Small Business Series | Legal Contracts

Seven months ago, I began the incredibly empowering and utterly terrifying journey of self-employment.

I’m my own boss, I get to set my own business hours, I have the luxury of puppy snuggles at any time of day, and I’m solely responsible for my greatest achievements. Empowering.

I’m my own boss, and I don’t have set business hours since I’m working with clients during their typical business hours and then taking care of my own business needs + administrative work at night. I’m the CEO, the administrative assistant, the HR rep, the accountant, the marketing team, the sales team, the design team, and when I have time I’m navigating the healthcare marketplace. I’m the only thing that stands in the way of my own success and my own failure. Terrifying.

Being self-employed is a choice I choose every day. It’s not one I made lightly. It’s not one that was easy. But it’s incredibly rewarding and if I had to do it all over again – I would.

Since June, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about why I left my job and how I started my own business which is why I initially started the Career Corner Q & A. (Check out the first post here, the second post here, and the podcast I did with all the little details) But the more I share about my business and day-to-day, the more questions I get. So, I’m starting this Small Business Series to cover all of the questions I’ve received and the issues I think you need to know about before starting your own business. These are the things I’ve learned along the way that will hopefully make your journey that much more empowering.

Today, we’re kicking off the series with my friend Ashlee over at Contracts for Creatives. I started my business without being fully prepared for every part of it and if I’m being honest, that’s how I started my blog, as well. I had a vision and a business plan but that’s about it. The one thing I wish I had in my arsenal? Contracts.

 

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A brand reached out to me (a blogger) to participate in a campaign. We settled on terms and a rate. The brand sent over a contract detailing deliverables, deadlines, and payment. Do I also need to send the brand my own contract?

No, you do not (and you shouldn’t) send over a completely separate contract of your own.  You should however read through every single line of the contract and highlight any portions that you either don’t understand or don’t feel comfortable agreeing to.  For example, if you see language that refers to granting all rights to your content to the brand or the phrase “in perpetuity” in any contract, you should take note of it and likely bring it to the brand’s attention.  Keep in mind that when a brand sends you a contract, the contract is written in the brand’s favor, which is completely normal.  The brand isn’t trying to trick you, it simply has a great legal team that crafted its contract.  You shouldn’t be afraid to point out any issues in the contract that either you don’t understand or that you’d like to revise.  It’s never a bad idea to have an attorney look over your collaboration contracts.  You can read more about my contract review services here!

You sign a partnership contract with a brand for a standard blog post and social media. Two weeks later, the brand requests the rights to your photos. Do you say yes in good faith? Do you charge them?

Always refer back to the contract.  This is why it’s so important to take note of what rights you are granting the brand in the original collaboration contract.  If the original contract doesn’t include rights to your photos, then yes, I would absolutely send them a polite response noting that those rights were not included in the original agreement, but that you’d be happy to discuss licensing the rights to your photos.  Licensing is an entire topic on its own.  I rarely advise my blogger/influencer clients to hand over all rights to their photos.  Licensing is a much better option!  With licensing, you are able to dictate the terms of how, when, and where the brand can use your photos.  For example, you can limit the usage to certain social media platforms and exclude email, print, and digital marketing campaigns and limit the time period in which the brand has the right to use your photo(s).  The licensing rights that you are giving to the brand should always be comparable to the licensing fees you are charging the brand.
Another thing to keep in mind when licensing rights to photos is that you need to make sure you actually have the right to license the photos.  If you hired a photographer to take the photos, you need to make sure there is language in your contract with your photographer addressing rights to the photographs.  Depending on the photographer, he/she may grant you the rights to the photos or he/she may not.  If the photographer will not grant you full rights, you may want to include language in the contract that states if any brand requests licensing rights to the photos, you will pay the photographer X amount of money per photo for the licensing rights.  You’ll want to keep that fee in mind when negotiating licensing rights with the brand.
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I just started a blog! I bought the domain and set up my email. What legal stuff do I need to do to set up my business?

Technically, you don’t have to do anything. You can operate your business as a sole proprietorship, however, I highly recommend registering your business as an LLC as soon as possible. Check out this blog post for in depth details on why it’s important to register your business as an LLC, The Difference Between a Sole Proprietorship and a Limited Liability Company. Also be sure to read this post too, 5 Steps to Make Your Business Official!

I just started making money from affiliate links and brand partnerships. Do I have to pay taxes?

You should seek an accountant’s advice.  I recommend finding an accountant that specializes in providing services to bloggers/influencers.  Two accountants that I always recommend are Amy Northard and Keila Hill-Trawick. Both are badass female business owners!
And the short answer to this is yes, if you earn over a certain amount per quarter, you must pay taxes.

You want to start your own business but have no idea where to start. How do you make sure it’s all legal?

All of the contracts I’m currently using for both of my businesses are from Ashlee’s site – either custom or downloadable templates. She’s a wonder to work with and knows her stuff.
Did you find this post helpful? If so, leave a comment below!
Next Friday we’re covering all things accounting. Have a question? Leave it in the comments or DM me on Instagram!