I could cringe writing this next sentence but I have to say it. Way too often I get on the phone with entrepreneurs who tell me they just DIYed their legal protections. YIKES.
Protect Your Business!
One of the things that separates the hobbyist from the entrepreneur is the way you handle the legal side of your business. When we order the wrong item from a website, we check out their policy on returns. Our phones come with policies. All legitimate businesses have legal protections so why treat your business any different?
One of the fastest ways to see your business vanish is to not have it legally covered.
Here are some things you need to ensure you protect your business.
1. Are you Registered?
Call me crazy but so many entrepreneurs I know forget this crucial first step. The registration of your business allows you to separate yourself from the business.
Let’s say you get into a legal snafu with a former client. Rather than said client going after your personal assets, being a registered business means they can only sue the business. Whether you decide to go C-Corp or Single-Member LLC this step is the first and most important step in your business.
Be sure to check with an accountant and lawyer to see which entity makes the most sense for you and your business. Each entity has a unique set of perks and challenges so find the one that makes the most sense for you.
2. Terms and Conditions
The bottom of almost every website has terms and conditions listed.
Why do you need one? It acts as a mini contract between you and your website users to prevent abuse, theft, etc. Your terms and conditions should also outline that you are the owner of the content aka your logo, copy, etc. so it cannot be duplicated and used elsewhere. The Terms and Conditions limit your own liability and allow you to block those who abuse your site. Without those protections, anyone can do anything they want.
I personally don’t want someone stealing my logo, home page, spamming my site, etc. The protections offered in the Terms and Conditions protect my business and the users on my site.
I cannot believe this is something I have to write but it is. Get contracts via a licensed attorney. I cannot stress this enough. Your contracts protect you and your clients. Once you sign on that dotted line that’s it. You’re being held accountable! Iff you don’t know what’s in that contract, you’re screwed for a lack of a better term. As both a service provider and the client you are legally accountable for whatever that contract states so be sure you know exactly what’s in it. Every single time I outsource, I go over the contracts with a fine tooth comb because it prevents any miscommunication on either party’s end.
DO NOT google “client contracts” and copy paste one with your information and DO NOT copy someone else contract that you’ve seen. Why?! These contracts have been written by someone else, most likely an attorney. They own their work and it is illegal to use their work without their permission. If they find out that you have used their work without paying or getting their written consent, you can be in deep legal trouble. Save yourself the frustration upfront and get your contracts the right way.
4. Trademarks, patents, copyright, oh my!
Depending on your business you may want to consider applying for one of these. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, this is the definition of the those three terms so you can decide which is best for your business.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions.
A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. The duration of copyright protection depends on several factors. For works created by an individual, protection lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. For works created anonymously, pseudonymously, and for hire, protection lasts 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.
If you have a brilliant idea, protect it! No one wants to get into a battle of intellectual property.
If you’re an affiliate for anything, you need a disclosure. You need to let readers know that when they purchase something that you make commission on it even though they aren’t charged more.
Prime example, I’m an affiliate for Stacy Spain, an amazing attorney who bundles EVERY SINGLE legal template you need to protect your business. I could not recommend her enough. You can find my full disclaimer about affiliate links here.