Legally starting your photography or video business

Disclaimer: I am not a formal person when I don't have to be, so there may be swearing and other inappropriate language.  Also, I suck at grammar, so be gentle with me; I'm just a mere human.  Thanks for hearing me out, you beautiful slut :)

So word on the street is that you are planning to start our own photo or video business.  Well here here and shake my hand, you luscious angel.  That is a big move and I am proud of you.  I recently did the same in the sunny state of California, and I will bring you through the steps so you can rest assure that you will not get fucked over by some incorrect filing.  THIS ONLY APPLIES TO CALIFORNIA.  If you are registering your business in another state, I can not help you, but I am sure the process is similar.  As my condolences for lack of help, here is a picture of one of my doggos being especially cute: 

 Much wow, she is truly a grade A+ doggo, no bamboolze here :)

The first thing to decide when starting your business is decide if you want to register as a DBA (doing business as) or a LLC (Limited Liability Company).  


A LLC is a separate legal entity from the individual member or members who formed the LLC, while a DBA is simply a fictitious name a person is giving themselves to conduct business. Practically this means if you register as a LLC and someone sues your company, for whatever reason, they can only go after the companies money, and not your personal funds.  With a DBA they could go after your personal funds since a DBA is not its own entity, it is just the fictitious name you are giving yourself to offer your services. 

This extra protection comes at a cost though.  The start up costs will be higher, around $50 more, and a LLC owner will have to pay an additional $800 at tax season each year, while someone with a DBA will not have to pay any extra.  I personally started my company as a DBA, but if my business takes off and start employing others, I would likely file to convert to a LLC.

I would suggest doing your own research in the pros and cons of choosing a DBA vs LLC, and talking to your tax person, as I am no expert.  Once you have decided which route you are going down it is time to start filling out some paperwork.  From here on out I can only truly vouch this process will be completely true for DBA's, as that is what I did.

Getting Started

The process is actually much easier and simpler than I expected.  As a recent California transplant this was actually the easiest part of bureaucracy I have had to deal with since moving here.  I will go into depth on each step, but the shorthand version of what you'll have to do is as follows:

Step 1:

Go to www.______ and fill out the online form. 

Step 2:

Go in person to one of the several _____

Step 3: 

Submit your business to 

Technically optional but highly suggested:

Go to and file for a EIN number, aka Employer Information Number.  Important for taxes, and makes it so you don't have to give out your Social Security number when applying for things like business credit cards, and such.  Takes like 10 minutes, much more painless than I expected.

Into the depths of bureaucracy hell we go.  Grab my earlobes, and let's call each other's mother to reassure them how much we love and support them, so we know it's real.

Step 1: