Set yourself up for success by following a few simple legal procedures when running your business.
1. Maintain Your Licenses – Most businesses need a license of one type or another, if not multiple state and federal licenses. Whether it’s a professional license, a tax license, or a license specific to your industry, it’s of utmost importance that you are in compliance with the law. Even home-based sole proprietorships often need a license. The Small Business Administration offers a tool for finding the federal and state permits and licenses for your business.
2. Keep Ironclad Contracts – Every client, contractor, vendor, employee, and partner needs to have signed a contract before any work is exchanged between the two of you. It should specify that, in the event they violate your contract, they would pay your legal fees and lost revenue. Review your contracts every six months to make sure everything is current.
By preparing your contracts with foreseeable issues with contractors and clients in mind, you are less likely to actually have any major troubles arise.
3. Read Everything You Sign – As an entrepreneur, you’re likely signing a new terms of agreement or terms of service nearly each week! How many are you actually reading and aware of what you’re signing? By taking a few minutes to read what you are agreeing to, you could be preventing problems months or years in down the road.
4. Keep an Eye on Trademarks – If you already have trademarks, establish a system or action plan for regularly checking for violators. This may be as simple as a Google Alert for your trademarked term.
If you don’t have a trademark for your business brand or sub-brands yet, do a search immediately. You could be violating someone else’s trademark, which could mean huge repercussions down the road. Trademark violation has been known to shutter many a small business.
Read more on the steps to trademark your business brands.
5. Copyright Your Work – Obtaining a copyright registration is not as simple as putting the © (copyright symbol) and year on anything you produce. Registering your copyright affords many real benefits in the event of infringement, including much greater likelihood of recovering damages and attorney fees.
Your books, e-books, products, informational programs, photos, art and articles can all be protected by registering copyrights. Read more about copyrighting your work.
6. Share Photos You Own Rights To Use - The other side of copyright infringement is that it’s easy to violate if you aren’t careful, and this is particularly true with photos. Without express, written authorization from the copyright owner, using a photo that you don’t own, even for non-commercial or private purposes, is a violation of the copyright and can lead to legal action against you. Unless you have taken the photo yourself or purchased image rights, such as through a stock photo site, don’t use the photo. Even fair use or creative commons photos can be difficult to use in adherence with the law.
7. Tell the Truth in Advertising and Marketing – Your emails, especially, but also other forms of advertising and marketing, including your blog, social media, and ads can be subjected to scrutiny. Don’t set yourself up for trouble by misrepresenting your work or products.
The other habit successful entrepreneurs keep is seeking advice from an attorney when they aren’t sure about the legality of their actions or the best way to proceed. Contact me with questions here.