the tears, the belly laughs, & the sweet embraces

we capture every intimate moment

the tears, the belly laughs, & the sweet embraces

How to start a photography business: a step by step guide

Let’s walk through the steps you need to take to get your photography business up and running. I know first hand how overwhelming and confusing this can all feel. I promise, it is easier than it feels! Use this step by step guide to help you.

1) COME UP WITH A BUSINESS NAME

This seems way easier than it actually is. I went back and forth for so long. When deciding on a name, you also want to check and see if the name is being used 

  • Check your state’s registered LLC’s
  • Check trademarks
  • Check Instagram for similar business names and handle availability
  • Check domain availability

2) GET YOUR DOMAIN & EMAIL ADDRESS

Google domains is a great spot to easily get your website and email domains. You can always start with a free email address through Google. Most website hosting platforms will let you not have your own domain and it will put their logo in your website. I highly recommend getting your website domain from the beginning. 

3) FILE FOR YOUR LLC

You really have two options, either a sole proprietorship or an LLC. I personally recommend an LLC for all photographers. You will go to your state’s Secretary of State website to file for an LLC in the state you live in. It is pretty easy and just paperwork to fill out and a fee.

4) FILE FOR YOUR EIN NUMBER

The EIN Number is an employer identification number which you get through the IRS at IRS.gov website. This is some paperwork to fill out online

5) SET UP YOUR BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

When you have an LLC, you do have to have a business bank account. I personally love having my business and personal expenses and income separated. For some, the thought of a business bank account seems scary. I promise it is really easy. You take your LLC and EIN number information to your bank of choice. You will sit down with someone and they will help you set up the entire thing. The biggest question I get is how do you pay yourself. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally my bank has Zelle pay. I Zelle pay myself from my business bank account to my personal bank account. 

6) GET A CLIENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

A client management system is where you are going to “manage” your clients including your calendar, get inquiries, send contracts, invoicing, emails, questionnaires, and more. There are lots of systems out there and I recommend playing around with a free trial of multiple systems to find your favorite. I personally use Studio Ninja. Use code: AYJN5P07K3N59F to get 20% off your subscription to Studio Ninja. 

7) SET UP A PAYMENT PROCESSING SYSTEM

The next step is an annoying, but necessary step. You will need a payment processing system, which processes debit and credit cards. Some people try to use Paypal and Venmo to avoid processing fees, but think of processing fees as a cost of doing business. You want a secure site that is easy to take payments. I personally use Stripe for my businesses. 

8) GET BUSINESS INSURANCE

This is something a lot of photographers try to avoid or wait on. I recommend at least general liability insurance for all photographers. Check with your current personal insurance company to see if they offer business insurance. I’ve used Progessive and Hiscox Business Insurance. Once you grow in your business, I recommend getting a business owner’s policy. 

9) CREATE A WEBSITE

You got your domain, now let’s get your website going to show off your work to potential clients. There are lots of systems to do it. I recommend Pixieset for new photographers

10) GET CONTRACTS SET UP

Within your client management system, you want to get your contracts all set up before you start booking paying clients. You should never book a paying client without a contract. Some client management systems may have a very simple template you can use. I recommend purchasing a contract template from a lawyer like the Law Tog or Legal Page.

11) GET GALLERY DELIVERY SYSTEM

You will need a professional way to deliver your clients photos to them. I don’t recommend dropbox or Google drive. I think Pixieset is a great, affordable option. I like Pixieset for new photographers because you can have a client management system, website, and gallery delivery system all in one place. Use this link for 250 MB free bonus storage for gallery delivery on Pixieset.

12) GET SALES TAX LICENSE

If the state you live in requires sales tax to be paid on services or products you may sell, you will need to go to your state’s website and apply for a sales tax license and online account to pay this. Sales tax has been notoriously confusing for photographers and varies state to state. My biggest recommendation is to call your state and ask questions and confirm the details to avoid confusion

ARE YOU OVERWHELMED?

Now that we have gone through that list, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I promise, it is easier than it all sounds. Just make your list, start working through the list item by item, and you will get it done. These things on the list are just costs of doing business and things a “legit” business needs. I totally understand not wanting to pay for these things, honestly no one really wants to. These things are just part of owning your own business. You are more than just a photographer and this is no longer just a hobby. Start treating your business…like a business.

