If you make money with your photography or photography services you are a professional. You need insurance.
Why is this important? Because if you are sued you can loose everything. Your house, your personal assets. If you aren’t insured you could lose your equipment. Last year one of the students had all his gear stolen, a week before he planned to get a policy covering it. A former assistant of mine let her auto insurance lapse because she was going to Hawaii and wouldn’t be driving. She came back, forgot to renew it and ran into a motorcyclist. She will be paying him $10,000 a year for the next 10 years.
Talk to your insurance agent right now. He/she will be able to suggest insurance to fit your needs. Ask about a MasterPac policy. It is designed for small business owners. I have one from Travelers.
In all likelihood, since you are making money with your photography and have business licenses, your camera equipment will no longer be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Your general liability insurance in that policy may not apply to you when you are working. Read your policy and talk to your agent to make sure you are covered.
The very basic insurance that you need includes:
•General Liability coverage: This covers you against legal claims for bodily injury to someone else or damage to someone else’s property. It does not cover what you own. That’s why you need other insurance like Inland Marine or Valuable Papers. You must have this to get permits or to have a booth at a show. Sometimes clients want to see a proof of insurance and some even want you to include them on the insurance. Ask your agent the cost of issuing a rider on your insurance.
•Camera and equipment insurance: Also known as inland marine. Make sure that you are insured 24 hours a day, domestically and internationally. Some policies restrict this to the US. Also check to make sure you are covered for rented and loaned equipment.
•Valuable papers covers you for the reshoot if your images have been lost by fire, theft or water damage. It excludes camera malfunctions, lab errors and bad film. My policy is in place to cover my stock library.
Other insurance you may want:
•Errors and Omissions: This protects you if you make a mistake on a model or property release, invasion of privacy accusations or allegations of copyright infringement. This is quite costly. A great alternative is to join the PPA. Every member pays $50 to be part of the PPA •Indemnification Trust. Lawyers are retained to defend photographers in lawsuits.
•Portfolio: this covers your portfolio. In my coverage it is included in my office equipment coverage.
•Disability: this can be very expensive to get. I don’t have it. My insurance agent advised that I should put the premiums that I would have paid for the insurance into a savings account instead.
Home, auto, health and life
•Home or Renters insurance: This covers your physical property and should include general liability coverage.
•Health Insurance: You should have some kind of health insurance even if it is just major medical with a high deductible. Another option are the relatively new Health Savings Accounts. You can have take pre-tax income and set it aside in a savings account that you would use to cover your basic check-ups, eye exams, doctor’s visits. You pay a lower premium for the insurance because the deductible is higher and routine visits are covered by your HAS. .
•Life Insurance: This is intended to help your heirs weather the financial burden that might occur after your death. Both my husband and I have life insurance policies. The amount we have is estimated to cover our mortgage and monthly costs for a period of about 15 years. It is very important if you have children. It is relatively cheap. For a $250,000 policy I pay $42 per month. This is called Term Life. There is no payout unless I die. Stay away from Whole Life Insurance. This has been billed as a way for you to have an income after you retire. It is a big money maker for the insurance companies. If someone suggests you get a whole life policy be sure to get a second opinion from a financial planner before you sign up.
As strapped as you are right now for money, it is critical that you get insurance. The cost of insurance is small compared to what you would be out if you didn’t have it.