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3 Things Photographers Should Know About Credit Card Fees

credit card feesBeing a small business owner myself means that I often want to support other small businesses in what they do too. However, it can get a little bit awkward when I catch them breaking the law. This has happened to me a few times. I was once nearly charged state, city, and other local sales taxes for a service. In Colorado, services are not subject to sales tax, only tangible items. I quickly caught the business owner and tried to nicely offer my correction and help finding out more information about proper sales taxes. I’ve also been told, when purchasing products like used lenses from someone that if I pay via Paypal I’m expected to pay the Paypal fees as well. My spidey-business-sense sets off red flags when I hear things like that.

Now the legalities of these kinds of surcharges associated with using credit cards are important for you to know as a business owner if you chose to accept credit cards as a form of payment. The legalities are not always easy to find and often depend on the US state you reside in (and some of you it will depend on your country), as well as credit card companies themselves and their own policies.

A surcharge is an extra fee added on to another fee or charge. Some people will call them the Paypal fees, a credit card fee, a checkout fee and a variety of other terms. Usually businesses are interested in tacking on a surcharge that will cover the cost of the transaction of using a credit card. As a business owner it is always going to cost you money to accept credit cards. Different companies take anywhere from 1-4% of the payment. Thus, business owners want to find a way to cover the cost of these fees and will charge their customers and clients a credit card fee.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Many large credit card companies, like Visa and Mastercard do not allow retailers to charge their cardholders a checkout fee to use their card. If your client wants to pay you with a Visa or Mastercard, you may not charge them any surcharges. You’ll want to check other credit card companies to see what their policies are. What happens when these credit card companies catch you tacking on surcharges to their cardholders, I cannot say, but many of these credit card companies have places online to report retailers for doing just that. >Here< is a link to Visa’s report system.

2. 10 US States have a ‘No Surcharge Law’ which means you cannot charge a surcharge to use a credit card in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. Each state’s laws are slightly different. Visa provide’s a great link to >this page< which outlines each of those 10 state’s laws pretty clearly. In these states if you are charged a surcharge you have a right to report the retailer to your state’s Attorney General. To those of you who reside and do business in these states please check out the laws and see exactly what the surcharge law is for you.

3. Paypal’s Terms of Service prohibits its retailers from charging a surcharge for accepting Paypal as a payment method. You can check out the Paypal User Agreement yourself at this >link< Click on Number 4 at the top (Receiving Money) and then scroll down to Number 4.6 “No Surcharges” to read their entire agreement on this.

It’s important to do your research for your state and see what of these state laws and company policies will apply to you, hopefully this article can start to point you in the right direction for your business. Personally, because of the policies of companies like Paypal, Visa, and Mastercard as well as my state law here in Colorado I do not charge any credit card fees. There are still a lot of great options out there for accepting credit cards. I use both Paypal and Square to accept credit cards and I don’t mind the fees because I can count those fees as a business expense.

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Want to learn more about the legal official side of running a legit business? Join Photography Awesomesauce’s 6 week online bootcamp!

5 Tips on Buying Used Camera Equipment

used camera equipmentDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

1. Buy or trade in your old equipment at http://keh.com. Okay let’s admit it now, if you trade in your old equipment you probably won’t get it at optimum value, but you will avoid having to claim the money you get from it as a business profit. Typically when I sell something to KEH it’s because it wouldn’t sell on Amazon.com or because I knew it wouldn’t sell ever and I wanted to get something from it while I could. One of the things I really appreciate about KEH is that you can purchase a used lens and get it with a warranty. I often times feel a bit sketchy purchasing from somewhere else and not being sure that what I get is actually a worthwhile product. If I can purchase it with a warranty that’s a guarantee that if it’s horrible or doesn’t work, I can get it replaced or fixed for free. I’ve paid about $49 per lens from KEH for 2 year warranties and I’ve also been absolutely thrilled with their customer service. The products I purchased were much higher quality wise than they actually rated them and I read online that this is pretty standard for them.

2. A lot of you guys email and ask about purchasing used equipment, especially camera bodies. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a used camera unless it’s a good deal at a good price and you can guarantee it’s been checked over with the manufacturer recently. Does it come with paperwork proving the shutter count? These are all questions to ask before you dive in and purchase used. I did not purchase my primary camera used, but all of my backup cameras have been purchased used so I could save a little money on a great camera and guarantee that I have a great camera just in case the worst happens. My rule of thumb is that if the seller can provide documents proving it’s been in recently for service and prove the shutter count then I’m good to go. I also want to purchase it through a company where I can be assured that if the sender doesn’t send it or something happens I can get my money back. Remember to ask a lot of questions and be sure about a used camera purchase before you dive in.

