In the first of my Spotlight series I'll be sharing information specifically geared towards women who are building wellness-based businesses online. Hallmarks of these businesses include wanting to effect positive change (and grow their bottom line) by reaching as large an audience as possible through online classes, self-guided programs, groups and other offerings.
Welcome! First of all, props to you for having the courage and awareness to understand the importance of educating yourself on the legal issues affecting your business. Recently, I have learned a lot about the culture and community of online wellness entrepreneurs and you mamas are amazing! So often, learning about potential legal pitfalls can feel discordant with what you are trying to do. However, learning about how to handle and avoid potential legal pitfalls is actually an empowering and powerful experience.
The blog series I am launching next week is all about what small business owners like yourselves need to be thinking about when you are starting your own business. Each Thursday I will post a special "Spotlight" post designed just for online wellness entrepreneurs.
But first let’s address some FAQs:
1. I’m just starting out, why should I work with an attorney? I answer this question with some questions of my own: Do you have a bank account? A car? A home? Kids college funds? Retirement accounts? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are putting your assets and by extension your family's future at risk by operating your business without creating any liability protection for your family and your personal assets. This would have me lying in bed awake at night. Do you have a client contract you understand? If not, you risk not getting paid or having a variety of boundary and client relationship issues arise that could have been nipped in the bud. Do you know what you can and cannot say as a coach that is not a licensed dietician (or doctor for that matter)? An attorney can help you address all of these concerns.
2. Legal stuff is overwhelming. I’d just rather give it all over to the Universe. Well that’s great for you, but consider the answer to question 1. Are you really as in tune with the Universe and in control of your vibration as you think you are? It is really worth educating yourself to determine whether you are actually comfortable with the extent of the risk you are taking on (once you educate yourself, you may decide that that answer is yes, although I would still want and recommend getting an attorney’s help).
3. Aren’t lawyers pricey? Consider the cost of not hiring an attorney. I recommend that my clients form relationships with both a local accountant and a local attorney before problems crop up. Once you are in the throes of a legal issue (or a month before your taxes are due), it will be a lot harder to find someone who is willing to work with you out of the blue. Also, revolution is afoot. Attorneys today around the country are changing their business models to help small businesses at a fair rate- that is comparable to online legal services- you should find one of those.
4. Can’t I just cut and paste someone else’s disclaimer, use someone else’s client contract? I would not advocate that approach for a few reasons, most notably the following four. First, if you just cut and paste something, you are not likely to even know what it means. You need to know what your legal documents are saying. Second, a disclaimer that is hidden away on a page a client or reader is not likely to click on is problematic and not necessarily enforceable (i.e. you can still be sued and held liable). Third, your local attorney will make sure that your documents are enforceable in your home state. Finally, is "everyone else is doing it" really a good answer?
Hopefully, these FAQs will help you form a basis of understanding that will inform your knowledge as we move through the key areas of legal issues that you should be aware of.
As always, feel free to reach out or comment below if you have any follow up questions you would like me to address.