If you’re just starting your own business as a professional photographer, money is tight. Each decision you make is instrumental to your success, and financial investments can make or break the future of your business. Every dollar counts, so considering what to do with even a small chunk of change can make a big difference.

Below is a compilation of suggested uses for the spare $20 bill, all of which are exceptionally beneficial to a blossoming photography business.

Take a prospective client out to lunch. Have a promising opportunity on the horizon? Treat your new client right and take them out to lunch. You’ll leave a fantastic first impression over some casual face time and they won’t suspect that you’re pinching pennies behind the scenes!

Image from PhillipC

Buy a domain name. If you haven’t already bought a domain name for your business’s website, you should do so ASAP. Branding is important, and with as much business that’s conducted online these days your site needs a name that is easily accessible to (and easily remembered by) your customers. Avoid hosting your website through third party extensions (i.e. myphotosite.blogspot.com or myphotosite.wordpress.com).

Register your photos with the copyright office. So it’s actually closer to $35.00, but doing so will allow you to collect statutory damages if your photos are ever stolen or misused. Multiple images can be included in a single claim, so consider registering your most high-profile work or portfolio to protect yourself from future property theft.

Print business cards. Although they can get pricey if you go through a third party, there are a number of ways to get creative and make exceptional business cards on the cheap. You’re a visual artist, so there’s no excuse not to do it yourself and save some money.

Insure your equipment. As a small business owner, you should insure their equipment. A personal articles floater to homeowner’s insurance or commercial policy for photographic equipment will generally run you $1.35-$2.25 per $100 of equipment. Dropping an annual 20 bucks for peace of mind on $1000.00 worth of gear is most definitely worth your while.

Put it in your savings account. If you have no immediate expenses to pay, then nestle the spare change into your bank account to save for the next situation that arises (or better yet, the next lens you’d like to invest in!).

Image from Images of Money

Print promotional posters. Take a couple hours out of your Saturday morning to design a flier or poster and get a few dozen printed in full color. Find some hot spots in your area and talk with the proprietors to hang your posters up. This way you’re networking with local business owners and getting your name up for passers-by to see.

Invest in a notebook or planner. You own a business now, so you need to be as organized as possible. Keep all your important dates and event details in a planner and jot down your to-do list so that nothing is forgotten.

Pay your debts. Ideally you want to stay far away from all forms of debt, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Whether you walked onto the scene with money owed or you recently had to charge an expense, you need to pay what you owe before you think about spending more to grow the business.

Stock up on stimulants. Long hours demand prolonged consciousness. Whether your fix is coffee, tea or a variation of those crazy energy drinks (that my sensitive gut personally cannot handle), create a cache of booster beverages to keep you going for those late night photo editing efforts.

Image from Stirling Noyes

Purchase storage solutions. What happens to the client’s final product? You likely supply your finished work on a CD, DVD, flash drive or the like once you’ve completed the job. If you know you’ll be going through discs like candy, do yourself a favor and pick them up in bulk.

Buy a calculator. Okay… you probably don’t need to buy a calculator because you probably have one on your phone or computer. The lesson here is that you should be keeping track of your numbers; record your business expenses and earnings so that you can determine the cost of doing business. Or better yet, invest some more capital to hire a professional accountant.

Put it in your gas tank. If you own a business, chances are that you’re constantly back and forth. If you don’t need gas now, you’ll need it tomorrow or the next day. So later this week when you’re broke and need to meet a client, you’ll be prepared for the trip.

Shipping materials. If you’ve shot for clients who are located out of town, you’ll likely be packing and shipping their work out. It’s a good idea to keep all the shipping necessities – such as stamps, envelopes, bubble wrap, and more – on hand to ensure quick turnaround and timely receipt once you’ve shot work for a client.

Image courtesy of USPS

More memory cards. It never hurts to have more camera memory, and eventually you’ll need a great deal of it. Whether you’re shooting day-long weddings or lengthy studio portraiture, it’s always a good idea to spread the work out across multiple memory cards in case one of them stops working. Besides, a 4GB compactflash card runs just under 20 bucks these days.

Rubber bands, tape and clamps. Almost any type of photo shoot is going to require these key ingredients. Don’t get stuck without some of the most essential tools! Take a trip to Office Max or Home Depot to grab three of the utilities you can’t live without on an assignment.

Hang a whiteboard. Like a notebook, a whiteboard will help you get organized. You can record assignment dates and details and work up a big calendar. Alternatively it can be used as custom signage for a studio or storefront.

Backup batteries. You should always be prepared for technical difficulties when you’re working for a client, and there are few things more embarrassing than power failures. Invest in a few packs of AA batteries that can power your camera’s battery grip or auxiliary flash in case the equipment dies mid-shoot (this is usually a big problem when shooting outdoors in cold weather).

Back up your work. Always have backup copies of your work. Many photographers have spacious portable hard drives to back up their work (which is preferable), but if you’re short on cash you can pick up a 32GB flash drive for just under $20.

Lighting supplements. Having a variety of DIY lighting supplements can aid in a variety of shooting situations. For under $20 you can pick up white poster board to bounce light, translucent fabric and umbrellas to diffuse harsh lighting conditions.

Did we forget anything? Let us know if there’s a valuable piece of advice missing from the list.