In many ways, it’s hard to believe that it has been over a year since I began my photography business from the ground up.  Though the work was in the making for quite sometime and I have been shooting on the side for several years, making it my official full-time business wasn’t something I was able to do until last year.  I’d never started my own company before and it was quite a learning experience to figure out steps to take and how to get there.  So I wanted to put what I learned into a central place where others can benefit from it too.

So, exactly how do you start a business?  Once you’ve found a profession you want to do full-time or part-time, you’ll want to think of a name for your business that you will use to brand your company.  Register this name with your state to make sure it is available.  You must register your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation or not for profit.  There may be fees associated with this depending on your state’s requirements.  Many states identify businesses by an EIN (Employer Identification Number) that you can obtain at no cost from the IRS.

Once you have all of this, you need to register with your state tax office to be set up to pay sales taxes.  In Ohio, this is with the Ohio Department of Taxation.

The next step is to check with your state to determine what, if any licenses you need to operate.  In Ohio, there is a great resource called the Ohio Business Gateway that has all of the forms, paperwork, guides and explanations you need to get started with this.  Through this site is a tool called 1st Stop Business Connection which lets you know which license documents and forms you need after you supply your information.  Often times, there are fees associated with these licenses, and you may have to renew from time to time depending on what you’re doing.

And after that, you’re done!  Right?  Well, legally, once you get your paperwork, fees are paid and you are set up through the state, you are a business, but the work has only begun.  Marketing, branding, reaching and selling will be on-going processes, but we’ll tackle that another day :)

Here is one more resource that can help you get started, especially if you want to add employees to your business: Quick Start for your Business Entity




Thank you so very much for this article! I have been toying around with making my side job a real business. What has stopped me most is my lack of knowlege. Thank you so much for all the links. This has been very helpful!

Thank you
Your information is more then helpful. I have been wanting to start my own business for awhile now and was not sure where or how to start , now thanks to you I do.

Thank you sooooo much for posting this! This is exactly what I was looking for. It is so complicated to get a business started! Thanks again!

Elizabeth –
You might try Googling photography jobs in your area and thinking about what kind of photography interests you most – that will help you in deciding where to look for a photography-related job. As far as showcasing/selling work, check into your local coffee shops or boutique stores – you may be able to work out something with them.

Hi Brett –
You’re welcome! Yes, I would definitely recommend getting your license and making your business legit, for tax purposes if nothing else.

is there a place i can get a job to do photography that you would know of (im a minor) or maybe a place i could sell my own photos ive taken?
id like to jump start my photography .

thank you very much for this article . I have been doing weddings on the side for 2 years and really feel I need to start and protect myself.

any other advice or critiques would be greatly appreciated.