Yesterday's post got me thinking that here I am with an MBA and 20+ years in the global corporate world (and much of that at the executive level) - stuff like tax laws and legal issues are second nature to me and I have a good comfort level with it. I try hard to stay on top of things because I understand how important it is. If I can miss something like a change in disclosure requirements, how on earth do people with little background in the business world and little experience with legal and tax issues keep up or even know where to look?
It's not enough to keep up with the craft, the technology, the marketing and the trends. The moment you agree to take money in exchange for shooting photos, sell a print or license an image for publication (or start a blog!) you become subject to a myriad of laws - tax laws, trade laws, contract laws, intellectual property laws... and as the old saying goes, "Ignorance is no excuse".
Participating in on-line forums for photographers isn't enough; although sometimes people will post a heads up when an issue affects photographers, most photographers aren't qualified to give advice on these topics and there is a LOT of incorrect and bad advice given out. I can't tell you often I see things like on-line debates around the confusion between the right to TAKE a photo and the right to PUBLISH a photo and especially how that applies to model releases. And laws may differ from state to state; what applies in New York does not necessarily apply in California or Idaho. At best you should hope for links to expert sources and do your own research.
Consulting your own accountant or attorney is usually the best answer when you have a question, but if they don't know enough about your business and you don't have them on retainer they are probably not going to give you a call to let you know that you are affected by a new law that was just enacted (hands up if you got a call from your attorney about the new FTC rule requiring disclosure from bloggers).
I find that blogs by respected experts are one good way to keep up. For example, Carolyn Wright's blog PhotoAttorney is a great way to stay up to date on intellectual property issues. If you blog, find a blogger or two who have a good reputation in the field of blogging. I have a list of websites on various topics that I try to visit on a regular (weekly) basis to see what's going on (and obviously wasn't paying enough attention to the sites about blogging!)
Twitter is a fantastic source for current, relevant info. But even if you have hashtag searches set up in TweetDeck or a similar tool for topics of interest the amount of information can be overwhelming. Twitter always make me feel that if I turn my back for a day or two I'm going to miss something important. I need to shut down TweetDeck regularly or I find that I can (and do) spend hours clicking links and reading cool stuff. And there is a lot of junk and repetition. Finding a way to sort through the massive amount of information to find the gems is the key to making Twitter work for me. And if you're doing all the talking and not listening it won't help you at all in this regard.
Recently I've been paying a lot of attention to two sites that aggregate the daily top posts and tweets related to the field of photography - The Dan Bailey Photo Daily and The #togs Daily. I like that they highlight top stories in several categories and make it easier to find articles of interest.
How do you make sure that you are always in the know? Do you have any tips to share?