Everyone seems to be in love with lists.  There’s Craigslist, People Magazines “List of Most Beautiful People”, Letterman has his Top Ten List, the AFI List of the “100 Greatest Movies of All Time”.  Just how could we exist without the list of “The Greatest Reality Shows in TV History”.  Somewhere there must be a “List of Lists”.  And so it goes.  So we decided to give the creative community what it wants – a list of money making and equally important, money keeping ideas. Far from complete, but it’s a start. We’ll post the first ten today and another ten this week.
Number one on the list is by far the most important, first, numero one, rule one. Got that? The rest are in no particular order of importance.

1. Register all of your work, all of the time, without exception, no matter what. Don’t ask, don’t ponder, don’t question – just register period. It’s what we say until we’re blue in the face. Photographers realize how important this is when, surprise, surprise, a photo they never thought twice about gets infringed and they find out how unfair life is without proper registration.

2.  Your paperwork should be as good as your photography. Your forms should look and be every bit as good in their content, style and professionalism as your imagery. Bad paperwork has caused more sleepless nights than a bad burrito.

3.  Your client is not your “partner”.  Your spouse is your partner.  Your client is a customer. And no matter how friendly your clients are, you dear friend, are a vendor. Trust us on this one. It’s broken many a heart.

4.  Run your business as if it were a business because (drum roll here) it is! Sounds simple, but many photographers lose sight of this.

5.  Do not seek or rely on advice regarding tax or legal issues from non-professionals especially, photographers.  A layperson that writes a blog or a book does not morph into a licensed experienced professional lawyer.

6.  Obtain and retain model releases all of the time and keep them FOREVER.  Do not expect or rely on any one else doing this – ever.

7.  Thoroughly interview and retain accountants, lawyers, bankers and so on before you really need them.  Satisfy yourself that such person has some familiarity or understanding of what you do for a living.  In so doing never, never rely on any advertising for such services that any such person may have.  We subscribe to the view that such advertising should disqualify the professional from your consideration.

8.  Do not assume that reps or agents know more about the business than you do.  Remember that their business interests do not necessarily parallel your own.

9.  Do assume that any contract offered to you by a stock agency, rep or agent is written in their interest and not yours.  Any agreement which seeks to appropriate any percentage of your income must be reviewed by a lawyer of your choosing with input from your accountant. If the contract “looks simple that it does not need such a review”, congrats you have been duped.  Such “simple” contracts are carefully written in such manner so you won’t have them looked at by an objective expert.  Its a trick that very, very often works with creatives.  The complications come later when you are informed by a lawyer and/or your accountant that by signing this unreviewed, simple letter agreement, you have (simply) screwed yourself and your family for years to come.

10. Even with reputable clients, if your paperwork says 30 days net, and you have not gotten paid by day 31 or 32, call the accounting dept. Call now. For any payment question, bypass the art director, the art buyer, or any other non-accounting person. They don’t have a clue. Call the accounting department directly. That’s who cuts your check. If it’s a large invoice, you may want to call two weeks into the 30 days just to “see where you are” in the payment queue.

Look for Part 2 of our list in two days.