When moving the thought of new business, new business cards, a new website and new friends was already overwhelming enough--the last thing I wanted to think about were all the technical aspects. Did you just bring up TAXES?!?! Can't you see I'm already crying in the corner?!?!? When starting a business in a new state (or ever) it is essential that the first things you do before ordering up all those fancy thank you notes is get yourself LEGIT. Sigh. I know, I know, most creative people aren't business savvy, so find yourself some help if necessary, but it's important you get everything on the backend of your new (and soon to be thriving) business secure before things pick up--ensuring you don't get so focused on emailing and booking that you forget about it and then find yourself in a potentially sticky situation (like--SUED!). It seems daunting and lots of people put these steps off because they don't feel like a professional or have a clue where to even start and I'm here to say it's not that bad! Or even time-consuming! It will take you all of a day to get everything lined up and you will feel exceptionally proud of yourself when you do-- and most importantly secure, because now you're protected. 1. Get registered. The details for this vary from state to state, but register your business with Uncle Sam. It makes you legal, provides you with the business tax ID number, and makes you legal. (This is also something you must do in order to open a business checking account, also very important!). Decide if you're going to be an LLC, Sole Proprietor, Corporation, etc. (I am no lawyer, so don't ask me, but there are benefits and disadvantages to each depending on which one-- choose wisely!). If you're in Hawai'i, here's the Hawaii Business Express site.
2. Business Checking. After you receive your tax ID number and business license, head to your favorite bank and sign up for a business checking account. Otherwise it's easy to get money all mixed up in your own personal account and make taxes a nightmare! It's also a heck of a lot more professional to ask clients to pay XXX Photography rather than yourself. Once you've got that set-up I would immediatly suggest investing in Quickbooks online (it can hook-up to your online checking account and help manage it in real time!) or whatever accounting software you prefer. Mint is also fabulous program to visualize where you spend the most, allow for simple budgeting, and keeping track of expenses. SAVE THOSE RECEIPTS! You'll need them.
3. Business Insurance. The idea of insurance is kind of crazy to me but WE NEED IT. It covers you and your gear under the craziest of circumstances. A lot of hotels and venues require you carry liability of at least $1,000,000 (that's one MILLLLIONNNNN dollars). I purchased my insurance locally at State Farm (Shelli Tougichi! Call her and I get $10 holla). My liability is $2,000,000 and my gear is covered in all sorts of events, even while photographing weddings on the mainland, when traveling with my Contax to Thailand, or if I were to --gasp--drop it in the ocean on a shoot. They'd also cover any legal fees potentially arising from business. I can't express it enough, BUSINESS INSURANCE IS A MUST, GET IT RIGHT NOW! Have it yet? Okay good. To make sure I got what I needed I made an appointment, fixed my hair, took my most expensive gear in (at their request) and sat down with an agent to cover all my bases and ask questions. It was super informative and helpful and only costs me about $35/month.
For photography and creative business specific insurance, Hill + Usher is awesome, a lot of my photographer friends us them. You can apply for a quote directly from their website and do all the work in your yoga pants, no hair fixing required.
4. Get a permit. There's a good chance this doesn't apply where you live, but if you're in Hawai'i you need an Annual Film Permit to be able to shoot most places around the island. Hawai'i is an attraction with a lot of photography and Hollywood cinema happening at any given time, so permits are required across the board for all professionals, big time or not, to be able to shoot. This way the state also makes sure you are aware of any rules and regulations pertaing to where you can and cannot photograph. There are hotels and other parks/beaches that require separate permits of their own in order to conduct business there, so it's important that you always inquire and secure the proper permissions before getting shutter happy. Don't want to wind up fined! If I remember correctly, Manhattan requires a film permit as well.
Once you complete these seemingly elaborate but surprisingly simple tasks, REJOICE! You've just done tremendous things in the legality of your business, hip hip! You deserve a pat on the back. Or champagne. What, it's only 1pm? Who's lookin'?!?!?