What I'm Learning: 3 Basics of Setting Up Your Business

Last week I went to a two day workshop, led by contract lawyer Shay M Lawson Esq., about how to legally set up your business. Lawson showed my small group the basics of setting up your business, from a legal standpoint. As someone that wants to be a freelancer, I’ve streamlined what information is most beneficial for freelance photographers. Here are 3 things I learned from Shay M. Lawson’s 2Legit Business Formation Workshop:

1. How to determine what type of business structure is for you.

As someone that wants to freelance and is the only person providing a product and/or or service, I would have a sole proprietorship. As a sole proprietor, I would own my business. I don’t have to register with the state if I am working under my own name. If I created a business name then I would have to register it with the state. The other most common business entity for freelancers that may own their own studio or just want more protections is an LLC or limited liability company. LLC’s offer the liability protection like a corporation but you’re taxed like an individual if you’re the only person working for the company.

2. The difference between a trade name and trademark.

If you aren’t like me and don’t change your mind every two seconds then chances are you have a set logo or branding. To make sure that your branding or your trademark is protected you can register it with the Secretary of State for your state or nationally, if you would like. Your trade name is the name of your business such as ‘The Capture’. Your trademark is your business name in conjunction with your logo and everything that goes into making your logo such as colors, fonts, positioning of words, etc.

3. The importance of contracts

As someone that has been slighted by “clients” before, I now know the importance of getting everything in writing. As a fashion photographer, this includes everything from model releases and independent contractor agreements to usage rights and invoices. When making contracts make sure to state what you do and don’t do in your services and how/when how you are to be paid. Specify how long the length of the contract is and how you or the person you are going into business with can get out of the contract. One thing I’ve had an issue with is clients and I having differing opinions on what retouching is so make sure to specify what you do as a photographer when it comes to retouching, if you do your own retouching. Include how and when your services are delivered such as ‘one week after shoot via Dropbox’ or something of that nature. One new thing I learned at this workshop was the term ‘maintenance of records’ which for photographer would be how long you would keep photos after delivering final images before you are no longer responsible for keeping them. I can’t tell you how many time people will come to me months later asking for photos because they lost them or want to see different options and I don’t have them anymore.

If you want to learn about about the basics of setting up your prospective businesses, contracts and making yourself more legit, check out Shay M. Lawson’s 2Legit Business Formation workshop on August 13th in Atlanta. You can find info or buy tickets here (I’m not getting paid for promoting this. I just loved the workshop and think other people would like to learn more about how to structure their business).

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