DETERMINING SALES TAX FOR YOUR BIZ

When I opened my Etsy shop in 2013, navigating sales tax was my least favorite thing ever. I wasn't sure where to begin, I wasn't sure what steps to take, and the whole process in general was overwhelming. I think sales tax is one of those things that we're overwhelmed by simply because we don't know what to do. So today, I'm going to share a bit of how sales tax works for the Elah Tree shop and hopefully provide you with tips that encourage you and help you move forward in your journey. 

ARE YOUR PRODUCTS TANGIBLE? HOW ARE THEY DELIVERED? 

I think the internet broke the business world, haha! When policies or procedures (or whatever you want to call it) where put in place for sales tax people were only thinking about physical products. Products that could be shipped, delivered, picked up, ect. The concept of digital products weren't a thing, i.e. the internet broke the business world.

When I launched the Stock Collection, I remembered trying to figure out sales tax for my very first Etsy shop, where I sold and shipped physical goods. The major difference now is that all of my products are digital and they are all delivered electronically. In New York, sales tax is not charged on digital goods that are delivered electronically. In regards to New York, it is all about how the product is delivered, as long as it is delivered electronically sales tax is not charged. Now, if I were to burn images on to a disk or put images onto a flash drive, then the product turns into a physical product that has to be delivered and in turn sales tax would have to be charged. 

One thing about the Elah Tree shop is that everything runs electrically. When you purchase items in the shop you receive an instant download, delivered electronically.  When I work with clients on custom stock all of their images are delivered electronically via Google Drive. 

What if you don't live in New York? I lot of states view digital products and electronic delivery very similar to New York. This is when you'll need to do a little research. When I was in the process of determining sales tax here in New York, I simply started on Google doing a little research. 

What if your products are physical and are shipped or delivered? As far as I know, all physical products require sales tax and each state charges a different amount of sales tax. Here, in New York, sales tax is approximately 8.875%. As a small business owner selling physical products, you simply act as a conduit for the government to collect sales tax. Most states make it pretty easy to register and charge sales tax. Check out your states .gov page and search sales tax. 

CONFIRM WITH YOUR TAX ADVISOR

Once I did my research and determined that digital items delivered electronically did not require sales tax, I confirmed with our tax advisor. This was as easy as me shooting her an email. I let her know what I was trying to figure out and what types of products I was offering. She double checked my research and emailed me back confirming. She also sent me supporting documentation for my records. Having a great tax advisor or accountant will make determining these business questions so much easier. Even if it's just asking a quick question. 

Are you in the process of determining sales tax for your business? How is your biz journey coming along? I would love to hear! xoxo. Samantha


THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY IN YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

With any small business I think there comes a wonderful sense of quality. Passionate individuals working hard to create products that they hope will make your life easier, or brighten your day, or bring you joy. There is such heart in small business and I think every small business owner desires to bring their customers and clients quality products and a quality experience. 

A QUALITY EXPEREINCE 

We may not think about it and we may not even know it's happening, but we appreciate and sometimes even expect a quality experience when shopping online, hoping around from one small business to another small business. These quality experiences allow our customers and clients to get know us. We tell our stories with these experiences, we set standards for our business, we create loyalty with customers, and we set the tone for our businesses reputation

A lot can be shared and a lot can experienced within our online shops and social platforms. And these are the very first places that our readers, clients, and customers experience the quality our businesses have to offer. Your social platforms, your shop, your website all provide an opportunity for you client to trust you. People rarely buy products, they buy stories and experiences from people they trust. 

CREATING THE EXPERIENCE   

So how do we create these experiences that allow our readers, clients, and customers to get to know us, trust us, and want to work and buy from us? We create a visual experience through images, text, story telling, and video... all wrapped up in our products and offerings. Think about some of  your favorite brands online. Or think about one of the most recent online purchases you made (sans Amazon.) What was it about that particular shop that made you want to purchase their product?

Just recently I purchased #powersheets from Cultivate What Matters. I love this team of women. I love what they stand for, I love how they take care of their customers, I love how they engage with their audience online. Did I purchase #powersheets because I wanted to utilize the goal setting planner? Absolutely. But I am also extremely loyal as a customer. They created an experience for me that made me love what they do and feel loved as well. 

