5 Steps to Starting a Legally Savvy Business
Starting an online business and becoming an entrepreneur is an exciting decision. As you are getting started, one thing to figure out ASAP are the legal components of your business to make sure you are getting started on the right foot. Once you make the decision to go for it, here are my top 5 tips to creating a legally savvy business.

5 Steps to Starting a Legally Savvy Business

1. Check The Name of Your Business On USPTO and Secretary of State Website

As soon as you come up with your business name, you need to make sure no one else is already using it! To do this, look up your state’s business directory on the Secretary of State website (find with a quick internet search) and search the name you want to use. Next, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (an internet search of “TESS” will bring this up) to make sure no one else has registered a trademark with the same – or similar – name. Once you confirm no one else is currently using this business name, you should be in the clear to move forward.

2. Set Up Your Business Entity

Next, you’ll want to decide how to structure your business for legal and tax purposes: think about the vision for your company, and what you want it to look like. Within the U.S., the two most popular business structures for an online company are the Sole Proprietorship and the Limited Liability Company (LLC). The primary differences include costs and startup fees, and whether you want your business to operate as a separate legal entity (in which case, the LLC may be the best choice), or if you are ok with your business being one in the same with your personal assets (in which case, the sole proprietorship may work best).

3. Get Your Website Documents In Order

You likely have (or will soon have) a website that allows visitors to enter personal information to “opt-in” to your newsletter or freebie. Once you allow this interactive feature, your website needs a Privacy Policy to be compliant with privacy laws. This document will explain how you collect, store, and use others’ personal information, and how members can remove themselves from your list.
You will also want a Disclaimer on your site, advising visitors that the content on your site is meant for educational and information purposes, and does not take the place of consulting with a professional regarding their personal financial, health, or other situation. This can also limit your liability should someone misunderstand something on your website and have it affect them negatively.
Lastly, you’ll want Terms and Conditions on your website, to lay out the ground rules for those visiting your website. This is where you will create guidelines to protect your content, provide additional limitations of liability, ensure any dispute regarding your website is resolved within your state, and more.
[RELATED: The First 4 Hires For Your New Business]

4. Get Your Client Agreement In Order

Once you start working with clients, you’ll need a solid Client Agreement that addresses the specific program this client has purchased and all relevant details, as well as information regarding payment, refunds, protection of content the client receives, dispute resolution, and other similar provisions. The purpose of this agreement is to ensure both you and your client’s expectations align. The last thing you want is for a client to become dissatisfied with a program or service because s/he didn’t understand the program or misunderstood what you provide.
If you are running a group program or have passive digital products for sale, you’ll want Terms of Use for each program. This document is located at checkout, next to a box that says something like “by clicking this box, I agree to the Terms of Use” that your customer will click prior to completing her purchase. This document is similar to the client agreement and allows the customer to agree to your terms before purchasing, rather than signing an individual client agreement.

5. Scaling Successfully: Releases and Waivers For Events and Testimonials

At some point, you may want to expand your business model into hosting live events, retreats, and featuring testimonials on your website to show off client success! These are all wonderful additions to your business, but make sure you have participants or those who create testimonials sign a release prior to participating. This absolves you of liability and ensures you own the content/testimonial they provide.

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