4 Stages of Legal Protection for Your Online Business

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Target wasn’t built in a day — and your legal protection doesn’t have to be, either. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with legally protecting your online business and don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place.

It’s not about going 100% without legal protection and then all of the sudden BAM! You’re more legally protected than Kim K after she got mugged in Paris.

Illustrated graphic by Sam Vander Wielen showing the 4 stages of legal protection for your business. There are accent colors of teal, tan and pink with navy colored text in sans serif font.

Legal Protection for Online Business

No, like most things in life – there’s a healthy middle ground. You need different stages of legal protection as you grow. You might be worried that legal’s going to be time consuming, costly, and — well, boring. (I get it!)

But that’s probably because you don’t know what you REALLY need, and you’re buying into the black & white mentality of all or nothing legal protection.


First thing’s first: you don’t really “have a business” until you form your business and there are online business laws to follow. How do you form your business? Choose your entity type (i.e., LLC, sole prop, partnership etc.) and register your business in your home state. If you’re a coach or service-provider, you might need a limited liability company or LLC for the reasons I explain here. You’d also want to take any follow-up steps your state requires to complete your LLC or Sole Proprietorship registration.

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If you go the LLC route, head off to the bank with your:

  • EIN letter and
  • certificate of formation (or articles of formation, etc. Every state calls it something different! Basically, your business registration papers); and
  • A small amount of cash (to start your account)…

…and officially open your business checking account. Yes, you need a separate business checking account from your personal checking account to protect your personal assets. Otherwise, you’re not really acting like an LLC and you won’t get that personal liability protection that an LLC affords you.

When you have your new business checking account all setup, you’ll want to head home, pop open that computer and register for a PayPal business account, Stripe account, or whatever you’re going to use to take payments.

Use your EIN # and your business checking account info to connect your payment gateway and your business checking account — making it really clean and organized to take payments and funnel them straight into your business account for safe keeping.

And as soon as you’re ready to work with clients (ideally RIGHT before!) you’ll get business insurance to cover your business financially from lawsuits, injuries, property damage, etc.

Depending on your state and the nature of your online business, you may need to register for state income taxes, employment taxes and understand how to collect sales tax.


Next, you’d protect your website with the 3 major website policies: privacy policy, website disclaimer, and terms & conditions. You should protect your website whether you sell things from it or not. You’re legally required to have a privacy policy and you want to protect yourself from any claims someone might make for the content on your site (I.e., they try something you suggest and it goes badly for them.)

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You don’t want to skimp on these website policies. And you definitely don’t want to copy and paste someone else’s — because it’s illegal. Not a very good way to start your legal foundation, eh? ; )

If you’re setting up your email marketing system, I’d suggest going with ConvertKit (affiliate link) or Kajabi (<– get a free 28-day trial with my affiliate link. That’s 2x longer than their normal trial!). I use both! Kajabi also allows you to house your courses/memberships, website, landing pages, checkout pages, etc. So it’s more of an “all in one” solution. Whereas ConvertKit gives you email marketing, landing pages, and forms. Up to you! Play with them and see what you like best. Both Kajabi and ConvertKit have great legal features in place for you, so that’s why I recommend them to everyone I know.

When you set your email marketing system up, you want to make sure your emails are all legally legit so you don’t get any fines when collecting personal information. Make sure you have the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each of your emails, get General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR compliant, and pop in your business mailing address on the bottom of each email, too.

After that, we can add on…


Before you move on to the last phase of legal protection, you’d get the contract you need right away to work with clients/sell your program or product. People can get really overwhelmed with how many contracts they need to start out. But I always say, start with what you need *right now* and add on as-needed. With how quickly you can download and fill out my DIY Legal Templates, I don’t think you’ll have any issues adding as you go.

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As you add products and services, you’ll need different contracts for these different ways of working with people. What works for a 1:1 client contract doesn’t work for selling an online course, and vice versa. There are specific terms and provisions written into all of my contract templates for each scenario — because I’ve been there and sold the same things you’re selling now.

And of course, it’s not just about sending legit contracts — you need to have people sign or agree to your contracts the right way in order for them to be enforceable (aka. you get paid).

You’ll generally need these contracts as you grow:

  • 1:1 Client Contract for working 1:1 with coaching clients
  • A group program contract for a group you run that includes calls, program materials, a community, or any similar combo.
  • A terms of use contract that people acknowledge & agree to via a checkbox (instead of e-signing) when they purchase your course or self-paced program.
  • An independent contractor contract for hiring contractors in your business — like copywriters, social media managers, etc.
  • The list goes on and on!

If you find that you need 1-2 of these contracts now/soon and you need the legit website policies too, check out the Ultimate Bundle™. It gives you 10 DIY Legal Templates and 35+ on-demand video trainings to learn how to form your business, protect your site, get paid, work with clients and keep your content safe. Basically, everything we’re talking about today!


Last but definitely not least, as your business grows, expect your legal protection to grow. But that’s a good thing, right?! As I always say, if the cash is rolling in, then you won’t mind getting a few legal pieces in place to protect it. Am I right?!

So what kind of things should you keep in mind as your business evolves and grows? Take a look…

stages of legal protection

These are all things that you’ll tackle as you need them. A lot of small business owners get overwhelmed with legal protection because they try to do way too much at once. But it’s not because they’re not one smart cookie or because they’re a bad person or anything — it’s because they don’t know what they don’t know. And that unknowing keeps them stuck.

So of course as you hire and build out your team, make them sign an independent contractor agreement (if they’re an IC and not an employee). I also have an NDA agreement so you can set out the terms of keeping your information, trade secrets + processes confidential.

If you’re going to start an affiliate program so people can make referral money for sending clients and customers your way, have your affiliates sign an affiliate contract so you clearly spell out when / how much they get paid, set boundaries for the program, and legally protect yourself against any claims.

Eventually, you might be wonder whether you should trademark something for your business, but you’re not really sure what the benefits of trademark registration really are. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) website can be confusing, but in this post I’ll go over whether you need a trademark for an online business in the first place. By taking action and trademarking your logo and product names, and having copyrights protect your materials, you can ensure that your hard work is protected.

Growth Mindset

And the list goes on! But trust me, that’s a good thing. New business ideas are exciting and this type of growth should not only be celebrated — but you should embrace this as part of the growth experience that you GET TO do, not that you have to do. You’ve built one incredible business that provides your community with value and amazing customer service! Don’t you think it deserves some legal protection? I do!

Next Step: Watch my free legal workshop

If you’re ready to legally protect your business and have the legal knowledge you need to know what to do with difficult clients, watch my free workshop ‘5 Steps to Legally Protect & Grow Your Online Business’ right now by saving your seat here.

In that workshop, you’ll learn: 

  1. How contracts can actually save your (vegan, GF) bacon — if you have the right one.
  2. What your website needs to be legally protected.
  3. How to keep copycats off your content and intellectual property
  4. The mindset shift you’ve got to make if you want to actually grow your  business without looking over your (online) shoulder.
  5. The only way to form your business so that you’re personally and professionally protected.

Ready to watch? Sign up for my free legal workshop right here:

So friend, which step # are you in? Tell me the # in the comments below!? And let me know if this legal protection plan was helpful for you, too.

Here’s to legally protecting our future (current?) empires together ♥️

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