5 Reasons to NOT be a Sole Proprietorship

5 Reasons to NOT be a Sole Proprietorship

Many times people start out in the creative field part time or with great uncertainty as to whether they are going to “make it” in business.   For these reasons, many of you may be sitting on a dangerous risk pile of sole proprietorship (SP) formation.  

Yes, because I will undoubtedly get emails saying there is a time and place for SP businesses. You are correct, however, I don’t feel comfortable recommending such a risky formation even withironcladd contracts and insurance contracts.  I present this article with the understanding that not each of you has the money or know-how to be a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Corporation, but I want to encourage the understanding into the risks of being a SP so that you can make a game plan to grow out of that formation. 


What is a Sole Proprietorship?

Colloquially, it’s having all your business and personal assets thrown into the same bucket. There’s not separation and there’s no liability protection arising out of the formation.    SP is quite a streamlined process, in fact, many times people create SPs without realizing it.  SP is the default formation that occurs when you’re in business (whether you are full time, part time, or just acting like it on any timeline).   State laws vary on formation requirements but this formation is most commonly found since it is the “default” and other formation types require overt filings and payment to receive those benefits and protections.


#1 Liability Risks

While SP is arguably the easiest and least expensive option, it also brings with it very little benefits.  Sure, you’re a formed business and may have ease of filing taxes, but there is an uphill battle trying to take your personal assets out of that “bucket” when an issue arises so your personal life isn’t touched.   At formation, LLC and Corporations give you two buckets – personal and business. All of the assets are separated.  Note: You’ll be afforded liability protections if you avoid piercing the corporate veil (more on that in another article). 


#2 Access to Capital

If you reach a point in business where you need to acquire financing, whether through loans or other individuals, sole proprietorships can have a difficult burden to demonstrate the value of the investment. Further, a sole proprietor cannot bring on partners as that would require a change in formation.


#3 Business Termination

Should the individual become incapacitated or deceased, the business ceases. A SP is tied to the individual and is not a “passable” entity.  


#4 Personal Bankruptcy/Credit Risk

Unlike other formations, all of the business credit goes under the SP as an individual.  When an SP “goes under” and needs to file bankruptcy it has to be done with the personal assets as well, not simply just the business assets.  Remember, no separate bucket protection here!  Further, should a “business” expense fall into collections, a creditor can collect judgment from the bucket that includes personal assets.


#5 Lose Tax Benefits

With LLC (with Corp election) and Corporation formations, there are tax benefits that can help the business (and you!) save money paid on taxes.  Sole Proprietors do not receive the same tax benefits that incorporated businesses do, and you may end up spending more than needed.  


As you can see – sole proprietorships may have a place in your business timeline, but for a limited period of time.  It is best to seek LLC or Corporation options to receive all the benefits and protections available to your photography business.


Need more help? 

This stuff can be really confusing.  BizRevamp® is an online course by yours truly, photography and lawyer – to help you understand business formation, taxes, contracts, insurance, retirement and more.  

Get more information here.

Should my photography business be an LLC?

Should my photography business be an LLC?

Should my photography business be an LLC?You’ve got mad skills with your camera and you’re ready to start your own photography business. 

How hard can it be?  Just start charging a fee for pictures right?  Not so fast. 


The formation of a business has liability and tax consequences that continue for years to come.  It pays to be thoughtful about your business structure from the outset to prevent unnecessary cost and headaches.  While the specifics will vary from state to state, there are some generalities that you can consider. 


If you simply start charging customers for your work (not recommended!), your loosely formed business structure will likely default to that of a sole proprietor or partnership.  Did you know that owners of sole proprietorships and partnerships remain fully liable for the debts and obligations of their businesses? On the other hand, those who own corporations are not personally responsible for business debts.  Many small businesses shy away from the corporation form because setting up a corporation can be a bit complicated, is generally more costly, and requires a number of ongoing formalities. 


Evaluating Your Options

The sole proprietorship business form is too small and the corporation business form is too big.  Like Goldilocks, you need to find a company form that is “just right.”  Fortunately, there’s another option.  Enter, the Limited Liability Company, or more commonly known as LLC. 


