7 Ways to Love Your Photography Business

7 Ways to Love Your Photography Business

7 Ways to Love Your Photography Business

When we get around Valentine’s Day everyone is thinking about love, flowers and candy! But we often forget a very special aspect in our life that needs some love too.  Our businesses.  

It’s no coincidence that Valentine’s is smack in the middle of the second month of the year.  It’s given you enough time to start implementing your business and marketing plans AND you’re starting to see whether they are actually going to pay off.

Valentine’s is a perfect time to LOVE your business and re-evalute.  

Because once you get far into the year, it’s too late.  Generally speaking, business plan execution and marketing activities take a good 3-4 months  to be seen on the surface.  You can see these by generating revenue, converting more inquiries, creating new business partnerships or simply getting inquiries in the virtual door. 

Stop now. Love yourself. Love your business.

If you are not seeing any return, you may not be doing things right.  Admittedly, time may just need to go by a little bit more but I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been hitting the pavement and plan hard since January 1, you should’ve already seen some return. 

For this reason, I want to share with you seven ways to love your photography business (and yourself!) so that you can make some changes to your plans so that you’ll have a fighting chance for success this year.

 

Pay your business (and yourself) right!

Did you know – by paying yourself a formalized paycheck you can reduce your personal income tax liability AND save money?  If you have reached a certain threshold of receipts but are an LLC or Sole Proprietor without a formalized paycheck, you are potentially liable for the majority (if not all) of the monies that come through the door.  Income tax liability can be at a higher rate than business tax liability.  Consider setting up a formal payment system (complete with employer taxes), so you can take advantage of these benefits.

 

Understand your contracts

Contracts are way more than protection tools. They are expectation setting tools and serve as “no” man for your business.  Let the contract be the no-fun tool to keep them on track so the client’s interaction with you can be fun.  

But it’s scary when you are unsure of how to write them (hint: you don’t!), use them and explain them to your clients.

Furthermore, contracts are to be used to create a GOOD relationship – and not simply be signed and put away.  You, hopefully, already have the contract signed from client – why not use it to further the relationship in a good way?

 

Have an attainable budget

Budgeting isn’t that hard but is an often overlooked element to business.  Many of you may mistakenly write down just your costs and leave out some or all of the following:  paycheck, rainy day savings, educational savings, long-term retirement savings, equipment upgrade amounts, etc.  

The other end of the spectrum is for those that “over-save” in the wrong areas.  True, over-saving may not be a bad thing – but it is when some areas are ignored.  Many times there will be tunnel vision for upgrading glass or bodies, but forget that you may need an insurance deductible or income coverage, should the need arise.

 

Cushion your business in case it stumbles

Many photographers jump into a business formation (sole prop, LLC, corporation) or insurance policy and never look back. But hopefully your business is growing – which also necessitates the need for changes in protection.    Take some time to evaluate if your liability protections and policy coverages are in line with your current situation and future goals.

It may be as simple as picking up the phone to call your insurance agent and throwing situations at them – their knowledge is deep and assistance can be a low-cost way to ensure you are protected.

Also, digging into the mind of fellow business owners (including your lawyer!) can reveal examples of when others around you have changed their formation status to align with their business growth.

 

 

Go into every session knowing you’ll make X

I don’t know about you, but I when I get up and head out for a session – I’d like to know I’m going to make X amount of money.  The idea of walking into the session with a hope that I’ll reach a threshold is hard.  

Think about it this way – you are standing on a chair. Your client is on the ground.  Is it easier for your client to pull you down or for you to pull them up on the chair with you?

Answer: It is easier for them to pull you down. Especially if you’re not strong and/or confident in your abilities.

Managing the expectations of money from the beginning through presentation of pricing and sales will help to ensure you are rolling out of bed and taming that messy bun into a presentable set up for the money you WANT or NEED to be making.

 

 

Give your business direction

Ah, direction.  Everyone starts out the year with this excited, motivated and (hopefully) clear direction. Or so they think.  Many of you who have been in business a while have already wandered these woods. You know the path where you need to walk and when to walk it.  For those that are charting a whole new direction or brand new to business – you need help. You need guidance. You need a clear map.

Sit down and draw up clear goals + directional plan (map) + benchmarks for review. 

To be successful you need all of these. Not just create a plan, then execute. You need the reevaluations and revisions.  Quarterly, if not more. 

If you have no idea what I’m talking about – you may start feeling the burn out of no return. Stick with me – go back to the formal above. Get clear. Get planned. Get reviewing.

 

Give your business long-term health

Just like you should be taking care of yourself, you should be taking care of your business. This includes putting the proper efficiency supports, legal protections and future plans in place.  Through retirement and savings you can set your business to be a benefit should an issue arise with your health or ability to work.  Legal protections can also be there to safeguard your personal assets and keep your business out of legal hot-water.  All of these work to maintain a healthy business that can continue serving your clients.  If you don’t have the proper legal supports, retirement and insurance plans in place. Make a note on your calendar NOW to do them by the end of the month.

