More and more bloggers consider themselves entrepreneurs. And business ownership comes with all sorts of intimating things like accounting and legal stuff.
Lucky for you, I know Danielle Liss and Jamie Lieberman — two lawyers who knows the blogging world front, back, and sideways. They recently started an awesome site called Businessese (I'll let them tell you about it in a sec).
Bloggers often think about protecting their blog from hackers, but what about protecting your blog or biz from a legal standpoint? Yep, it's one of those “not very fun” things that always gets pushed to the side to make room for things like writing blog posts, creating sponsored content, and awesome pinnable images.
However, even a simple contract can save you a lot of headaches and stress down the line (a great example is in answer #3). I asked the ladies from Businessese some questions, not only about their business but about protecting ourselves as bloggers. Here are their answers (if there's a running theme here it's contract, contract, contract):
1. Why did you guys decide to start Businessese?
We started Businessese with one goal in mind: to make it easier for small business owners to run their back office so that they can concentrate their efforts on other areas of their business. In a big company, you typically have a full C-suite and people working in each department. In a small business, there are often one or two people who have to be the CEO, COO, CMO, CFO and General Counsel. Due to these time constraints, small business owners frequently put off handling the fine print. We aim to simplify this process. We started Businessese offering people easy solutions for their legal forms.
Right now, we're focusing on legal forms for influencers. So often, this group is told “if you want to be treated like a business, you have to act like one,” but they don't know where to start. We're here to make that process easier.
2. What do bloggers needs to know about protecting their blog?
Many bloggers start blogging as a hobby and it develops into a business over time. It's a very friendly and cooperative environment, and many people don't get contracts to protect their legal rights — leaving them vulnerable if something goes wrong. The most important thing that we want bloggers to know is that they should always enter into a contract for any business transaction.
We understand that retaining an attorney to review every document can be cost prohibitive for bloggers so we created the most common legal forms that bloggers need. Most importantly, these forms were designed with bloggers in mind.
3. You have so many types of contracts, from non-disclosure agreements to brand contracts. Why are contracts so important for bloggers and small businesses?
Contracts are vital to protect the legal rights of both parties and to ensure that expectations are set from the start. If a relationship does not turn out the way the blogger expected it to, a written and signed contract will give the blogger recourse and should clearly lay out the blogger’s remedies.
For example, a brand reaches out to a blogger for a paid campaign. They set the basic terms via email, like the payment amount and post due date. They don't include the payment terms. The blogger then expects payment immediately upon conclusion of the campaign, but the brand pays net 60. The blogger wants to know what their rights are and approaches us through our law firms. The first question we'll ask is, what did the contract say. The usual response is, “oh, it's just a sponsored post for $X, so I didn't think I needed one. What can I do?”
A contract helps set the expectations for both parties and ensures that you can negotiate all relevant terms.
4. Currently, your most popular contract is the Virtual Assistant one. Why do you think that is?
I think that many bloggers understand that, in order to scale and grow their business, they can't do it all. There are only so many hours in the day and to avoid burn out, many are seeking assistance through Virtual Assistants. A contract here is critical to protect a blogger in entering into this relationship. For example, a Virtual Assistant contract should have a strong confidentiality clause so that the VA cannot use any of the information she learns while working with the blogger.
5. What's the most common mistake you see bloggers and small business owners make when it comes to legal issues?
The most common mistake is not signing a contract when entering into any business transaction. In the blogging world, it may be because the blogger knows the other party or the deal seems relatively simple. Protect your rights. Know what's expected. Never assume that everything is going to go smoothly.
6. Besides contracts, what other ways can a blogger protect their business?
We believe bloggers can be proactive in protecting their business through education. Learn what is required from the FTC and disclose accordingly so that you never have to worry about receiving a letter that you are not in compliance. Understand copyright basics so that you don't have to worry about getting a cease and desist. Set up an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event that something happens and you become involved in a lawsuit. These little things can go a long way to help give you peace of mind.
7. What other products or services do you plan on offering bloggers and small businesses?
We have so much planned for 2016. We launched with influencer forms because it was so heavily requested. Our next steps are to release the forms for our four other areas: Influencer Networks, PR Reps/Brands, Event/Conference Planners, and Small Business.
We'll also be offering consultation services. One of the biggest questions we hear from bloggers is “how much should I charge?” There's no secret formula, but we have developed the PRICE™ method to help influencers better understand how much they should be charging for their services. Later in the year, we'll be offering consultations where we will analyze the information, apply the PRICE™ method and create rate sheets and a comprehensive pricing strategy report. We'll also be offering Business Plan consultations. This task is often incredibly daunting for the most experienced business owners and our goal is to simplify that process.
We also have ebooks coming later this year and we are in the early planning stages for our first online course. We also have a few speaking engagements planned at blogging conferences, so we look forward to meeting everyone!
See Why This Legal Stuff Is a Big Deal?
It's Mel, again! Great info, am I right?
I can't tell you how many bloggers I know that have gotten burned by contributors, business partners, and so on. I actually hired Danielle years ago to prepare a contract for my instructors– still use it to this day!
Be sure to check out their legal forms if you're entering into any relationship. And let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links, but only because I completely trust the awesomeness of Businessese.
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Hey- I'm Melissa! I'm a mom, side hustler, online course instructor, and brand marketer. I run a 6-figure blog helping online biz owners find their a-ha moments with can-do tips, tutorials, and online courses. I also work at Burt's Bees as the assistant manager of Brand Engagement (yep, it's as cool as it sounds). Jump start your biz productivity with my free worksheet!