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CREATING YOUR PLAN




1. CREATION OF YOUR UNIQUE PLAN 
Writing a plan helps you visualize. So write down the following as questions and answer them:  Example : What are my goals, financial independence etc. 

  • Goals
  • Identify the strategies for your success
  • Financial requirements of your business 
  • Assets and resources
  • Establish a clientele
  • Workable timetable
  • Comparisons in your area for pricing
  • How you will market yourself.
  
2. MAKE YOURSELF LEGAL 

A)  Secure a legal business identity with tax- and local licensing applicable to your location. Rules differ by state and parishes, counties and cities. Check the rules that apply to a home based photography business they may be different. Also decide if you are going to be a corporation, a sole proprietorship, a partnership etc. You will need a "DBA" if you call yourself a name other that you own. Like "Aristocrat Photography" hopefully not too many parents named their kids "Aristocrat". Tax rule state that you can only claim business deductions from your home office if the space where you work is used exclusively and regularly for that business. Kitchen tables and screened in porches don't count. this is where it pays to have a good accountant to help you establish the business.

 B)  Open a business banking account. Don't mix business with pleasure. Separate your business from any personal finances. Most banks require a your licenses and corporate papers if applicable to establish an account. Use it to pay all your business bills and expenses. Starting on a credit card? Have a separate card for your business expenses. 

C)  Check zoning regulations: Some neighborhoods and neighbors like the guy next door "who your dog greeted with a message in a pile" may resent you having company over to your house for commercial purposes. Where we live requires a board of seven to handle all the squabbles that arise from neighbors being neighborly. 

3. GEARING UP 

You should really be well equipped at this point because you will need all you finance to live on and promote the business. Large expenditures in a new company is paramount to going under unless you are well endowed in the bank.

  • Photographer's Checklist:
     o Cameras and Lenses 
     o Tripods 
     o Electronic flash units, studio lights and stands 
     o Seamless paper and other backgrounds
  
  • Business Person's Checklist:
     o Office Equipment such as a desk, chairs, lighting and pleasant surroundings 
     o Computers and PRINTERS, both for business (laser) and prints (Ink jet or dye -sub)
     o Telephone system with outside call ins for recordings
     o Faxes and Scanner
     o Storage Areas and lockable are for equipment and privacy 
     o File cabinets for client files.
     o Stationary and business cards 
     o Flyers about yourself and business
     o Contracts and forms with Logo


4- INSURANCE 

  • Protect yourself with liability insurance 
  • Protect clients going to your in-home studio, or they might wind up owning your house.
  • Equipment indemnity, (If your gear is stolen, if your home is broken into, fire-bombed, flooded) Some homeowner's or renter's insurance do not cover these items. But they might have a rider, ask your agent, be forthcoming, a few bucks in the right place can get you back up again. 
  • Health and disability insurance in the event that you cannot continue working in your business and you quit your day job. Wait till you see what that costs. 

5- CONTACTS 

     o It's important to join the local chamber of commerce

     o Various photography associations

     o Professional organizations like Rotary, Moose, etc.

     o Today they call it networking, in the past it was a place to get a few beers and look for business, compare notes, swap a few lies, brag about your golf game and collaborate with other photographers in your area. It seems the most important function it serves today is to add a few initials after the name of your business or icons on your business cards.

     o Business Associates: Having a good backup in equipment is important, having a good shooter as a backup if you get double booked or sick is essential in avoiding things like lawsuits. etc. 

     o Also you must know thy labs and printers.  You'll need a working relationship with your providers, the internet has made the industry very cold. About as cold as being on the internet. You'll need a good lab. Funny, many of the Wal-Mart and Sams club, Costco and Wal-greens shooters don't hang around long or are destined to the low budget arena.

     o A lab you can make or break you. You are looking for quality, timely delivery, and get first strike or right the first time. 


ACCREDITATION

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS 

Winston Churchill, the great cigar chomping Brit once said: "I would never join a club that would have me as a member"!  Actually it was an American Will Rogers who said it first and it was also used by Groucho Marx and Woody Allen. What a club! I would have loved to be a fly on that wall.  And regardless of what they are called, basically organizations are clubs. We all want to be part of something. It all goes back to our primal days when we shared the same cave. It's "belongs-manship". 

We all wanted to be recognized and accepted as peers and occasionally dodge the rain and a few roaming saber-toothed tigers. It's tough today to sort the good from the huge amount of professional organizations that simply merit the individual for such great achievement in the magazines chosen field for accomplishments such as "dues payment". 

The simple act of "checking the box for automatic checking or credit card deductions" for dues payment brings accolades of thank you notes and emails plus pats on the back. The usual stickers for your car, business cards with identifying logos and the monthly magazine mostly filled with pages of ads from other guys trying to sell you something. The requisite baseball cap and lapel sticker pin lets the world know you are part of the tribe.

If this sounds like the NAPP, not exactly, close enough, advertising pays the bills but generally their content is balanced, thats how you stay in business.  It's an excellent magazine, well written and really does open the mind to creativity. They have several good tips per month worth the price of admission.  About 99.00 per year but by using the discounts at vendors they offers, really costs me nothing.

Some organizations allow special privileges for "lifetime achievement". You paid your lifetime dues up front. Some even have names mentioned at lavish yearly gatherings of the lemmings called conventions. Conventions are like vitamins to club membership. You have peers, bonding, booze, demonstrations and vendors. Lots of vendors. And great speakers. 


