This article is a guest post by Sam Vander Wielen
As you’re settling into 2019 (are you still writing -18 or is it just me?) and planning your business success this year, you should legally protect yourself along the way.
2019 is going to be the year you take your business to the next level. It could even be the year your “side hustle” turns into your “full-on hustle.”
But for you to build a successful wellness business that lasts well into 2020 and beyond, you need to make sure your business has a solid foundation.
A house built on a faulty-foundation never lasts the test of time, right?
But you’ve tried looking into the legal side of business. It’s confusing, expensive, and… did I mention confusing?
You’ve heard it all: you MUST have an LLC, don’t register your business until you’re making $50k, you don’t really need website policies, the GDPR police will bang down your door if you don’t do it right. The list goes on!
But I’m here today to teach you a much simpler approach to legal. One that actually applies to online business, too.
Today, I’m sharing 6 steps you can take this year to build a legally legit wellness business.
Let’s get started with one of my favorite topics: mindset.
The best place to start with legal is actually the easiest step of all. First, we have to accept that taking care of the legal pieces of our business is just that: part of running a business. The more we build it up in our minds, the scarier and more intimidating it will seem. I promise you, there are simpler solutions out there now than your Aunt Sally’s old lawyer friend.
Of course legal’s not as fun as getting our website or photos done! But it’s just as, if not more, important than almost anything else we do in our businesses. Because without it, we may not have a business at all.
The first step to building a legally legit business on paper is to register your business. In the United States, you register your business in the state where you live/work. It can typically be done online, via a few forms, at a relatively low-cost. You could do it yourself or hire a local attorney to do it for you.
The most important part of registering your business is what business entity type you choose. Some of the most common entity types are LLC, sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.
Whether an entity type is right for you depends on a number of personal factors, including: what type of services you’ll offer, how you’ll operate your business, the state of registration, your business goals, and your personal financial situation.
Most wellness pros choose an LLC because out of the 2 most common entity types (LLC and sole proprietorship) it’s the only one that offers any personal liability protection. In other words, an LLC protects you personally (in most cases) if you or your business is ever sued. The idea is that an LLC separates you, the person, from your business, the registered entity.
If you’re a sole proprietor, you could be held personally liable if you or your business is sued. That means your personal assets (home, bank accounts, car) are at serious risk.
Most of the “myths” I hear about LLCs are flat-out wrong — so I’d encourage you to learn more about whether getting an LLC sooner (or from the start) is the right choice for you.
3. Website Policies
A website disclaimer is the most legally important for wellness businesses. It’s the policy that tells visitors who you are, what you do, and what you don’t do, so that the visitor can decide whether he/she wants to take your advice and apply it in his/her life. The idea is that you can’t or shouldn’t be blamed for something going wrong if you encouraged someone to heed caution before taking your advice.
And finally, your terms & conditions policy is where you set a number of important business policies such as your return/refund policy, intellectual property and sharing content policy, payment procedures, and affiliate link policies. This is the policy that you’ll probably refer clients back to the most, especially if you sell things on your site.
The most important thing is not just that you have these 3 policies — but that your policies are actually tailored to you and the way you run your business. Your policies must be truthful, easy to read, and accurate.
Contracts are your written proof that you and your client have agreed to certain terms. It’s the document you’d use to protect yourself if someone stopped paying you, accused you of some wrongdoing, or there was ever a lawsuit between you.
When starting out, I suggest getting a contract for any way you’re going to work with someone. Make sure you have a professionally-written contract for any service or product that someone can pay you money for.
Most coaches start out with a 1-on-1 client contract, a group program contract, or maybe even a contract for a course or membership program they’re offering.
For your website content or any of your freebies, you’ll want to make sure you have a copyright notice on your work. It’s not legally required — but I think it’s a smart way to signal to the public that you created and own the content they’re seeing.
Here’s a simple ‘formula’ you can use to add a copyright notice to your written work:
© [year of first publication] [name of your business]
So for example, if I wrote a freebie PDF last year that’s available for download on my website, I would add: © 2018 Amazing Health Coaching Business LLC to the bottom of every page of my PDF.
There’s also a U.S. Copyright Office where you can register your work by filing an application and paying a small fee. It’s not required in order to qualify for any protection, but it definitely gives you greater protection and enforceability should any copycat issues arise.
Finally, one of the things I teach my clients the most is how to talk about their work and what they do. Because at the end of the day, you can have all of your website policies and contracts in place, and an ironclad LLC, but none of it will matter if you’re acting outside your scope.
It’s important to learn more about your scope of practice — in other words, what you can and can’t do within the confines of your profession.
Scope of practice varies state-by-state and the laws are always changing. I recommend building a business that stays within the lines of ALL states so that you keep your business flexible and virtual.
As I always say to clients, people out there need you and your services. And trust me, the help they need from you is well within your scope.
With these 6 simple steps, I hope you’re able to move forward in taking your business to the next level this year.
I truly believe that the quote “begin as you mean to go on” applies to growing an online wellness business. Your legally legit status will give you the solid foundation for business needs for a prosperous future.
Sam Vander Wielen is an attorney-turned-entrepreneur who helps coaches and creatives grow legally legit businesses through her DIY legal contract and website policy templates. Sam loves to travel, drink coffee, and read good fiction. You can download Sam’s free Legally Legit Guide and keep in touch with her on Instagram and Facebook.
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