Let me kick this off by saying, tax season as a photographer used to make me cry. Like real tears. In front of my accountant. I may or may not have tossed my calculator in a fit of frustration but that’s not the point here.
This year, once we finished, I took a victory lap, gave dan a huge hug and reminded myself how proud I am of myself and how far I’ve come from that weepy, calculator throwing hot mess. I even remember saying out loud “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I’m smart enough to figure out all these numbers or learn how to bookkeep.” And for that reason, I didn’t think I could be a successful business owner. Because let me tell you, you could be the worlds greatest photographer or have a skill that is truly unmatched, but if you don’t have your shit together when it comes to ALL the other tasks, you will never be able to run a profitable and successful business. That’s one part of it. The other part of it is this; at first you won’t have your shit together and that’s ok. But if you don’t have the motivation to learn, your business is kinda doomed.
The turning point for me? When I was crying and bitching and making excuses for why I couldn’t learn, I was also considering leaving my full time job in education. Ya know, that safe job that come tax season you hand over your W2 and call it a day. But my husband Dan asked “would you rather be writing 504’s (my least favorite part of being a school counselor), getting yelled at my parents and writing 60 letters of recommendation for the next 25 years?”
And in that moment, I chose which hard I wanted to tackle. And this year, it was a lot less hard…I might even say I enjoyed it a little. SO here is where I want to share some of the steps I took to make sure I never cried at tax season again.
Register your business as an LLC
This was one of the first things I did when I started out as a photographer and I’m SO glad I did. It made the next few steps easier. A word of advice, save all of your paperwork from the state. This is your first big step as a legal business, set the foundation with organization.
Open up a separate checking and savings account for your business
Keep your profit and loss separately from your personal checking and savings account. Someone gave me this advice early on and I ignored it only to have to scramble later. TRUST, this makes the next step easier. Noticing a theme here?
Apply for a business credit card
Another step I totally avoided but getting a business card made life SO much easier. I was able to track expenses, categorize them and keep all of my business spending on one card. No more saving receipts, writing things down into an excel sheet. Monthly statements and online management was a timesaver. I put everything on my business card so I know every penny is accounted for. Things like, studio supplies, lab fees, client gifts, subcontractor payments, software, education, office supplies, camera gear, laptops, monitors, professional subscriptions and SO MUCH MORE. Expenses as a business owner can seriously add up – keep them in one place.
Purchase a software for bookkeeping
I like to use Quickbooks because I can integrate it with my client management system, Honeybook. All of my invoices are tracked in Quickbooks automatically. I also integrated my credit card so that my expenses are tracked. I try to keep all of my expenses on the credit card but sometimes use venmo, which brings me to my next tip.
If you’re using venmo, make sure it’s a business account
This tip isn’t just for photographers but all small business owners who use venmo, use it LEGALLY. You shouldn’t be asking your clients to write something sketchy in the description box because that is basically a declaration that you are avoiding paying tax and thus running an illegal business. I know I know taxes suck but they’re a part of life and a part of running a profitable business. Avoiding taxes comes from a scarcity mindset. If you owe money it’s because you did realllyyy well as a business owner and that is something to be proud of. Don’t let money scare you.
Outsource when you’re ready
After my breakdown during tax season, I knew I had to make a change. I had two choices, learn how to bookkeep myself and dedicate one day a month to it, or hire someone who can do it for me. I realized that I would rather take on more work that I LOVE to be able to hire someone to do the work I really don’t love as much. Although a bookkeeper is one of my biggest monthly expenses, it’s worth every penny because it gives me time to do what I love, stress less and enjoy the fun parts of running a photography business. Only you know when you’re ready for this step!