What you ACTUALLY need as an online business owner
In my years as an attorney for online entrepreneurs and coaches, the number ONE question I am asked on social media is “what do I ACTUALLY need to know/have in place as a new coach?” Starting and growing an online business can be overwhelming – there are a LOT of things to get in place and learn in the beginning: technology, automation, content, photos, social media, marketing, products and services, the list goes on!!! Legal falls off the to-do list for a LOT of well-meaning boss babes, because there’s just too many other things to focus on! Plus, many think of legal as something that isn’t going to bring IN money, so it gets pushed behind other activities that WILL bring in clients!
But guess what?? If you’re running a business that does NOT have the right legal bits in place, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb, love. It’s only a matter of time before a client doesn’t pay, demands a refund, someone claims you stole from them, you find someone stole from you, or something else happens. The time to sort legal out is BEFORE those issues strike, so when it happens, you’re sitting pretty with the right things in place – not stressing out and struggling to fix the problem after the fact.
With that, I’ve outlined the main things you need (or should) have in place, in plain English!
Here are THE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Don’t steal someone else’s business/course name
Research the name you want to use ahead of time to make sure someone else isn’t already using it. Even if you think of the name independently and don’t mean to copy someone else, you can’t use the business or course name if someone else started using it first. You can check the USPTO’s database HERE, and do your due diligence on social media and searching online. This will help a lot in figuring out whether someone else has a website, blog, product, or services utilizing that name (or something very similar) in the same space you’re wanting to work in.
- Don’t break the law with your website – 1 document you NEED as a matter of law, 2 you need to protect yourself.
BUT – don’t panic. As long as you purchase a template from a reputable attorney who knows the online space, and understand enough of the policy to know what you need to update, and how you can comply, you’re good to go. If you're a member of the Societe, GRAB YOURS HERE!
The two you need as a business owner: Disclaimer, and Terms & Conditions
Disclaimer: this is the document that, while not legally required, is massively helpful to you as a business owner, and helps protect you from liability for what you post on your website. Your website disclaimer will advise those who visit your site that all the content you post is just general information and education on a certain topic, that may or may not be right for every individual that reads it. This is super important in the online space, especially when we’re giving tips for how to conduct business, or in the health and wellness space.
Terms & Conditions: this document is the agreement between you and your website visitors – so it will lay out all the ground rules for how people can use your website, and what they can and can’t do. It will also be the place where you’ll protect your content, tell people how and where any disputes relating to your website will be resolved, and ensure you are reducing your liability as much as possible.
- Get Your Own Client Agreement!
While I’m all about staying on a budget, there are certain things you just need to spend some money on to make sure they’re done right, AND to avoid breaking the law by trying to save a buck. Best example of this? Your client agreement.
DO NOT…I repeat, DO NOT use a Client Agreement your coach/friend/mom/sister gave you. Why not?
Having their permission doesn’t matter – you need the permission of the person who wrote the agreement, which would be the attorney they hired/purchased from. (If the agreement wasn’t drafted by an attorney…you don’t want it anyway.) If you don’t have permission from the attorney who wrote it, you could be committing copyright infringement every time you use it. Not ideal.
Second, even if your coach/friend/mom/sister is in the online space, too, there’s a good chance what they need in their agreement will differ slightly from what you need in yours. So it may not do you any good to have your clients sign this agreement, if it doesn’t apply to you and doesn’t protect you anyway.
As a side note…PLEASE also don’t try to draft your agreement yourself. This little piece of paper is FAR too important to try and wing or piece together. You’ll thank me when you have an issue, and you realize your client agreement says all the right things, covers your booty and saves you!
- Yes, you still need something in place for your online course/ebook/digital product
If you don’t have this stuff yet – don’t worry! For those of you who are in the Société, you can grab my top 6 attorney-drafted templates made specifically for those in the online space, at a sweet discount!!
Christy Westerfeld, Esq. is an attorney and legal resource for online entrepreneurs and coaches. She helps savvy business women cut through the confusion and overwhelm of legal and create an easy and affordable plan of action to legally protect their businesses. While legal may not be #1 on your list of exciting topics, understanding the basics is VITAL to your success as an entrepreneur, and Christy will help you learn what you need to know, in a way that is easy to understand! When she isn’t working, you’ll find Christy chasing after her toddler, binge-watching “Suits,” or signing up for the latest beach city half marathon.