The business side of freelance photography.
May 28, 2010 11:05 AM   Subscribe

So I'd like to start an art day camp out of my apartment, but I've heard I may need a license or something like that. Does anyone know what kind of steps I need to take legally before I start this project?

Also, I'm beginning to do event photography for kids' parties in addition to family portraits, headshots and commissioned artwork. Because the customers are paying me directly I'm not sure what I should do for taxes, etc... Just curious about the business aspect of these endeavors.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by wild like kudzu to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What is your location?
posted by mkb at 11:10 AM on May 28, 2010

1 -- Varies widely from state to state, and probably locality to locality. Maybe you could do it in combination with a local day-care facility to get your toes wet before you go through the probably-long-and-arduous certification process. Or at least you could ask them who to talk to in the local government.

2 -- Keep receipts. Get an accountant. Seriously, I've had more than one friend start a business like this and end up getting absolutely slammed by the IRS at some point. Get an accountant right up front and do exactly what he or she tells you to do at all times.
posted by Etrigan at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well for one thing, you need to make sure that you can run a business from your apartment. Many residential leases specifically prohibit commercial activity of the sort which involves hosting clients/customers on the premises.

It isn't just the landlord being a dick either: residential properties are almost always on property which has been zoned to exclude most commercial activity which goes beyond the home office.

Contact your local chamber of commerce and/or small business development corporation. Just about every small-to-medium-sized town has one, even if you've never heard of it, and they'll be more than happy to talk to you about the logistical steps involved in launching a small business. You may even be eligible for grants or other sorts of support. Seriously, these places are absolute gold mines for the budding entrepreneur.

In any case, the sorts of questions you're dealing with here--business licenses, permits, business associations, taxes, etc.--can only be answered by local experts, so I'm not sure you're going to get much more than this here.
posted by valkyryn at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2010

Okay, well thanks for what you've suggested, and I'm in Atlanta, GA.
posted by wild like kudzu at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2010

Starting a business in Georgia, per their state gov website.

Call this place for free small business counseling and workshops.
posted by jamaro at 11:50 AM on May 28, 2010

Make sure that you get liability insurance if you have visitors to you apartment for this purpose. You can increase your protection from liability for injuries, etc. by incorporating, maybe as an LLC. Get a lawyer to advise you. You could otherwise end up liable for some child's fall or injury from art products and your entire net worth would be fair game for the suing parents. This is a worst case scenario, but you cannot ignore the possibility entirely. Good luck.
posted by Jenna Brown at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2010

Make sure that you get liability insurance

This is now required by law in GA for daycare centers; I don't know if this applies to you. Rather than running it out of your apartment, you might want to see about partnering with local community centers or schools to use their facilities and possibly expertise, or perhaps start small by helping out with their summer programs. As an example of the sort of thing I am talking about, the Jewish Community Center near my house has a number of summer camp programs as well as renting out their facility for things such as kindermusik classes. Even though we are not Jewish we have particpated in a number of these. If there is a similar organization near you you might want to talk to them about your idea.
posted by TedW at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2010

IANYA but...Just some high level tips for the photography side, like any business, you want to keep really good records. All cash coming in and all expenditures going out. Save checks, receipts, bank statements, credit card statements etc. A seperate bank account might be good here as well as starting an LLC. Might not be a bad idea to talk to an accountant. If you dont set up a seperate company everything will go on Schedule C on your 1040.
posted by Busmick at 2:09 PM on May 28, 2010

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