So, you’ve made up your mind and decided to start your own photography business – congratulations, I’m so excited for you! 

Starting a photography business was, hands down, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

I can still remember that feeling of excitement and hope, right at the beginning, when I first started to dream about the possibility of one day being able to earn a living doing something I loved.

Everyone has their own intrinsic motivation as to WHY they want to start a photography business.

But HOW do you actually make it happen? 

 

What do you need to do to start a photography business from scratch, and get it up and running? 

If you’re like most people, you probably hopped onto Google and typed in the search bar ‘What do I need to start a photography business?’, and find yourself staring at a long list of things you need to be doing.

Suddenly, that feeling of hope and excitement is replaced with a feeling of overwhelm and confusion.

What should you do first? Should you open a business bank account, and get insurance before you even have any customers? Do you really need a website or will a Facebook page do? How are you going to find people to photograph for your portfolio?

And then the insecurities start to set in: what if nobody will give you a chance because you haven’t got any experience? What if all your effort is wasted?

Soon it can all start to feel too much. And so you do nothing.

And that’s why most people who dream of becoming a photographer never get to realise that dream. Because they get stuck in procrastination mode, or ‘analysis paralysis’ as some people call it.

It’s time to take a deep breath and remember that all photographers have been exactly where you are right now, at the beginning. And it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

What’s more, you don’t need to worry, because I’m here to give you a hand. And I’m pretty determined to help you make the move from hobbyist to full-time photographer.

That’s why I’ve created this post to make sure I’ve got you covered on all aspects of getting started. So read on and let’s break through the overwhelm and confusion together!

Ok, so first up, Part One of the Ultimate Guide To Starting A Photography Business is…Planning!

Part 1: Planning

I’m going to cover all of the things you need to do to set your business up the right way from the start. To make sure you’re covered legally and financially. Here’s what it will include:

  • Choosing A Name For Your Photography Business
  • Deciding On Your Business Structure
  • Registering Your Photography Business
  • Opening A Business Bank Account
  • Setting Up A Spreadsheet To Track Your Income And Expenses
  • Taking Out Insurance
  • Preparing Contracts For Your Photography Business

Step 1: Choose A Name For Your Photography Business

The name you choose for your photography business matters. The right name can create present a great image and build trust, right from the first time someone hears about you. Whereas the wrong name can make your business appear cheesy or amateur.

Many photographers struggle to come up with the right name for their business, and can end up wasting weeks or longer trying to decide what name to go for.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some common ways for photographers to come up with their business names include:

  • Use your own name, e.g. Caroline Pilling Photography
  • Use a word or words that’s associated with photography, e.g. Shutter Snappers
  • Use a word or combination of words to create a made-up brand, e.g. Perfect Moments Photography
  • Use a word or combination of words that are relevant to your photography niche, e.g. Beautiful You Photography (for a glamour/makeover photographer).

Before you settle on a name make sure to check whether the name is already being used by a competitor in your area, or whether it’s trademarked.

You’ll also want to check whether the domain name is available to purchase. 

If you’ve managed to come up with the perfect name for your photography business, but the exact match URL isn’t available, don’t panic. Just purchase a variation.

Remember that while the name of your business matters, what matters more is that you get your business started. So try not to spend too long on it. Give yourself a week or two tops to brainstorm, gather opinions from others and then just make a decision and move on!

Step 2: Decide On Your Business Structure

It’s important to decide at the beginning what structure your business will take. The type of structure available for you to choose will obviously differ depending on which country you live in, but the most common structures usually are:

  • Sole Trader / Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Company
  • Corporation

The requirements and tax implications of each structure will again differ by country, so as with all things legal it’s best to take professional advice from someone who knows the specific options available to you.

Often your government will have advice available online that you can read through, or a helpline number to call if you need further guidance.

Step 3: Register Your Photography Business

The legal registration requirements for your new photography business will depend on your country and what business structure you’ve chosen.

All countries will require you to register for tax purposes. 

In some countries you will be required to apply for a business license before you can take on any paying customers.

Again it’s best to take advice from your local government’s website, or a professional, to make sure you’re fully compliant with all your legal requirements.

Step 4: Open A Business Bank Account

One of the biggest rookies mistakes photographers make when first starting out is not separating their business and personal finances.

There are three reasons you will want to keep your finances separate. These are:

  • It gives you separation between your business and personal life and your business and personal money. This makes it easier when you need to make a financial decision related to your business (or personal life for that matter) as you know exactly what funds are available for what.
  • It makes keeping track of your business expenses and income much easier, which will save you time when it comes to file your taxes (or save you money if you decide to use a bookkeeper or accountant/CPA).
  • If the legal structure of your business gives you personal liability protection, this can be negated by mixing your personal and business finances.