All of these work to maintain a healthy business that can continue serving your clients.  If you don’t have the proper legal supports, retirement and insurance plans in place. Make a note on your calendar NOW to do them by the end of the month.

 

Need more help?

Now Enrolling: BizRevamp® – the biz and legal webcourse for photographers – 8 modules, fully downloadable content, transcripts, slides, audio, Q&As with yours truly, private community and LIFETIME access.

Topics:

*Biz Formation (types, licenses, name choosing)

*Taxes

*Insurance

*Retirement Planning

*Pricing and Sales

*Client Management

*Business Planning

and LEGAL – including a free portrait contract from TheLawTog® shop!

Enrollment ends February 14th – class starts February 15th. Get info now!

 

Sending an invoice for infringement of intellectual property

Sending an invoice for infringement or violation of contract!

Sending an invoice for infringement or violation of contract!

Sometimes it happens.

Someone takes your image by blatantly ripping it off your website or social media page.

 Or someone had hired you to take the images but is publishing without your permission.  Or, perhaps, the use of the image goes outside of your license (example: For use internally to an office, but ends up on the cover a magazine or billboard.) 

The next steps are figuring out what to do so that it is beneficial for your business, protects your work, and keeps the seas smooth.  These steps range from sending a nice email of education through legal action.  You may want to just jump right to a lawyer to help you – and that is always recommended as they can evaluate the specific situation – but if you’re not to that place yet, take a look at these steps.

 

 

#1 Reach out 

Always, always, always reach out with a kind note first if you’re in a situation where you believe that the individual is unaware of their actions and/or you are attempting to preserve your relationship or reputation.  Sometimes, you have to go to the next steps for the big guns.  But, you’ll get more flies with honey and it gives you an opportunity to be an educational voice to others in the business world, when you reach out kindly.

 

I recommend starting with a phone call and email follow up documenting what occurred on the phone.  

By reaching out on the phone, the tone of voice and information can readily be understood and facilitates an environment of discussion – as opposed to defensiveness. 

This isn’t always the case. Sometimes people are just defensive, and you must simply end the phone call and follow up with an email.  Or they are unable to be reached and written communications are required. 

Many times, especially in larger corporations, the individual publishing the image or placing the order for a marketing material may be unaware of the licenses provided to their company, or it may be a small company who simply doesn’t know better.  This is not an excuse for their behavior. But, by taking the higher road of reaching out and providing a free -flow of education and discussion – you’ll better preserve your relationship, reputation, and the probability of retention for the education is higher.

This is especially important if you’re working with a client who may have departed from a purchased license – you want to ensure that they understand the license that they paid for and that this conduct is outside that scope.

 

 

#2 Send an invoice and a request

Perhaps you want to skip the nice phone call, or they refuse to answer your requests. Then it’s time to start stepping into the legal arena.  This is where you can send an invoice for their improper use of your image, accompanied with a letter that is a more straightforward explanation and education of their action.

Don’t know what to charge in your invoice – here’s some recommendations when its a commercial infringement

If this person is someone who hired you, make sure to include your original agreements and/or communications to refer them to the contracts signed and licenses sold.

When drafting your invoice and letter, be sure to include documentation of the usage, normal rates, and other relevant information to demonstrate your case to the infringer.

 

#3 Send a removal document (and maybe an invoice too!)

Lastly, this is the last step before you need to really pull out big guns of a lawyer and litigation.  Look at sending a the proper removal document.  A cease and desist can aid in this matter, and is sent directly to the individual improperly using the images.  Note: You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to send a C&D – but it can definitely help being on legal letterhead!

Also, consider a DMCA takedown notice, or applicable website infringement form, can be used to have the intellectual property removed from the infringers site through the Internet Service Provider.

These can also be found in the DefendIT kit.

 

Now what?

Now, if none of these work, or it seems to be throwing flames on the fire. Quit communicating, looking at, talking about, anything with this individual or company.  Seek legal help and let the professionals go to bat for you.

You can also stay ready by grabbing The DefendIT Protection Kit.  This lawyer-drafted kit includes recommendations on protecting your work from copyright to trademark, plus the following templates:

  • invoice template
  • demand letter to accompanying invoice
  • cease and desist
  • DMCA takedown notice.

Registering a Photography Business Trademark: What Can it Actually Cover?

Registering a Photography Business Trademark: What Can it Actually Cover?

Registering a Photography Business Trademark: What Can it Actually Cover?Trademarks are a great way to protect your brand by name, logo and slogan.   Registering a trademark can provide intellectual property protection for these brand items so let us walk through what the protections you receive cover.