The LLC business form provides a flexible compromise between a general business form like the sole proprietorship and the corporation business form.  An LLC can be comprised of a single individual, a partnership, multiple individuals, or a corporation.   


In addition to the limited liability and the flexible tax options, the LLC is an attractive option to many business owners because it usually doesn’t need to comply with many of the legal formalities that govern corporations such as annual reports, director meetings, and shareholder requirements.


For these reasons and more, it’s one of the most widely used business forms for small businesses.    


Benefits of an LLC

The primary benefit of an LLC business structure is that the owner(s) enjoy the same personal protection from responsibility for business debts as owners of incorporated businesses. Forming an LLC takes about the same effort and cost as properly setting up a sole proprietorship or partnership, yet provides owners with the same level of protection as a corporate business structure.


To create your LLC, file articles of organization with the state and pay filing fees. When an LLC is formed, the owners should adopt rules, bylaws, and operating agreements.


LLCs have to follow most of the business requirements for a corporation including maintaining business accounts separate from personal accounts, and keeping up with record-keeping and appropriate licensing. State laws lay out record-keeping and licensing requirements (and those pesky fees!). The requirements must continue to be met for the LLC members to maintain limited liability.  If you fail to maintain all of these requirements, creditors may be able to reach your assets to satisfy business debt and liabilities – this is known as “piercing the corporate [or LLC] veil”.


The liability limit of LLCs provides a significant incentive for individuals in partnerships or sole proprietorships. With limited liability, in the off chance your photography LLC goes bankrupt, creditors would be limited to the business assets instead of your personal assets. With an LLC in place, a lawsuit or other financial liability may clean out your business assets, but your family home should be safe.  This protection can be lost, though, if the business owners act irresponsibly, illegally, or unethically in certain cases that must be proved in a court of law or an out-of-court settlement.


For many businesses, especially small businesses, the benefits and flexibility make it a better choice than other business forms.


Death and Taxes

One of the greatest advantages of the LLC business form is that they can elect how they will be taxed. The default taxation for an LLC depends on how it’s structured. Most of the time, the base group form decides the default taxation. In other words, if an individual forms an LLC, it’s taxed as a sole proprietorship. If a partnership forms an LLC, it’s taxed as a partnership.  For our purposes, let’s assume it’s just you and your camera so you are the sole member of your new LLC.  As a sole member LLC, you can decide whether it’s better for you to follow the IRS default and file your photography business taxes as a “disregarded entity” or elect to be taxed as a corporation.  A disregarded entity means that the business is treated like a sole proprietorship for tax reporting purposed and income is passed through to the individual tax return on Schedule C.  If you choose corporate taxation, your photography business will be taxed at a lower corporate rate for the first $75,000 of income.


Another tax advantage of the LLC form is that it allows you to set up both retirement funds and life insurance policies with greater contribution limits so you can set aside money for your future and your family.


Whether your business is taxed as a sole proprietorship or elect to have your photography LLC taxed as a corporation, both of these approaches can have big tax advantages, depending on how much income you personally want to take and how much you plan to reinvest in your blossoming photography business.


You may realize even more tax benefits by paying yourself from your LLC by paycheck.  By setting up the LLC taxed as a corporation, you may then pay yourself from the company through payroll and avoid self-employment taxes.  The company will still be responsible for a portion of the tax bill, so you will want to make sure your LLC budgets for that payment each reporting period.


Because everyone’s situation is unique, you should consult with a CPA or other tax professional to drill down into your financials so you really understand which option is best for you.


No matter how you elect to tax your photography business, don’t forget that business expenses can be deducted. Most importantly, you can deduct the cost of forming your LLC.  Make it a habit to hang on to all your receipts and invest in a scanner to organize them electronically (keep the receipt for you scanner purchase too!).


Are family and friends telling you to create your LLC in Delaware or Nevada?

Delaware and Nevada are hot states for incorporation and you might be tempted to consider creating your LLC in one of these states, especially if you are electing to be taxed as a corporation. After all, Delaware offers some of the most developed, flexible and pro-business statutes in the country, and Nevada has become a popular choice due to its low filing fees and the lack of state corporate income, franchise and personal income taxes. However, these benefits are more advantageous to larger companies. Since your photography business is a sole member LLC, incorporate in the state where your business has a physical presence. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with too many hassles and fees for operating out-of-state, including difficulty opening a business bank account, appointing a mandatory registered agent in the state of incorporation, and fees for operating as a ‘foreign entity’ in your own state.


Ready to start (or fix up) your photography business?

You’ve already mastered the art of the perfect photo.  That’s the hardest part.  Now you’re ready to set up your photography business for success by establishing it as an LLC.  

Now what are you waiting for?

BizRevamp® is the ONLY legal and business webcourse by a lawyer and photographer (hint..TheLawTog®) to help you do all of this yourself.  With topics on business, legal, taxes, workflow and more!  Check it out here.

The Fallacy of Balancing It All


Every entrepreneur is familiar with the failure of trying to balance it all.  Inevitably, something falls off the plate.  

But why is this?

Are we trying to manage too much? Are we just not good enough? Sometimes.  But I think it’s because we haven’t adjusted our perspective about time.   In order for something to be good we think there must be a lot of time committed to it.  

In fact, so many people “praise” us when we have so much going on, seem to be busy and “look like” we’re balancing it all.  Wrong. 

In order to feel wanted, we think we must have a lot of inquiries.  Wrong: You only need a few good quality ones to get the ball rolling.

In order to feel like you’re succeeding, we think we must have a lot of social media followers. Wrong: You need high conversion rates out of those followers, not just followers that are hitching a ride on the “like” train.

In order to make strides in business, we think we must spend a lot of time dedicated to tasks. Wrong: You must spend a proportionate amount of time on specific tasks. It’s not all about how much you can get done and how good you can look doing it.  

So what is this big fallacy? This idea that you have to balance it all. Look good doing it. And commit a good amount of time to important areas.  

Wrong. It’s the actual results you’ll get.

You can shorten time frames on certain tasks and responsibilities and STILL get results. One of the biggest things that falls off the plate of entrepreneurs is education.  Continuing education of your business.    We go through our day. Flipping on the computer, grabbing our coffee and trying to get through emails.  Next thing we know it, it’s the afternoon.  Off to client meetings/calls/shoots/whatever.  Then it’s school-pickup time or other life tasks.  That “education spot” on the to-do list keeps getting pushed aside for more immediate things. 

If you’re not putting education on your calendar – you need to get on it now then come back and keep reading. 

If you are putting it on the calendar but it falls off your task list- keep reading.

You don’t have to carve out an hour or two a day to get education to further your business. Listening to an hour long webinar, or 45-minute podcast doesn’t always mean that it’s giving you a better education. In fact, when you’re strapped for time it’ll end up being such a large chunk of time that you quickly dismiss this task as important because an hour or two every day/week/month without an immediate return on time/money.  In fact, unless you are in a slower season and have extra time to burn, you should be avoiding long educational sessions because they will inevitably go beyond your “one-hour-block” in order to be effective.

Consider this, you have to sit down and do the hour of educational listening. Great, but now you have to act on the item.  That could be another 15-20 minutes brainstorming, and potentially another hour or two enacting on that item. Not only does it suck up alot of time (and becomes that precarious task that gets pushed off the desk) but it can also lead to inactivity.  Long educational and brainstorming sessions can lead to an overwhelming feeling.  

Many entrepreneurs get overwhelmed, shut down and don’t act at all. I truly understand this and equate it to when I first began running. (You can insert any type of activity in your life here).  I hate to run. I did then. I still do now.   But I could convince myself to go run for 10 minutes at a time.  But when I was slotting myself for an hour long run as a beginner runner – it was too easy to push it off the calendar and convince myself I didn’t have time.

