Include your basic information as well as your client’s, including contact numbers, addresses, and the like.
State the time period allowed for delivering the final product.
Outline image rights for you and for your client.
Set ground rules regarding the presence of other photographers (amateur or professional).
Starting a business of any kind is a huge undertaking, one that will require a lot of time, patience, dedication, and forethought. There’s also tons of paperwork, from creating your business structure to developing your contracts to getting a business license.
In today’s article, we explore each of these three essential items to help you get on track to starting your own business.
Decide on a Business Structure
Sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, S corporation...these may all sound completely foreign to you. After all, you’re an artist, not a business person!
You’re as much a business person as you are a photographer, so sorting through the different structures that your business might take is a critical step in creating a successful business. The most common - and the easiest to set up - is the sole proprietorship. You are in it alone, with no one to share the profits (or losses) with. Conversely, an LLC has the tax benefits of a sole proprietorship but the limits on liability that a corporation enjoys.
Exploring all the structural options can be a bit overwhelming, with each having legal and tax implications of their own. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a handy guide to the most common business structures. Use that as a starting point to get your new business off the ground.
Develop Your Contract
Contracts are a necessary part of business for a wide variety of reasons. At the most basic level, they protect you should something go awry like a camera malfunction or a sudden illness that prevents you from carrying out your duties, with a failure to comply clause. Essentially, this part of the contract absolves you of liability by stating that if something prevents you from fulfilling your duties, you will refund any money you’ve received. Contracts also outline the hours you will work, the products and services rendered, as well as when payments are due and in what amount.
In addition, a solid contract will:
This is just a short list of essentials for your contract, and should not be taken as gospel in terms of being the only things that a good contract needs. To get started off on the right foot creating your contracts, consult a reputable photography organization, such as Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, or the American Photography Association to see what resources they have for creating solid photography contracts.
Get a Business License & Permits
The licensing and permits you need to operate your business will vary from country to country, state to state, and perhaps even from city to city. In some cases, you may not even need a license to operate your business; in others, you might need a license in addition to a host of permits that take care of issues like having employees, zoning for the building out of which you operate, fire safety for your occupancy, and the like.
Licenses and permits vary in cost as well. Typically, larger cities require a larger payment to have this kind of paperwork processed, so if you live in an urban area, be ready to write a heftier check. In some cases, however, fees for permits might be negligible, or they might not even be required. To find out what the licensure and permit situation is in your area, consult with city hall, the county clerk, or other local officials to nail down exactly what is required of you. The last thing you want to do is start out your business illegally!
The paperwork outlined here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the things you need to accomplish just to start your photography business. You’ll need insurance and tax permits, employee expectations and detailed accounting software, and a whole lot more. Remember that doing your due diligence and having all the necessary paperwork completed and in rock-solid form will take a bit of time (and perhaps some money as well), but that strong foundation will be what helps you create a successful business. Whatever you do, it is strongly encouraged that you consult with an attorney to ensure that your business structure, contracts, and licenses and permits are in order.