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Archive 2013 · Brainstorming - need advice
  
 
andyz
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Brainstorming - need advice


Photography has been a great hobby, but I think it needs to at least pay some its own cost if I want new gear like a 1D X, for example. (Adds features over my 1D Mark III and 7D, especially low light shooting.) I have been paid very small amounts for some shoots but I usually don't accept money as I am not a pro, don't have a business or separate insurance and don't want to pay taxes on the income. Now I'm wondering if I want to test the part time business waters.

To do it right I'd really want to protect my assets and that means incorporating. An accountant or bookkeeper would be needed for taxes (sales and income) and perhaps some liability insurance. But I don't plan on a rigid 20 hours a week, my day job doesn't allow that commitment and it wouldn't be fun. So, is it worth trying this on a smaller scale? I'm thinking sports shooting, posting photos for sale using one of the vendor sites, family portraits and the like. I don't believe I'd ever see myself as a full time photographer, my day job is too good.

When the day is over, I suppose I want to see if it works for me before I invest in the business aspects of a business. I'm looking for thoughts and advice from those who've been there. Should I look for a mentor locally, and is that even feasible?

So, did you jump in, or put your toe in the water first to test it?



Mar 14, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Hammy
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Brainstorming - need advice


I think that it's good that you're actually looking at it with perspective.

However, as with ANY small business, if you aren't going to put your heart and soul into it, it'll always just be a hobby. You may be able to make enough money to pay for some geat - that's always great, but you'll literally get more out of it - as you put more into it.

Having that cushy day job to fall back on will not make you look for work - possibly because the day job has you busy enough. I understand that - but that limits you from taking on bigger clients and longer jobs as well.
I can only imagine that your quality of work delivered will remain top notch, but at what expense? To deliver the goods takes time - time away from family, job#1 or client.

I think you can probably get by yourself with Quickbooks for accounting and bookkeeping. Definately want some insurance to take care of you, your gear and family if something happens.

Marketing and advertising will be your key points most overlooked. Word of mouth works in the long...long run, but it's getting your work/word out in people's face to get noticed to get business. That means spending more on web/flyers/mailers/etc than that 1DX... with unknown returns and nothing new and shiny to put in your hands.

I'm not trying to put a damper on your plans - just get you to think more about your plans. Get a bizness plan together: like $40 software package - it'll make you think about things. Business is business, whether it's a photography business or selling worms. You'll want to look at it nearly completely from a business perspective (which is where I think you're trying to look), then apply the photography angle.

Personally, I started out over 10 years ago in a similar boat. After about 4 months, I realized I was working 50+ hours/week at my regular job and 80+ hours/week (yes, getting about 4 hours sleep each night) on building my own business....one of them had to go. Either my nice salaried job, or my dream.
10+ years later and I'm still living my dream. It's challenging every year and I directly see results from my efforts. I can make my own decisions for direction - whether good or bad - and have to live with/correct the mistakes.
There are some days I spend the entire night at the office to get caught up. There are some months we don't get a paycheck. It's not all glory - nobody will try to sell you that! But building something your own - out of blood, sweat, tears and retirement funds... there's more appreciation from that than giving nearly 1/3 of your life to somebody elses company.



Mar 14, 2013 at 08:29 PM
cwebster
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Brainstorming - need advice


In general, incorporating your business won't protect your personal assets because anyone who extends credit or loans you money is going to insist on a personal guarantee. And the first guy in that line is the attorney who files your incorporation papers!

Liability insurance is an absolute must, as is spare gear. You can't tell a paying customer that you can't shoot his event/product etc. because your only body just failed.

Do you already have contacts in the school sports area, like the athletic director/head coach at the high school or college? If not, you can be sure someone else does. You need to think through (the point of a business plan) what you are going to sell, to whom, and most importantly, how you are going to find those customers.

Starting a photography business is completely about marketing and sales, not photography.

