Part two in a five-part series helps you organize and build…
Once you’ve decided to become a professional photographer it’s time to make it official. Forming a business may seem like a daunting process your first time around, but it’s actually quite manageable if you take it one step at a time. In many states, most of the paperwork can be handled online and there are plenty of free resources available if you hit a snag in the process.
In this post I will guide you through the necessary steps to form a new business in the USA, along with some additional tips to get you up and running.
For illustrative purposes, I’ll specifically walk you through registering a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the state of Nevada. Use this as a general guide for registering a business in your own state. Of course, seek professional guidance if you are unsure of your own local and legal requirements.
1. Choose A Business Name
There are multiple considerations when choosing a business name. For the purpose of business registration, you’ll need to be sure your chosen business name is not already registered in your jurisdiction. In Nevada, you can search online for existing registrations. No match? It’s likely your prefered name is available. Many states allow you to reserve your name for around $25 while you prepare your paperwork.
2. Set Up A Business Address
Will you be working from home? If so, do you want your home address public? Probably not. You have options if you’re not yet ready to rent a studio or office space.
For around $30, you might choose to rent a P.O. Box from the U.S. Postal Service. Recently, the U.S. Postal Service began offering “street addressing” for your P.O. Box. This means you can receive mail at the physical street address of your local post office, which appears more professional than a P.O. Box address. Download this PDF for more information. The downsides to renting a P.O. Box are limited post office hours, and limited services.
Private mail forwarding agencies offer a great alternative. Typically they offer more services, like access to your mailbox contents online, and their fees are competitive. Check out Virtual Post Mail for an example of an online mail forwarding service. Costs run around $10 per month.
3. Secure a Registered Agent
Certain business types, like LLCs, require a registered agent in your state to be available during normal business hours. Nevada has an online list of registered agents. You can search online to find a registered agent in your state, or use your own lawyer or accountant. The typical charge runs $25-$100 per year.
4. File Business Registration Papers
To register an LLC in Nevada, you need to file your Articles of Organization and your Initial List of Managers. You may also be required to secure a state business license. You can usually download the required LLC filing forms from your own state’s website. Total costs for LLC formation run between $200-$500.
Finally, be sure to request a Certificate of Good Standing once your paperwork has been processed. This is the document you’ll need to show for banking and insurance purposes.
5. Request An Employer ID Number
Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is often necessary for new businesses for tax and accounting purposes. You can request an EIN online in minutes.
6. Open a Business Bank Account
With all your paperwork complete you’ll be able to apply for a business bank account. You’ll need your EIN and Certificate of Good Standing to open an account. Compare services and benefits at your local banks. I recommend free business checking to keep fees low.
7. Get Business Insurance
Coverage is crucial to protect your business from liability, and to insure your equipment from loss, damage, or theft. Shop around for the best deal. If you have home or auto insurance, your current agent can probably offer a multi-policy discount. Estimates vary depending on the value of your equipment, but expect to pay upwards of $200 per year.
8. Accept Credit Card Payments
Today, credit card purchases make up the majority of sales in the US. It’s important to be able to accept credit cards from your clients and buyers. Online, many sellers use PayPal.com. You can set up a PayPal business account and connect it to your business checking account. What about accepting credit cards in person? Consider accepting credit card payments on your own mobile device. With a free reader from Square you can charge credit cards right from your smartphone at just 2.75% per transaction.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll be prepared to start running your own business. I suggest hiring an accountant or purchasing quality bookkeeping software to stay on top of your taxes and financial paperwork.
Please comment if you have any good tips or resources for starting your own business.