A few reasons I don't do it full time is that in the U.S., most photography jobs are your own business. At least the ones that make money. So then I lose health care and 401k. I'm too scared to lose those I suppose. I can't get the math to work out to make as much money or more, factoring this in, with just doing photography vs. a full-time job with benefits and 401k, and doing photography as a second job. I'm sure it's done, I just don't know how and perhaps I don't have the "guts" to do it.
Just a bit of unsolicited advice....if you're making money from it at all....Incorporate yourself!!
I've done contracting work for my real job for quite awhile...computer stuff, database, coding, etc.
I incorporated myself in my state, and for federal, I applied for a "S" corporation.
Incorporating, allows you to keep a LOT of your own money. Yes, there is extra paperwork, but I find the trade off is worth it. Get a CPA to work with you, but keep records, log books (a small one in my car for recording odometer settings when I drive to/from work related gigs is invaluable)...you can write off mileage, you can write off equipment purchases (lenses, bodies, memory, computers and software for PP, etc...).
This alone will help you keep more of your hard earned money from the tax man. Don't go crazy, you don't have to, just record your stuff, and put it on your forms at EOY...that's what deductions are for.
If you go all on your own, your benefits and retirement are yours to manage. A little scary sure, but being in charge of your own destiny is a good thing.
First for health care, you can do what I have done in the past...especially if you are in decent health and this is FANTASTIC if you are young. You get a high deductible medical insurance policy, say around $1200 deductible. In the old days, they called this "Major Medical"...it is there only in case you get hit by a bus, or have a heart attack...something catastrophic.
If you have a high deductible insurance policy...that qualifies you to open up a HSA (Health Savings Account)...you can do this at your bank (oh, open a business account to keep $$ separate from you personal stuff). The HSA is NOT
like a FSA you get it at work. It is NOT use it or lose it...it rolls over annually.
You can stuff as much as the limits each year (forgot what it is off hand this year) with PRE-tax money. You use this for your routine medical expenses (meds, checkups, office visits). This allows YOu to shop around for your health care. This money grows with you...and it can even be invested to grow in the market...but some risk with that). Money left over at retirement...can be converted to retirement funds.
When I was doing this a couple years ago (still have company, but current gig is W2) I found that often when I went to a Dr...even once for a MRI, I told them I was paying for it, and they usually knocked off like 15% of the bill right there.
Also, do a little research. Often people will try to steer you into doing a LLC. I did the full corp thing filed as a "S" corp as mentioned above. This has tax benefits. Quickly for an example..it saves you on employment taxation (SS and medicare). Let's say you bill out for $100K for a year.
According to the IRS, you have to pay yourself a 'reasonable' salary. Let's say you pay yourself a salary of $40K. You pay state, federal and SS and medicare on that $40K. At EOY, the rest of the total, the $60K falls through on your personal taxes...you only have to pay fed and state on that, but none of the employment taxes on it. Of course, that $60K is whittled down by all your deductions for expenses (mileage, purchases, any legitimate business expenses).
Again, get a CPA...you can write that off too, and they will help you to do a lot of this. Also, invest in one piece of software...Quickbooks. It makes it easy to track expenses, your payroll to yourself, dividends your write to yourself, and at EOY, you dump a file out to send to your CPA.
I started with a local lawyer, paid him about $200 and gave a name for a company...in a couple weeks, he handed me all the forms filled out, state paperwork and I had a company. You can do this on your own...I went the easy way. I didn't make squat for the first 3x years of the company, but I did write a lot off. I started making money through it after that.
Yes, it is more paperwork, but once you learn it...it becomes routine, and you can reap the benefits.
Do a little investigation...and start today if you are earning ANY money on the side. You can start writing things off...AND, if nothing else, it gives your personal assets protection, in case something happens while you are on a shoot and something goes wrong.
I hope that helps a bit....your mileage may vary, but IMHO...incorporating and doing a bit of paperwork is about the ONLY way you can keep as much of your hard earned dollars to yourself. Those laws are on the books....take advantage of them.