Are You Running a Hobby or a Business?

Get Real Series

PSA for All Entrepreneurs: Hobbyist vs. Business Owner 

by Kristen Vinci-Taylor


Kristen Vinci-Taylor, a passionate family photographer, sheds light on a topic within the creative industry that separates the hobbyists from the business owners. Which category do YOU fall into?

Are you running a business or a hobby?

Are you hustling as a part-time entrepreneur while working a 9-5? That's awesome, it makes me so excited when I meet other people who are driven and motivated to work for themselves. In the photography business, I work with a wide variety of vendors from brick and mortar businesses like bakeries and wedding venues to small businesses like T-shirt designers and centerpiece creators. 

Are you a legal business

In today's digital age, more and more home-based businesses are popping up and people are turning their hobbies and passions into side income business ventures. Recently as I've tried to diversify my vendor base I've run into more and more of these, "hobby turned start up" business ventures and it has created a legal and ethical conundrum for my own business. Let me explain why: many of these new startup businesses haven't gone through the process of establishing themselves as a legal business.  

Now you may ask, "What’s the big deal if they haven't established themselves as a business, it’s just a hobby and why not try to make a little money while you are at it?" 

There are several tax and legal implications for my registered and licensed business if I work with an unlicensed business. The hiring business assumes all liability when working with unlicensed vendors. In most cases, that is an unnecessary level or risk assumed by me and my company when I work with people who haven't gone through the process of getting themselves established. Each year when tax time rolls around, business taxes become more complicated as the work performed by unlicensed and unregistered businesses are itemized and subject to greater scrutiny.


I applaud you, side hustler, for chasing your dreams and turning your passions into something sustainable. However, you are hurting the rest of us that DON'T have a 9-5 job to fall back on for income. One theme we all share is that have invested thousands of hours, sleepless nights, tears, frustration, and pure joy into our passion. The main difference is that only SOME of us have taken the time and money to turn our startups into legal businesses so that we don't negatively effect the creative industry as a whole (and run into legal complications down the road).

It’s pretty simple and very advantageous to turn your hobby into a licensed and registered small business if you want to start working for yourself and chasing your dream. I can only speak from experience in New Jersey, but the process was fairly simple and the turnaround time is rather quick. 

Steps in Becoming a "REAL" Business

  1. Protect yourself and your business. File for an LLC or other liability protection entity.

  2. Speak with your state about obtaining a tax ID number. (For NJ)

  3. Speak with your local town or county clerk for licensing information.

  4. Determine your requirement for insurance for your business.

Making your business legal

The whole process was completed in under a week and the peace of mind that I had in completing these necessary steps was huge. It's unfortunate that as business owners we need to even consider lawsuits and things possibly going wrong, but accidents do happen. By going through the process to register and license my business I'm now protected in case of an accident.

I wanted to shed light on a few misconceptions surrounding business legalities for both hobby enthusiasts and new business startups and expose the real reason why you should become "legal": The peace of mind once the process is completed is worth its weight in gold. The last thing anyone wants is to have an accident occur with their shiny new business and lose their livelihood because of lack registration and licensure.

There are certain unnecassary risks that I've seen people take with their businesses and I just wanted to share my own experiences in hopes that people will finally understand just how easy making a business legal can be.


*The content in this posted is not intended as legal advice. The content should be taken under advisement by the reader as a source of information, but not legal advice.  Seek the counsel of a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction as well as a CPA before making any significant business decision such as determining licensing requirements.


Kristen Vinci-Taylor is the owner and operator of Smile Photography LLC located in Manahawkin, NJ. Being a business owner has become her passion after walking into an elective Photography class in college and has never turned back. She opened her business in February 2012 with no real direction of where she wanted to take it. After 5 years in the  industry she now is focused on newborn, chilld, and family photography.

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