163. First Steps to Legally Protect Your Business (+ Big News!)

First Steps to Legally Protect Your Business

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Are you stepping into the entrepreneurial world, but the legal jargon and procedures have you feeling overwhelmed? Trust me, I’ve been there. When I started my business, I wish I had a guide to walk me through the maze of legal formalities. But you’re in luck! In today’s discussion, we’re diving deep into the foundational steps every business owner needs to take to ensure their venture is legally protected. From business formation to contracts and intellectual property, I’ve got you covered. So, let’s jump in and demystify the legal side of doing business.

In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • The foundational steps to legally protect your business
  • The significance of choosing the right business entity and the differences between a sole proprietorship and an LLC
  • The vital role of contracts in setting clear boundaries and expectations in business relationships
  • The importance of safeguarding your intellectual property in the digital age
  • Common misconceptions about website policies and the need for compliance with data protection regulations

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Setting up Your Business Right

Did you know that setting up the correct business entity can protect your personal assets? It’s essential to understand the difference between a sole proprietorship and an LLC. Depending on your state, the regulations may vary, so always consult with a local professional to ensure you’re on the right track.

The Power of Contracts

Contracts aren’t just formalities; they’re vital tools that set clear expectations and boundaries in every business relationship. Whether it’s a client, a partner, or a collaborator, having a well-drafted contract can save you from potential pitfalls and misunderstandings. Remember, it’s not just about having a contract; it’s about having the right contract.

Guarding Your Intellectual Property

Your business’s intellectual assets, like trademarks and copyrights, are invaluable. Protecting them ensures that your brand and content remain uniquely yours. With the digital age, this has become more crucial than ever, especially with the surge of online businesses. Make sure you’re not leaving any gaps that can be exploited.

In wrapping up, always remember that while the legal side of business might seem daunting, with the right resources and guidance, it becomes a breeze. So, gear up, and let’s ensure your business stands on a legally solid foundation. For those looking for tools and templates to kickstart their journey, don’t miss out on the Ultimate Bundle™ offer available for a limited time. Stay proactive, stay protected!

Episode Transcript

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Sam Vander Wielen:
Hey there, and welcome back to On Your Terms. I’m your host, Sam Vander Wielen. And today, we’re talking all about the first steps to take to legally protecting your business. Whether you haven’t done anything yet or you’re just not sure if you’ve done the right steps today, we’re going over it all.

I’m really excited to hop in because today also marks a very special day for me in the business and all that kind of stuff, because this week, until Friday only, until the 20th only, the Ultimate Bundle is on sale. So, it’s something I have not done since the very beginning of the year. I’m not doing it again for the rest of the year. So, if you’ve been interested in the Ultimate Bundle, now is definitely the time to check it out. But I want to get into today’s topic and I’ll share more with you at the end about the Ultimate Bundle and where you can find it and all that good stuff.

So, I wanted to go over this today because I find that this is a training that I often teach. A lot of people hire me to come into their groups and their courses and different programs and schools to give a training on the first steps to take. Because I know that legal can be really overwhelming. It just feels like there are a million steps to take, and you’re not sure what to do first, and you’re not sure if you’ve already done it or if you did it right, so it’s really, really confusing. And it can feel also a little bit like a chicken or an egg problem because you’re like, "Well, don’t I need to make my business bigger until I legally protect it or do I legally protect it first and then it gets bigger?" It’s a little confusing.

So, let’s just hop straight into it. The first step that you have to take in order to legally protect your business is that you have to understand the system that you’re playing within. I think that if you’re going to start a business, if you’re in America, you have to understand kind of the rules of the arena that you’re about to enter.

And the gist of it is this, the U.S. legal system is crazy. It’s totally crazy. I have so much to say about it, but it’s for a separate topic for a separate day. But let’s just say that in America, pretty much anybody can sue anybody for anything at any time, even if it didn’t happen, even if it’s not true, yada, yada. You kind of put it on other people to fight to get out of it, to defend themselves, all that kind of stuff. So, when I say that, you might be thinking like, "Well then, that’s a weird way to start out because what then is the point of legally protecting myself?"

The point of legally protecting yourself and your business is manyfold. So, the first thing is that you are protecting your business because you’re protecting your boundaries, you’re protecting the hard work and the service or the product that you’ve created that you’re offering to people, that you deserve to get paid for. You’re positioning yourself as good as possible so that if somebody ever did sue you, then you are in a really good position because you had the legal stuff that you needed to do something about it.

And you’re also legally protecting yourself because if the more normal stuff happens – like everybody’s not running around getting sued left and right, I know that that’s what we’re afraid of and it’s what we have to be prepared for. It’s the worst case scenario that we prepare for – the reality is actually that people will not pay you. They will try to cancel their contract. They will copy your content. They will buy your course because they’re inspired by it. And they’re so inspired that then they start their own. That’s the stuff that happens. I can pretty much guarantee that stuff is happening to you at some point or another in your business.

