When starting a photography business, there are several documents that every business owner or independent contractor should always have readily available. These three documents are a Photography Contract, W9 Tax Form, and Invoice. Below, you’ll find a brief description of each form, as well as a link to download a free template for your use. Without further ado, here are the 3 documents every freelancer should have readily accessible.
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Save These Documents to the Cloud
I use these three documents on a near-daily basis while running my photography business. To keep these documents at hand, I store copies of them in the cloud. Google Drive is my preferred cloud provider since it’s free and seamlessly integrated with my Gmail account. Alternatively, you could also use Dropbox or Evernote to store templates of these important documents. I recommend you do the same to save time in the future.
*To download, click the hyperlink and right-click the image. Select “Save As” and save to desktop.
1. Photographer Contract
After negotiating a new photography job, it is wise to have your client fill out a photography contract. This document doesn’t need to be complicated with legal jargon. Instead, it should be straightforward, stating the exact services you will be rendering, the payment terms, and anything else you want to be secured in writing. Below is a sample event photography contract template followed by a wedding photography contract template. All sections should be carefully reviewed by you and catered to your specific needs.
Download: Photographer Contract Template*
Download: Wedding Photographer Contract Template
*The logo in the first contract template can be swapped out of the header by double clicking it and replacing it with your own logo or image.
Disclaimer: These contracts have not been reviewed by a lawyer. They are provided as free resources to the community and are intended to be guidelines rather than a comprehensive, complete contract.
2. w9 Tax Form
As a photographer or business provider, you may have a client ask you for a copy of a W9, also denoted as a Form W-9 or W 9. It’s one of the most common IRS tax forms that you’ll become very familiar with in your photography business. Basically, a W-9 form is required for clients so they can accurately report to the IRS all of the payments they make to you.
What is a w9 form for?
If a business pays a contractor (in our case, photographer) $600 or more during one tax year, that business must report these payments to the IRS on a 1099-MISC form. You will then receive this 1099-MISC form automatically in the mail to fill in your annual taxes. In order for the business to collect all of the information they need to fill out the 1099-MISC form, they use a W9 form.
How do I fill out a w9 form?
There are several key pieces of information you need to properly fill out your W9 form: your full name, your business name, business entity, your business address, your social security or taxpayer identification number (EIN), and your signature. It’s wise to have applied for and received your Employer Identification Number. While a social security number will be accepted, it’s a better business practice to input your EIN on the w9. Read more about how to apply for an EIN here.
Which business entity do I select?
Arguably the trickiest part of this form is which business entity to select. Your options are sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation, S corporation, trust/estate, limited liability company, or other. The one you choose depends on what you initially designated your business as when you applied for your taxpayer identification number.
How do I get a w9 form?
You can download a free W9 form using the link below. Consider saving a completed copy to an easily accessible place, such as your Google Drive or Dropbox.
The nice part about the w9 is once you’ve filled it out and submitted it to a client, you won’t need to fill it out for them again unless any of your information changes, such as your address. On the other hand, it can get a little tedious if you constantly work with new clients. Keep a filled out copy readily accessible to avoid having to fill out this form over and over.
Download: Free w9 Form
3. Photography Invoice Template
When you’re ready to be paid, always submit an invoice to the client. I follow up with an invoice on the day I have completed the job and submitted everything promised in my photography contract. The most important thing is to keep track of the invoices you submit and any corresponding photography expenses. Be sure to follow up with a polite email or phone call asking for a status update on your payment.
When I first started my photography business, a colleague sent me the below invoice template in a Word document. I continue using this template for invoicing today. You can also speed up your workflow by using a paid accounting software or online services such as FreshBooks. These services help you manage your overall business accounting. They also provide invoicing templates with the ability to keep track of your paid and unpaid invoices.
Download: Invoice Template
Free Photo Release Form Templates
The three documents and templates above are essential for establishing and maintaining your photography business. Depending on your exact methods of making money from photography, you may also need photo release forms. You’ll find a couple of common photo release templates below, along with explanations and free downloads.
Parental Consent Form Template (for minors under age 18)
When it comes to making money from photography, paperwork is inevitable. Keep these three documents and templates handy, as you’ll be needing them on a regular basis. Do you have any other essential photography documents you use often? Please share your resources and thoughts in the comments below!
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