This week The Legal Paige interviewed Julianna, of Julianna J Photography. She is such an amazing light and talented photographer. Julianna is Seattle’s Sweetheart Photographer and her work is STUNNING. Not to mention, she built her business all by herself. Now she shoots dozens of weddings a year. Did I mention she drives a pink moped?! I’ve known Julianna for awhile now and I feel so lucky to call her a friend.
Do you want to know how she did it?! Check out her answers below.
What made you start your own business?
I really knew nothing about business when I first started if I’m being honest. I always thought I would work for other people because that’s what my parents do. I come from two immigrant parents and I’m first generation American in my family. I picked up a camera one day and never had the intention to start my own business. I ended up starting my business because the person I was with at the time was very business savvy and they encouraged me to be my own boss. I couldn’t believe I could get paid to do something I love.
I was also working three jobs at the time, and was seventeen years old. I worked at a dry cleaners, as a waitress, and a doctors office. I also had a brief stint where I wanted to go to school to be a medical assistant. Ultimately, I ended up having many different jobs until I was 24. That’s when the lightbulb clicked and I ended up quitting my other jobs to pursue my photography business full time.
Have you ever hired an attorney to help you with your business, and if so, what did you need help with?
I did not hire an attorney for the first 8 or so years in business. In fact, the first attorney I ever talked to was you, Paige! It was very helpful to have you look over my contracts and make sure everything was legal. I wish I would have hired an attorney from the start because I lost a client’s images once, and it could have been a total nightmare if they weren’t so nice about it. I got lucky on that one!
What was one significant legal issue you ran into while building your business?
About seven years in, my business was at an all-time high! I was shooting a lot of weddings and events, and I didn’t have the best backup system in place. I shot a wedding on a Saturday and put all of my camera gear back into my camera bag. I left the bag in my apartment like any other day, waited until Monday, came back to my apartment and everything looked normal. I went to go start editing the wedding photos and the bag wasn’t in my apartment. Then it kind of hit me that someone had come into my apartment and stolen all of my photography gear, including my laptop. It was a devastating moment because I knew I lost the memory cards from that wedding on Saturday and I didn’t have the photos backed up. I’m so lucky it didn’t turn into a legal issue because the couple did not file suit against me. However, it did become very public. The news picked it up, one of the moms of the couple was actually a judge, oh, AND, both spouses were lawyers! I thought for sure I was going to be sued. So...I waited until they got back from their honeymoon to deliver the bad news.
I obviously tried my best to resolve the situation on my own. I told the couple I would give them a full refund. Inside, I was devastated and I just wanted to quit and run away. Even though the couple was obviously devastated, they asked if I was okay. It totally took my off guard--they said they were sorry someone had broken into my apartment and stolen my stuff, and that it wasn’t my fault. I offered to do portraits of them in their wedding attire, but they declined because it would be too hard for them emotionally. So, that was the end of that. It could have been a lot worse, so I’m very thankful.
What is one piece of advice you would give other entrepreneurs reading this when it comes to starting your own business and thinking about ensuring you are following the law?
One piece of advice that I would give people is to legalize your business ASAP. Who cares if you’re paying taxes. Don’t work under the table, it is not worth it. I know it is confusing and challenging. Honestly, all legal stuff scares me, and I still don’t really know what to do. I ended up going to see an accountant who charged $125 per hour to help me set up my business right in front of me. She set me up as an LLC and, if I hadn’t gotten help from a professional, I think I would have messed something up. It was definitely one of the best things I did and I recommend you to hire help if you’re struggling.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting a business for you?
Working for myself and getting to sleep in. I love to sleep in. I am not a morning person, so I would hate to have to wake up and go work for someone else. I also love being able to make decisions that will benefit me. The most rewarding part really is putting in the effort for myself and my business.
What has been the scariest part of starting a business?
The scariest part of starting my business was not knowing when I would have money, and how much I was going to make this year or next year. There is so much personal accountability involved.
THE LEGAL PAIGE TAKEAWAYS
Julianna has been such an amazing friend to me and I love getting to bounce creative and business ideas off of her. It has been a true pleasure working with her and getting her business legitimate and protected. My biggest legal takeaways from Julianna’s background are listed below!
- SEEK HELP FROM AN ATTORNEY OR ACCOUNTANT!
- Julianna pointed out in her interview that she sought out the help of an accountant to help her get her business registered. This is totally legit! But, remember, accountants cannotgive you legal advice--they can only give you advice related to taxes. If you want help getting your business legit, AND talk about some legal concerns, seek out an attorney’s help.
- PHOTOGRAPHERS SPECIFICALLY: TAKE MITIGATING STEPS TO AVOID GETTING SUED… LIKE BACKING UP PICTURES IMMEDIATELY!
- As seen from Julianna’s nightmare situation of losing a couple’s wedding photos, making mistakes or having unfortunate things happen to you or your equipment is a reality we all need to face. You never know what can expose you to legal liability. Luckily Julianna had nice clients who didn’t choose to sue her... but they could have. And likely for a lot of money and emotional damage. Therefore, you should take precautionary measures to avoid these kinds of situations in your business, like getting all the clauses in your contract set up correctly if anything legal were to happen, and also have a general liability insurance policy for your business. That way, you’re not forking out $100,000 for a legal suit. And if you’re a photographer, back those pictures up immediately!
- PAY YOUR TAXES.
- Like Julianna said, it isn’t worth it not to pay your taxes from the get go! The penalties are disastrous (as seen in my latest blog post) and cutting corners WILL come back to haunt you. Pay your taxes as soon as you start a business and you’ll be solid.
Thank you so much Julianna for sitting down and answering these questions with The Legal Paige. Your journey is an inspiration and the best way to learn is from each other.
And, if you’re interested in getting your business set up for success, join us for TLP’s online course Ready, Set, Legal! Get all the details HERE.