How to Become a Professional Photographer: Establish Your Business

How to Become a Professional Photographer: Establish Your Business

This is part two in a five-part series about becoming a professional photographer. To start from the beginning, read How to Become a Professional Photographer: Part One.

Part Two

This is part two in a five-part series about becoming a professional photographer.

Part 1)  Define Your Goals
Part 2)  Establish Your Business
Part 3)  Master Your Skills
Part 4)  Produce Defining Work

Establish Your Business

As with any new business, you must establish a business name, file certain legal paperwork, and begin building a new brand. It’s best to get these administrative tasks started early so you can make use of any tax deductions and establish a professional reputation to build upon. Further, forming an official business will help you take yourself more seriously. Few things can topple an early business endeavor as swiftly as our own self-doubt. Build a solid framework for your business so you can proceed with confidence.

Create a Legal Entity

Depending on your country this advice will vary, but for my American friends, I recommend establishing a Limited Liability Company, or LLC, in your state. Without going into too much detail here, I feel an LLC requires the least amount of paperwork for the maximum amount of personal protection. You’ll get similar benefits to a corporation with lower maintenance costs and simpler accounting requirements. Of course, consult a pro for specific advice that applies to you.

Once your entity is set up, be sure to register your Federal Tax ID with the IRS, establish financial accounts, and obtain business insurance. This may sound daunting, but I assure you, most of this can be completed within a day. Browse this checklist for specific online resources and a walk-through of the process.

Begin Building a Brand

In the beginning, with a limited portfolio, it’s unnecessary to invest loads of time or money into building your brand. A large flashy website and costly ads are not required. Simply an online presence that highlights your best work and contact information is enough to get started. A Facebook page is an easy solution with potential for a strong reach, and it’s free.

You may also want to maintain one or two additional social accounts to help your work and brand get exposure: Google+, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and 500px are all good options. You can also setup a free Phot.me profile to link all of your social accounts together.

Create a System for Records & Data

Any business, but particularly a photography business, requires good record keeping and data management. Keeping organized will save you time in the future when you need to access records for tax returns or retrieve a model release for an agency or locate a specific photo for any purpose.

Save and sort your purchase receipts and invoices as recommended by your tax professional. Make use of model releases and photography contracts as required, and store them carefully. Keep your photo library diligently organized, and maintain a highly reliable backup system. These are systems you will perfect over months and years, but it will save you time and frustration if you keep organized from the beginning.

Continue Reading…

Read Part Three: Master Your Skills

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Photo credit
© bevangoldswain / iStockPhoto



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Written by Hillary Fox

Founder of OnGoingPro, Hillary Fox is a travel and lifestyle photographer working throughout Europe and Africa. Visit her site at hillaryfox.com.

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