Who came to mind for you? When we think about all of our favorite brands, they have created a quality experience for us across board: through beautiful images, wonderful story telling, and sincere community. 

BEAUTIFUL IMAGERY 

This is where I believe that styled stock photography creates a world of difference for small businesses and helps them create quality experiences for their customers. Styled stock photography helps create quality experiences, let's your customers know you're professional, serious about what you are doing and sets you apart. Small business owners and solopreneurs have some of the best products around, but what we've all learned about being either of those, a small business owner or a solopreneur, is that we can't do it all, no matter how hard we try. We all need help. As a styled stock photographer I knew I wanted to help other small business owners and creative professionals fill a gab where they needed help. I wanted to help create a quality experience for everyone that was a part of their online community. 

Do you need help creating a quality experience for your readers, customers, and clients? Shop the Stock Collection  

Thinking about some of my favorite small businesses has really taught how important quality is to myself as a customer, but it also inspires me to want to do the same for you and other small biz owners. How are you creating a quality experience for your customers? How can they feel loved and cared for every time they experience your brand?  xoxo. Samantha


THE BENEFITS OF KEEPING IT SIMPLE IN YOUR BIZ

It's the middle of May. Can you believe it? We're almost half way through the year. I've been thinking a lot about this year, how it started, and my goals. 

2017 has been an amazing year for Elah Tree. I started this year with a clear vision and motivation. But prior to this year, one of the major things that I struggled with in business was direction. I wasn't always sure what kind of products and services I wanted to offer. I had ideas, but it took me until now to really find my sweet spot. It used to bother me that it took me, what seemed like longer then others. But I always find grace in knowing that each of our journeys are so unique. 

As we pass the half way mark for this year, I wanted to share a few things that have really helped me this year and hopefully they will be an encouragement to you. Especially if your feeling overwhelmed and maybe struggling to stay focused... 

Let's take a quick stroll back to the beginning of this year.

One of the first things I did was write down my goals for Elah Tree. The products and services I wanted to offer; styled stock photography and education. I knew that I would create and build the Stock Collection first. I knew it was important for you to get to know me as a photographer and get to know the products. While I worked on creating products for the shop I would also try to squeeze in a few hours each week to work on the e-couse, PhotoStyle (which I'm so excited about!) But what I thought was a great idea of splitting my time, turned into overwhelm. So I made some changes to simplify the business and stay focused. 

I picked one thing to focus on.

Sounds simple, right? In my case, I started saying no to a lot. I cut out a large chunk of affiliate and sponsorship opportunities that weren't solely specific to styled stock photography and business. The one affiliate I work with all the time is Amazon, because I can link to their products across the board. What I couldn't do was work with multiple sponsors... at least not right now. Understanding each of our individual seasons is so important to this process. If you're able to rock tons of sponsors while building your business, then keep rocking it. :) For me, my focus had to be the shop, not sponsors. Cutting out multiple sponsorship responsibilities, cut out the overwhelm.  Am I staying no to sponsorship opportunities forever? No way, but in this season, my focus is quality products and quality customer care. 

I decided to postpone my e-course.

This was tough, but I knew I wanted to produce quality products, in the shop and in the e-course. In order to do this I had to stay focused. I'm over the moon about this course, but I know I will be able to create better content when I can really focus on it. I'm okay with small steady growth, especially if it means I can create stellar products for your guys.

So, what does this all actually look like in a regular business week?

It means everything I do right now is about the Stock Collection. I do photo sessions, I do editing sessions, I create blog posts, I engage on social media, I updated the website for a better shopping experience, I update the shop, I chat with clients via email, I send out rad stuff to our email list. But all those things have one focus; the stock collection and quality business tips. When I decided to narrow my focus and be okay with not doing everything all the time I felt like I could finally breath again. I stopped trying to do everything and I gave myself permission to get things done when I was able. I used to think if I didn't do everything right away, that I would miss out... or miss my opportunity. I was forgetting who is really in charge of my journey, Jesus. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed in your business journey? How can I be an encouragement to you? Let's chat! xoxo. Samantha


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CREATE YOUR OWN STYLED STOCK

Alright friends, if there is one thing I absolutely love it is being able to empower you and provide you with resources (and lots and lots of love) to equip you to create your own styled stock. Whether it be for your website, instagram, newsletter, ecourse, or shop, with a little help and direction, hopefully you can create killer photos. 

