Blogging is definitely one of my favorite business tasks on the to do list. Blogging gives me a way to have an ongoing conversation with my brides and with potential clients every week. I am a huge believer that you need to play up your strengths, so if you hate writing, I am not trying to tell you that you have to blog 5 days a week. I am just throwing out some things that have worked for us.
My very first website was a little blog site that was frantically put together in the back of Panera on an old laptop while I was in grad school. If we are being honest…it was awful. But, it served a purpose. I blogged my very first photo sessions…if we are being really honest those weren’t so great either. I also blogged about myself and random parts of my life like what I cooked for dinner and where we went on vacation. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to blog, but I just kept at it and I got excited as I began to see my blog following grow, because…I am pretty sure the only people that read those first blog posts where my husband and my mom.
There are several things that we blog about and there are reasons why we blog them. I have seen several posts in the P31 Facebook Group of people wondering what to blog, so I thought it would be great to give a few ideas that have worked for us.
Weddings/Sessions – We have blogged every session and every wedding that we have shot. It keeps the blog moving, helps clients know you are constantly shooting and makes your clients feel like they are famous. Of course, you will always have sessions that don’t seem to fit with your brand, instead of not blogging those session, we thoughtfully go through and choose images that most reflect our brand from that session and blog those.
Personal Posts - We try to blog about ourselves so that our clients get to know who we are as people. We blog about the tv shows we watch, the places we shop, about our baby girl and how we like to spend our days off. We also blog about our faith. It is amazing to us when we meet new clients and they feel like they already know us because of reading our blog.
Brand Association - We try to blog about brands that we want our clients to relate our brand too. When people hear about a certain brand they have a picture of what that brand is about, so talk about brands that are similar to the brand you are trying to portray to your clients. Our brand is fresh and modern so we talk about similar brands that we love like: Anthropologie, Ikea, Apple, Target, Ann Taylor, Coach,and Banana Republic. We have actually booked a wedding when a bride connected to me because of my love for Coach bags.
Educational Posts - We provide educational posts for brides and photographers. We post tips for photographers, because so many people helped us and we love to help other photographers. And, we post educational posts for our brides because we want to educate our brides to help them have the best wedding possible. These posts also help establish yourself as a professional with your clients, and save you time because you can link the blog posts in emails instead of having to type out frequently asked questions in emails.
These are just some of the posts that have helped us build our business. I hope this can help you as well! You can check out our blog, and feel free to ask us any questions you might have.
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A few weeks ago I was at church having a conversation with someone. I was trying to explain the idea of an online community. It didn’t go well! He just looked at me like I had three heads. Worse, I tried explaining how God was using this online community. He was totally lost, but that is ok.
Although that man may not understand it, I do know that God uses social media. Yes, that’s right, I just said God is on Facebook! At this point you probably agree with me or you think I have completely lost my marbles.
Let’s travel back a year ago…
It was late one night, I couldn’t sleep and I was on Facebook. I saw a photographer’s ad on the side bar and I clicked on it. I saw he had his website embedded into his Facebook page. Cool, right? I wanted to know how he did it so I took a chance and e-mailed him. He e-mailed me back saying he used a company called Showit. As soon as I looked at Showit I fell in love and signed up.
Fast forward a few months and I was added to the Facebook Showiteer’s group. Not long after joining, I “met” Karen Stott. Actually, I said something stupid and sent her a message apologizing, hoping I didn’t offend her. Next thing I knew, she added me to another Facebook group, Pursuit 31. I instantly fell in love with the concept – Christian women who loved Jesus and also were professional photographers. I started engaging and found comfort in interacting with these women from all over the country.
It could have stayed just an online community, but I believe Facebook and social media become extremely powerful when you reach out and begin REAL relationships. I started to have Skype and coffee dates with some of the women and form amazing friendships. These ladies stood by me during one of the toughest seasons of my life when I lost my mom to breast cancer after a six year battle.
I was reminded again on Sunday how powerful Facebook is. Angie posted in our local P31 group about Easter Sunday. She wanted to know if everyone had a place to go and if not, they were welcome to come over. I grew up Jewish so I never celebrated Easter with my family, and after losing my mom I didn’t have a place to go. So I said, “Yes I am coming!” I drove two hours to New Jersey to spend Easter with Angie and her family. I loved every minute. We ate dinner, the kids had an Easter egg hunt, and later her eight-year-old daughter even tattooed me. The kids went to bed and Angie, her husband and I stayed up talking. Finally at 1 AM I decided it was time to leave. As I was driving home all I could think about was how amazing our God is, and how he uses Facebook to bring people together.