<Chas>



Mar 14, 2013 at 09:20 PM
jefferies1
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Brainstorming - need advice


It is hard to give advice without seeing your photo work. All the high end equipment does not make a person creative which is required for many kinds of photo shoots. Next is marketing your skills. Some just don't have it in them to market.

Assuming you have both it is hard for me to see why not make money. If you get business the main factor that limits income is time. You can only shoot and deliver a fixed number of jobs before you need help and that is a whole new issue. Get the liability and E/O insurance for protection.




Mar 14, 2013 at 11:55 PM
andyz
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Brainstorming - need advice


Great thought provoking replies. Thank you all.


Mar 15, 2013 at 03:09 AM
sleibrand
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Brainstorming - need advice


Do you really want the hobby you enjoy to become a job? Seriously think on this. Maybe it's better to set your gear sights lower and just enjoy the photograhy.


Mar 15, 2013 at 04:36 PM
andyz
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Brainstorming - need advice


That is why I was asking about testing the water. I don't want a part time job, but I do want the money and I feel a 1D X is better than a 1D IV, but how much better, and what to do for it, that is the question.

I appreciate the thought.



Mar 15, 2013 at 04:40 PM
cwebster
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Brainstorming - need advice


andyz wrote:
<snip>I don't want a part time job, but I do want the money<snip>

I appreciate the thought.


You're asking for a miracle. All the pro gear in the world won't make you money if you don't work at it, and you don't seem to want to do that.

<Chas>



Mar 18, 2013 at 12:17 AM
 

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andyz
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Brainstorming - need advice


It's that I don't want a full time job. I like my day job. And the gear improvement is for sports shooting - think Friday night lights, dim fields, wanting to stop the action and track subjects better. I also don't want a part time job that has regular appointments. I can handle some some there are requirements for my day job that call for immediate availability for extended periods.

So yes, I want the best of both worlds. My salary provides well, but when I want more I expect photography should begin to provide some of that. It would enable me to do more. The question is how to go about it, and how far, how fast.



Mar 18, 2013 at 03:51 AM
aborr
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Brainstorming - need advice


Charging for your work, whether your income is part of a business (you expect to make a profit) or if the income is what the IRS calls "hobby income" (to defray some of the costs of your hobby), raises a whole bunch of issues:

1 if you charge for your time, the IRS expects you to report it as taxable income
2 if you charge for your product, your State tax board expects you to collect sales tax
3 any equipment you use (probably) ceases to be covered by your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy
4 if you live in a town or city of any size, the local municipality probably expects you to pay for a business license (regardless of whether your income is tiny or huge)
5 if you charge for your time or product, you're potentially opening yourself up to various kinds of liabilities that you should probably buy insurance against

I'm not trying to be discouraging, but it's hard to legitimately make dollar one with your camera without going through a lot of the hassles that starting a "real" business entails. It's up to you to decide if it's what you want to do, or if the potential income is just to small to be worth the effort.



Mar 18, 2013 at 03:26 PM
andyz
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Brainstorming - need advice


Thanks, aborr. I have declared small side income in the past. It can be a PITA. These are the points I wonder about. I do want to make a little, but it isn't my goal to be a pro or take sales away from one. At the same time, I've shot for free just to get experience and avoid the issues you mention.


Mar 18, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Micky Bill
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Brainstorming - need advice


A couple thoughts, first of all I know 8 or 10 photographers and most are sole proprietors, as the hassle of incorporating out number the benefits or perceived protection. The ones who are S Corps also have large studios and a couple employees.

Secondly why do photographers feel that their perfectly good hobby needs to pay for itself? Sounds like you have a good job, so just buy the stuff you want.
I know guys who tinker on their motorcycles and cars but don't expect or want to become a mechanic to finance new wheels. Golfers just like to golf and most don;t enter touneys or give lessons to pay for balls.

Think about wrecking a fun hobby by doing the things that aborr listed... not all that fun.

