BEFORE YOU CLICK: Important Considerations For Your Photography Business
The following is a guest post from Kara Jensen Zitnick of LaunchHER. This first article is part one of four and will set up the foundation of legal issues any photography business owner needs to address. In part two, Kara will discuss contracts; in part three, copyrights; and in part four, trademarks. Kara is a great resource, has affordable rates and is passionate about helping small business owners. Pleave your comments and questions below and check out her website: LaunchHER.com.
BEFORE YOU CLICK :: Important Considerations For Your Photography Business
Part One :: 3 Steps to a Solid Foundation
Your business means the world to you. Your heart and soul is in every shot, click and pose. Put your business on solid ground in three simple steps:
1. Make It Legal :: Choose a business entity for your venture. Whether you operate as a Sole Proprietor, Partnership or LLC (Limited Liability Company), creating a legal entity under which to operate your photography business can personally protect you from liability, as well as provide potential tax consequences, depending upon your entity choice.
A Sole Proprietorship is the easiest of the entity choices to form. Generally, you operate as a Sole Proprietor if you have not formed any other entity. Doing Business As (DBA) is a common form of Sole Proprietorship. When operating as a Sole Proprietor, your personal assets can be used to satisfy business debts and liabilities. If a law suit is filed against your photography business, the suit is, essentially, filed against you personally. Profits and losses are reported on the owner’s individual tax return.
Partnerships are formed between two or more people. While partnerships may be formed on a simple handshake and oral agreement, it is smarter to operate under the terms of a written agreement. Partnership Agreements govern how the entity will operate, how profits and losses will be shared, among other things. An attorney can draft a partnership agreement that reflects the role of each partner, as well as how the partners desire the joint venture be operated.
In general, LLCs give its owners (members) limited personal responsibility for business debts and liabilities of the company against creditors. This means your personal assets cannot be used to satisfy business debts. Profits and losses are reported on the owners’ personal tax returns, so no taxes are paid at the business level. LLCs are formed at the state level by filing the state-required documents and paying applicable filing fees.
2. Get It In Writing :: Formalize all of your business arrangements and agreements in a signed written document. Whether it’s a client agreement, a vendor relationship or a joint project with another photographer, a written contract can protect you and your business interests. By operating under a written agreement, the terms of your relationship with your client, vendor or collaborator are spelled out and specific, which can prevent misunderstanding and disagreement.
Other situations best served by written contracts include working with subcontractors, as well as transferring copyright ownership of your images to others.
3. Protect Your Good Name :: Create a plan and strategy to protect your business’ name and creative work. Whether through trademark registration, copyright registration, or other brand protection, secure your business’ identity. Registering your photography business’s name as a trademark prevents others from using the same or similar names in the area of photography. Formally registering your images and creative works with the federal government adds an additional level of legal protection against copycats and can deter others from suing your images for their own use, without your permission.
Sometimes in the day-to-day of running a business, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. No matter the size of your studio or client list, whether your calendar is jam-packed with photo shoots, or you are the occasional photog, make plans to be successful. Plan today for the solid foundation on which to build your business for tomorrow, next month, and next year. Even if you’ve been ‘in business’ for a while, it’s never too late to shore up what you’ve worked so hard creating – Make It Legal, Get It In Writing, and Protect Your Good Name.
Please join me for Part 2, where we’ll talk more specifically about written agreements, contracts, and how you can use them to simplify your business and reduce your stress.
Kara Jensen Zitnick is a licensed attorney and president of LaunchHER, whose mission is providing legal and marketing expertise to women in business. Through LaunchHER Legal, Kara provides budget-friendly, flat-rate legal assistance to fellow women entrepreneurs in a non-threatening environment. Contact Kara to find out how LaunchHER Legal can help your business. For more information on women in business, visit www.LaunchHER.com.
The material presented in this article is general information and should not be taken as legal advice. Neither Kara Jensen Zitnick nor LaunchHER represents you in a legal capacity due to reading the material presented. No attorney-client relationship exists as a result of reading this article.
© 2012 Kara Jensen Zitnick, Esq. and LaunchHER™. All Rights Reserved
No part may be copied or reproduced without express written permission from the author.
Image attribution: Frank3.0