Look around your local wedding industry and business community, and you will no doubt find tons of unprofessional companies who are making big business claims but not running a legit show. Often this is simply due to naivety or ignorance. While we completely understand the steep learning curve of running your own company, we also know how important it is to get things right. It’s important not only for your clients, but for you and your family most of all. There is nothing more sad than stories of entrepreneurs facing audits, lawsuits, loss of money due to poorly written contracts (or a complete lack of one), theft of equipment with no way to purchase replacements, or an inability to scale bigger and become more profitable – all because they were misinformed! The JessAndy Blog is on a mission to educate photographers and wedding industry professionals in Canada on the benefits of doing business well, the cost of making careless mistakes, and resources you will need to grow and expand.
One of the common approaches in the photography world to starting a photo businesses is to begin operating under your personal name and tell everyone you know about your photography services. Sparse bookings with family and friends, for a killer deal, get the ball rolling and eventually photography starts to generate a nice little side income. So at some point the photographer starts to think about making this their official occupation. In Canada, they might register for a sole proprietorship – come up with a cute name – and create their new brand. The website gets a custom domain name, they start social media promotion, run a few ads and whallah! Business is official. And while this may be a fine place to start, a growing photography business can’t stop there. Nor any other small business for that matter.
At the start, entrepreneurs must also register for the following:
A Business Licence. Most cities/regions require these. They usually cost a few hundred per year, sometimes more if you want a mobile license to travel to other cities. If you live in Kelowna BC this is the link to visit to apply for your photography business licence. www.kelowna.ca/…
Liability and Equipment Insurance. Home insurance policies rarely cover the theft of your Canon 5d Mark IV, or the water damage to your computer from a flood. If you are photographing a wedding and Aunt Betty gets tripped by your camera bag that you hastily left in a walkway – you better have liability insurance should she break her arm. You certainly don’t want to get caught paying for legal expenses should she make a claim for damages. We use Front Row Insurance. Here is a link to information on their services: www.frontrowinsurance.com/…
Tax Accounts. If you anticipate making more than $30,000 through your Canadian Business this calendar year you will
need a GST number. Not sure? You don’t need it right away. But if your Canadian photography business continues to grow, you bet it’s just a matter of time until you will need to enroll in the GST program. Here is a link with more information: www.canada.ca/…. Likewise, you need to consider PST. Whatever province you live in is going to want a cut of all your product sales. So if you want to sell wedding albums or prints, you must immediately register for PST and begin charging this on your sales. www2.gov.bc.ca/…. Generally PST returns are filed monthly and GST returns are filed annually.
Additionally, photographers should also consider the following:
Professional Associations. There are numerous associations for photographers to join on a service/style, state/provincial, federal or international basis. If you are a photographer in British Columbia Canada this may be PPOC-BC. If you are a Canadian Wedding Photographer this could be Professional Wedding Photographers of Canada (PWPC). If you are a wedding photographer looking for international recognition, Fearless Photographers is an amazing community to participate in. If you are a photographer in the United States the Professional Photographers Association is great for business, marketing and legal support as well as accreditation/certification. This is just a tiny sampling of the multitude of options available. The benefits to joining associations like these are vast! You become part of a community of professionals who can offer inspiration, encouragement, advice and accountability. You gain access to a multitude of resources to grow your business. You can enter contests to gain valuable feedback on your work, and/or push the limits of your artistry while curating your very best work and gaining a deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. We highly recommend investing in at least 1 great association.
Professional Services through your Camera Manufacturer. An example of this would be Canon Professional Services (CPS). We are members of their Canadian division and receive discounted repair and cleaning for our cameras and lenses, free shipping for servicing and rentals, 24 hour loaners for your broken gear (invaluable at saving a wedding day!), hotline equipment support, test drives, and rewards. We are huge fans of their services for our Canon Wedding Photography Cameras and Lenses.
And all business owners, specifically service professionals, wedding vendors and photographers should consider…
Online business management, accounting and booking software. We use 17 Hats and are absolutely thrilled with their program! Not only does it have a fairly intuitive bookkeeping module, but you can manage all your contracts online and accept digital signatures, create as many custom workflows you might need for different aspects of your services, sync your calendars with multiple team members and your google calendar so you never miss an important date, create questionnaires, set up invoicing with automatic payment reminders sent to your clients, automate repetitive tasks, create email templates, accept online payments, sync emails, manage leads from your website, keep all your customers and colleagues contact information up to date, store project details, and view all your client files in one central location. It does take time to set up properly, and to learn, but the benefits are so incredibly worth it! 17 Hats regularly updates their software, cares about your feedback, offers a mobile app, and continues to add great new features. Check them out here – www.17hats.com
These are the big things we urge you to evaluate if you are serious about growing your business and offering the best service possible to your clients. Photographers, wedding professionals, and small business entrepreneurs in Canada can use many of the above links to develop a solid foundation for their operations. If you don’t have an operating name for your business and/or a Canadian business number yet, you can do this by visiting your local province’s online business registration service. Here is a link to the BC Registry: www.bcbusinessregistry.ca/….
Jessica and Andy Studios, and the JessAndy Blog, are not affiliated with any of the above websites, products or companies; nor are we offering professional legal or business advice. The above are solely expressed opinions. It is important that you gather your own research, and consult with a local professional accountant, lawyer and government agency when making any important decisions for your company. We cannot be held responsible for any of the advice contained in this article and how it may impact you. But hopefully this article can be a helpful resource pointing you in the right direction! Feel free to contact us privately if you have any questions about how we have set up our business operations. We are happy to share in greater detail.
Here’s to going legit!