Recent Burning Questions From Event Planners & Photographers

From recent conversations with clients and other wedding industry professionals, I’ve noticed some common concerns and questions that have relevance and may be of interest to many other businesses in the special events industry.  Here are a few that have come up of late…

Mary Lee Herrington, Esq.

Instead of setting up a new LLC or S-Corp, can I just file a new DBA?

First check your specific state’s rules, though in most jurisdictions, technically a company can have multiple DBAs (a.k.a., Doing Business As Certificates or Certificate of Assumed Name – basically, any name under which you are conducting business other than the legal name of your company) for different lines of business.  However, it probably makes sense to do this if the new DBA provides a related service (e.g., a full-service event planning firm that now wants a new DBA solely for its month-of coordination service).  This will also result in bookkeeping and tax ramifications, so best also to speak to your accountant before making the jump.  On that note, if it is not a related service (e.g., a photographer who wants to now launch a stationery line), then it is probably better to keep the business entities separate, from both an accounting and contracts standpoint.

Also a quick note that while it may be easier and less expensive to just file new DBAs for new ventures or lines of business, you may also lose limited liability protections – e.g., if one of the DBAs should fail, then creditors can go after the other DBA/line of business and get paid from the profits of that business because, after all, the DBAs are technically and legally just different identities of the same company.  So while it seems easier and cheaper to just file new DBAs, best to speak to a licensed lawyer before taking this step to fully understand your options.

So if I do the above, can I name the DBA as the party to the contract?

You should name the correct legal entity (whether it is your name as a sole proprietor or the LLC, corporation or partnership) as the party to the contract, not the DBA.

What is the difference between licensing my photos and assigning copyrights to my photos?

This question has come up quite a few times recently from my photographer clients.  Short answer – it’s a big difference.

When you license a creative work – whether it is a photograph, graphic art, software, the list goes on – you are selling the right to use the creative work while you retain ownership over the work itself.  It’s like renting.

When you sell or assign your copyright to the work, you are effectively handing over ownership – including the right to license said work to others!

For a creative entrepreneur, especially those producing artworks such as photographs, it is probably a better option to agree to licensing.  For photographers, the most common licensing situation is typically when commissioned on a commercial photography shoot, though it is not unheard of for very private wedding clients to want to control the use of the images.  Always have a lawyer review your licensing agreements so that you fully understand the terms under which you are providing the license and so that your payment terms are covered.

I did all this work on a proposal for a client and they frustratingly did not end up booking me.  How can I make sure that I am paid for this work in the future?

Think about having them sign a short-form contract for this as consultation time with a fee in the amount that you think would be sufficient for your time/work.  To make it more palatable to the client, you can also offer to apply the fee towards their deposit upon booking so that they see it as an investment.  Make sure that whatever proposal or work product that you send to them states very clearly that it is your copyrighted, proprietary work, so that you lower the risk of anyone else passing it off as their own, whether on social media sites or even sharing it with another professional they end up booking.

Finally… Exciting News!  Hear me speak about these and other useful topics at Engage!16 at the Cloisters in Sea Island, Georgia this December!

I’ll be speaking at Engage! this December on common legal and contract law issues for creative professionals in the luxury weddings space.  Not only is Engage! an incredible opportunity for attendees to connect with peers and the best-of-the-best in the industry, but the summit is also committed to truly teaching and coaching its attendees on being stronger and smarter business owners.  I’m thrilled to contribute to this amazing line-up of speakers and fully intend to bring a helpful, substantive talk to the summit.

If you intend to go to Engage! this December, feel free to email me with topics that you’d love to learn more about and I’ll see if I can fit it into my session!  Hope to see you there!

{ Photo by CJ Isaac of Charlie-Juliet Photography }

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