HOLLYWOOD and ORGANIZATIONS

One prominent speaker with decades of recognized personal achievement in HOLLYWOOD turned in a horrifically dumb act of bravado playing the crowd.  Actors do that, they steal the moment. Charlton Heston, claimed he'll give up his flintlock when they pry it from his "cold dead hands". That’s cool, great advice... 

Some idiot one day will do just that.  I could see some moron facing ten ATF team guys telling them, I dare you. It almost happened to me.  A while back, I covered PRESIDENT BUSH along with a hundred other guys for a special event with six thousand guests in a relatively large indoor,  HANGAR THREE at MacDill. It's a regular large  maintenance hanger and they can fit a KC-135 in it. 

Having the the proper press and SS venue badges issued by the authorities, I had open coverage. I also did the usual front or 3/4 shot with long glass from the press stands.  I wanted more. I ran behind the stage to get to the other side to get a shot that wasn't shooting direct into the sun. Thats how I got (luck) this profile shot I used for my spoof on GWB and his gaffs.

I actually had run smack into the "A TEAM", several A teams. Presidential, State, and Local SWAT teams were behind the stage out of public view and on edge.

I will define the term "LOSER". Thats a tap dancer in a mine field. I felt like Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nicholas Brothers working our way across the Sudan or Bosnia. 

Let me tell you, they could pry any damn thing they wanted from me. My G-d, they are fast to respond to stimuli like me, a simple guy turning a corner in dimmed light with a 300mm on the shoulder at the ready. I haven't stared at that much hardware since Nam. Lots of red dots greeted me. OOOOPS!  I went the long way around.

NO FREE PRESS PASSES, NO PASS GO

Some organizations make it tougher to join because they realize so many have the wrong reasons for joining. Free press Passes. The sportsshooters.com now have a voucher and letterhead system. Some of the better Wedding groups jury your work and don't just give things away. Few fail most of those tests at the lower levels, you have to work to get to the top.  And thats good. 

GROUPS AND INSURANCE 

To join a group, just to get insurance for theft makes no sense. You'll do better with a combined plan for theft and liability. Theft only tells me you are gear related, your toys are the circle of your thoughts. A better mantra is "I'm building a business, related with the proper total coverage’s" is part of a good business plan. A wedding photographer who thinks "if he fails to get image and the Bride gets nothing. He just smiles and say I'm sorry, here's your money back and thinks that’s the end of it is foolish". We liver in a "sue-er" world and if you don't watch Bridezilla, you are naive.  

Even those who thought they covered their butts found out, in Florida the judge thought differently. With written contracts and all signed very nicely, thank you. They lost. One was in Broward , one in Tampa. Large payouts. In both cases a little tear shedding and it was all over. Off course the drunken/high/medicated (pick one) photographer was neatly captured on video and cameras by the guests.  A mere 25,000 dollar judgment had a sobering effect on his life.. There are associations you have to join.

THE CLUBS

Many states, counties, parishes, planets and galaxies require some kind of business permit to conduct a business. They call it a License. Even if you launch it from your home . Now you have zoning restrictions. To check into. The other club, called the IRS requires additional income being reported when it exceeds a certain amount like 600 dollars. 

Certain sales tax organizations require a small form to be filled out and if you don't charge sales tax...”WHY NOT” they ask with the Alfred E. Neumann look on their face. Damned if you do charge damned if you don't report it. In some areas the sales tax people are more feared than the IRS people. 

One enterprising individual aka sales tax trooper took all the cards at a Bridal Fair and ran the names across the county tax records to see who was a legitimate business. Surprise! In Florida again, they went after everyone who filled out a tax exempt card on film and was not paying sales tax. Gotcha! 

Are you a member of any photo associations be it... wedding specific or just a photographer association? Like PPA or WPJA? Do you find it helpful or useful in anyway. Do you think your clients even care? Or is it just to stay in the loop?

I've been tinkering about joining some for a few years now. Just wondered if anyone feels like they get their money's worth for joining… You will get out of it WHAT you put into it. What will joining an organization do for you? Look at your own situation. 

  •  Am you averaging two profitable Weddings a month?

  •  Is this your primary source of income.

  •  Do I attend on-going seminars or training.

  •  Do I have all the proper licenses and permits? 

  •  Does the IRS know me as a business.

  •  Note: It might even be a deduction, dues paid to a association for business practices

  •  Ask yourself, Do I do mailouts, soliciations, shows of my work at lobby's banks etc 

  •  Would it benefit me to show I belong to the Better Business Bureau, another fine club to join but only if you get involved at the meetings and organization levels. One photographer I know shoots all the new businesses that join the BBB and does a portrait of the owner (for nothing).

  •  He has an open invite into 1000 businesses to find work. All new fresh blood in town.... To join to impress your clients is not a good answer. 

  •  You need clients to impress. Someone who has not contracted with you is not a client. He is a referral or prospect. He becomes a client when he pays you and you perform services. 

  •  For some of you newbies in the game, working with a PRO will make you a PRO quicker and pay close attention to the business side of the business. Generally that’s where most of the failures in this game take place. Taking the best shooter in town to a good lunch might teach you more in one hour than years of magazine reading. Bottom line....you'll get out of it what you put in....


 © copyright aljacobs Stardate 10-18-2012