Edited on Mar 18, 2013 at 07:55 PM · View previous versions



Mar 18, 2013 at 06:51 PM
andyz
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Brainstorming - need advice


I suppose some of the desire comes from those asking for services and willing to pay a fee. And camera bodies which improve every few years. Reducing shutter lag, improving high ISO performance and AF tracking are significant changes that are desirable. And rather than take money from other "pots" generating some sounds desirable. After all, Publishers Clearinghouse hasn't come thru for me yet.

I appreciate the discussion. It all serves to improve my ideas and perceptions.



Mar 18, 2013 at 07:24 PM
JWilsonphoto
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Brainstorming - need advice


Dear Andy,

What you are thinking about isn't nearly as big a deal as it seems. The California photographers are telling you what is required in CA, you're in The Lone Star, be thankful. It seems like you want to dabble and amortize equipment upgrades and there's nothing wrong with that, it just adds a little complexity to the situation.

What you should do in Texas, to set yourself up in business is:

Register your business name by filing an assumed name document at the Killeen Courthouse, it'll cost you 10 bucks. This does two things, protects your name from duplication, probably not a big deal in your case. Second, and more importantly, it allows you to use that name in filing a sales tax/reseller form with the state. You can then purchase your equipment, and anything that goes into your photographic product, printers, ink, paper for your office documents, invoices, business cards, etc, tax free. You'll be required to complete and return a monthly sales tax form, whether you have sales or not.

There are few advantages to incorporating when it's a small individual business like you are thinking about. Most businesses like this are sole proprietorships. Whether you are in business or not, if you have very much money invested in your gear, you should have your insurance agent "schedule" each piece on a separate policy. Your homeowners has a much larger deductible, depreciates the loss typically, and you end up with a few bucks to replace your gear. The separate policy is generally a $250 deductible, covers any loss, even if you get mad and bounce something off the sidewalk. These policies are easily obtained, but you don't want to be filing too many claims on them because they carrier will drop you, so they are catastrophic in nature to protect you from a big loss.

An accountant? If you already have an accountant do your taxes, then this isn't going to add much to your annual tab. If you use a tax prep software like TurboTax, it will walk you through some simple steps and offer you options , making you aware of possible advantages and pitfalls. Sounds to me like you're not aiming for and extra 20 grand a year in photography income, so it's pretty simple. The IRS will let you depreciate your equipment, and you can write off a loss if your out go exceeds your influx, but there are rules governing loss/income ratios, and how many years you can experience losses. They, and rightly so, want to see a profit and receive taxes at some point, this isn't a scheme to shelter income. The benefits of having an extra 5 to 10K in photography income annually could be negated if that bumps you into a higher bracket and you pay your profits out in taxes.

Liability insurance? A lot of photographers don't want to pony up $500 annually for a 3M liability policy, but they are leaving themselves exposed. Many clients are insisting on being named on a policy these days to mitigate their exposure. You can risk it, if you have no assets, lots of debt, making you pretty much judgement proof, but that's not the responsible route. The policy will require that your vehicle liability limits are set at a certain level, which generally adds a hundred bucks or so to your auto premiums.

Do this stuff and "poof" you're livin' the dream, free to go out and compete with a zillion people who have spent $600 on a Rebel and are now "pro's"



Mar 31, 2013 at 04:04 PM
andyz
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Brainstorming - need advice


Thanks for the feedback.


Mar 31, 2013 at 06:39 PM
GoGo
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Brainstorming - need advice


JWilsonphoto wrote:
Dear Andy,

What you are thinking about isn't nearly as big a deal as it seems. The California photographers are telling you what is required in CA, you're in The Lone Star, be thankful. It seems like you want to dabble and amortize equipment upgrades and there's nothing wrong with that, it just adds a little complexity to the situation.

What you should do in Texas, to set yourself up in business is:

Register your business name by filing an assumed name document at the Killeen Courthouse, it'll cost you 10 bucks. This does two things, protects your name from duplication, probably not
...Show more

Excellent Advise!

And I just have to repeat what was said above, never go out on a shoot (job) without insurance! If you do you are risking your future!



Apr 03, 2013 at 02:01 PM





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