3. Buy used equipment from a reputable seller. B&H Photo and Borrow Lenses are great for purchasing used gear. Reputable companies like these selling used gear always inspect and repair anything before selling it. If you purchase used on ebay you cannot guarantee the product is in working condition before you purchase.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

4. There are several buy and sell groups for used equipment on Facebook you can check out. People sell used equipment often and sometimes it’s at a great price. I recently bought a used shootsac among other items from various members of these groups. Here are the links to the groups if you want to ask to join! They’re also a great place to sell used equipment as well. These are the three main groups I’m a part of, but I’m sure there are plenty of others for specific equipment types like Sony, Nikon, and Olympus. If you’re looking for a good deal, do keep these groups in mind. I once saw a Canon 85mm 1.2L going for $1300 and it’s new retail price is normally about $2200!

>Canon Equipment: Buy and Sell<
>Camera Gear<
>Photog Gear Online Swap Meet<

5. If you’re looking for an item that is no longer being made, buying used can definitely save the day. The three Facebook groups I listed above that you can join often have used or vintage cameras come up for sale if you watch closely. You’ll be able to buy film and other items that are no longer being made. The Canon 5D mark i (Classic) is no longer being made as well as the Canon 50D and other cameras, but these great cameras come up for sale often used.

 

Pixifi.com – Product Review

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links. 

Back when I first started out my business I spent a lot of time updating my contracts, writing questionnaire sheets for clients and keeping them updated. I used to print them out in bulk so I’d always have one ready to go when needed. Then there was a whole hassle of meeting with a client, giving them the contract and waiting for it to be mailed back to me via the US Postal Service (i.e. we can call this a slow boat to China). Eventually I purchased an app for my iPad when the first generation came out and could have clients sign a contract in person and it would email both of us a copy. This was great, but in order to update contracts I’d have to take an hour or so and sit down with the ipad app and load up a new contract. Not to mention this required always bringing my ipad with me, always having battery power, and always having wifi or data service.

As business grew and I started looking for better ways to save myself time (money), I started looking for some type of studio management software. There weren’t a whole lot of options. There were some options that were very pricey and seeing as I’m not very good at the whole using the internet software for organizing thing I just didn’t want to pay a lot for something I wouldn’t use. After much thought and googling I chose Pixifi and signed up for their free 60 Day trial.

I think services like Pixifi are sometimes overlooked for photographers and ever since I’ve been paying my monthly fee to them I can honestly say it’s been worth every penny and then some. Pixifi is a whole lot of software and I’ve still only barely dived into all it’s able to do. You can run photography workshops out of it, send clients online contracts, send clients questionnaires, invoice clients online so they can pay you with a credit card…

There’s a built in calendar system that you can link to your google calendar and have all of your photography events easily available to you by phone. This calendar can also be shown to potential clients so they can see when and if you are booked. You can keep track of your accounting and print out year-end totals. You can use Pixifi as an entire client communication system and run all of your emails and inquires through the program.

You can also create an entire storefront with your pricing, packages and information that clients can easily click, add to their cart, and order.

For those of you who do a lot of weddings and meet a lot of other vendors like wedding planners, venues, DJs, you can keep all of their contact information in Pixifi and associate them with your clients and leads.

Finally, you can also keep a task list in there instead of using tons of sticky notes.

>Try Pixifi for free< ….yes, there’s a 60 Day free trial. SIXTY DAYS.

I still feel as though I’ve only touched on the features. Being able to use it as a client database, invoicing, contracts, and questionnaires system has been my primary use and it’s been worth the $24.99 per month. Now I can meet with clients and when they decide they are ready to book I just email them a contract and invoice and voila I’m done.

I think it’s really important to keep things in your workflow as a business owner very simple. The more simple something is the more time it saves. Yes, it does have a fee associated with it, but the ease of use and time it saves me is worth it. On the other side of that I think things should be really easy for your clients to use. The easier it is for clients to book and pay you the more they will refer and recommend you for your great customer service. Ever since switching to this method clients have praised how easy it is to pay, book, and sign their contracts.

I highly recommend everyone at least try out Pixifi’s 60 Day Trial. I’ve had such a great experience with them and it’s definitely improved my business. On top of that if you struggle figuring out the Pixifi software there’s a Facebook group where the head honcho, Tim Hussey, and his sidekick, Lisa Otto, are quick to help you out and answer all your questions. Their customer service is top notch. If you sign up for Pixifi, I’d love it if you used my referral link so they know I sent you their direction!

2015 Edit: While this blog post is old, the information is still the same and Pixifi is still my favorite studio management software. In fact, the price is even the same!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

CGPro Prints – Product Review

cgproWhat can I say? I’m always looking for ways to offer quality at an affordable price. I’ve tried canvas wraps from many, many other labs and I do markup my prices for products with my clients. I want my products to also be affordable though. I don’t think a 16×20 canvas wrap should be unattainable for a client on a budget and that’s where CGProprints comes in. I also don’t want to charge a client a price that I would never pay for a canvas for myself. These guys sell a 16×20 Canvas Wrap for $22.99 and you really cannot beat that price (prices may have risen since this blog post was written, but they’re still incredibly affordable)!

