Over the years in my conversations with other photographers, I have heard a few crazy ideas when it comes to managing your business income:
“I keep everything in my business account and when I need to buy something like groceries or pay the mortgage I’ll transfer the money.”
“I booked a wedding, so that’s another $1000 retainer fee I can use this month to pay the bills.”
There are 2 problems with these statements.
- Your Business and Personal earnings must be kept separate.
- Retainers are for future events. If you haven’t photographed the jobs yet, it’s not income.
Let’s solve these issues.
Create Bi-Monthly Paycheques
I started my business as a sole proprietorship and ten years later, I’m still registered as a sole proprietorship currently. What being an SP means is my business = me. If my business makes $30,000, I make $30,000. There is no separation. You can physically leave money in your business bank account at the end of the tax year, however, you’ll still pay taxes on that income. The personal tax rate, not a corporate tax rate.
Why You Need 2 Bank Accounts
A business needs to be treated like a business! It’s impossible to budget if you’re paying for your groceries, night out at the movies, packaging supplies for your albums and second shooter fees all in the same account? It makes me panic thinking about it. If you’re a registered business in your province or state, you can open a bank account as a sole proprietorship. Mine says “DBA (Doing Business As) Jamie Delaine Photography.”
At the beginning of every year, I’ll look at the jobs I have booked and estimate my yearly income. I’ll divide this income by 24 – to find the two paycheques per month. For example, if you estimate you’ll make $30,000, each paycheque on the 1st and 15th of every month should be $30,000/24 = $1250.
Whether you make $10,000 (say, in a month like August with 6 weddings) or $250 (in January, with no sessions or weddings) you’ll be paid the same amount, just like a… REAL JOB.
Set Aside Retainer Fees
This is another important note. Retainer fees, although described to my client as non-refundable, cannot be spent in advance like they are non-refundable! If a client cancels their wedding, I am not obligated to return their retainer. We have a contract. However, what if something completely unforeseeable happens! A disastrous family emergency, one that will last for months. An unexpected pregnancy, one with lots of complications. A severe accident! Nobody likes to think about these things and we certainly don’t need to dwell on them but we do need a plan.
Always, always, keep track of how much money in your business bank account are retainer fees. I book weddings a year in advance, so it’s not atypical for me to have $30,000 in my bank account that “isn’t mine yet.” If an emergency happened to you today – do you have X amount of dollars to refund all of your clients for the entire year?
Don’t spend your money until it’s earned. Until that wedding day is photographed, that money needs to be treated as temporary.
Make it Easy
If numbers and math are not your strengths, but you’re determined to run a profitable photography business I want to recommend Knowing Your Numbers. Knowing Your Numbers is a step-by-step spreadsheet designed to set profitable prices for your products and services.
The spreadsheets will help you:
- Practically work towards achieving your dream salary
- Present your photography prices with confidence to potential clients
- Sell beautiful albums and products… at a profit that works for you
- Make an annual plan for your finances and say goodbye to ‘off-season anxiety!’
Read more about Knowing Your Numbers and see if it could be a good fit for your business!