It’s no easy task taking the leap to starting your own photography business, it’s going to take a lot of time, and in some cases finances, to get the ball rolling. It’s only in the past few years that small businesses in the UK are beginning to be taken seriously especially when it comes to small photography businesses. The photography industry has always been quick to state that unless you’re selling your photography for a small fortune in art galleries, have a HUGE social media following and spend your evenings shoulder to shoulder with celebs, you haven’t made it. Success is different to everyone and I personally don’t need all that to feel successful. Before we go any further it’s important you judge success on your own terms, that way you will create a photography business that works for you and your own goals.
There’s no point me trying to tell you what success looks like as I’d only be contradicting myself, there’s enough opinions out there that will tell you, be warned they’re usually built on unrealistic goals and achievements. Not one photographer will see success the same as the other, so it’s down to the person and maybe the friends and family you surround yourself with to make that claim. If you are interested in how I made the leap from freelance to a full-time photographer you will find more information on my blog post: How I went from freelance to a Full Time Photographer. The photography industry is a unique one, where nobody starts with the same slate, experience, age, finances, equipment, family commitments and much more. So ask yourself this:
What does a successful photography business look like to you?
What finances do you need to follow that path?
Whilst you shouldn't judge your success solely on how much money you earn, you will need to address your finances. You may have a dream lifestyle you would like to reach and you will need “X” amount of income each month to run a photography business, so yes money is important. If you want to earn a high salary there is nothing wrong with that but never let that take the lead when it comes to your purpose and values in the business.
There’s more boring things to come when you’re considering your business models and structures. You may or may not have heard of business entity, business entity is the structure of your business. Which one you choose affects things like your initial paperwork, the taxes you will mange, how your business pays you profits and personal responsibilities in the business. The UK government allows you to change your business structure after your business starts, but when possible, it’s good practice to get it right from the outset.
A sole trader exists when you start working for yourself, you’re automatically classed as a self-employed sole trader even if you haven't told the HM Revenue and Customs. As a sole trader there is no distinction between you and the business, you run your own business as an individual, allowing you to simply keep all your business’s profits after you’ve submitted your personal tax.
As a sole trader you can name the business after yourself or a business name of your choice. Make sure you take time to think about this, it will save you the hassle of changing your forms if you decide you’ve chosen the wrong name.
You are also responsible for all losses in the business and as a sole trader you could be liable to pay losses from your personal estate and finances. It’s important that you take out business insurance when becoming a sole trader, you will have the peace of mind with legal security if the worst were to happen.
A limited company is the preferred method for most independent/small businesses (as well as huge businesses). So why become a Limited Company? Well other than having LTD at the end of your name it also ensures the business is a separate legal entity. This allows you to sell the business or even shares down the line if you so desire and it also protects you on a personal level. Unlike a sole trader, if a Limited Company had losses to pay it would be down to the business assets rather than your own personal assets, such as your own home. If you run your business well, efficiently and honestly you should never incur any huge losses but you can never be too prepared for matters that are out of your hands and being a Limited Company provides you with that security.
Partnerships are very common with Husband & Wife teams, especially in wedding photography. A partnerships works very similar to a sole trader business, the only difference is there will be a contract/agreement in place between the partners. Therefore all partners are liable for any business losses, this is very important, if you intend to go into a partnership you need to place a ton of trust into your partners. Any problems that occur due to bad business, even if it was entirely your partners fault, you may be liable. I would highly recommend speaking to a legal advisor before you take the step into partnerships.
Make sure you seek legal advice before you take any steps in your business structure and entity. It’s important the first steps you take in business are effective and correct from the start.