This a continuation of phototips for professional photographer wanabes
Get your basic business affairs taken care at the beginning. If you are running a business out of your home find out what the zoning laws are in your area. If you get busy, traffic can be a problem and neighbors may complain. Does your city require a business license? Apply for a state sales tax permit. Our county has a business property tax. Check with the country treasurer as to whether you need to file forms for this tax. Buy an accounting program such as quickbooks http://quickbooks.intuit.com/ and use it from the very beginning. Many community colleges will offer courses in quickbooks. I’d hire an accountant to do your taxes. A good accountant will call your attention to all possible expense write offs as well as any changes in the tax law and if you ever get audited you need an accountant to stand in for you at the audit. Make a point to show a profit within 3 years or the IRS will be checking you. Make equipment purchases based on your ability to turn a profit with them rather than just buying something because its the latest model with all the new bells and whistles. Business insurance is a must. If someone gets hurt on your property while picking up an order or during a photo session your home insurance will not cover the claim. I was in business for 25 years and had 2 claims from people falling on my property. Business coverage on your car is extremely important. If you have an accident while transporting equipment to a wedding your regular car insurance will not cover the accident. You must have a business policy for your car. If you have assets I would also suggest a business umbrella policy which will extend your liability to at least two million dollars. A spouse doing a part time photography business puts the whole family at a big liability risk without the proper insurance. Join PPA http://www.ppa.com/ because of their program that covers you if you screw up a wedding or have other legal issues. Over a 25 year period I dealt with PPA and their legal department twice on issues with senior pictures getting into the school yearbook. Have a lawyer write up a wedding contract for you if you do weddings. You can get samples of other photographers wedding contracts but it is a very good idea to have a lawyer look over any contract you are using. Better safe than sorry! Many studios also have portrait contracts which their clients sign. Model releases should be built into these contracts. Model releases would be required for any images going on your business website since they are being used in a commercial way. Taking care of business early in the game will prevent many headaches later. An example of a model release can be found at this link https://contribute.gettyimages.com/producer/documents/Model_Release_English_Dec_2008.pdf
Develop a business plan. You can find an example of a business plan at this link: http://www.bplans.com/photography_studio_business_plan/executive_summary_fc.php#.UW12arWsh8F Define where you are wanting to go with your business and how you are going to get there. Recently, I was mentoring a young lady from the San Diego area via the internet. I asked her how much she wanted to make the first year she was in business. She answered $35,000. I had her break that down by the week to see how many sessions she might have to do to clear that amount of income. Her work at that point was mediocre at best and she had no plan at all how she would reach such a goal. After several months it became very obvious that she wasn’t doing what she needed to because she made no progress at all. For many, a business in photography is a pipe dream. It takes a huge amount of effort and there will be many frustrating moments developing a business even if it is part time.