GewerbeanmeldungIt’s finally official. Yesterday I went to the registration office and opened a business. Now I am officially a photographer.

I think the way my story goes is a very common one. You start taking pictures, people like them, you get positive feedback, you start getting more serious, you make the first application photo shoot, the first family shoot, you set up a studio at home and one thing leads to another.

And people start asking you “Thanks for taking our pictures. How can we reimburse you ?” And in the beginning you are feeling uncomfortable. “Oh well, it’s ok. It is my hobby, I do not have running costs like film or development…” You feel strange to ask for something from friends. Who charges a friend money ? Naaaaaa.

But more people ask. People from work for example. And that is the point when you start thinking. You like them – good colleagues – but where is the border between friends and colleagues ? (At the place where I work, this line is very thin. And I appreciate that because it is a fantastic atmosphere, thumbs up for my colleagues !!).

This is basically how it went in my case. I think many other photographers have the same history.

I decided to start making some money with photography. It is intended as a measure to counter-finance a part of the equipment, because nice lenses are nicely expensive. But I do not plan to “go pro” and make photography my daytime job. But let’s see how that develops, ask me again in five years 😉

In my case starting a business was easy.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or tax consultant and I am not authorized to give legal advice ! The following paragraphs are a mere protocol of my experience. I can not guarantee or be made responsible for the correctness of the information I give below. If you want to be informed in detail about starting a business please consult a lawyer or tax consultant. 

Step 1: Inform your day job employer about what you intend to do and ask for permission. That is very important. I have a work contract and, flatly speaking, my work time belongs to my employer. And my employer is entitled to have a fully rested employee on Monday, so the week-end should give one the opportunity to gain new strength. Also my employer would not like it very much if I earned money with something I learned at work, using the knowledge which is by contract intended to be used for the benefit of my employer. Lastly, my employer surely would not like it very much if I used his resources for earning extra money (e.g. if I was a mechanic my employer surely would not agree if I set up a side business in car repair and use the machines and tools my main job employer paid for).

In my case getting the permissino was not a problem. I have am working at university as a researcher, and my job has nothing to do with photography. Therefore the permission was just a formal issue.

NOTE: If you start a side business without informing your employer, this can be a reason for immediate termination of your work contract. But again: I am not a lawyer, this is what I heard. This is not a legal advice, because I am not entitled to give such. Only lawyers and tax consultant may. 

Step 2: Go to the registration office of your city (German: Ordnungsamt/Gewerbemeldestelle). If you don’t know where that is, call the city administration. Most cities have a general info hotline for such questions (“Where do I have to go in order to…”).

There I showed my ID card (German “Personalausweis), stated the nature of the business and paid 20 Euros. The lady hacked the information into the computer and in about five minutes I went from photography hobbyist to entrepreneur…. ok, that was a little bold.

Note: You don’t need to show the permission from your employer at that point. The registration office does not care about the relationship between you and your company.

Step 3 (yet to come): Inform the taxation office about the business and declare it a “small business”. Here in Germany we have a convenient regulation for small business. As a small business counts one where no one besides yourself is employed and which does not generate more than 17.500 Euros per year). The regulation was mainly introduced as a measure to fight unemployment, so that people could easily start a small business and earn some money (German “Ich-AG”).

What is the advantage of such “small businesses” ? Well, you don’t have to pay VAT. And that is very good in my case, because I can offer my services at a cheap rate. It’s completely legal, no sleazy trick or so.

I have some nice forms which I have to fill out and send to the taxation office now. Will do so at the week-end.

And the first job is imminent: If the clients agree to my price, I will shoot a church wedding at June 11th. That is in about four weeks from now.

If I get the job I will tell you how it went 🙂

To repel over-eager lawyers who think they must admonish people for whatever I repeat happily: I am not a lawyer or tax consultant and I am not authorized to give legal advice ! This article is a mere protocol of my experience. I can not guarantee or be made responsible for the correctness of the information I give in this post. If you want to be informed in detail about starting a business please consult a lawyer or tax consultant.