Just last week I had Erin Judge on the podcast to talk about she had a contract in place and clients tried to delay, take a pause on their contract and they wanted to not pay during that time. But she had a contract in place that said you can pause only once, but you have to keep paying.

So, without legal protection, without the more formal stuff that we’re going to talk about today, you wouldn’t have what you need to do anything about it. You would have no enforcement mechanism. So, that’s really the point of legally protecting your business.

The second step that you’re going to take to legally protect your business is to register your business. Because, really, without registering your business, you don’t really have a business. So, it’s really important that we tackle this step first and that we do it right. We do it right by picking the right kind of business entity that actually personally protects you. So, we’re typically talking about an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship because a sole proprietorship doesn’t offer you any personal liability protection. So, we’re talking about registering your business in the state where you live and work, following the steps, taking the follow up steps, if any are required, to actually registering your business.

Now, inside of the Ultimate Bundle – the one that is on sale this week, that gives you the legal templates and the trainings – I teach you how to register your business. I walk through how to set up an LLC. I talk about the follow up steps. I talk about the differences between an LLC and a sole prop and which one you need and how you figure that out and all that good stuff. So, that kind of support is in there for you, just so you know.

The third thing you’re going to do to legally protect your business is to get your contracts in place. You need to figure out just off the bat what kind of service are you offering or what kind of product right away, what is the thing that you’re going to sell now. If you’re going to sell something six months from now, a year from now, that, technically, could wait. But if you are coming out with something, you have to have a contract for it. If you are selling an online course or a membership, you have to have a contract for it. So, the very first thing is to figure out what kind of thing am I offering, what kind of contract does it need.

Not only, obviously, do I give you all of those contract templates inside of the Ultimate Bundle, but I even have a chart inside the Ultimate Bundle that has a list of all the different kinds of offers and then tells you which contract you need, and then the contract itself is provided for you.

But, in general, I would start out by making a list of all the different offers that you’re going to have in your business and then say Where’s my contract for that? Where’s my contract for that? If it’s something like one-to-one client work or a VIP Day or something like group program, that’s going to be something that you’re probably going to have a contract that needs to be e-signed and you’re going to email that or use software to send that to the client or customer to e-sign and send back to you.

If it’s an online course or a membership or a digital product where it’s more the kind of thing that somebody can buy any day, any time, anywhere, that’s the kind of thing that we’re typically looking for a Terms of Use contract for. So, Terms of Use is like a contract that you would stick at checkout that somebody would have to agree to and acknowledge when they purchase your course, your membership, or your digital product.

So, Terms of Use is usually what we use for those course membership digital products. A client contract would be more for the one-on-one or VIP day. A group program contract would be for a group program or a mastermind, and the list goes on. Okay, so we’re going to get whatever contract is most important for you right now. And most important means whatever you’re selling right now or want to sell right now.

The fourth thing you’re going to do is get business insurance. Well, first you’re going to investigate what kind of business insurance you need, and then you’re going to get that in place before you start working with people. If you’re already up and running and you’re working with people, then that’s something you need to get in place ASAP. Business insurance is what financially pays for you, your business if you get sued for something that’s covered by your business insurance policy.

So, your insurance company will actually provide you with a business defense attorney, pay that attorney’s bill, the hourly fees – which are very high, I can tell you. And then, if there’s a judgment or settlement found against your business for whatever is covered by your policy, they will pay for that minus whatever your deductible is.

So, it’s always very important to know what your deductible is because your deductible is the amount that you are responsible for, for paying in your business. You need to know the coverage limits, that’s how much that they’ll pay up to. That’s really important. You want to know what your premiums are because that’s what you’re paying every month or if you’re going to pay it annually, how much you’ll pay per year, that’s your premium. You want to know what endorsements and exclusions are in your policy, that’s what’s added and not covered in your policy. Those are all really important things to know.

When it comes to business insurance, there are many, many different kinds of business insurance. So, one kind is Professional Liability Insurance, otherwise known as Errors and Omissions or E & O Insurance. That’s one kind of business insurance. Sometimes that’s all you need. Sometimes you also need commercial general liability insurance. Sometimes people need cyber liability insurance.

But typically speaking, in the coaching space, consulting, service providing, you can typically get away with having Professional Liability Insurance. But that is something that I would talk to a business insurance agent about and make sure that you know you have the right kinds of business insurance, whether you might need multiple types or not, that’s up to them, and making sure that you have the right kinds in place.

If you’re in the Ultimate Bundle, I have all of the trainings about business insurance, how to get business insurance. I give you the breakdown of all the different kinds. I give you the exact questions to use to ask a business insurance agent to make sure you get a policy that’s good for you. And then, I have some referrals for you to business insurance agents, of which I get nothing, by the way, just being upfront. I do not get anything for referring you to them, but I have referrals to people I trust in there.

