After moving my business several times, I've had a lot of experience looking for a CPA to help with my business and personal filing, and whenever I found a great one, it often took me a while before I was willing to move on and find another one in my ...


How to find a great CPA and more...

How to find a great CPA

After moving my business several times, I've had a lot of experience looking for a CPA to help with my business and personal filing, and whenever I found a great one, it often took me a while before I was willing to move on and find another one in my new state after moving.  Hopefully sharing this wisdom will help speed up your search!

1. Start Searching Locally
The importance of having a CPA you can sit face to face with is very important if you ever need to work on a complicated tax situation or work through an audit together.  Likewise, the ability to enjoy working with your CPA is huge when it comes to something that may be stressful or difficult.  All of my favorite CPAs have a sense of humor and lightness about difficult tax situations that have helped ease my concerns, while still remaining professional and demonstrating that they will get the job done.  You only get to see this lighthearted but professional approach by meeting in person.
- Personal Referrals: 
The best places to begin your search are with personal recommendations from other small business owners.  Even better if they have a similar business model to you and can share what they love about working with their CPA and how long they've been with them.
- Local Chamber of Commerce Website:
Next best place to search is your local Chamber of Commerce website, where they will likely have a directory of CPAs looking for business.  The people who work for the Chamber can tell you if they know the CPA personally or anyone who has worked with them as well for additional referral information.
- Business Networking Group: 
Third best place to search is a local business networking group - BNI is one of the more famous ones, but ask around and see what is available in your area.  Rotary may be the second most common networking group for business owners, while it has more of a philanthropy mission than a networking one, it's a group of people who believe in giving back to the community.

2. Define Your Tax Situation
Being able to describe your tax situation will help you with the phone screening process before setting up a meeting.  For example, here are a few ways you may want to practice describing your tax situation over the phone before deciding who you'd like to meet with in person:
- Personal Tax Situation:
Married?  Single?  Dependents?  Live-in parents?  Investments?  Multiple homes?  Personal property in multiple countries?  Inheritance?  Haven't paid taxes in 10 years and may need a payment plan?  Need to figure out if it's better to file separately or jointly with spouse?
- Business Tax Situation:
LLC?  Sole-Proprietor?  Corp?  Employees?  Health Benefits?  Online business?  Out of country sales  to manage?  Import/export business?  State to state sales tax transactions?

3. Create a List of 3-5 Places to Call
If making phone calls is scary to you because you prefer email - I suggest practicing the questions you'll be asking on the phone and preparing your statement about your situation.  A phone call can really help you rule out a company you don't want to meet with.  Was it easy to get the answers you needed in a timely way?  Were they sloppy and unprofessional in how they managed your phone call?  Do they have an office with multiple people and an admin to help them manage their clients?  You don't get to learn these things when emailing- only when calling on the phone.
Things you need to ask:
- Do you have a Certified Public Accountant in your office?  Will they be handling the return, or will it be a tax preparer?  Who would I be meeting with for the first time?
- Do you have experience with clients in my situation?  (State the personal and business situations you have.)
- When can I come in and speak with someone in person?  What should I bring with me?  Is there any fee for an introductory meeting?  What would someone with my situation expect to pay for their tax filings?

4. Meet at Least Two Different CPAs
If you only meet with one, you'll have nothing to compare the experience to.  If you only have time to meet with two about your situation, than meet with two.  If you can meet with three or more, great!  The more info you have, the more you can find the right person to work with.  Remember that investing more time into this choice up front means that you're less likely to need to invest that time again later because you'll feel comfortable knowing you made the best choice for you and your situation.  A great CPA relationship can be one you can carry well into the future of your business, so it's worth every bit of time you invest up front to find someone you enjoy working with and feel you can trust.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. She has been a small business owner since 2004 working as a photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors. She spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.


Stop Being Taken Advantage of by Demanding Clients

Into every creative's life a demanding client will fall.  Many creatives have a hard time drawing a line in the sand when it comes to working with demanding clients, which is why your fee and business should be structured in such a way that you anticipate every client will eventually become a demanding client.  The more you anticipate and practice responding to requests outside of your agreement, the easier it becomes.

The demanding client lifecycle generally looks something like this:
1. Client negotiates with Creative for reduced rate
2. Creative agrees based on something Creative thinks they'll gain from working with Client
3. While Creative is engaged in work, Client makes little requests here and there
4. Creative agrees to little requests, because they are at first easy to accommodate
5. Client turns little requests into big demands on Creative
6. Creative feels stuck because they have previously honored little requests without additional fees, and haven't implemented a structure for being compensated for additional requests
7. Client gets frustrated and more demanding that Creative is becoming less responsive
8. Creative gets frustrated that Client is becoming more demanding
9. Client thinks Creative is a flake and unprofessional
10. Creative thinks Client is evil and inconsiderate

If you take steps early enough in the process, a client may never reach the point of being considered a demanding client.

Here are the solutions to avoid clients becoming demanding at every step of the process:

- Don't agree to work for any less than full rate. It is far better to charge full rate, and have the opportunity to do a tricky job over again, than to work for a reduced rate with a client who expects full rate service.

- Have a written agreement for exactly what is delivered and how it is delivered.  This needs to make it blatantly clear to the client what is being delivered in what time frame and how many revisions will be allowed on work.

- Prepare client expectations that additional requests have a working fee attached.  By anticipating that the client WILL make requests above and beyond the work you have contracted for, you can be prepared by offering either an hourly rate for additional requests, or a revision rate.

- Notify client immediately when their requests fall outside of original agreement.  As SOON as a client makes a request that falls outside of your agreement, the client needs to know and be presented with options for moving forward.