I had the opportunity to get some sample canvases for myself and review them. Honestly, even as a photographer I only have one or two small canvases in my house that have been around for awhile. These ones were a lovely set, so they had to be of our most prized possessions, Opal, Lily, and Rufus – of course!

First of all, canvases are so much easier to hang than framed photos! CGProprints canvases come with a small hanger on the back of each canvas so all I had to do was put some pushpins in the wall, straighten and voila. If you see the photos of below you’ll have to ignore my lack of straightening on the basset hound on the end. They are hanging above the couch and I wanted to straighten them for a photo, but my boys were asleep underneath.

One of the features that I think rocks about these guys is that every canvas comes with a backing. I’ve paid a lot more for canvases that have no backing on them and then if you ever have them off the wall and lean them against something that shape can bend and distort the canvas on the front. I studied painting in college and that was something that drove me crazy about transporting my canvases back and forth from school to home. I had to be so careful with them. CGProprints makes this easy and it’s something I have to worry about even less.

The canvases arrived at my door, each one individually packaged, but they shipped together and shipped quickly! It might be that they got here so quickly because I live only 30 minutes away from Longmont, CO where they are made. I love supporting local businesses and CGProprints is a local business for me so I doubt I will ever buy canvas anywhere else. Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll get the opportunity to take a tour of their lab and see how everything is done and maybe I’ll be able to report that back here.

My canvases shipped without a receipt which is a plus if you want to drop ship them to clients. I have been sending out 16×20 canvases to my clients as a gift because CGProprints makes this so cheap. After every session, I surprise my clients with a little canvas gift of their favorite image. It’s so easy and clients are so appreciative. The plus side? Usually after they get a free one they want another one to match!

Finally, the canvases look great and the colors are true to my original images. The images themselves are thickly coated for protection on the top.

Final Review

1. Customer Service: 5/5 This company is easy to work with and easy to contact if you have a problem. If you are ever unhappy with your canvas they offer a 100% guarantee. They will replace it or refund you. Not all labs that produce canvas are so generous.

2. Product Quality: 5/5 I’ve been impressed with the canvases I’ve ordered for myself and my clients have been absolutely thrilled.

3. Ease of Use/Ordering: 5/5 It’s very easy and all you have to do is visit their website to order. There are no special software downloads or ROES systems.

4. Delivery Speed: 5/5 Fast!

5. Product Packaging: 5/5 I was confident that my products would arrive safe and sound. Each one is packaged in an individual box.

If you’re a photographer looking to add canvases to your list of products for clients give CGProprints.com a try!

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

5 Common Questions About Photography Business, Taxes, Accounting, and Licensing

5 tax qsAfter receiving numerous questions the last couple weeks about business licenses, taxes, finances, accounting etc. I decided to answer a few. I’m no accountant or tax expert by any means so my knowledge is limited, but I do know some basics.

1. Do I need to be charging sales tax?

Anytime you are giving your client a tangible product, one they can hold in their hands, you need to be charging sales tax. However, that being said sales tax in the US can be extremely more complicated than you might think. Sure, you could look up the tax rate for your city and state and think, ‘okay I’m good,’ but it’s unfortunately not as simple as that. First you must have a sales tax license in order to charge sales tax. If you’re just starting your business and you have been charging sales tax without having a license, stop charging sales tax and get a license as soon as possible.

2. How much should I set aside for income taxes?

When you started your business the lure of being able to work for yourself, set your own schedule and all of that sounded great right? Well, one thing they didn’t tell you was you’d have to pay more in income taxes than you would at that corporate desk job. Your first year in business you’ll have more expenses than profit so it’s fairly safe to set aside 30% and it’s more than likely you’ll have some of that left over. Afterward you can reinvest the leftovers into your business. For the years after that it’s recommended to set aside 40%. I can imagine the jaws dropping. 40% is a good safe amount and depending on your expenses and how you file your annual taxes you may not end up paying all of that back. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. What kind of business license do I need?

This will vary incredibly from state to state as well as from county to city and so on. You’ll need to go to your state’s website in the business section to find out what the requirements are for you specifically.

4. What can I count as an expense?

Again, this may vary depending on your business, how much you spend, what you already have, and more. My best advice is to record all expenses related to your business and have a tax guy sort through and tell you what works and what doesn’t at the end of the year. A tax expert or accountant will know best and until that time of year comes around again if you keep tabs on anything you spend at all you’ll have a full list to go over with him later.

5. I want to start being able to accept credit cards, do you know any companies that allow me to do this without a fee?

Nope, sorry. Unfortunately all companies that process credit cards do take a percentage. Most companies are within the same range and don’t vary much. I highly recommend http://www.square.com as an easy company to work with to process credit cards almost anywhere. I’ve been incredibly satisfied with them. The important thing to remember about processing credit cards is that you cannot charge the fee that the company charges you to the customer. That is against the law. That fee though does count as an expense you can take on your taxes.

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If you need more help with taxes and the official side of becoming a photographer and legit business owner, check out Photography Awesomesauce’s 6 Week Online Bootcamp!