The simplest thing to do is to open a separate bank account for your business income and expenses. If you’re not a company/incorporated then this can just be a second personal current/checking account, Paypal or savings account.

Then just make sure that going forward you put all business income and expenses through your new dedicated business account.

 

Step 5: Set Up A Spreadsheet To Track Your Income And Expenses

Set yourself up with a simple spreadsheet and record all income and expense for your new business.

Try to do this monthly rather than waiting until the end of the year when your accountant is chasing you for it – you’ll thank me for it later! Believe me, there is nothing worse than having to sift back through a year’s worth of receipts, bank statements, email records and diary notes to try and figure out what goes where.

Once you have some regular income coming into your photography business, you may decide to pay for bookkeeping software such as Quickbooks for Freshbooks to keep on track of your business finances. 

But a simple spreadsheet is absolutely fine when you’re just starting out. I recommend having two tabs within your spreadsheet. One for income and the other for expenses. You may also want to include a third to keep track of the mileage for any travel you do for the business.

As your business starts to generate more income and expenses you may want to look into using a bookkeeper. 

Bookkeepers keep track of all your finances, inputting them into software and sending you a monthly report. They should keep everything organized for you and provide you with data for you to look at on a regular basis, that will keep you on top of the health of your business.

If you’re wondering how a bookkeeper differs from an accountant (or CPA). Your accountant will file taxes on your behalf and will keep you compliant with any relevant tax laws. You’ll normally only deal with them once or twice a year (as opposed to more regularly with a bookkeeper), and a good accountant will know how to make your business the most tax efficient, therefore saving you money in the long run.

If you can find an accountant who works with other photographers, and therefore understands the specific of a photography business, this is ideal.

Step 6: Take Out Insurance

Although it’s tempting to want to put off getting insurance due to the expense, safeguarding yourself and your business with the right policy is really important.

The three main types of insurance you’ll want to put in place for your photography business are equipment and liability insurance.

Equipment Insurance – This will protect your photography equipment such as cameras, lenses and computers from loss and damage, whether accidental or by theft. It’s important to realise that most home insurance policies will not cover business equipment, meaning all your photography equipment could be excluded once you start using it to make money with.

(Public) Liability Insurance – This insurance will provide you with protection against any legal action you might face as a result of accidents or injuries caused in the line of your work, for example if someone were to trip over your camera bag at a wedding, or a studio light were to topple over onto a child during a portrait session.

Professional Indemnity Insurance  – This will protect you against claims for negligence, for example if your memory card corrupts, causing you to lose all the photos, and your client decides to take legal action against you for compensation. Or if the client is unhappy with the photos you deliver and decides to take legal action to recover their payment to you.

Other types of insurance you may want to look into:

Employer’s Liability Insurance – to protect you against injury and illness claims by employees, for example if an employee were to trip over your equipment, or suffer some other sort of injury/illness as result of working for you.

Property / Buildings and Contents Insurance – to protect your studio premises against fire, flood and other disasters.

Business Interruption Insurance – to protect your business income against unexpected events such as a fire or flood at your studio that means you’re unable to hold shoots, causing you loss of income.

Some other insurance considerations to be aware of:

Impact on your home insurance – If you work out of your home (and particularly if you intend to have clients visit you there) make sure to speak with your home insurance company to make sure you’re not breaking any of the rules of your policy.

Impact on your motor/automobile insurance – Check whether your existing policy will cover you for business trips, or whether you’ll need to amend your policy or purchase additional protection.

Note: Insurance options may be different in your country, or be known by another name. For example, Professional Indemnity Insurance is usually referred to as Errors & Omissions in the USA. Always consult with an insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need.

Step 7: Prepare Contracts For Your Photography Business

Whilst insurance is one way to protect you and your business, it’s still important to have use contracts with your clients.

You may be wondering whether you really need to use contracts when you’re just starting out. My answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!

Contracts are documents that make sure you and your clients are on the same page, going into the business agreement. They set out the expectations and obligations on both sides, and provide mutual protection for both you, as the business owner, and your clients.

Contracts are useful for communicating things like cancellation policies, payment terms, prices or fees, copyright, delivery schedule, and deliverables.

The type of contract you need, and what to include in them, will be specific to the type of photography you’re offering.

You may also want to use other legal forms or agreements in your business, such as model releases, print releases, contract cancellation forms or payment plan agreements.

So there you have it. We’ve covered the main steps you need to take when planning and setting up your new photography business:

  • Choosing A Name For Your Photography Business
  • Deciding On Your Business Structure
  • Registering Your Photography Business
  • Opening A Business Bank Account
  • Setting Up A Spreadsheet To Track Your Income And Expenses
  • Taking Out Insurance
  • Preparing Contracts For Your Photography Business

Let me know in the comments below which bit of planning your photography business gives you the biggest headache.