1. Your primary equipment and back up equipment.
If anything ever happens to your main equipment and you have photoshoots or a wedding coming up you are going to want and need another set of equipment to keep going. I’ve had instances where my main equipment had to be sent to Japan to be fixed and was gone for over 6 weeks and thankfully I had back up to work with in the meantime. One of my other major concerns is having a camera break during a wedding and having nothing else to photograph with so backup is one of the first things I start saving for when starting a business.
A website is a place that will get your name out on the internet better than Facebook or any other social networking. It’s a place your clients can go to check out your portfolio see some information about you and more without having to deal with social networking. I have many clients who don’t have Facebook accounts so it’s important I can be found elsewhere on the web. There are many great resources for starting a website, you can do it for very little money and upgrade as needed over time.
While I just said that you can get your name out better on the web than you can on Facebook, Facebook still has its own perks. A website will give you an actual web address to refer people too, but Facebook is a way to start doing free shoots and connecting with potential clients.
4. Business Insurance
Even if you’re not making big money or little at all you want to have business insurance. It will cover liability if something happens to your equipment while you’re using it and even while you’re not. If you’re starting a newborn business your business insurance will cover when clients come to your home – if anything happens to them there. Whether you’re still doing work for free or really cheap, business insurance is a must so that if anything were to happen to your clients, equipment, or you – you’ll be covered! You can get starter insurance for about $20 a month!
5. Tax and Sales Tax Information
The last thing you want to happen is for the IRS to come find you 10 years into your business and demand money that you don’t have so it’s important to learn the ins and outs of your state’s (or country’s) tax laws. I’m from the US so unfortunately I don’t know a lot about how taxes work outside of here and I can only speak about what I know. The best place to start figuring out how to register your business with the state is to go to your state’s websites. Most of these websites will have a “starting a business” type of section that will walk you through what forms you may need to submit and any licenses you need to have. Often they’ll have information on free sales tax classes that you can go to in your community to learn how and what to do with sales taxes. My best advice is to figure out sales taxes as soon as you can and until then don’t charge sales taxes. It is illegal to charge sales taxes and collect them from customers without a license. At the same time though it’s illegal not to charge them and not to have a license if you are selling physical products to your clients like prints and albums. This is one of the most important things to figure out as soon as you can!
A contract for your client to sign is a very important document to have. A contract will release you from any liability they might hold you to if something goes wrong. It includes a model release and copyrights to the photos you took and tons more information. It also locks in the finances of your business. It should state that the deposits your clients make before the session and to reserver your time are non-refundable and should talk about how much they owe and when it is due, and what that price includes! Without a contract you put yourself at risk for your client to not show up for a session when they’ve reserved time with you and not getting paid for your time. You risk the opportunity of begin sued if your client is dissatisfied with your work and you risk being sued over the use of your clients photos in your portfolio if you don’t have their permission.
7. Welcome Packets
Your welcome packets can be simple and cheap or extravagant if you’d like. A great starter packet is a simple folder with your business name on it (you could order custom stickers for that) and you can fill it with a contract, a frequently asked questions sheet, and other pieces of information your clients may need to know before their session. This folder is a great tool to give your client when they schedule a session and gives a professional impression of your business.
This might go without saying, but to start a business you need time. My first year of working on my business I worked a full time job and would come home and work most of the evening on social networking, building a website, editing photos from free sessions and more. I had very little free time when I was starting out, but things to even out eventually and then you’ll be able to manage your time much better. Be prepared to spend a good deal of your free time on starting up the business!
9. Dress Clothes
When you’re first starting out and just photographing your friends or others for free you want to still dress the part. Showing up in jeans and a tshirt is not a professional look. If you want to be taken seriously and want your photography business to keep growing you need to take that extra step to look like a pro even in front of your friends. They’ll be impressed and be able to recommend you and your professionalism along with your photo talent to their friends. Just so you know, there’s no requirement for photographers to dress in all black.
10. Samples of your Work
When you’re starting up a photography business one of the biggest things you need is practice and samples of your photography to show to others. I spent the time doing a lot of free sessions so I could use those samples with potential clients. Don’t be afraid to ask around to your friends if you can take photos of them for free to practice. I wouldn’t have made it in this industry without the support of my friends letting me take photos of them!
This is in no way legal advice or tax advice!!!