Today we want to share 4 things that we have learned, sometimes the hard way, over the years of building our business. These are some things that we wish we had taken care of from the very beginning, and if you are just starting your business, or even if you are a year or two in and are having trouble keeping the business side organized, hopefully this will help you get off to a solid start. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a good place to begin.
1. Find a Bookkeeper/Accountant
In the beginning, we used a free version of Quickbooks to keep our own books, and we also did our own taxes. Crazy, I know! That was alright for when we first started, but it quickly became a burden as we became more busy. It would have been SO helpful to have started off with a bookkeeper/accountant so that we had all of the pieces in place to allow us to focus on growing our business instead of getting bogged down in receipts and 1099s. We strongly believe that you should do the things that you are most skilled at, the things that will grow your business, and outsource the rest. If you are looking for an accountant, we couldn’t recommend a better person for the job than Eric Bisignano and the Charitax team! They are fantastic, and have been a lifesaver! Since we were still in the process of doing some renovations when we moved into our condo this past August, our office was a mess and half of it was still boxed up in the basement. If it weren’t for Charitax, we would have been completely screwed, but they took great care of us, which was a huge relief with everything else that we had going on. If you don’t have a bookkeeper or accountant, go check them out!
2. Open a Business Bank Account
If you don’t already have your business finances separate from your personal finances, go do it now! Eric says that keeping separate bank accounts is one of the things he harps on the most to new clients who are small business owners. It makes it so much easier to keep things organized, and from his perspective, it makes things so much more straightforward come tax time. If you have kept everything separate, he can pretty easily go into your accounts and figure everything out. Also, it allows you to take full advantage of all of the deductions that are possible as a small business owner. On top of that, one of the things that the IRS looks at when determining if something is a hobby or a business is whether you have a separate business checking account. So if you are planning on claiming a lot of business deductions, you might want to make sure that the IRS isn’t going to decide that your business is actually just a hobby. (;
3. Use Comprehensive Contracts
Having a comprehensive contract is important not only for you as a photographer, but also for your clients, because it helps you both be on the same page. It lays out what they can expect of you, and what you can expect of them. We started out with a free contract that we found online, and then as things came up, we would make adjustments here and there, but it’s so helpful to start with a solid contract, even if that means you have to spend a little money, which is what we eventually ended up doing. It’s much better to know that you’re protected from the beginning, than to find out too late that there was something your contract didn’t cover, which is why we highly recommend checking out TheLawTog. If you are looking to buy a contract, or if you are just searching for information about contracts or starting a photography business, they offer a wealth of knowledge, a lot of which is free! And just a little reminder, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer look over your contract to make sure that it is the best for your particular situation and the state that you live in.
4. Buy Business Insurance
When we first started out, business insurance wasn’t even something that crossed our mind. Until, that is, we heard from a friend who took his gear with him on his honeymoon, and ended up having it stolen out of the rental car while he and his wife were having dinner! How nuts is that?! Luckily, we’ve never had anything stolen, but once again, it’s one of those things where it’s better to be prepared for an unfortunate situation from the beginning, rather than having something go wrong and then have to scramble to pick up the pieces.