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A Personal Story of Why We Need Business Insurance

Author: Tony Colangelo

Darcie, from Tallahassee, FL writes:

“I’m just starting out as a real estate photographer and have so much to think about. The other day, a friend said that I needed insurance. I was really embarrassed because not only did I not have insurance, I hadn’t even thought about it as something that I needed! Do you have any suggestions as to where to start my search and what sorts of things I should be thinking about for coverage?”

Darcie, don’t be embarrassed; I’ve made that same oversight. When I was just starting out, and well before I got into real estate photography, I started my photography business by doing portraits. My first client as a professional photographer was a very distinguished older gentleman who played violin full-time in my city’s orchestra. He also taught music, privately, to advanced students and wanted a portrait for his teaching website. Being my first pro shoot, I was very nervous and was doing my best to concentrate on the task at hand.

After setting up the backdrop and lighting, I started taking shots of him with his violin and bow. After capturing a few that way, I suggested that I should take some shots of him without the violin. So, I walked over to him and took the violin and bow from him and, in a totally oblivious state, I placed them on top of lounge chair that was beside the Steinway piano that he had in his living room. At that moment, a little voice inside my head, said: “Tony, what the hell did you just do?!”

When I turned around, I apologized for being so presumptuous as to commandeer his prized possession. He kind of chuckled and said that I was “very brave” (a very polite way of saying that I was an idiot for doing that!) When I asked him how much his violin cost, he said, “Well, let’s just say that the bow was over $30,000.” My jaw hit the floor! When I got home, I did a Google search on the relative cost of bows to violins and found that most professional violinists spend about 20-25% of the cost of the violin on their bow. This meant that the violin that I so thoughtlessly handled that day, was probably in the $120,000-$150,000 range! I shudder to think what would’ve happened had I accidentally damaged the violin or bow. Visions of telling my wife that we needed to take out a second mortgage danced in my head!

So, YES, you need insurance, Darcie!! Here are some companies that have been recommended by PFRE readers in the past:

While you will have to make your own determinations re: what you need, I will share that for my own business, I got enough coverage to address the cost of my gear, of course; and I got more liability insurance than my agent recommended, just to give me the peace of mind. Based on PFRE readers’ input on this subject, over the years, you’ll probably be spending between $500 and $1000 a year.

That said, I’m sure others in our community will chip in with their own experiences and suggestions. In any case, I wish you much success in your new business!

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

6 comments on “A Personal Story of Why We Need Business Insurance”

  1. I have liability insurance, runs about $320/year. Have not had to use it yet. Covers my gear too. But I can just imagine me bending to look through my viewfinder and accidentally backing into the priceless Ming vase with grandma's ashes in it...

  2. Check the level that your local MLS system requires. Many require that anyone that contracts with the agents have a specific amount of insurance. Ours has a limit of 1 million. After talking with our insurance agent about our business and how we operate, we went with a combination of business liability and an umbrella policy. I suspect, that like many here, it is not alway possible to 100% separate business and personal travel. We have shot many a listing on the way to and from family events, this has us covered either way.

    Since we are talking insurance, it is unlikely that your umbrella or business liability insurance covers your drone. If your agent says is does, get it in writing. That way, if it doesn't, you can get the damages covered through his/her's errors and omissions policy.

  3. I would start with the agent and company that have your auto and home owners policies.
    Most companies have business insurance and they generally also have inland marine, which for whatever reason, is what is used to cover your camera gear.

    Also consider getting also insured cover pages for a rental house for equipment. That will make it easier to rent equipment, when needed, without having to have a credit card with enough limit to cover the replacement of the equipment.

    Its also probably a good idea to talk to your agent about errors and omissions coverage. Or whatever they recommend to keep you whole if you have to reshoot a job because of a bad card or some other out of your control problem.

  4. You felt embarrassed, because society has wrongly conditioned uninsured people to feel shame. You wonder why this is, or where this comes from? Well, when the people with the deep pockets can make every single person feel shame for not using their product, that is a pretty good business model. Imagine if all your real estate clients felt shame if they did not use you.

    Same for credit/banking industry, the same shaming even goes on when a poor kid scores poorly on a history test in 3rd grade.

    It is despicable that those deep pocketed individuals can have that much control. I think it is up to us to not judge others for things like this. In the end, you should get insurance if you feel it is the right business move for you, and the timing is right. You should never feel as if you have been shamed into buying a product like this however.

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