Let’s Talk Business

A few months ago I asked Collective members AND non Collective members what topics we should focus on for future videos, and after Lighting (which we covered immediately in probably my favorite Collective video1) the topics weren’t even photography related! They were Business and Marketing, which I can 100% relate to needing guidance and information on, so we moved forward and decided to tackle Business first.


But “business” is a broad topic, and the Collective is only one 30-45 minute video from a guest instructor every month, and one from me…and I am NOT business savvy. Like at all. So I thought hard about my two biggest business struggles both when I first launched my photography business (which is now multiple businesses!) and recent years…and I decided on setting UP a business legally, and studio management.

Are you asleep yet? Because just typing those words for someone who probably has a smidge of ADD, hates numbers/math/organization and just wants to take pictures of happy families, get paid for it, and live happily ever after…my eyes are glazing over already. And my ears might start to bleed just listening to anyone talk to me about taxes, filing, LLC, S-Corp, write offs, booking workflow, contracts, you name it.

But, guys. Listen to someone (me) who didn’t do my taxes right for the first half of my career (and holy crap did THAT hurt once we got them sorted), send contracts, have a business management system or have someone do/help with our monthly books…the sooner you implement these things…the better!

If you’re making money from taking photos…guess what! You are a business owner! (Congrats!) I hear photographers say all. the. time. that they don’t pay taxes because “its not their real job” or “its just for fun…a side project!”, but ya know what? The government doesn’t see it that way!  Avoidance mentality is real, y’all, I believe Sarah Hill (one of our past Collective instructors!) has spoken a lot about this too in her business. You don’t want to wait until you’re in between a rock and hard place to pivot your business in the right direction. I hope you’re still following this, because the solutions to keep your business in check are well worth the effort to get moving and take care of…business 😉

1. Making sure your structure is sound whether you’re starting out as a Sole Proprietor, moving up a size to LLC or running a full career as an S-Corp, having the right structure is important! In this months Collective video I take a deep dive into the business world with my own accountant Amy Northard, CPA! One thing she has really taught me is that building a business purely on the artistic side is not how you want to start out. I know it might be tempting to get into the creative stuff first, hoping that everything will fall into place later, but having the proper foundation will set you up for success. It’s 2019; registering your business can all be done all online in less than 15 minutes!

2.  Setting up a business banking account is vital in growing your business. Again this step is also very easy and you don’t have to be an LLC or have an IEN to do it! Being sure that money that comes from your sessions goes straight to you business accounts not your personal account is the simplest way to keep your finances from getting tangled. You don’t want to get to the end of the year and have to try and remember what money came from clients and what money you Pay-Pal’ed your friend for the time you forgot your debit card. Having the proper allocation of your money is key in finding out what months you are most successful and then linking those to the trends in your marketing (but that’s a whole other topic for another month 😉 ). Once more for the people in the back: having a designated bank account is vital in a business… even if you’re still just in the hobby phase of your career. Separate accounts are a clear and direct way to be sure that you’re not spending more than you make in your photography journey and its a lot simpler when you go to file taxes.

3. Accounting. If you aren’t able to hire an account just yet, no worries! There is still a lot you can do on your own. Creating a simple chart that you add together at the end of each month will let you know where your profit margins are and where you’re spending your money. I know some months can be lower in income than others but it’s important to again not have avoidance mentally when the losses hit but to embrace it (seriously, learning from your mistakes and then moving on is SO DANG IMPORTANT) and explore it, this is how you learn to grow your business. Taking an hour once a month to chart up your income to expenses ratio might want to make you break out in hives but it will lead to the feeling of financial freedom and a goal orientated business. Amy has a few great tools in her shop about how to be your own CFO and what expenses are actually write offs for tax time.

4. I know in the hustle and chaos of trying to fulfill all the roles of a business owner, CEO, CFO and photographer when you’re first starting out can be hard. Receipts can get tossed, torn, and even fade sitting in sun of a hot car. It can feel very overwhelming to try to piece together little paper trails of purchases. Making an album on your phone and then taking a photo of each prop purchase receipt is a great way to not have 4 gallon size zip lock bags of crumbled up receipts in your office from your antique prop finds. Just be sure you link up the album to your Dropbox or iCloud storage and back it up each month. One hour a month is all it really takes to keep yourself in a generally healthy state of business and the foundations of your business rock solid so you can keep doing what you love most-and for me, that’s taking photos!

We cover SO much more in this month’s Collective video, along with an interview with Italian photographer, Martina Bombasin from Polvere di Stelle Fotografie, a video of me shooting a family in Venice, and the footage of me a live session of me posing a newborn in the “womb” position! To join the Collective for only $35 a month, visit https://therachelvanovencollective.com 🙂

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