Here is something that you should know about photography. Doing that actual work is the easy part. It’s keeping up with all of the estimating, invoicing, taxes, licenses, money chasing, etc. that makes working for yourself more interesting than working for someone else. Here are a few things that you should know, either as a potential client or photographer.

1) Make sure that you get the signature…
To often, people make agreements on price or project over a handshake or an “OK”. This won’t hold up in court. That is why QuickBooks was invented. I use QuickBooks for all of my book keeping. Here is one of the items that I really like, the estimate function. I prepare estimates for ALL of my potential/existing clients. This way there are no questions about what the bill is going to be and what the client is being billed for. Have them sign it too. This validates that the client agrees with with is on the estimate.

2) Get the money…
It’s customary to get a 50% deposit for the project. This way, both sides are committed.

3) General liability a.k.a. the “whoops” insurance…
This is a BIG one. There are many people that I run into that are trying to be professional photographers. This is great. We should all do what we want to do. However, when I ask what kind of insurance they have, I get the deer in the headlights look. The response I usually get, “Ugh, I need insurance?” My reply, “Ugh, yea.” Make sure that who ever you are hiring is insured. What if the photographer knocks a expensive vase over? Who is going to pay for that? It’s not terribly expensive. Just go out and get some.

4) Ask for the license…
Again, this is just as important as the insurance. Make sure that who ever you are working with is LICENSED with the appropriate firms. This is another one of those deer in the headlights looks. Some of my students tell me that they are only photographing a few events. I ask if they are getting compensated for their work. The answer is usually yes. All it takes is one person to be pissed off and call the county or state on you. Again, get a license. Here is my area of Florida they are $35. This is not going to break the bank.

5) Auto insurance…
This should really be number four but, here we go. This is one that really most people don’t even think about. If you are using your personal vehicle to get around to your shoots or delivering proofs or anything to do with your business, you need an business endorsement on your car insurance. I have heard horror stories about photographers who got into a wreck and once the insurance company found out that they were working, they didn’t pay because they didn’t have the endorsement on their policy. This usually isn’t a expensive item to add. From, the client side, they should ask if your car is insured. What happens if you get in a car wreck on the way to the photo shoot and someone may want to sue you and the client. Unfortunately, this has happened.

6) Model and property releases…
Get it in writing. This relates to model and property releases. ANY time you photograph anybody or anything, you want a written release. This way no one can come back and try and seek “restitution” later. I have a client that owns a business. He took a photograph of one of his employees and used it in a brochure. When she left she wanted money or he needed to pull all of his brochures from his location. Needless to say, out came the checkbook because she didn’t sign a release and he had to compensate her. I’ve had some people tell me that “It’s OK, were friends.” Well folks, this is BUSINESS. Get the signature.

7) Sales tax number…
This is another biggie. The actual process of photographing someone is not taxable, at least here in Florida. However, if you provide a file, CD, DVD, email, proof, print anything tangible, the government wants their share. These are easy to apply for and QuickBooks will keep track of all of the sales tax for you. It even makes the payment for you! If you are client, ask if the photographer has a sales tax certificate. This will show that the photographer is licensed with the state and is a valid business and not just a fly by night organization.

I know that this is not the most exciting subject when talking about photography, but it is necessary. Take a couple of days and get all of this done if you haven’t. I listed the more important points, there are a couple of more things however, these are the most important. If you have all of your ducks together, this will keep “Murphy” at bay.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean

Spencer

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