that are required to pay certain types of business taxes. Whether you form a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC, or a corporation, you need an EIN.
The process of how to get an EIN is simple: just go to the IRS website, ensure you meet all the requirements, and apply.
A DBA allows you to operate your business under a name that is different from its legal name. For example, if your name is Tim Smith but you want to operate your business under the name Northern Lights Photography, you’ll need a DBA.
The process of getting a DBA varies from one state to the next. In some cases, you might only need to pay a small fee. In other cases, you might need to make legal notices informing the public that you are operating under the DBA. Check with your local government to determine what you need to do to get a DBA.
Additional resources on starting your business can be found at the Small Business Administration website.
How to Start a Real Estate Photography Business: Separate Your Finances
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Once you have all the necessary permits, licenses, and an EIN, it’s time to set up a business bank account.
This is a critically important step, even if you’re operating as a sole proprietor (which makes no legal distinction between you and your business). Keeping your personal finances separate from your business finances is just good practice.
Not only does keeping business and personal finances separate make bookkeeping a much easier task, but it also helps you keep your books in good shape should the IRS come looking. There are other benefits as well, as noted in the video above by 180 Law Co. LLC.
What’s more, if you form an LLC or a corporation, having a separate business bank account is required to get the protections of the limited liability that these types of business structures offer.
All you need to do to start a business bank account is have your DBA information (if you’re a sole proprietor) or your LLC or incorporation documents along with your EIN if you chose to structure your business as an LLC or corporation.
Learn about the specifics of opening a business bank account.
Protect Your Investment With Photography Insurance
photo by Pattanaphong Khuankaew via iStock
Running a real estate photography business without having insurance is asking for trouble.
Though we all hope that we never need our insurance policies to cover us, it’s better to have them and not need them than to go without and find yourself in a major bind.
When looking for photography insurance, bear in mind that you need different kinds of coverages, including, but not limited to:
More details about types of photography insurance and the benefits of these types of coverages is available from the Professional Photographers of America.
photo by AnaDiana via iStock
When you’re just starting out as a real estate photographer, it might seem like an unnecessary expense to pay for insurance, let alone various types of policies.
But, again, you never know when accidents will occur, and being protected with insurance means you can overcome those obstacles and get back to work more quickly. It’s just smart business to be insured!