No, I’m not talking about the tender form of physical affection shared between loved ones, nor am I talking about the Gene Simmons extremely wet and likely less than tender form of physical affection, I’m talking about – Keep It Simple Stupid.
Don’t take it personally, you’re not stupid, it’s simply an acronym referring to doing things in a way that causes the least stress and avoids unnecessary barriers to company formation. If your feeling sensitive today, go ahead and replace ‘stupid’ with ‘silly.’
Either way, starting your photography business quickly, easily (and legally) by establishing a sole-proprietorship is a perfect example of Keeping ISS.
There are different terms floating around referring basically to the same type of business structure — self-employed, independent contractor, sole-proprietor. Your tax advisor’s head might pop-off because I said that, and s/he’s right, but I hate numbers and taxes so for our purposes in this post, these are all basically the same animal.
It’s similar in Europe where my office is located. For example, in France, there is the autoentrepreneur and entreprise individuelle. The distance in similarity is actually a bit further apart for these entities than their counterparts in the US, but you get the idea.
Let’s just get back to KISS…few if any legal fees, less paperwork, less hassle, less time, less cash needed for registration, less administrative B.S. means more time for taking photos, building client networks, gaining experience, finding mentors, experimenting with light and living life as it should be.
If the time comes for you to expand and you find yourself in need of dedicated employees, business partners or capital investors, Keeping ISS becomes less and less feasible. Under these types of circumstances you’re entering a realm requiring stronger legal protections that can only be found through more robust types of business structures likely governed by different, yet often similar rules in your specific country of operations (e.g. limited company, general partnership, SA, Sarl, GmbH, etc.).
As painful as the thought may be, you’ll still have to pay taxes as a sole-proprietor, but tax write-offs will be your best friend…and it’s within your legal right to do so for virtually anything you can equate to business-related taxable expenses.
Based on the fact that your business assets and personal assets are considered one in the same (i.e. no separation of assets), you will need to find a photog-specific insurance policy to cover your ASSets.
You’re best bet is to join one of the top professional photographer trade associations and you can easily get set-up through their affiliate insurance carriers.
For example, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and Editorial Photographers (EP) are partnered with this photo and video insurance company. Otherwise, simply talk with your current insurance company and see what type of coverage they offer for photographers.
Don’t for one second think I’m your legal counsel on this topic. It’s your job to be prepared in all facets of your business, whereas most hobbyist/amateur/semi-pro photographers are primarily only concerned with understanding how to get paid fairly for their photography and forget that there is an entire business system behind the pricelist.
This linked New York Times article covers some key advantages and disadvantages of a sole-proprietorship or for more detailed info take a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration Self-employed & Independent Contractor page.
If you’re a photog or aspiring photog from some other far corner of the globe and know any good links on the subject, kindly post them in the comments section for others to benefit from.