I’m prepared to sense all of your virtual eye-rolling on the other side of my computer screen with this blog post. Photographers AND taxes. What the heck am I thinking? Nobody wants to read crap this boring. Here’s the truth, though. If you read only one blog post about taxes, make it be this one.

Look, I feel you. I KNOW taxes are scary. I KNOW you’re bad at math (you’re a creative, so it’s obvious). I also know you just want to avoid this topic altogether because it sucks. Taxes suck. Business stuff I don’t like to do sucks. But you know what sucks more? Convincing you that you need to know about this stuff. Trust me, that’s my job.

Let me tell you a little story about a girl who worked entirely regular crappy paying jobs up until she owned her own business. That girl is me. I got my one W-2 form every year. I was motivated to fill out that super easy tax form and send it in so I could get my big refund and feel luxurious. Those were the days. Sometimes I feel pretty nostalgic about them because now taxes are a massive shit show. Or at least they used to be. Somewhere in between my beautiful nostalgic world full of tax refunds and today’s taxes.

When I started my business taxes were the last thing on my mind. They should have been first. I never really understood how they worked, what all the terminology was, or why any of it even mattered. I just filled out my forms and got my big check and ran out and bought fancy things. My first couple years in business were lucky because I was in the hole and didn’t owe anything. Once I started owning though I was just not prepared. I never understood how the expenses worked, or what would I do if I owed money and couldn’t pay it.

That’s when I decided to sit t down and tackle this stuff and learn it all. I can’t tell you how lifechanging that was, event though it took me immense amounts of motivation to get through it all. Learning tax basics completely changed me as a business owner. It taught me so many things that made me become a better business owner overall. I just had to be willing to set aside my fears of numbers and the IRS and just do it. I have absolutely no regrets. When I see other photographers and creatives struggling, asking questions and getting terrible answers in Facebook groups or on social media it just made me incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to learn all this stuff. Here are a few things that a basic understanding gave me.

1. Learning the basics of business taxes gave me a much better understanding about how I was spending my business money. Understanding how expenses worked within the tax system let me make much better investments when it came to business expenses and deductions. Now I can make much better-informed decisions before purchase, knowing how it may or may not benefit me in taxes is a helpful tool.

2. Understanding taxes gave me a much better idea of how my self-employed income may affect future financial decisions like retirement, buying a house or purchasing a car. When people check your credit or need to refer to your income for something like health insurance knowing where to look for the numbers and what they mean helps immensely. Tax forms are full of lines and numbers and having a basic understanding of just how my self-employed income affects everything else for my family helps me budget too.

3. Opening the door to learning taxes also gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of other things about stuff like credit card fees, business entities, licensing and more. Today as a business owner I look very different from the meek girl that dared to start a photography business. That girl had no idea what she was getting into, and this girl can act as her fiancial planner and investor in the future.

Because learning about this stuff has helped me so much I also believe it can help other photographers too. I promise it’s not that scary. I’m a very cautious person by nature, so the fact I stepped out of my comfort zone to try and figure out something that was very intimidating speaks volumes to my family. So I took all the knowledge, classes and experience I’ve had over the last several years and put them into a course. Some of you may remember my smaller Get Legit courses. This one is similar, however, on my new classroom platform you can enroll and watch at any time. Plus it’s interactive. So if you have questions, you can ask right inside, and I can answer. Then I can add things like downloads and helpful links. As laws change, I can also go in and add new video content. The new course is called “Legal Crap You should Probably Know, but are Too Afraid to Learn.”  There are only a few coupon codes for the opening of the class to get $20 off. UJse the code TAXESSUCK. It’s not a huge investment, but this class is for the long haul and should help you and be available for you beyond the initial videos, keeping you updated and informed. It also includes contract template downloads, and an image use agreement template. Each of those templates also has a model release too. So there’s tons of content and good stuff for you!

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Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

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