But by taking 10 minutes at a time, I ended up finding myself saying “Suck it up butter cup. Just ten minutes. Your body will thank you.” And it did.  In fact, that mentality of trying to balance it all was a shift in perspective.  I was able to balance self-health + business + family just by shortening up the time frame.

By shortening this, I was reducing the potential for dismissing the task at hand + became more effective + began to include it on a daily basis.  This ten minutes did end up becoming an hour, then two as I’ve grown in my journey to becoming an Ironman. But even on some days I still tell myself. -“just go to 10 or 20 minutes. That is better than nothing.”  I’m more likely to regret not giving a little bit per day than letting weeks go by before I’ll go out for a few hour run. 

And it is the same for business.  

Don’t let education get shoved off the desk because of no time or overwhelmed.  Take smaller bites. You can do most anything for ten minutes.  Imagine how long you were sitting scrolling through Facebook before you read this.  Probably ten minutes, huh?  You could’ve actively dug into an area of education and worked at moving your business along. 

Commit smaller chunks to education. Plus ACT on these individual chunks.

Yes, I do believe you should keep a list of areas of business you need to work on. Use that as a guide to check off day-by-day or week-by-week when you sit down for your small educational time.  

Whether it’s listening to a shorter and in-depth podcast, or reading a chapter of a book.  Imagine where you’ll be in a year if you do ten to fifteen minutes a day, instead of shoving this education off your desk constantly. For this reason – I created The Business Bites Podcast. It’s 10-15 minute chunks of informational topics such as business, marketing, legal. The goal is that you can fill the time it takes you to get from the house to the studio or client consultation with small education in a ten-minute chunk.  I encourage you to jump over to Apple and subscribe so you get notifications of these podcasts.    

In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I’m rolling out a bunch of episodes soon.  I am so disheartened to see so many of you telling me “I just don’t have time but I want to get better.”

Then let us get you better.    

**Purchase a book and commit to a chapter a day before you even turn on email. 

**Subscribe to my podcast and get automatic notifications

**Create a schedule so that this educational “bite-sized” time doesn’t get pushed off the calendar.

 The year may be half-over but if you committed 10 minutes a day from now until January 1st. That’s roughly (don’t shoot me, I’m a lawyer not a math teacher) 1500 minutes of education.   That’s a quite a bit of education.  

 **If you LISTEN TO THE FREE BUSINESS BITES PODCAST, that will be approximately 150 episodes

**If you read a portion of a chapter per day, you could potentially complete 20-ish books. Let’s get you going.

 Come subscribe. Go find a book.  Move your business forward.

Rachel Brenke

p.s. I’m saying-but-not-saying – if we get a good amount of subscribers I have a few fun things in pipeline I can get released!  

Walking Through The Store (Why Your Business May Be Failing)

Walking Through The Store (Why Your Business May Be Failing)

Walking through the store – all of a sudden I heard my five-year-old SCREAM.  One of those blood curdling and toe curling screams. Your heart sinks and plummets to the floor.

I look over to see her tear-stained face, lip quivering.  She then says “I lost cupcake.”

My jaw dropped. What? All of this over a plastic horse? (No, it wasn’t a real cupcake, that I could see the screaming about cupcakes!!)

But, alas, as a parent you know you have to go find Cupcake. I mean, you never leave a toy behind, right? 

So we retrace our steps.  To the dressing rooms where I had to wrangle her into a pair of tights she didn’t want to wear, then over to the bathrooms for one of fifteen trips in this excursion.  After going up and down the escalator a few times with a crying five-year-old in tow, we saw Cupcake. It was like the heavens opened up and angels were singing. Thank goodness, because there was no way I could finish our school shopping with her crying and refusing to try clothes on.   And this was the one shot I had to take her to try on clothes without the rest of the kids with us.  

It had to happen today. 

So we grabbed Cupcake, profusely thanked the checkout lady for finding him (and feeding him “apples” while we were looking for him), and went back to our shopping.  Unfortunately, the emotions had taken a toll.  She was absolutely done trying on clothes. And honestly, so was I. So we packed up and headed home. 

