Back in biz…

I will confess – I am a videoholic. There’s no twelve step program for this ailment, so I have to feed it every day. And I’ve finally decided to both get serious and legal. Today I got my business license. And that, my friends, is a journey unto itself.

First stop was the county Registrar’s Office to file for a fictitious business name. Of course I could have used my own moniker at no cost, but hey – I’ve kind of grown to love the “thinknews” label. Twenty-six bucks. Step one of THAT process.

Then off to the Community Development department for the actual license. Had the paperwork all filled out and slapped it down on the counter and pulled out the checkbook. And casually mentioned I might in the future be hiring subcontractors for jobs if I got lucky. BIG mistake. Counter Lady very pointedly said, “Oh you can’t HAVE employees at a home business site.” “But they’re SUBCONTRACTORS” I pointed out to her. Well, you can see where this is heading. She stuck to her guns, so I asked – what’s the difference between a home business and real business license?

Home business. First off – conducted out of your HOME. Both you and the home owner (fortunately one and the same in my case) must sign off on the license. NO clients or employees allowed on site. Well – no employees AT ALL. Unless they are members of the family.

Business license. May have employees and MUST be located in a commercially zoned property. Loads more paperwork. All this for an additional seventy buckeroos. I have to PAY for an office that neither employees or clients will ever see? Hmmmmm…

I hesitated a moment and told her to continue with the home license. Honestly – it will be just me, my gear, and a lot of email and phone connections to clients I may never see. And the little matter of “employees”? Let’s just say that I spoke with a local video production business owner (retired) who said Counter Lady had it all wrong – subcontractors are NOT employees legally. Thank you. Doled out a check for $430 with a promise I’d have the paperwork in a few weeks and be legal.

Step two of Fictitious Name: visit my local newspaper office and pay over $85 to have the notice formally published.

Newspaper friends … understand that I love you dearly, but this is an archaic system. Wouldn’t a notice on a county website more than meet the need and probably for less than half the cost? So WHO reads these notices? (Guess I’m gonna be doing it for the next four weeks.)

Final step…which I’ve been working on all week…is insurance.

Liability to cover my a** should someone decide to get injured (physically or psychically) on whatever job I’m on…or should I inflict damage on persons or property. (Note to self: buy more gaffers tape and possibly a couple of rubber throw mats to go over cable runs.) Protection basically for stuff I have a bit of control over.
Gear – some solace in the event my gear gets heisted.
Errors and ommissions – protection from what is NOT in my control. A failed SDHC card. Acts of God or stuff I can’t foresee that might totally tick off the client, who either wants a reshoot or a piece of my hide.

Checked out a couple of agencies and am going with one recommended by a number of folks over on b-roll.net. Brad at Buell Insurance was helpful and direct. Waiting for the request to pay…and I’m covered as of 1/1/12. Cost? Well, you’re gonna hafta get your own quote. It all depends on YOUR gear, location, estimated income, travel expectations…let’s just say that it was a bit more than the biz license and let it go at that.

My little end-of-year adventure is (nearly) over. The loose ends?

1. Pay insurance
2. Wait for arrival of (approved) home business license
3. Fictitious business name/the final step. Once the legal publishing requirement is met, the paper will send me some official paperwork which I must then forward to the Recorder’s office along with a(nother) check for $7.00. THEN I’m finally and totally legal.

Is it worth all of this trouble? In my case, yes. While this is a part time retirement gig, I do want to bid on local and state contracts and other opportunities I can’t even consider without flying above the legal radar. Besides, when folks ask what I do, now I can say I’m businesswoman!

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