2014 Photographer’s Market Preview: Building Your Financial Team

What is a CPA and How Can I Find One?

2014 Photographer's MarketEven if you haven’t had the scary/annoying experience of an audit, a CPA can help keep your creative business on track and make sure you’re paying your taxes correctly (not too much and not too little!). What is a CPA? How do I find a CPA? Get answers to your financial questions here. Photographer Vik Orenstein explains how to choose a CPA and other financial experts in the 2014 Photographer’s Market article “Building Your Financial Team.” You can read an excerpt from the article below. Click here to read the entire article or order a copy of the 2014 Photographer’s Market.

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Building Your Financial Team by Vik Orenstein

I don’t know why there are so many lawyer jokes and almost no accountant jokes. My Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a pretty funny guy. His name is Jim Orenstein (no relation). When I first started working with him twenty years ago, I had just opened my first studio and my gross that year was about $9,000. A couple of years later, he said, “Hey, I think you’re going to break six figures gross this year.” A couple of years after that, he said, “Looks like you’re going to break half a million gross this year. If you do that, I’m going to start telling people we’re related.”

But I guess that’s not an accountant joke, it’s an accountant making a joke. Maybe there are no accountant jokes because having a good CPA is the keystone to building your successful business—and that’s not a laughing matter.

Get Thee to a CPA

“Most people go to a lawyer first when they’re looking to start up their own business,” says Orenstein. “That’s a mistake. You need to start with a reputable CPA who specializes in small businesses. He can start you out from ground zero: getting a tax ID number, helping you structure your business, choosing what type of entity you should be. Going to a CPA first can save you some needless expenses. Then, when he’s got you up to speed, he can refer you to the other professionals you’ll need to help make your business successful.”

Not Just Another Pretty Face

What is a CPA? photo by Stormi Greener

A portrait of playwright August Wilson by Stormi Greener.

You don’t just want an accountant—you want a CPA. And you don’t want just any CPA, you want one who specializes in small businesses like your own. Preferably someone whose firm is also relatively small.

“Larger firms can’t afford to put experienced CPAs in their small business divisions because they can’t charge them as much as they do their big clients, so the small business person gets the newbie, who can’t offer the same level of service a more experienced person would bring to the table, and who might not even be at that firm next year. If you choose a CPA with a small firm, you’ll pay less for a higher experience level.”

How Not to Find a CPA

Do not pick one randomly out of the yellow pages—that doesn’t give you enough information to make one of your most important business choices. Do not pick one because he’s in the neighborhood. You don’t pick your doctors or your dentists because they’re close by, you pick them because you trust them with your health and your teeth. It should be the same with your CPA.

The Best Way: Word of Mouth

The only way to choose your CPA is through word of mouth. Get referrals from people you know and trust, and who have businesses of a similar size to yours. Then once you have your CPA, he can help you assemble that team of advisors you’re going to need.


Vik Orenstein is a photographer, writer and teacher. She founded KidCapers Portraits in 1988, followed by Tiny Acorn Studio in 1994. In addition to her work creating portraits of children, she has photographed children for such commercial clients as Nikon, Pentax, Microsoft and 3M. Vik teaches several photography courses at BetterPhoto.com.

Excerpted from The Photographer’s Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business © 2010 by Vik Orenstein. Used with the kind permission of Writer’s Digest Books, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.


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