This is not much unlike business owners. Especially mid-year when they don’t feel like they are succeeding.  The first of the year is started off with excitement, energy and ready to take on the world.  But as time goes by, you start to lose motivation and effectiveness (sales, marketing, insert any other aspect you are struggling with).  Ultimately, this starts to impact the bottom line of your business.  It leaves you wondering if things are really going to happen for you. 

It can happen for you. But when you hit that brick wall, lose Cupcake and just want to go home – here are two steps you can quickly take to get around that wall, get rid of the feeling and FINISH THIS YEAR STRONG!!


Map a plan 

You need a plan, much like a shopping list. But it can’t just be a list in order of what gets you excited. Or what you think is most important (although this has benefits at times).  It needs to be a mapped out plan that is most efficient AND effective.  Take for example, had I been methodical in arranging our shopping list in order of departments in the layout of the store – we would’ve been quicker to get the clothes we needed. Instead of up the escalator, down the escalator, across the store, back towards the front. 

I urge each of you to have a methodical plan. You need to have a big picture, then break it into  bite-sized  manageable chunks.  I always start with my year  long-projected  plan (of course, my long term goals past a year in my mind), but then everything is broken into quarter, then into the month.   And yes, we can even get into the day (when scheduling administrative days, days off, and my social media marketing posts).   Big, medium, small and bite-sized.  

This helps you to also know exactly what you’re going to do when it’s time to sit down at your computer. Don’t waste 20 minutes screwing around on Facebook or rewriting your to-do list on fancy notepads with gel pens of various colors.   Get to work.


Retrace your steps

Remember how we lost Cupcake? Being methodical would’ve made the traipsing around even easier.   A lot less tears (mostly on my part!!)  Having your bite-sized list will give you a direct place to examine analytics for what could be inefficient and/or ineffective in your business.  Should you see client inquiries going down, sales not hitting the mark or marketing going awry – you can pull out these tangible maps/lists, pair it with your numbers and know exactly what is going wrong. 

For example, let us say I have started a new marketing campaign and want to see if it is paying off.  Knowing the deadlines and the general turn around time of effectiveness for marketing (can range 2-5 months), I can pull the reports for the quarter accompanying and following the marketing action to see if it was effective.  I can also pull all incoming client requests and examine the “where did you find me” section.

So many times it’s not the initial planning portion of the business that is the issue – it’s the lack of retracing and analyzing the steps.   By retracing steps, I have a better view of what is truly going wrong in my business. 

Instead of automatically jumping to one of the following actions:

-I need a new logo

-It must be my pricing

-People are just not valuing photography

-There are too many photographers in my area

Not to say that these may not be truly valid reasons for a downward spiral in business – but often these are the scapegoat excuses that many photographers throw around without any true research as to whether they are the cause. 

Sometimes it’s just easier to blame what seems to be ‘easy fixes’ than to do the mapping and retracing to find out the true issues.

I recommend that a mapping/retracing activity occur at least once a quarter – if not on a minor scale at least once a month.  You don’t want to wait until the end of a calendar year to straight and get your back on track. AT THAT POINT IT IS TOO LATE.


Get challenged

Since we are halfway through 2016, I think it’s a great time to look back at what you’ve done and let’s make changes for the rest of the year!


My business planning and strategy challenge group is opening for the July 15th – you can get in and get going at enrollment. We had a great group in January – and plan to make this a couple times a year.

The Challenge Group comes with:

  • Unlimited group time
  • 2x 1:1 calls with the group and yours truly
  • Plan It eBook $199 value

Get more information here



Can I use music in a client slideshow or marketing?

Can I use music in a client slideshow or marketing?

Can I use music in a client slideshow or marketing?

Understanding copyright law can be about as clear as mud.  When you are creating marketing materials or client products, you must have an understanding of what is proper or isn’t.  

Some examples include:

  • slideshows for business promotion 
  • use of music during a sales presentation
  • background music in a client slideshow for purchase
  • music on Snapchat/Instagram videos
  • any other unlicensed use that is in furtherance of your business

The danger comes when the proper commercial license has not been acquired.    In fact, so many social media platforms are on this infringement fight by creating automation to kill/remove videos with unlicensed music.