Some fun iPhone photos from Easter Sunday:
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When it comes to fulfilling our callings and pursuing the things we were meant to do, why do so many people back down from their fullest potential?
The answer is quite simple; it is the fear of rejection that puts up a wall between us and our wildest dreams. This is where I struggle, when it comes to encouraging and motivating others. Because, I can tell them all day long to “Shoot for the stars!” and “Live to the fullest!”, but there is just no way that I can help them avoid the painful rejection that WILL come from time to time when they take that advice. But then….I found a quote that does it for me:
What an amazingly comforting thought that is!
Not getting the job you wanted or losing out on a wedding booking is a little bit easier to accept when you think of it, not as the employer/client REJECTING you, but as God stepping in and REDIRECTING you.
So, guess what that means?! Every single time you are rejected, you are directly hearing and experiencing His plan for your life. Every door that is slammed in your face is another step in the right direction. EVERY single time you step out and try something, you will get an unmistakeable answer from God, even if it’s not the one you had hoped to hear.
If you are sitting there, not knowing which direction to go and wondering what the Lord has lined up for you….just do something! Even if it leads to failure, it is simply a redirection to where you should be.
So, if every rejection is just another step forward in His plan for your life, then I would say it is a blessing indeed!
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The second installment of I Work Here is featuring the cozy workspace of Spring Smith Studios in New Hampshire. I love how homey her space feels! It makes me smile just looking at it! I love the eggshell color walls, and the way she mixed furniture. She got pretty creative when decorating and found some great bargains! Read on to find out how she did it.
“I’ve always wanted an office. That might sound strange but I always felt like you were a real professional when you had an office. Feeling like a “real professional” wasn’t the only reason behind getting an office space but it was definitely one of them. I had a hard time working from home. I would end up in my PJ’s at 2pm still checking emails, my dog would be begging to go outside, and I’d not even made it downstairs for breakfast. Working from home wasn’t working. I had been meeting clients in a local coffee shop and although it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great. I wanted a space where I could display large canvas prints, sit on a couch, crack open a bottle of wine, and relax with my clients. This room was exactly what I needed. The natural light and original wood floors were top of the list. I wanted somewhere that I didn’t feel isolated, and being on Main Street in North Conway Village, New Hampshire, with a Cupcakery across the hall was the perfect fit.
I really wanted a warm, welcoming space that felt like home to me. I also wanted a space that I could shoot portraits in if I wanted to. I haven’t done many yet, but the light is beautiful and Im hoping to do a few baby photos and maybe even a 1st birthday photo session in here soon.
I started with a neutral wall color, something not white and not gray and not ivory, but a happy combo of the three. Something that color and black and white prints would come alive against. I found an old dresser at a yard sale and found some fun turquoise knobs to dress it up at a local craft shop. The couch and my desk are both from a consignment furniture store in Westbrook, Maine. (http://www.upscalegroup.com/content/homepage.aspx). The chair is from Bob’s Discount, I found it in the Pit even though there was nothing wrong with it! All my Pillows are TJ Maxx finds. My two tables (coffee and side table) are from Crate and Barrel – I found both at the outlets for great deals. The rug was a Green Mt. Furniture find on sale (although it sheds very badly). I love the colors.
The canvas prints on my walls are from Canvas On Demand and Pixel 2 Canvas. Most of the accessories are TJ Maxx finds (the small table in front of the window, the vase and decorative sticks as well as the items on the dresser). The easel was also a TJ Maxx find and the white chair (with the canvas leaning against it) is also a Bob’s Discount Pit find (it’s a desk chair that needed a few new screws). Not bad for $25!”
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Oh good Lord it’s tax season again! I hope you all didn’t wait until the last minute (cough cough like me cough cough). Actually I’m 99% finished with mine but I haven’t sent it in because frankly I just don’t like the results. I was thinking if I sat on it a while that maybe the numbers would magically change or that I would suddenly remember some big deduction I totally forgot about. BUT, neither is likely because 1. ) numbers don’t change by themselves, and 2.) I keep pretty good records. So, I just have to bite the bullet and hit send. I shouldn’t complain really. Owing taxes just means that my business made money = which is a GOOD thing!
