• Anna Behning

Screw the W2 - How to leave your corporate job and start your own business

Written by: Anna Behning

May 10, 2022

I can't take credit for the title. My friend and loyal client, John Rickgarn, contacted me this week about a podcast he's starting called "Screw the W2." It was good timing because I had already planned to blog about how to start your own business. Stayed tuned for details on when that podcast will release. For now, I'll give you my best tips on how to "screw the W2" and become self employed.

Many of you may not know this about me. I graduated college with an accounting degree. Fresh out of college, I started a job as a cost accountant for a construction company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I planned to take the CPA exam and had all 150 college credits I needed, and then God said "ummmm no, Anna."

I met my husband Josh on Bumble, yes, Bumble! I knew I was going to marry him on our second date, but after a year of long distance, I moved to Marshall, Minnesota and began working for a public accounting firm. I lasted a solid 6 months (ish) at this public accounting firm before deciding that God was calling me to be a photographer full time.

I know what you're thinking... "How the heck did you go from ACCOUNTING to PHOTOGRAPHY??" Yes, it's a pretty wild switch from a very logistical career to a very creative one. However, having a business and accounting background has set me up for success while running my photography business. Also, it should be noted that since high school I was already doing photography on the side, so it wasn't completely out of the blue!

In my short 2 years of being gainfully employed, I learned a lot about business, management, and accounting, but I've learned even more during my time as a self entrepreneur.

Here are my best tips for starting a new business:

  1. Be ALL IN. It's not just a side hustle, a little side business, or something to do for fun. You're doing this to make money and to do something you love. Don't sell yourself short.

  2. Register with your Secretary of State. Search "Minnesota Secretary of State" or whatever state you live in and get registered. I would highly recommend registering as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) as a start for your business. The benefit of an LLC is that if for some reason you were to get into legal trouble with your business, the courts could only go after your business assets and not your personal assets. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP. If you don't register as an LLC you will be called a Sole Proprietor and legally all of your personal assets are tied to your business.

  3. Get a sales tax license. Again, head to Google and search "Department of Revenue" for your state. Register for a sales tax license online or by giving the department a call. Each state's sales and use tax laws are different, so I would hop on a call with a representative and explain everything you sell and have them tell you what needs to be taxed and how to tax it.

  4. Buy insurance. My insurance guy always tells me, "I don't want to make you insurance broke, but I also don't want you to go broke." Some people don't get insurance because it's too expensive, but if for some horrible reason you need it, you won't regret the monthly premiums. Just do it.

  5. Set up a separate business checking account. Trust me, your accountant will thank you later for this one. Having a separate account for business expenses makes year-end taxes SO MUCH EASIER.

Now that my nerdy business brain has given you all my best tips on physically setting up your business, let's talk about a few other things I would recommend.

  1. Get firm on your pricing. Charge what you're worth, not what others think you're worth.

  2. Set up a marketing plan. I'm a huge advocate for free marketing. Free marketing includes; word of mouth, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, etc! It can take a while to build up your reputation, but why not start right away? Use the free tools we are given, then strategically decide how you want to pay for marketing once you have the budget to do so.

  3. Create a website. In contrast to my last point, Instagram marketing can only take you so far. You need a website. You need a google listing. It doesn't have to be fancy at first, but getting basic information out there will improve your credibility. I suggest starting with Wix or Square Space for your website as they are easily manageable even if you don't have graphic design experience.

  4. Define your why. Why are you doing this? What do you want people to experience? How can you create the best experience possible for your current and future clients?

  5. Stick to your morals and values. Business can be ruthless. People can be mean. Stand firm on your values and morals. Deliver consistency to your clients and never sacrifice your moral boundaries for business.

I'd love to hear about your business. Shoot me an email at annabehningphotography@gmail.com if you have any other questions about leaving your W2 behind and starting a life of entrepreneurship! It's the best and hardest thing you could ever do!

Anna Behning is a professional photographer located in Marshall, Minnesota. Serving Minnesota, South Dakota, and worldwide. She is dedicated to helping her clients remember the romantic and adventurous moments in life. She loves Jesus, her husband, Josh, and her golden doodle, Charlie!

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