5 Ways to Save Money as a Self-Employed Photographer

Being a self-employed photographer comes with a lot of excitement, creativity, and expense. However, for many in this field, their livelihood depends on carefully budgeting business costs. While hiring an accountant can go a long way in keeping your finances organized, there are ways to cut back on your expenses and make your hard-earned dollars go further.

Below are five ways you can save money while taking pictures you love:

1. Track Your Spending

Knowing how much it costs to pay your light bill or studio rent isn’t the same as knowing what your total spend is each month. When determining how much overhead you actually have, remember to include things like fuel for your vehicle, payment processing fees, and even photo props you picked up for a last-minute shoot.

This process will help you audit your spending and help you identify wasteful habits that are costing you revenue. Plus, when you file your federal tax return, you’ll have an easier time tracking down necessary purchases and receipts as part of your allowable deductions.

You should also have a separate bank account for business transactions. Then, should you ever undergo a tax audit, the IRS won’t confuse personal deposits and expenses with those of your business.

2. Watch Your Spend on Photography Equipment

While it’s true that equipment purchases could ultimately qualify as a tax deduction, this doesn’t mean it will make up for the entirety of the cost. If your tax rate is around 20%, that means you only save about 20 cents per dollar spent. Therefore, it’s important to be realistic about what tools you need to do your job and not try to justify those you don’t truly need.

Having a business plan in place when starting your business can help you determine the type of gear you can expect to purchase and when. In addition, you will have a clear idea of how it will contribute to your revenue and how long it will take to recoup your investment.

3. Protect Your Business Against Costly Mistakes

One sure way to save money as a self-employed photographer is to insure your company against perils like professional mistakes or damaging a client’s property during a shoot. The cost to keep your business safe will easily cost less than trying to pay for claims against your business out of your own pocket.

Below are a few coverage options to protect you and any employees you might hire from financial liability:

Professional Liability Insurance

Also referred to as Errors & Omissions insurance, this policy protects your business from claims made by clients for professional mistakes. For instance, perhaps you forgot to change the aperture settings on your camera to adjust for overcast light at a shoot. The resulting poor image quality is your fault, and the client won’t be able to retake the session because their family is no longer in town for the wedding. If they decide to sue, this policy would also cover some of the related court costs plus their damage claim.

General Liability Insurance

Outside of professional mistakes, a lot can go wrong as a self-employed photographer. What happens if a client gets injured during a shoot? General liability policies protect you against instances where your clients and other third parties might file a claim for the following:

  • Injuries
  • Client property damage
  • Claims of defamation, libel, slander

Commercial Auto Insurance

As a small business owner, you probably don’t plan to buy a fleet of vehicles for your photography business. But, using your own car to get around to different shoot locations means more time on the road and an increased risk of an accident.

Personal policies won’t cover the damage to your vehicle, the equipment, or client photos you might be transporting if you get in a fender bender while traveling for business. This is why commercial auto coverage is essential; it provides additional protection that standard policies do not.

Commercial Property Insurance

When it comes to protecting your business property and equipment, general liability won’t cover losses you suffer but just those of your client. A commercial property insurance policy fills this gap and can pay for the repair and/or replacement of broken cameras, stolen equipment, and more. In addition, these policies protect against events beyond your control, like storm damage taking the roof off of your studio, so you can get back on your feet and back to doing what you love.

Business Owner’s Policy

With all this talk of separate insurances, you might prefer a bundled approach to your coverage with a business owner’s policy. This is a popular option for millions of small businesses because it includes several coverages or a lower cost. Typically, your insurer will have a predetermined package that includes auto, property, and general liability insurance, though you may be able to incorporate even more if they allow it.

Cyber Liability Coverage

In a day of mobile apps and web-based marketplaces, you’ll more than likely be accepting multiple forms of payment, including credit cards, phone-based payment services, and more. This means you’ll be responsible for keeping your clients’ digital information safe from identity thieves and hackers. If a breach should happen or their data is compromised, this policy covers damage claims made by customers and helps you through the recovery process after an event.

4. Go Paperless Wherever Possible

While it’s true you can’t go completely digital as a freelance photographer, there are still many aspects of your business that can. For example, invest in management software that offers electronic billing and online marketing features instead of mailing invoices or spending thousands on postcard advertising. Even contracts and protected covenants like non-disclosure agreements can all be created and signed by all parties electronically with e-signature technologies. This will save you significant costs on office supplies, postage, and printing services.

5. Plan Ahead for Taxes

You know the old saying about the things you can count on in life, and taxes is one of them. As a self-employed business owner, you will need to file your federal taxes with the IRS annually and possibly pay your state quarterly. Depending on your operations, you may also have local tax obligations.

Consider speaking with a knowledgeable financial advisor or bookkeeper to understand your photography business’s liabilities. You should also plan to put away a portion of your earnings to cover what you might owe.

The good news is that small business owners qualify for a significant amount of deductions to lower how much they have to pay Uncle Sam each year. But, your income will vary each year, as do the requirements to qualify for tax breaks, so don’t assume you’ll always pay the same amount each year. Also, avoid unnecessary penalties for not withholding enough money aside to cover your bill.

The Best Savings Starts with Preventative Measures

One of the most cost-saving tips a self-employed photographer should focus on is protecting their business against the many liabilities that can jeopardize its success. From economic downturns to unsatisfied customers, there are countless perils you’ll face throughout your career.

Comprehensive insurance coverage to protect your career against costly damage claims, whether by a customer, theft, or a building fire, could save you thousands of dollars in losses for a small monthly price. If you haven’t already purchased coverage, now is the time to start getting quotes and finding the right policy for your business.

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