Itunes is NOT a commercial license

The most common example of unauthorised use is Itunes  being used in a commercial activity.  Unfortunately, iTunes terms are for personal use and not commercial use.  

Anytime that you go and you purchase a song (or even a template!), you need to be mindful of this licensing so that you are following the legalities and the terms that the seller has put in place so that you don’t get in any hot water in marketing. It doesn’t look good when you put out an awesome slideshow with music that you are not licensed for and then you get in trouble for it.

If you are still stuck on the difference in commercial versus personal use – take a look at this example for photography.  The same ideas translate to music.  

Rule of thumb: If it’s being used in the course of your business – get the proper license!

As creatives, we need to be more respectful, understand the difference between personal licensing and commercial licensing.  You need to take a look at the license and determine whether or not you have the permissions to use it the way that you’re intending to use it in marketing.


Getting A License Or Permission

Be respectful (and legal) by purchasing the proper commercial licenses, using music that doesn’t have copyright protection (such as Free Public Domain music), or get permission from the artist.

Side note: The same goes for when you have headshots taken for use in your business, acquire a commercial use license and not a personal print license, that way you can use it in the course of business.


Where can I get songs for use?

Paid Sites:

Triple Scoophttp://triplescoopmusic.com

– Will cost you about $60 per song

The Music Bed http://www.themusicbed.com/#!/

– About $50 per song (though some are less)

Song Freedomhttps://www.songfreedom.com

– From $20-40 per song. Lots of current music even!

Ear Candy Digitalhttp://earcandyclub.com

– $25-$40 per song OR $199 for a one-year membership.

Red Beard Music – http://www.redbeardmusic.com/zen-site/index.php– $30 per song – Lyrical music only.

Stock 20 – http://www.stock20.com/commerce/index.php

– $30 per song. Red Beard’s sister site. Instrumental music only. Think “on hold” and “elevators.”

Renee & Jeremyhttp://www.reneeandjeremy.com– Used to be no cost to photogs, but you can find them on The Music Bed now.

Tim McMorrishttp://timmcmorris.com/royalty-free-music/

– As low as $14 per license.

Free Play Musichttp://www.freeplaymusic.com

– Not as “free” as they say. Most of the songs will cost you at least $75 to use ONCE.


– Single tracks starting at $50.


– 99 cent tracks. Yes, you read it right. That’s only 99 cents per licensed track.

With Etiquettehttp://withetiquette.com/

– Personal use is $49 (1 use), client use is called a wedding lisence and is $99 (5 uses)

Premium Beathttp://www.premiumbeat.com/

-About $40 per song

-They say you buy once and can use it forever.

Brace yourself for TRULY FREE MUSIC:

Free Public Domain Musichttp://freepd.com

– Exactly what it says. Free music that is within the “public domain.” Anyone can use it for any purpose, without having to credit an artist or pay for a license. That said, there’s not going to be something here to fit every need.

Kevin MacLeod (Incompetech)- http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/licenses/

– You have two options: 1) Give him credit in your piece (as directed on this page) and pay ZERO dollars for his music [Thanks to the Creative Commons License!]. OR 2) Pay $30 for a song and not worry about giving credit. From Mr. MacLeod’s website, I found more music that was TRULY FREE, composed by people that are actually still alive, and that doesn’t (all) sound like it is meant for car dealerships and supermarket PA systems. All thanks to the Creative Commons! 🙂 Just please remember, if you use this, to credit the artist!

Tom Cusackhttp://freemusicforvideos.com

Anthony Kozarhttp://www.anthonykozar.net/music/

Jason Shawhttp://audionautix.com


Josh Woodwardhttp://www.joshwoodward.com

The Tune Peddlerhttp://thetunepeddler.com


Need more help?

Check out Marketing Madness  – Rachel Brenke’s online marketing workshop with in-depth information to successful market on a budget, as well as how to stay legal doing it!