I get it. Legal can be scary, expensive and overwhelming. Especially when you have a million other things to do when starting out.
But building an online business with little to no legitimate legal protection is far from safe. But it also doesn’t have to be expensive or confusing ; )
So which scenario describes you best when it comes to legal?
- A. You’re just starting out, and you feel kind of paralyzed by legal. It’s confusing, scary, and expensive. You find yourself holding back on moving forward because you’re so confused about what to do.
B. You’ve built up this amazing business, and now you realize you’ve built something worth protecting. You didn’t get legal in place from the start, so now you’re watering down your business and holding it back from becoming great.
Whether you fit more into “A” or “B,” you know how much calmer it would make you feel to know that you and your business are protected — so you can focus on the big picture stuff.
The problem is that most legal resources out there aren’t geared towards women who do what you do. And they’re definitely not geared towards coaches.
You’re right — traditional legal help IS expensive and confusing. And it’s not tailored to online businesses or women in the coaching field.
So here are 3 HUGE tips about how to build a legally legit online business to cut through all that confusion and overwhelm…
1. Setup Your Business
Yes, before you even work with someone — you should setup your business properly.
The key is to have a business formed *before* you work with someone, so that if there ever was a problem, you would have been working with that client as a *business* and not as an *individual* (that is – if you go with an LLC as an entity type!)
Each state has + and – to each entity type (LLC, sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.) It’s important to find out what those pros and cons are, what that means for *you* and the steps you need to take to get registered.
2. Website Policies
These should be tailored to you and your business as much as possible. In other words, stealing from someone else’s site, or borrowing from a friend, is not only illegal — but it’s just simply not going to help you.
A website disclaimer tells people who you are, what you do, and who you’re not. This is KEY for legally protecting yourself and your business because it’s your opportunity to say “I told you so!”
And last but not least, terms + conditions are the rules of your website and your business policies in general. This is where you have legal language to protect your content, intellectual property, payment processes, sharing content, and so much more.
As you get closer to being ready to work with clients, you should have a professionally written, tailored contract ready to go.
Working with people 1-on-1 through coaching or creative services? Then you need a 1-on-1 client services agreement.
Running a group program? → group program agreement.
4. Protect Your Freebies
One last little step that many people forget to take is to protect their freebies (a.k.a. a lead magnet), handouts and marketing materials. I always have my clients use a ‘mini-disclaimer’ that goes on the bottom of a freebie or back of a handout. It’s a ‘warning’ or advisement to people to let them know, briefly, who you are, what you do, and what they should do with the information you gave them.
Remember: your freebie can get emailed to people you’ve never had any contact with. While that’s a great marketing tool, it’s not great in terms of people having solid information about you before they take your guidance.
Using a mini-disclaimer is a great way to protect not only the content itself, but you and your business, as well.
Voila! See — not that bad!
Of course, there’s always more to do. You might want to learn more about how to protect your content, figure out whether you need a trademark, or learn about your scope of practice so your programs stay within legal bounds.
But in the meantime — this is a great start ; )
Learn more about my DIY legal templates (including all 3 major website policies and any contract you need!) on my website.
About the Author
Sam Vander Wielen is the founder of Sam Vander Wielen LLC. She is an attorney turned entrepreneur who empowers women with DIY legal templates and mentorship, so they can fearlessly create and grow their businesses.