In my post titled Build a Photography Business in 24 Hours, I mentioned that I would expand on each piece of the puzzle for creating your own business. I’m using my recent experience with setting up Auer Photoworks as the basis for this guide. Here are all the pieces of the business-puzzle I talked about (with the * items being optional):

  1. Photographs
  2. Gallery Software
  3. Hosting Company
  4. Domain Name
  5. Trade Name
  6. Bank
  7. $500
  8. * Merchant Account
  9. * Accounting
  10. * Marketing

This post will focus on steps 5, 6, and 7 of the critical items: Trade Names, Bank Accounts, and Money. These items deal with the offline side of the business, but they tie into the online aspects.

Your trade name is the name of the business you’ll be operating under. By registering a trade name, this allows you to present yourself as a business rather than an individual. It also allows you to open a business checking account under that name so you can cash checks and process credit cards under that name. The process is actually very simple, but it may vary from state to state. The easiest thing to do is to go online and find your state’s web site. Look for information on starting a new business and you should be able to find something on trade names — also check the rest of the process to make sure you don’t miss any other requirements in your state. If you’ll be operating as a sole proprietor, the task is fairly easy. In New Jersey, I just had to go down to the County Clerk’s Office, fill out a form in triplicate, get them notarized, and pay them $50. The whole process took me 20 minutes, and I left with a certificate of trade name for “Auer PhotoWorks”.

With that certificate of trade name, you can now open a business checking account under that name. Keeping your personal and business affairs separate will help you out when it comes time to doing taxes at the end of the year. A business account might cost a little bit of money, but it’s a much better idea than using your personal accounts. I opened an account for $90 (which bought me checks, deposit slips, and a stamp for signing checks addressed to the business name) and it took me about 30 minutes to complete. If you already have a personal checking account, just go to your bank and see what they have to offer for business checking.

I mention $500 as a step in the process, but it really covers the entire process. We’ve been spending money in almost every step along the way, so here’s how much I’ve spent up to this point:

  • $300 for gallery software
  • $10 for a web host (1 month)
  • $20 for domain names
  • $50 for a trade name
  • $90 for a bank account
  • $470 TOTAL

Depending on what you buy, your total might be a little different than mine. You can see that the big ticket item is the gallery software, so if you’re worried about money this would be the place to spend more time researching. Also be aware that some of the other expenses are recurring. The web host will be a monthly fee, domain names are yearly, and business checking accounts sometimes have monthly fees.

Up to this point, I’ve covered the essential items for starting a business. If you complete all these tasks, you’ll have an online storefront that you can sell photos under a trade name by accepting checks or money orders. In the next couple of posts, I’ll be talking about the recommended items of merchant accounts (so you can accept credit cards), accounting software (to help you keep track of your expenses and earnings), and marketing (possibly one of the most important and time consuming parts of your business). Stay tuned!

Photo of the Day…

Windows in Brussels

Photo by Brian Auer
03/07/07 Brussels, Belgium
Windows in Brussels
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
27mm equiv * f/3.5 * 1/15s * ISO1600