Basic Business Studies for Photographers: Intro

I'm still in the process of editing down and posting all the content from my old site, so here comes the latest batch - business studies.

None of this is terribly exciting I'm afraid. You can look forward to topics such as "break even" (ooooh), "Invoicing" (aaaaaah), "Insurance" (erm, eeeeeek?) and so on. However, I'm not exaggerating here when I say that without a basic business knowledge you'll last about 10 minutes as a self-employed freelance photographer.

Some of it comes under the heading of "common bleedin' sense", and some is stuff that you will only really find out after you've been in business for a while.


I'm going to touch on areas of tax, and other intricate accounting matters, and I am not an accountant. I will make as few specific references as possible for the following reasons:
  1. Tax laws vary enormously from country to country.
  2. They also change over time.
  3. They often carry stiff penalties for breaking them, and I don't want anyone saying "photosmudger told me so!" when they're dragged off in chains.
What I'm aiming to do is talk about broad principles that can be applied irrespective of the precise laws that are in force. The 2 things you should do if you're in business for yourself as a photographer is firstly, and above all else, get an accountant, and secondly read one of the 2 following books:
  1. If you're in the UK, you need "Financial management for the small business".
  2. And if you're in the US, you need "Best Business Practices for Photographers".
If you're somewhere in the rest of the world, then to be honest with you, I haven't a clue. Sorry about that. At least I'm honest.

I won't touch upon the more esoteric/psychological aspects of being self-employed, as whilst I feel they're absolutely essential, I'm saving them for later. Like a nice pudding.

Other Posts in "Basic Business Studies for Photographers": Intro, Break Even and Your Money, Tax, Accountants and registering as Self Employed, Good Business Habits, Equipment and Insurance, Credit Control and Invoicing.

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Blogger mammasan said...

Imagine the joy when I saw the new instalments on my RSS this morning. There's an eternal discussion prevalent about what makes a 'Pro'. Some say talent, others say owning a turtleneck.

I say knowing THIS makes you a pro. It makes you understand business, I don't care if you take the worst photos I've ever seen, if you're operating a business, charging correctly, paying your tax and operating above the radar, you're in.

Read ALL these, twice.

29 November 2007 09:42  
Blogger Photosmudger said...

Crikey - now I'm bringing JOY! I never expecetd that!

Cheers Mammasan, it's something that's a bit close to my heart is this topic. I can recall countless forum discussions along the lines of "what's the difference between a pro, a Semi-pro and an amateur?", and so many of the answers (usually from amateurs) are based around things like cameras and technical ability.

If you're making your living out of it you're a pro. It's as simple as that in my book. I hope these posts go some way to helping those who have the technical skills but lack the business sense!

29 November 2007 09:52  
Blogger Steve Cairney said...

Yeah, I was pretty excited (that's my old, anonymous on the internet log in)

Like I said in the new comments, it can be hard to find a good resource for UK creative types here on the 'net. US based advice is ok, but people forget sometimes that just because they're English speaking, doesn't mean it all applies. So far the best advice I've ever given or received about business has been over a pint. So yeah, a little joyed I was.

I hope that I can shoot some advice over in the comments and also pick up some tips too. You can never know it all.

I'd also like to recommend a book to people about going it alone in the world of business. Most books are US based (I've never read the John Harrington one, so I dunno) or are about fictional pipe laying companies.

I got hold of a good book about running a graphic design (yeah, I'm one of those photographers) company called:

How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing your Soul

Photography and Design are in my opinion the same thing, albeit in a different medium. So it's worth checking out.

Tom, you went to Blackpool college, where are you from in the world?

01 December 2007 11:38  
Blogger Photosmudger said...

Hi Steve,

Very pleased the blog is doing what it's supposed to be doing. And I wholeheartedly echo your point about not knowing everything - I'm making it my gospel to only write about stuff I know about from first (or possibly very well authenticated second) hand experience. It's the same rationale I try and apply on forums - don't spoke unless spoken to!

Feel free to pick me up on anything you think I've missed.

Will check out the graphic design book, cheers for the link. And if I ever start a pipe laying company I'll be sure to buy one of teh ones you recommend. Have you got as far as my Reading list posts yet? There's some goodies on there.

I'm from Northants originally, 3 years in Blackpool, and nearly 10 years down in here in London. Yourself?

01 December 2007 11:53  
Blogger Steve Cairney said...

East Lancashire born, resident of Liverpool now.

Succeeding in London really is testament to you. That place will chew you up and spit you out. While making your snot black.

I just hope you get the readers! I've been dropping your URL where I can and where it's valid.

01 December 2007 12:00  
Blogger Photosmudger said...

Ah, liverpool. It's been a few years since I last shot up there, though I have many happy memories of drunken visits from college! Also, a very old friend of mine worked on the papers there for many years, and has a host of marvellous scouse anecdotes that he still regales me with now and again!

The black snot becomes a badge of honour after a while. If you want the honest truth, I was absolutely-positively-shitting-myself 10 years ago when i first moved to London. Mostly for the reasons you mention. And now I wouldn't leave for all the tea in China!

Thanks for passing the URL around. I'm trying to make some design changes over the weekend, so things might be up and down a bit over the next couple of days.

01 December 2007 12:10  

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