But that brings me to this post because I get asked a lot of questions about business mumbo jumbo and tax questions. Before photography, my last official title was a Director of Operations for a multi-million dollar company. I am also an independent Business Consultant and run a private firm that handles financial management, commercial real estate and tax management for small and medium sized businesses. I’m a certified tax preparer for the IRS and the State of NJ, so I’m pretty comfortable handling the various mumbo jumbo business stuff that the photography industry throws at me. So I figured I’d offer up a few tips and FAQs that might make your tax season, and the rest of your business year a little easier. Feel free to disagree with my advice and do things another way, but just like any other “system” do what works for you and what you are comfortable with.
FEW QUICK TIPS:
- I recommend QuickBooks accounting software for running your business. Yes, I know a bunch of people that use tons of other photog specific things and I’m sure they are great, but I still prefer QuickBooks. It’s got everything from invoicing, automatic bank reconciliation statements, payroll services and not to mention that 99% of the work is complete come tax time. That is as long as you keep up with inputting your invoices and entering your expenses, as you should. It’s very easy to use once you get past the learning curve and will be a skill you will use for a lifetime.
- Go accrual vs. cash basis. It’s way easier to plan for things. Yes, you end up paying all of your sales tax up front, but better to get it over with in my opinion. Also budgeting and forecasting becomes way easier.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Which is better LLC vs. Sole Proprietor?
Answer = LLC. You can start as a sole prop and later convert pretty easy through Legal zoom, but ultimately you should be an LLC for a number of reasons. More protection for your personal assets being #1. Not complete protection, but way more than if you were listed as just a sole proprietor. I just checked legal zoom and the cost for their standard package is only $289 + $175 for a state. An attorney would probably charge you $1000 to do this and legal zoom does a fine job at less than half of that.
2. Do I need to file a separate tax return for my business?
No. Not if you are a single member LLC. (Single member meaning you do not have a partner who is entitled to a percentage of ownership in your business). You can file your personal taxes as usual, and add a Schedule C form as part of your personal tax return. The Schedule C will detail all of your business activity. You will also need to file a Schedule SE (Self employment tax form) but your tax preparer will know to grab that one too if you are filing a Schedule C as they usually go hand in hand.
3. What is the best way to categorize expenses?
That’s a personal preference on how you would like to see these things in your reports. At the end of the year, you’ll have to conform to how the IRS wants you to report it, which is listed on the Schedule C form. I’ve attached a portion of a screen shot of my P&L in an excel form. I’m not sure how to link it here, but if you email me at Angelsea@creativeeyephotography.com I’ll be happy to send it to you. I’ll also added it to the P31 Dropbox, so if you are already approved member there, you can go grab it.
You’ll notice account #99999 “need to reclass”. This is the account I stick stuff into when I’m not sure where it goes. Example, I spent $200 at Staples and that included coffee, paper, a chair mat and a new backpack for my daughter during back to school shopping. So, I’ll need to reclass that later, but I want to go ahead and record the transaction so I can pay the credit card bill. (Later it goes to “member draw” – the account I use when I take money from the business for personal use.)
4. How do you collect Sales Tax?
Sales tax gets collected ON TOP OF your fees/products or whatever you are charging. **(Check your specific states because the rules vary with each on what is taxable – i.e. labor, products, services, etc). BUT my point is if you charge $1000 and your state want you to pay 7% Sales tax, you then collect $1,070 from your client. You then send the $70 to the state. You should NOT take the $70 from the $1,000. That is you paying the sales tax on behalf of your client. You are the collector – on behalf of the client – you do not owe the money yourself. (That would be Federal Income Tax)
5. Is it better to pay quarterly taxes or pay at the end of the year?
This question applies to your Federal Income Taxes only.
Answer = Quarterly – BUT only if you have owed the IRS more than $1,000 for more than 2 years, in a row. If you do, you are REQUIRED* to make quarterly payments. The IRS knows you will owe them and they don’t want to wait until the end of the year for their money. If you do not prepay each quarter, you will be subject to penalties and interest.
If you pre-pay your estimated quarterly payments and end up paying too much, you’ll just get a refund when you file you taxes at the end of the year.
I hope this helps! If there are more questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to do another post later.
“Render unto Caesar what is due Caesar” and you’ll be just fine!
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