And if you're thinking to yourself, hold up, I don't think I have time to create styled stock, don't you fret. Head over to the shop and scour all the styled stock we offer. Now let's get this guide underway. 

CREATE A SHOT LIST

Don't be overwhelmed by your shot list. A shot list is just an inspiration board. A shot list allows you to look at a variety of photos and say, "that's how they did it, how I can do it different." Your shot list is a jumping off point. It helps you warm up when your creative juices just aren't working. It provides an outline of the type of images you want to create. 

To get started with your shot list create a secret Pinterest board. Fill this board with photos you love, photos that inspire you, different props you are loving, the type of lighting your are drawn too, different styles you like, and anything else you can think of. Don't overthink it, just starting pinning. 

Once you have compiled a good amount of pins, two things might happen. One, you'll notice a pattern. You may notice that there is already a theme that you have curated. You may notice that you are drawn to a very specific style or very specific lighting. Either way, start looking for patterns. When I pin items that are not driven by a theme I often find that all my pins are all very similar in style. This is a very strong indication of the type of photos I like and the type of photos I like to create.

The other thing that can happen is that you won't see a pattern. Everything you pinned may be all over the place. When this happens, you want to select a few images that are very similar and build off of those. By doing this you are creating a theme. When creating your styled stock you want to start with a vision or a plan for what you're creating. Otherwise you'll get started and feel discouraged and defeated. Once you have your shot list and theme created you're on to the next step.

CREATE YOUR PROP LIST

Creating a prop list is helpful if you are just getting started or if you know you need to find a few more props that will really plus your photos. It's important to me to make the most out of my props. I do this by selecting props that I know I will get a lot of mileage out of. I do my best to choose props that work across multiple color schemes. The first few collections I created I outlined a prop list. This helped me to visually see the type of photos I wanted to create and it helped me to see where there were gaps in my props. 

If you create your prop list before you begin your shoot, you'll know exactly what you need throughout your session and you'll have a good sense of what you plan to create. 

GATHER YOUR GEAR

I shoot with a variety of gear during each session. You can read more about the specifics here. Gathering your gear is a great time saving practice. When you begin your session you want to have everything in place or extra items you think you may need on hand. For each session I shoot with two different camera bodies and lenses. I set one camera up on my tripod for flatlay photos and I keep the other camera on hand. Having two cameras for each session isn't a must, but in my case it simply makes it easier to for to get a variety of shots. 

Prior to my session beginning I set up my lightboxes, I set up my reflectors and diffusers, I gather and set out all my props, I set up my tripod, and I layout and setup my backdrops. 

EVALUATE YOUR  BACKDROPS

Evaluating your backdrops is another great preparatory step. This is similar to gathering your props and creating your shot list. You are determining ahead of time the look of your photos. Most of the time if I don't determine my backdrops ahead of time I forget to switch them out. I'm partial to white backgrounds and most of the time I almost always shoot on white. I need to get better at evaulating my backdrops before I begin because I always forget to shoot on the different backgrounds I have, haha! 

MASTER YOUR SHOT LIST

This is when you begin shooting. One thing I tell myself during every session is to exhaust every set up. When I shoot, I style props together and before I move on from that particular set up I will make sure to exhaust all possible shots. This means I'll take a variety of photos all at different angles. I want to make sure I get every single photo possible out of each set up before moving one. When I shoot I reference my shot list and gain inspiration from all the different things I collect. At this point I always want to be inspired to create something fresh and new.  

One thing I really want to encourage you in is to always try different things. If you see something that inspires you, give it a try. Don't ever shy away from trying something that looks hard. Photography is very forgiving because you just keep moving forward. If it doesn't work out the first time you simply just keep trying. 

Are you in the process of creating your own styled stock? What are some of the challenges you have faced? In need of styled stock, but don't have the time? Hop over to our shop! We've got you covered! xoxo! Samantha