Okay. Last but not least, the fifth step we’re going to take to legally protect our business is to learn our scope of practice, because our scope of practice is what tells us what we legally can and can’t do based on how we’re licensed, registered, where we’re located, what the state’s regulations are where we live, how the state defines different scopes of practice. There are all kinds of things that control this. The point about your scope of practice, though, is that you need to figure out what yours is so that you can safely provide services or products to your clients without being accused of dipping into somebody else’s scope of practice.

So, for example, if you’re a money coach and you’re providing money coaching and financial literacy, if your state defines what a certified financial planner can do or a CPA can do, an accountant can do, you can’t do any of those things because otherwise you’re going to be accused of the unauthorized practice of financial planning, accounting, being a CPA. That can come from many different angles, by the way. You can get accused that by your state, there are regulatory bodies. Someone can make a complaint about you, like somebody who’s not even your client. That happened to a therapist client of ours. And it also could come from a client of yours, who, in the midst of complaining about you and they want their money back and you don’t give them their money back, they go and they file a complaint about you. So, that can happen too.

So, it’s really important to learn what your scope of practice is and then actually abide by it, actually only offer services and products that you’re legally allowed to offer because you’re very clear on your scope of practice. Scope of practice, in my opinion, is the key to staying safe in online business because you can have all the contracts and insurance and LLCs in the world, but if you’re doing and saying and offering things that you’re not legally allowed to do, that will always come back to bite you. So, it’s really important to get familiar with what your scope of practice is, what you can and can’t do, and learn how to navigate those conversations, those sticky conversations that are inevitably going to come up with your clients.

I teach you exactly how to figure out what your scope of practice is in the Bundle. I teach you copy and things you can and can’t say on your website, shouldn’t say I teach you how to navigate sticky issues when they come up with your clients, and so much more. So, that’s all included into the Ultimate Bundle.

The Ultimate Bundle is my signature program that offers you over ten of my DIY legal templates that are fill in the blank style legal contract templates where you go through and all you’re doing is putting in your personal information like your name, your address, your client’s name. And I’ve done all the legal writing for you, all the bulky stuff you don’t want to do. And you can fill them all out in 15 minutes or less because every single one comes with a how-to video tutorial where I actually walk you through exactly how to fill it out. Super easy.

So, the Ultimate Bundle gives you all ten of those DIY legal templates, plus all the video walkthrough tutorials for it, plus you get access to over 35 on demand video trainings from me teaching you everything that we’ve talked about today, setting up your business, getting your contracts in place, sending and signing contracts properly so that they’re actually enforceable, getting business insurance, scope of practice, protecting your intellectual property, and so much more.

You also get support from me through two different kinds of communities, through our Facebook community, we also have a Kajabi community. Of course, you can always reach out to me by email as well. You get lifetime access and updates to the Bundle are made often and they are included for free. So, if I update a contract template or something like that, you’ll be notified and you’re not ever charged anything additional for that.

So, like I said, the Ultimate Bundle is on sale until this Friday, October 20th only. So, if you’ve been interested in the Ultimate Bundle, you’re going to want to tap the link in the show notes or head to my website, samvanderwielen.com, click on the Ultimate Bundle, and join us before Friday, the 20th, when the sale ends. Thanks so much for listening and I’ll chat with you in a few days.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast. You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.

If you’re ready to legally protect and grow your online business today, save your seat in my free workshop so you can learn how to take the simple legal steps to protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build. Click here to watch the free workshop so you can get legally protected right now!

Resources Discussed in This Episode

LEARN:

  • Read Sam’s Blog for the latest legal tips, podcast episodes & behind the scenes of building her seven-figure business.
  • Listen to our customer stories to see how getting legally protected has helped 1,000s of entrepreneurs grow their own businesses.

CONNECT:

FAV TOOLS:

  • Kajabi // use Kajabi to sell your course, program, or even build your entire website. Get a 30-day free trial with my link.
  • SamCart // what I use for my checkout pages and payment processing and LOVE. And no, not because it’s my name.
  • ConvertKit // what I use to build my email list, send emails to my list, and create opt-in forms & pages

DISCLAIMER: Although Sam is an attorney she doesn’t practice law and can’t give you legal advice. All episodes of On Your Terms are educational and informational only. The information discussed here isn’t legal advice and does not intend to be. The info you hear here isn’t a substitute for seeking legal advice from your own attorney.

© 2022 Sam Vander Wielen LLC | All Rights Reserved | Any use of this intellectual property owned by Sam Vander Wielen LLC may not be used in connection with the sale or distribution of any content (free or paid, written or verbal), product, and/or service by you without prior written consent from Sam Vander Wielen LLC.

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