**blog post may contain some affiliate link, commisson may be earned on some products listed. Your support is appreciated!

the tears, the belly laughs, & the sweet embraces

capturing every intimate moment

How to start a photography business: a step by step guide

Let’s walk through the steps you need to take to get your photography business up and running. I know first hand how overwhelming and confusing this can all feel. I promise, it is easier than it feels! Use this step by step guide to help you.

1) COME UP WITH A BUSINESS NAME

This seems way easier than it actually is. I went back and forth for so long. When deciding on a name, you also want to check and see if the name is being used 

  • Check your state’s registered LLC’s
  • Check trademarks
  • Check Instagram for similar business names and handle availability
  • Check domain availability

2) GET YOUR DOMAIN & EMAIL ADDRESS

Google domains is a great spot to easily get your website and email domains. You can always start with a free email address through Google. Most website hosting platforms will let you not have your own domain and it will put their logo in your website. I highly recommend getting your website domain from the beginning. 

3) FILE FOR YOUR LLC

You really have two options, either a sole proprietorship or an LLC. I personally recommend an LLC for all photographers. You will go to your state’s Secretary of State website to file for an LLC in the state you live in. It is pretty easy and just paperwork to fill out and a fee.

4) FILE FOR YOUR EIN NUMBER

The EIN Number is an employer identification number which you get through the IRS at IRS.gov website. This is some paperwork to fill out online

5) SET UP YOUR BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

When you have an LLC, you do have to have a business bank account. I personally love having my business and personal expenses and income separated. For some, the thought of a business bank account seems scary. I promise it is really easy. You take your LLC and EIN number information to your bank of choice. You will sit down with someone and they will help you set up the entire thing. The biggest question I get is how do you pay yourself. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally my bank has Zelle pay. I Zelle pay myself from my business bank account to my personal bank account. 

6) GET A CLIENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

A client management system is where you are going to “manage” your clients including your calendar, get inquiries, send contracts, invoicing, emails, questionnaires, and more. There are lots of systems out there and I recommend playing around with a free trial of multiple systems to find your favorite. I personally use Studio Ninja. Use code: AYJN5P07K3N59F to get 20% off your subscription to Studio Ninja. 

7) SET UP A PAYMENT PROCESSING SYSTEM

The next step is an annoying, but necessary step. You will need a payment processing system, which processes debit and credit cards. Some people try to use Paypal and Venmo to avoid processing fees, but think of processing fees as a cost of doing business. You want a secure site that is easy to take payments. I personally use Stripe for my businesses. 

8) GET BUSINESS INSURANCE

This is something a lot of photographers try to avoid or wait on. I recommend at least general liability insurance for all photographers. Check with your current personal insurance company to see if they offer business insurance. I’ve used Progessive and Hiscox Business Insurance. Once you grow in your business, I recommend getting a business owner’s policy. 

9) CREATE A WEBSITE

You got your domain, now let’s get your website going to show off your work to potential clients. There are lots of systems to do it. I recommend Pixieset for new photographers

10) GET CONTRACTS SET UP

Within your client management system, you want to get your contracts all set up before you start booking paying clients. You should never book a paying client without a contract. Some client management systems may have a very simple template you can use. I recommend purchasing a contract template from a lawyer like the Law Tog or Legal Page.

11) GET GALLERY DELIVERY SYSTEM

You will need a professional way to deliver your clients photos to them. I don’t recommend dropbox or Google drive. I think Pixieset is a great, affordable option. I like Pixieset for new photographers because you can have a client management system, website, and gallery delivery system all in one place. Use this link for 250 MB free bonus storage for gallery delivery on Pixieset.

12) GET SALES TAX LICENSE

If the state you live in requires sales tax to be paid on services or products you may sell, you will need to go to your state’s website and apply for a sales tax license and online account to pay this. Sales tax has been notoriously confusing for photographers and varies state to state. My biggest recommendation is to call your state and ask questions and confirm the details to avoid confusion

ARE YOU OVERWHELMED?

Now that we have gone through that list, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I promise, it is easier than it all sounds. Just make your list, start working through the list item by item, and you will get it done. These things on the list are just costs of doing business and things a “legit” business needs. I totally understand not wanting to pay for these things, honestly no one really wants to. These things are just part of owning your own business. You are more than just a photographer and this is no longer just a hobby. Start treating your business…like a business.

**blog post may contain some affiliate link, commisson may be earned on some products listed. Your support is appreciated!

Hi, I'm Charley

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER + EDUCATOR
BASED IN tULSA, OKLAHOMA

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modernmomentsphoto@gmail.com

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