Small Business Nightmare: My Career Almost Went Up in Smoke!

Building on fire

Every small business person dreams of the project that will catapult them to the next level in their career. For me, it was an assignment for Time magazine. Yes, that Time magazine. What I never anticipated was nearly burning down the set and making a claim on my small business insurance.

Sometimes Things Go Wrong

It was a warm, windy day. I carefully unloaded a car full of portable studio lighting equipment, reflectors and my power box to illuminate the portrait. I was thrilled to photograph a local award winner at our beautiful cancer treatment facility. The photograph would run as part of an advertisement in an upcoming issue of the magazine with my name proudly printed in the byline.

After setting up a place to create the portrait, I decided to give my equipment a quick test. I fired off some test shots and everything synced beautifully. Each strobe illuminated on cue. I was feeling confident.

A few minutes before go-time I tested my gear once more. I grabbed my camera, took a few test shots of the room and was pleased with the exposure. Everything was perfect. Then I smelled a faint burning odor. I looked around, wondering what was going on, and gasped when I saw my power box shrouded in a cloud of smoke.

I quickly unplugged everything and examined the box. There were no flames. But if there had been, they would have quickly reached the curtains and caused an terrible accident. After ensuring there was no fire, I alerted the cancer center staff and asked for help to air out the smoky room. As I opened doors to let fresh air flood the room, all I could think about was the expensive equipment I had just lost and how I would complete the assignment that was scheduled to start in mere minutes.

The Decision That Saved My Business

When I decided to take photography from hobby status to my full-time career, I talked to my insurance agent. She told me that once the value of my photography gear exceeded the maximum allowances for hobby equipment on my homeowners insurance policy, I would need to consider getting small business insurance.

My new policy covered everything I feared: liability and medical payments if someone should trip over my equipment, business interruption coverage if I were unable to work and coverage on my cameras and lenses. I knew even a small situation could quickly put me out of business. With a specific small business insurance policy behind my photography business, I could grow my client base with confidence.

If you're wondering if your passion is a hobby or a business in the eyes of an insurance agent, it's simple to figure out. Go through your homeowners or renters insurance policy line by line and see of there's enough hobby equipment coverage to replace your gear if the worst should happen. And if you take your talent on the road, be sure you're covered for off-location work as I was during the assignment for Time magazine.

So, how did everything work out for me? Thankfully I had a backup plan in place for the shoot at the cancer center. Other than a lingering smoky odor, everything went on as planned -- without professional lighting. The photograph turned out great, it was published in the magazine and the client was happy.

After I packed up my equipment and headed home, I called my insurance agent and my initial fears were relieved. The agent reminded me that my equipment would be repaired or replaced. I was thankful it was only a minor accident and nobody was hurt. I received a claim check within a few days and used it to pay for expedited repairs to my power box. This quick action made it possible for me to keep upcoming assignments on my calendar and not miss a beat.

Do you have insurance coverage on your small business equipment? From photography gear and professional musical instruments to computers and woodworking equipment, get insurance for the items you use to earn an income. If you're not sure where to start, talk with a Trusted Choice® independent agent for guidance. They can help you determine the value of your equipment and what type of small business insurance policy best suits your needs. If I hadn't had coverage on my photography gear, I would have been looking at thousands of dollars in expenses that weren't yet in my small start-up budget. Don't let your business go up in smoke like mine almost did!

Angela Tague, popular blogger

About the author: Angela Tague writes blogs for major brands including Bounty, Lowe's Home Improvement and Hidden Valley. She also provides feature content to newspapers and writes blogs for Daily Glow, Everyday Health and Walgreens.

Angela has worked in news writing since 1998. Her journalism career has led to positions at The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal and several weeklies in the Midwest.

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