 

The first question you need to ask: Is the mark “trademarkable”?

There are a few general categories of distinctiveness when choosing a mark to be trademarked (strongest to weakest):

  • Fanciful or coined (made up, have no meaning; XEROX, ZYNGA)
  • Arbitrary (have a common meaning but not in relation to the goods/services; APPLE, GAP)
  • Suggestive (suggests something about the goods/services but doesn’t describe them; MICROSOFT, AIRBUS)
  • Descriptive (see below)
  • Generic (not able to be trademarked)

If you can, try to pick something in the first or second category. If not, try a suggestive mark. In the photography world it’s very popular to use your own name for your business, which is great from a business perspective, but can make it difficult to register the mark if it’s only your last name. Using your whole name avoids the surname issue below.

Most state registration authorities and the USPTO won’t allow registration of a mark if:

(1) when used on or in connection with the goods or services of the applicant, is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, or

(2) when used on or in connection with the goods or services of the applicant is primarily geographically descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, or

(3) is primarily merely a surname.

UNLESS the mark has become distinctive of the applicant’s goods or services for at least 5 years before you are claiming such distinctiveness.

What does this mean in plain English? It’s harder to get a registered mark if the mark is descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive, e.g., BED & BREAKFAST REGISTRY for lodging reservation services (merely descriptive), or WOOLRICH for clothing not made out of wool (deceptively misdescriptive). This is also the case for geographically descriptive (e.g. THE SACRAMENTO SHUTTERBUG for a photographer in Sacramento) or deceptively misdescriptive (e.g. HOLLYWOOD PICTURES for a photographer in NYC), or for marks that are just a surname (e.g. SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY). Note that this is not an issue if you use your first and last name, just your last name (surname). In order for your registration not to be refused outright you need to have “acquired secondary meaning”, which means you need to have used the mark for at least 5 years before filing your registration application.

 

The next question to ask: Is anyone else using the mark?

How can you find out if someone else is using your mark? You can hire an attorney to do a preliminary search, or you can do one yourself. Places to look are on the USPTO database (http://tess2.uspto.gov/), state trademark databases (http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/process-overview/state-trademark-information-links), and Google/Bing/Facebook/Twitter/etc. There are a few specialized databases that can be searched, but they’re probably not applicable when talking about photography services.

What do you do if you find someone else using your mark or a similar mark? My best advice is: if they were using it before you, pick another mark! Don’t be the person that thinks “that’s ok, how would they ever know?” and then gets the cease and desist letter or gets sued and has to change their business name midstream. Of course, this advice works better at the beginning stage of choosing a name. What do you do if you’ve been in business for a while and then find out someone else is also using that name? You hope you started using it first! But see the post on infringement for more information about those scenarios.

 

Last question: What should you trademark?

Trademarks come in two kinds: word mark or design mark.

A word mark is simply that, just the words. You’ll often see it written all capitalized like APPLE or FISHER PRICE so that you’re aware that it’s a word mark and capitalization/font/color doesn’t matter.

A design mark is either a specific font/color version of a mark or a logo; it can have words or just be a picture. So the Nike swoosh symbol is a design mark, as is the little red Nabisco corner logo, as is the purple/blue Facebook “f”.

Phrases can be registered either as word marks or design marks but the usual recommendation is to trademark a tag line or phrase as a word mark since then you have more protection against others using it in a different format. (As a note, even very famous phrases like JUST DO IT are typically word marks, not design marks.)

 

There are three possible things you can apply to register:

(1) your actual business name (word or design mark);

(2) your logo (design mark), note that this can be just the graphic logo or the logo with words;

(3) your tag line(s) or phrase(s) (word or design mark but as noted above recommended as a word mark).

If funds are limited, I typically recommend that a client apply for registrations in this priority: word mark (name) first, design mark (logo) next, then tagline last. Why? Because it gets you the most bang for your buck. If you have the funds then by all means register the word mark and the design mark, or even all three, but remember you’ll also have maintenance fees for all three marks. If you use an attorney who charges a flat fee, ask if they offer a discount for multiple registrations. And remember, you do have common law trademark rights without a registration as long as you are using the mark. So don’t feel bad if you can only afford one registration fee!

 

Summary Checklist

  • Is the mark trademarkable?
  • Is anyone else using the mark?
  • What do you want to register? (Name/logo/phrase)

 

 

How long should I keep photography contracts?

How long should I keep photography contracts?

How long should I keep photography contracts?
Having photography contracts is critical to relay
 information to clients, to set expectations, to define the relationship and for the protection of your business – but what happens when you want to clean up your office or digital workspace?   

At TheLawTog®, we spend an immense amount of time teaching photographers how to use contracts, provide contract templates and information on provisions included in the contracts.  

But we don’t stop there – we want to make sure you are protected through the entire process.  

