Almost nothing about being an early-stage entrepreneur is easy.
It’s a lot like being a first-time parent. Sure, it sounds simple enough–you’ve read all the books and know what all the experts say you “should” do to be successful at it, but when it comes down to actually doing it, it’s still overwhelming as heck.
When you hit a snag–and you will hit several early on–you might feel like a failure. Like you’re the only one who doesn’t get it.
But that’s not even close to true.
Early-stage entrepreneurs face a lot of common challenges that don’t get talked about often enough.
So let’s do that.
Let’s talk about the issues you’ll face as you navigate the early stages of entrepreneurship and how you can handle them with a little more confidence and a lot less overwhelm.
**Real quick, first:
Everything I share is legal education and information. It’s not business, financial, or legal advice, and it doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship between us.
Please chat with an attorney in your area to make sure you’re protecting your business.**
Common challenges you’ll face as an early-stage entrepreneur
No surprise here: The majority of the issues you’ll face once your business is up and running will likely be the ones that involve clients.
After all, much of figuring out who you do–and don’t–want to work with actually comes with plenty of trial and error.
It’s usually during that trial-and-error that you run into issues like:
- dissatisfaction with your services (especially when you’re still learning),
- clients not paying (or defaulting on payment plans),
- refund requests or chargebacks,
- IP infringement,
- scope creep,
and so on.
So, how do you stay ahead of those issues without getting burned repeatedly?
A little legal know-how goes a long way
There are so many skills you need to learn when you start a business. Accounting, marketing, sales (ugh, right?).
And one essential skill that gets overlooked is legal.
I know, I know. It can be a tad dry at times. But a basic understanding of legal principles is immensely helpful for an early-stage entrepreneur.
The good news? With just a little bit of research into relevant laws and regulations (or better yet, a crash course on legal for online business owners), you can have some peace of mind and protection.
Yeah, when you’re just getting started, you want to skip to the whole actually working with clients part as quickly as possible.
Which might make you tempted to slap a quick copy-and-paste agreement together and call that a contract.
But you can skip a lot of those trial-and-error consequences I mentioned by having a solid business contract in place from the get-go.
You don’t have to go all out and hire an attorney from day one (though you won’t catch me telling you not to do that if that makes you more comfortable).
What you definitely do need is to ensure your contract is customized to you, your industry, and the type of protection you need so you and your clients both know the rules before you work together.
I strongly recommend clauses for your:
-Scope of Services
-Intellectual Property Protection
Which are some of the main clauses that will protect you from those common entrepreneurial challenges.
We all want to believe that we won’t need these clauses, but in my experience, it’s a matter of when, not if, you’ll need them, and you’d much rather look back and think you were overprepared.
What if you’re already facing one of those common early-stage entrepreneur challenges?
Okay, so what if the cat is already out of the bag?
If you’re already in the middle of a tricky situation and only wish you would have known how to take the proactive steps sooner, you’re probably wondering what your options are.
Of course, it’ll depend on the issue and its severity, but here are a few next steps you could consider to start cooling down the hot water you find yourself in:
- Clients not paying
Step one would almost always be to stop working until you get paid. You’ll also want to ensure you’re communicating with the client and keeping records of that communication (even if it’s all one-sided and you haven’t heard back from them).
Depending on how much work has been done and the amount of money owed, you may decide to retain an attorney for help.
- Refund requests
If you don’t have a provision in your contract for how refunds will be handled, you’ll want to do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if you should issue a full refund or prorate it based on the amount of work done.
And whichever way you decide to go…add that refund clause ASAP.
- Scope creep
This one is trickier. When you’re really new to business, you may be tempted to give into the scope creep and go above and beyond without saying anything. That’s a personal choice.
But if you’ve already done that–perhaps on repeat–it might be time to say, “I can expand our scope to include that additional service for [additional amount]. Would you like to go ahead and add that on?”
- Dissatisfied with services
It’s never fun when this happens, but we all have to learn sometime, right? If you’ve been honest about your skillset, the best thing may be to own up to the fact that you’re still growing and offer to make it right.
If you feel like the dissatisfaction is completely unwarranted, and you’ve tried to reason with your client, it could be time to get your attorney’s take on the situation.
- IP Infringement
This happens A LOT in our online world. So you’ve got a few options:
-You can reach out to the infringer and ask them to rectify the situation
-You can send a formal cease-and-desist letter
-You can retain an attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter or to take further legal action
Being proactive is the best way to stay ahead of entrepreneurial challenges
The best way to stay ahead of these early-stage entrepreneur challenges is to be proactive.
Having a solid business contract in place is essential for protecting yourself and your clients, and it’s critical that you customize it to you and your industry.
If an issue comes up while you’re working with a client that wasn’t covered by a clause in your original agreement, do your best to resolve it amicably or seek legal assistance if needed.
And make sure you go add that clause to your next contract. 😉
Just remember that your contract evolves as your business evolves, and contract negotiations are part of the fun of being a business owner.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t go into things strongly prepared to navigate challenges with a proactive approach.
Snag the ultimate resource to covering your legal ass-ets and watch your business grow–minus all the growing pains.
And if you’re ready to learn even more about protecting your business, join the list of exclusive listeners of the Uncomplicating Trademarks podcast.