You pour hours and hours of hard work into your latest content, course, product or service only to wonder, “what if someone steals this and sells it as their own? Can you contact them and ask them to remove it? What if they don’t take it down? Or what if they’ve been selling it as their own and making money off it?”
Or you’re 3 months into a 6-month service contract with a client when they suddenly change their credit card number and bails. Now what? You were relying on that money coming in and can’t afford to just let it go. But you didn’t have them sign anything, so how can you hold them accountable?
What’s a girl to do?!
No worries, I got you. First, let me introduce myself: I’m Sam, a corporate-attorney-turned entrepreneur who empowers women with the legal info and education they need to confidently run their own businesses and create content they really love. I don’t want you to hold back anymore. Create that course, write that post or offer that new product.
My goal is to make legal easy, accessible and yes - even fun! Or at least more fun than it normally is.
So today we’ll take a look at the most important ways you can legally protect your business online. There’s no “right” time for you to get #LegallyLegit (as I call it!). If you’re in business, then legal is one piece of the puzzle you have to take care of.
And it’s not just about being worried about getting sued either. I’m all for empowering you to be proactive, not just reactive. You also need to protect your content, get paid and establish boundaries with your clients.
Here are 5 ways you should legally protect your business:
Start With Your Website
On the one hand, it’s amazing we can reach people all around the world through our websites. But on the flip side, we really have no idea who’s reading our content or what they’re doing with it.
In the health/wellness/fitness/business world, this can seriously be a problem and the best way to address it is by having our website covered with these essential legal documents.
As tempting as it is to text, email or Facebook message prospective clients, this is one area where old school pen and paper (or digital paper) still rules. Any agreement to enter into working together for services or products should be done in writing and via a client agreement (contract).
The contract should be clear about what is/isn’t included, payment terms, your disclaimer and what your company’s policies are. That way, if any issues pop up, you can always point back to your contract. Your clients will also pay on time, abide by your policies and be clearer on what’s included if you have them sign an “official” contract.
Stay Within the Scope
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your business is to always operate within the scope of your practice. This is different for everyone depending on who are you, what you do and what your qualifications are.
If you’re in the health and wellness space, it makes a big difference if you’re a nurse, registered dietitian or health coach. If you’re giving out business advice, it’s important someone knows you’re not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor.
It’s not just enough to cover this in your website disclaimer or a disclaimer included in your 1-on-1 contracts. You actually need to operate your business in accordance with your scope of practice too. If you’re a business coach but not a lawyer, don’t give out legal advice. If you’re a health coach but not a doctor, don’t give out medical advice. You get the idea! Create a reliable network of other professionals you can refer to or reference and you’re all set.
Set a Sharing Policy (and abide by others’ policies)
One of the easiest ways to ensure you get credit where credit’s due is to have a clear “sharing” policy on your site, preferably in your terms and conditions. This is where you should outline what steps someone has to take if they want to share your post, recipe, photos etc. Do they need to email someone at your company? Who? Can they just go ahead and share, as long as they link back and give credit? Can they use your photos? These are all questions that your sharing policy should address.
Have it clearly available and set out on your site so no one visits your site, sees a post they want to use on their site and just copies and takes it because they don’t see a sharing policy on your site. You can also use the fact that you have a sharing policy set out in your terms and conditions for when you need to contact someone who did use your content in a way that contradicts your sharing policy.
Protect Your Online Course
As your business grows, you might create an online course or group program to try to maximize your reach. We want to make sure your business is ready and protected for that kind of growth first.
There are so many ways we need to protect our businesses and ourselves in business. You might think these things would never happen to you or that you can’t really get “in trouble” for something you’re doing.
Unfortunately, I’ve spent the last 5 years finding out how wrong that is. These things can happen to any of us in business at any time. And I don’t say that to scare you. I say it because we have the option and the opportunity to be proactive and protect ourselves the best we can. I believe that makes us more professional, confident and empower entrepreneurs. And I hope you do too.