Photography Business – Washington Licensing Basics

In this post I wanted to discuss how to become licensed for your photography business in Seattle.

Register Your Business

Prior to obtaining any licenses, you need check to see if you need to register with the Corporate Division of the Secretary of State. The kind of business structure you have will determine whether or not you need to register. You can review my post What Business Structure Will Suit Your Photography Business to see how the structures differ in determining what structure is right for you. Washington Secretary of State provides a table that outlines which ownership structures need to register and how each structure differs.

SOS business structure

Once registered with the Secretary of State, you will need to register with the State of Washington and any local licenses pertinent to your business and location.

State Licenses

You must file a Business License Application with the State of Washington Business Licensing Service when you first start your business, or when you change or update your business. You can file online or complete the Business License Application and mail it in. The application fee is $19 as of July 2015 – this is a non-refundable fee. You must be registered as long as you remain in business.

If you employ one or more people, you must apply for:

  • Industrial Insurance
  • Unemployment Insurance

Trade Name or “Doing Business As” ($5 per name) must be registered if:

  • Sole proprietor or partnership is using a name other than the full legal name of all the owners; or
  • Corporation, limited partnerships or limited liability companies are operation under a name other than the name registered with the Office of the Secretary of Sate.

For more information on state licensing, click here.

Local Licenses 

King County does not require a general business license. Any business operating within the city limits of any of the major cities within King County is required to have a city business license. For the city of Seattle, each business engaging in activities in Seattle must obtain and annually renew a city business license unless the business activity is specifically exempted from licensing and taxes. Anyone engaging in business activities within Seattle is required to obtain a Seattle business license whether or not a place of business is maintained within city limits. You can apply online, in person, or by mail. The fastest way to get your license is to visit the Seattle Municipal Tower and apply in person where you can be licensed the same day. Applying online will take 1 to 2 weeks and by mail will take 1 to 6 weeks. As of July 2015 a standard license costs $110 per year in most cases. For more information and to begin the application process you can visit Seattle’s licensing page here.

What questions do you have about licensing?


State of Washington Business Licensing Service

City of Seattle


One thought on “Photography Business – Washington Licensing Basics

  1. Pingback: Photography Business – Washington Taxes Part 1 | Mitsuyo Maser

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