Giving Fine Art America a shot

I recently created a gallery on Fine Art America to allow people to purchase prints, cards, etc. of some of my photographs.  I first researched various such POD (Print On Demand) sites, and selected this one because:

– You keep ownership of your photos

– You set the profit you make for each order

– It’s only $30 a year to place unlimited photos

– It seemed to have good flow and generally good user reviews.

– You can “sponsor” pages by having links to search pages from your website, which in theory prioritizes your photo to the third line of the search results. Though of course with popular searches you really just get a higher chance to be on that third line, we’ll see how well that works out…

At any rate, it’s an intriguing next steps to my photography adventures, so we’ll see how that goes… You bet if I sell something I’ll be all sorts of excited and you’ll hear from me here…  If you have had experience with Fine Art America I’d love to hear of your experience, please drop me a comment, thanks!

Becoming a small business person

So I had been going along making some money with my photography hobby, then a bit more, enough to buy new equipment, and of course I was paying taxes on that money, but was not keeping track of expenses. I also decided to put in a proposal for the gifts of art program at UM, which if accepted, would allow me to sell my framed photographs, which means charging state taxes, and I need to be a business owner to charge taxes… you see it was starting to get big.

So, time to become a small business. I looked around the internet researching different business options and decided that since I don’t intend to shoot weddings or other such situations that might end up with me being sued, and I’m not planning to have employees, I didn’t think I needed to become incorporated. Instead I went with the “sole proprietorship” model, which in Michigan is sometimes also referred to as DBA, or “doing business as,” such as me doing business as Susan Montgomery Photos.

So time to keep the money separate. I checked my local credit union’s website about opening up a business account, and found out that I had to bring a “Certificate of Assumed Name or Doing Business As Certificate.” A bit of research in the State of Michigan website and I downloaded the form, got the notary public signature, filed at my county courthouse, back to the credit union, and voila, I have a business account, with checks and a debit card, and I started a Paypal account in my business name. Small business person me, who’d a thunk it.

One of my big points here is that I didn’t know anything about this when I started. I just took it one step at a time, learned what I had to learn, checked with some friends to make sure I wasn’t making any terrible mistakes, and I keep learning. Don’t be intimidated. There is a lot of knowledge out there, seek it out as you need it. As my neighbor Linda says about running 5k’s, “It’s just taking one step after another.” If I can do it, so can you – really!

Disclaimer: I am merely sharing my experience here, I have no legal expertise, so please do your own research to determine which options works best for you.

Getting business cards

I have found having business cards to be very helpful as a stock photographer. My latest version has one of my photos as the background, the URL for this blog, my Shutterstock portfolio address, and my email address, which I’ve obscured in this photo:

business card - no email

They’re useful to have when I’m photographing an event, so I can reassure people that I’m a professional, and I explain that I’m taking photos for a stock photography site. I let them know I’d be happy to send them their photo if they choose to email me, and to look for their photo in the Shutterstock site. People have invariably been very happy to have their photos taken, such as this one at last year’s civil war remembrance in Greenfield Village:

Civil-war era reenactor working on a watercolor

Or this one at last year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire:

Learning how to solder at the Ann Arbor mini Maker Faire

Now that I have this blog I’ll also be able to give it to people who ask me about stock photography.

I got them from Vistaprint, $20 for 250 nice quality cards. My earlier cards were double-sided, but I decided to have the back side blank on this new set so I can write notes on it.