Insurance: Yes or No for the Freelancer?
I recently had some events happen during photoshoots that made me wonder about insurance. Clearly some freelancers carry it and some do not. So my high end camera strap attached to my expensive camera and lens decided it was time to part ways both from the bottom of my camera and along the safety strap. Fortunately, I was holding the camera at that time! As I was raising my supposedly heavy duty lightstand the stand startled to wobble even though I was indoors on a flat surface. What if the stand had hit the model, or tore an expensive piece of furniture? As my mind continued to wonder I remember part of a ceiling collapsing a few years ago, and landed on part of my computer with a cloud of insulation following it.
If you operate leased studio or commercial building, your lease will probably require you to have insurance. But what if you operate out of a home studio and home office as a freelancer? Home insurance, without a rider (a schedule of specific professional equipment to be covered), probably will not cover professional equipment (strobes, pro cameras etc). While a rider would certain cover equipment, it would likely cover that equipment under a depreciation schedule. That is to say a $2,000 camera purchased 2 years ago may only worth $ 750.00 in replacement costs! In the case of my ceiling incident which could have ruined all data on my computer, homeowners insurance would not cover images destroyed from a once in a lifetime wedding event and a very dissatisfied client.
As if that is not enough, lets say you have a awesome outdoor location you want to do a photoshooot. You arrange a trade shoot with a local model and on the day of the shoot all seems to be going well. As your model moves into throughout the shoot, she stands in what you realize too late is a patch of poison Ivy. She starts to freak out a little telling you that she is sensitive to Poison Ivy. Later the next day she informs you that both legs are covered with welts and she is unable to work at her regular job.
There are several options for professional insurance, one of which is through the Professional Photographers of America Benefits. These benefits can cover your equipment, lost data, and even liability. There are of course other companies such as Full frame insurance that will allow you to purchase annual insurance of insurance for a specific one time event that you may have planned.
Some venues, especially those owned by federal, state, and sometimes local governments may require you to have a Certificate of Insurance (COI) before you can shoot on their property. Some major private venues may also wish to see a COI or they may not let you shoot at that location. Obviously, if you provide this insurance to potential venues it lessens the possibility that they will be held responsible if something goes wrong. If you are a location photographer , you may not be allowed to shoot at a location if you can not provide a COI.
Health and Disability insurance for yourself can without doubt be expensive. What if during the outdoor shoot as mentioned above, you are rushing to move the model out of the patch of poison ivy and YOU fall and break your ankle? Now you can not work (as least not easily) AND potentially have a claim coming in from the model. If you happen to be a AAA member, the service provides much more than than just roadside assistance and may be other benefits at a discounted price.
As if the above were not not enough, there are companies that offer an Umbrella policy. This is a policy that covers issues that may not be covered explicitly in other policies. It also provides additional financial coverage above and beyond what may be offered with other policies.
Insurance for business owners who are offering coverage to employees, and one should investigate what local, state, and federal laws may be in your particular area to set up such a program.
The final point that I wanted to mention, is consider forming an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). In the event that a disaster happens, your personal finances would not be wiped out. I may go into this structure in more detail at a later time.