At any point in the process, I suggest using this wording with a client to address additional requests:
 "This request will require additional time and expense that weren't planned into the original quote.  I've included an invoice to cover the time and expense to honor this request.  If you'd like to add any additional requests at this time, please let me know so that I can be even more efficient in addressing additional requests."

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over a decade of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Networking Tips on the Click Cartel Podcast

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of getting to know Christian Grattan in advance of his Click Cartel Podcast being released to the public.  He asked me if I'd share some tips for starting photographers, and I have to say he was GREAT at asking all the right questions of digging into the nitty gritty of business details on networking and sales.  That is definitely one of the benefits of being interviewed by someone in the same industry, and even in the same market, because they already know the challenges and can really dig into how other people overcome them.  It was a great show, and I probably reveal way too much for my own good... but I think I can leave the world a better place knowing that this will absolutely, most definitely, help someone else strengthen their own business.  Check it out now on his blog, and subscribe to all the podcast episodes on iTunes...

Visit the Click Cartel Site:

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes:


Cost to Start Photography Business

I've previously shared what the recurring overhead costs of a photography business can be, but many people want to know what the investment would look like if they started from scratch, so here's a breakdown of costs I would expect someone starting a photography business to incur...

Liability Protection: $600- $800
This usually includes $1-3million of liability insurance to work on-location for events, portraits, and commercial assignments.  Some venues require a certificate of insurance before you are allowed to enter the building with photography equipment of any kind.

Photographic Equipment: $4000 - $9000
In order to be a professional, you can't just have one camera, because if that one camera fails on the job, than you've lost the rest of the job you showed up to do, so every professional needs two working cameras for every job.  There are a lot of other things you also need duplicates of as well: backup batteries x2, extra memory cards x2, backup lighting x2, additional lenses to cover a variety of focal lengths.

Computer Equipment: $2000
While it's tempting to cheap out or hack a computer together, most professionals find that they need a well designed machine that is optimized for processing speed and large storage transfers.  On top of that, there are usually hundreds of gigabytes of photos taken each year which also need backup drives, and perhaps even online cloud storage solutions in order to make sure that images are safe even when drives fail.

Software: $400
Most photographers use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to process their images, along with several other softwares to manage their accounting and/or customer service.  You may also want a website, custom domain name, hosting, etc.

Accountant: $400
While you can do accounting on your own, you will come out much further ahead in many different ways if you have a professional relationship with an accountant who helps keep your business on good financial and tax grounding.

Accessories: $500
A camera bag to protect your gear and help you travel with it safely, a random new lighting accessory, a reflector, light stands and umbrellas for your flash, or other items you may need beyond the basics.

Education: $2000
While this could be an optional expense because there are many free resources like this lovely blog available to help beginning photographers, I find that people who are in the first few years of a photography business tend to spend a lot on education.  Even if they went to school for photography, they quickly realize that there are many more things to learn and understand in the real world that weren't exactly taught or relevant in their university setting.

While everyone's initial costs can be vastly different based on the rate that they acquire equipment before they start a business, this provides a guide for those who want to be prepared and plan ahead.

This brings the initial investment total to somewhere between $7900 - $15,100... and the recurring annual expenses may be closer to around $16,000 before taking a salary from your business.  If you take out a loan to purchase equipment in the first year- remember that many of your initial jobs will simply go to paying back the cost of investing in your business.  This is also why many people do photography part-time while working other jobs.  If you have a solid business structure and profit margin, you should make enough in your first two years to pay back your initial investment so that you can start seeing a profit in your second or third year, even if you work part time.  Otherwise, photography will be a very expensive hobby until you cross that profitable threshold in your business and finance management.

That being said, you don't need all of this equipment to begin building a portfolio of work that you create for yourself before taking clients, and you don't have to invest in everything at once.  In fact, its best to create a portfolio and expand your creativity with equipment that you already have, and then add equipment needs slowly and only as necessary.  Your eye should be able to make a great images that people want to purchase regardless of what equipment you use.  However, if you're planning to charge someone else to create images for them, backup equipment and liability insurance will be part of the professional expectations.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Do I Need To Be On Snapchat?

Every time a new fad social media thing comes on to the market, we all have to ask the question, is this something good for me and my business?

The questions I always start with are:
1. Are my current clients using it and inviting their friends to join?
2. How is it currently being used to add value to my clients?
3. Is it aligned with how I want to present my work to others?
4. How effective are you on the other social media channels you're already using?

Right now, the people I see joining snapchat are my colleagues, but not my clients.  Photographers tend to be early adopters and heavy social media users, so that makes sense.  Does this mean clients will follow?  Maybe, but also maybe not.

We thought they'd follow to Twitter, but Twitter has remained quite a B2B environment with most people using twitter for spot news, PR releases, and brief public announcements or questions among other B2B users and marketers.

Did they follow to Instagram?  Only a few here and there- mostly photographers and clients who were already visual artists or business owners at some level and had enough visual content and loveliness that they wanted to share and see from others.

Facebook & LinkedIN are still the two most frequently used social networking sites by people who have jobs and purchasing power.  How are you leveraging those networks- where there's already active engagement for business and professional use?  If you aren't leveraging those networks, how is adding another one going to be any different?

More noise in more places does not equate to more business or more success.  If you aren't already "killing it" and attracting new clients through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, or YouTube, than you definitely do not need to be using SnapChat for your business or personal life.  Feel free to prove me wrong and then create your own success story of how you landed new clients on snapchat to share with everyone here on this blog.  I love a good success story!

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

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