As a DJ, you are not only an entertainer but also a business operator. DJing is your service, and your clients are the people who hire you to do gigs. So, it’s important to follow the same best practices that any other business owner would follow. Aspects of your DJ business include registering your business, opening a business checking account, filing taxes, and maintaining a website and business email address.
Registering your business
While you can be a freelance DJ and file your taxes as an S Corp, it is helpful to register your business name as an LLC (“limited liability company”) or DBA (“doing business as”). You do this by filing a form and paying a fee to your state. An LLC allows you to avoid personal liability if your DJ business dips into the red. In other words, your home and car won’t be at risk even if someone sues your business or your expenses drastically outweigh your income. You can also apply for an EIN (employee identification number) on the IRS website. This is especially helpful if you hire assistants or other DJs to assist running your business.
Trademarking your DJ name
If you use a specific DJ name and nobody else in your region has filed a trademark for that name, it is helpful to register it by going online to the USPTO website. That way, nobody else can do business under your name, and potential clients won’t be confused about which DJ company they are contacting.
Business bank accounts
Once you have an LLC or DBA, most banks such as Chase and Bank of America offer business accounts. Business accounts allow you to separate your business expenses and personal expenses. Doing so is great for planning a budget and for tax season. Banks also offer perks to business owners, such as cash bonus deals and credit cards.
Services such as GoDaddy and Domain.com offer the option to purchase a domain address, such as www.yourDJnamehere.com. A domain address is a link visitors can enter to go to your website. A domain address also allows you to create custom emails such as info@yourDJnamehere.com.
If you don’t have a physical office where you do business, you can register your DJ business under your home address. However, to maintain privacy and create a more professional impression, you can use a virtual address or PO box. Examples of these services include Global Business Centers and PhysicalAddress.com.
Many web services such as GoDaddy or Bandzoogle offer integration with Microsoft Outlook and other services. They supply you with a domain-based email address, as well as an inbox to manage incoming and sent mail. You can also purchase this email separately from Microsoft Outlook or Google. Having an address that contains your domain name looks more professional than using free services such as Gmail or Yahoo.
Software programs such as QuickBooks offer a desktop and phone app where you can track income and expenses. Doing so helps you create a monthly budget and better manage your costs. The software also lets you automatically generate invoices and write checks. Of course, you can also do this manually using Microsoft Word and Excel.
It is helpful to offer multiple ways for clients to pay you. Taking cash or check can work, but having accounts such as PayPal, Venmo, or Square will allow you to process and track payments immediately without waiting for a check to clear.
As a business owner, you must track your income from gigs for tax purposes. However, you can write off many expenses as business investments or operational costs. Your equipment, vinyl records, website, mileage, and subscription to BPM Supreme can all act as write-offs. These write-offs can increase your tax refund. You can document your expenses by filling out a Schedule C form. Turbotax offers a great product called TurboTax Self-Employed that helps small business owners generate Schedule C forms and file their taxes online. Keep in mind that if you are self-employed, you should pay estimated taxes every quarter.
Scanning and keeping receipts
It’s important to back up any write-offs with physical evidence. This is helpful for your own budgeting or if the IRS audits your tax return. QuickBooks offers an app that helps you screenshot and categorize your business expenses. You can also do this manually by taking a photo with your phone, downloading online receipts, or scanning printed copies of receipts.
Tracking your mileage from gigs helps you with budgeting and can be a tax write-off. Phone apps such as QuickBooks Self-Employed, Trip Log, and MileIQ can automatically calculate your mileage from point A to point B by tracking your location. Of course, you can also track mileage manually through your car’s odometer.
Client sales and management
It is helpful to keep a database of clients and potential clients. For example, you can note when you contacted a nightclub so that you can follow up in a timely fashion but avoid repeating the same pitch. You can document names, emails, phone numbers, and interactions in Microsoft Excel. Salespeople in other fields frequently use CRM (customer relationship management) software to keep track of their clients. Examples of this software include Salesforce and Zoho.
Managing the business aspects of your DJ services can be time-consuming, but being organized will help you thrive and grow your business. As you build business acumen, you will get closer and closer to being in full control of your time, income, and destiny! Here’s to building a business around your passion for music!
About the Writer
Anna Awe is a DJ, producer, and singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about helping DJs and artists use entrepreneurship and digital media to pave their own paths in the music industry.