Let’s face it, we all have an image that pops into our head when we think “legal” because of our previous life experiences. Whether it’s Law and Order (I was OBSESSED with SVU when I was growing up), the attorneys during your parents’ divorce, or the Judge when you went to fight a speeding ticket in traffic court.
And, if we’re being totally honest, most people tend to think legal is overwhelming and complicated as a result. Or pricey. Which means that in running our online businesses those images color how we deal with making sure we’re legally protected. Or they shed some light on why a lot of online entrepreneurs ignore legal in its entirety and say they can deal with it “later.”
I get it. But there are 5 important reasons that even early stage online entrepreneurs should get their legal together from the outset:
(And, as a reminder, everything I chat about here is intended to provide legal information and education. It is not business, financial, or legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You should consult with an attorney in your area who understands your particular business situation so that you can take the right steps for you and your business.)
- PROTECTION FOR WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS
As a business owner the question is not IF something happens, but WHEN. It’s the unglamorous side of being a business owner. Whether it’s a client who fails to pay for your services, a course participant who uses your course materials in an unauthorized way, or a customer who asks for a refund following the purchase of one of your downloadable products, something will happen.
Making sure that your legal is in place means you have a fail-safe – just like an insurance policy – to deal with the issue when it arises. Like they say, “hindsight is 20/20” – you can’t go back in time to put legal protections in place. I don’t know about you, but I sure as heck don’t want to find myself saying: “If only I had gotten my legal in place sooner. . .”
- SAVE YOURSELF TIME, MONEY, AND A HEADACHE
If the question is WHEN something will happen in your online business, it makes sense to ensure that your exposure for someone bringing a claim against you or your business is minimized to the fullest extent possible. Limiting your liability is key. And that means putting your clients and customers on notice as to where your responsibility ends and theirs begins.
Disclaimer language can save you time, money, and the headache that comes along with unwarranted claims and lawsuits.
- PROTECT YOUR INCOME
Getting your legal in place can also protect your income.
If you’re in the early stages of your business, of course you want to go the extra mile for your clients because you want to make a good name for yourself and your products or services. But what if you get a client who just keeps asking for more? So much so that you’re jeopardizing your relationship with other clients…and your reputation and income?
While you are motivated to provide amazing products and services, to provide value to your niche community, you certainly don’t expect that you’ll be doing so entirely for free. Otherwise who would start an online business?
Contracts clearly establish expectations – what your client or customer can expect from you and what you expect from them.
Having clearly written terms in a Client Agreement, for example, establishes the scope of your work, how your client is to make payments, and what happens if a payment is late. Establishing those terms at the outset can minimize the chances that you will need to chase after your payment.
- INCREASE YOUR “STREET CRED” AS AN EXPERT IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Take a second to think about the online entrepreneurs you admire. Especially ones that you have purchased a service or product from, like an e-course or some form of coaching. Was the purchase process professional? Did you know what you were buying? How you were supposed to pay? If you could ask for a refund? etc. etc.
Having your legal in place actually improves your clients’ and customers’ experience. It makes you look more professional, which results in improved “street cred” in your industry. Which is priceless.
- BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
When you feel protected, it’s human nature to take a big sigh of relief. And then turn your focus to other things that need your attention. Because when you’re confident that you’re protected, you feel empowered to accomplish other tasks and even take risks.
Whether it’s putting your e-course out in the world, exploring a potential collaboration, or offering a new service, that confidence can translate in to increased profit and exposure for you and your business.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
At the end of the day, no matter what your legal experience is, don’t let it be the reason you avoid getting your legal together for your online business.
Because legal doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated! You can snag An Online Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business for an uncomplicated overview of the legal issues you should be considering in your online business HERE
AND THE BEST PART?
Legal certainly doesn’t have to be pricey! Because as an early stage online entrepreneur there are a lot of legal protections you can put in place protect your online business without spending a ton on legal services. But that does NOT mean Googling how to protect my online business and just cutting and pasting a template into your website. Check out my simple legal website templates HERE