Contracts aren’t just a first step in the client process, they work through the entire relationship and beyond delivering of files.  Here are recommended ways to use and backup your contracts as well as guidelines for how long you should keep them around.

 

Use Digital

Whenever possible, use digital photography contracts in your business.  Not only does it save trees, but it saves time (for you and the client), as well as increases efficiency for the workflow.  

See also: Are digital photography contracts legal?

Spoiler: yes digital contracts are legal

When you use a digital system it avoids the “your file is too large” error when attaching to an email, alleviates the client having to seek out a printer/scanner and sending the contract back, and also takes away a step in the filing process.  

 

Recommended systems:

If you haven’t been using a digital contract signing system, have no fear – you can scan and get them backed up into your chosen backup system.

 

Always Back Up

Receiving the contract is not the end of the process – you need to be able to easily store, and quickly locate the contract should an issue arise.  

Backing up should always work in the rule of three – have at least three backups of your files, with one in an off-site location. 

 

Recommended backup systems:

  • Backblaze – automatically backs up your entire computer and external hard drives to a cloud
  • Dropbox –  can automatically back up all documents put into this 
  • External hard drive – physical backup – never rely on this alone!

 

If you are using an online system, many have a backup system as well – but it is always best to not count on that one backup, remember that is violating the rule of three backups.  

For example, if you use Gravity Forms for your WordPress site, if a backup system is set up, your documents may be included, however, it is recommended to set up a routine export of your Gravity Forms data and utilize one of the recommended systems I’ve mentioned here.

 

Rule of Thumb

At this time of technology, digital files of documents (PDFs especially) take up such a minor amount of space that they should be kept as long as possible.  You always hear people say the “rule of thumb” for taxes is seven years.  

While that probably is a good length of time to keep the documents, in my opinion, longer is always better.  There is a high probability that any issues or claims necessitating contract reference would have been brought to light before seven years, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe. 

So bottom line? Try to keep it as long as you can – because you just never know –  seven years is probably a good timeframe, but…don’t hold me to that! I’ve shown you the benefits and ease of keeping it longer!

White Rabbit Wedding Workflow – A Review

White Rabbit Wedding Workflow - A Review
White Rabbit Wedding Workflow - A Review
Every wedding is unique; every photographer works in unique ways. We believe that true service is respecting ourselves and our clients by clear communication, realistic expectations and effortless collaboration.   White Rabbit Wedding is a great workflow tool that can help keep your business on track.   While I share the features and information below, I wanted to share with you MY favorite features.
First is the ease of use for tracking of the day-of schedule (so important to make sure the bridal party and you are on the same page!)
White Rabbit Wedding WorkflowThe next best feature is a prebuilt questionnaire that covers all of the common questions takes out the busy work and leaves room for you to add your own questions.  This helps you to have a consistent and out-of-the-box process from the get-go.  It can be tweaked to suit your needs – which you should be doing as your business grows!
 .

DESCRIPTION

White Rabbit Wedding considers the way you work plus your clients desires for their unique wedding and results in a schedule where everyone is invested. Your bride and groom sign into their client portal and fill out the information you need to plan effectively and have the time you need to shoot their wedding.

White Rabbit Wedding Workflow

From addresses to vendors to family groupings; everything is in one place.

Your Client Portal is archived so that you can easily retrieve all information after the wedding. Client generated, photographer guided.

Simple, comprehensive collaboration.

 

FEATURES

Easiest Set-Up Ever – There is no need to set up anything. Our software defaults to industry standards when you sign in. If you like, you can customize the settings to what is best for your unique style of working. 
White Rabbit Wedding WorkflowThe Questionnaire –  Our pre-set questionnaire collects the date, time, locations & vendors for the wedding day. We map the locations and show you the estimated travel time between the main events happening on the big day. You can add the custom questions that are important for your brand if we have missed them. 
The Family Portraits – We collect the names and relationships of the family members and VIP’s. Your clients select the family groupings that are important to them. The names are linked to the portraits so that you can respectfully manage the most chaotic aspect of the day. Your clients can see a running tally of the time needed to take their selected portraits based on the time you have set for each shot. We manage their expectations for you. 
White Rabbit Wedding Workflow
Wedding Day Timeline – We take the unique answers to your questionnaire and build a basic schedule. You are then able to work with your clients to build a detailed timeline that gives you the time you need to deliver the images they will love. We list the sunset & sunrise times on the schedule so that your clients can plan the important photo sessions around the best light. We provide a comment box on the schedule page to communicate easily with your client about the schedule of the day. Everything is in one place and archived for future reference. 
Cloud Based – Working with both desktops and mobile devices, our software is there when you need to access it. You and your clients can email, download, print or access online all of the needed information for shooting the wedding day. 

Check out White Rabbit Wedding Workflow here