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With great influencing comes great responsibility… and great laws to follow. Like disclaimers at the top of your blog posts that I know you love reading so much!
Whether you’re a successful influencer or you just started building your brand, you need to have an understanding of your legal responsibilities. While I am NOT a licensed professional and I am NOT giving you any legal advice, I have learned quite a bit over my many years online.
I am simply sharing with you a general overview of what I’ve learned through my personal experience of growing an online business. Always talk to a lawyer or professional before taking action on these topics.
Don’t just learn the hard way like I had to. Get ahead of the curve and learn from those who went before you (and legal professionals as well!).
Okay, you’ve waited long enough. Here are 5 legal tips for you influencers and business owners that I wish someone told me about when I first started growing an online business.
Tip #1: Plan for the business you’re going to have
Yes, start treating your business as a business. Not a cute little “side hustle” or hobby. Start planning for the business you imagine having in three to five years. Not the business you feel you have today.
For most of us, when starting our online entrepreneurial journey, we don’t give ourselves enough credit or treat the business as seriously as we should.
You may be the newest person in the influencer world and you’re just trying to grow your Instagram. But you’ll never get there if you don’t start thinking and acting as if you are there. And that’ll make the business side of things much more complicated.
So even if you may not feel like you have a legit business, start treating it as legit!
Before I give any sort of advice, know that this answer may vary per state so check state laws.
If you’re offering services, working with clients or making an income, it’s time to get legit!
By “legit” I mean, file for a business entity. There are a few types:
- Sole Proprietorship
- … and many more
Do your research on which one you need to register as. Here’s a great resource for learning about each entity/structure you can register as.
Since every person and every situation is unique, I also recommend talking to a legal professional about your specific situation. That person can give you more accurate advice and help you make the right decision for which entity to file your business under.
Honestly, this process was WAY easier than I thought it was going to be.
If you need a bit of a nudge on where to start, my husband and I used LegalZoom for our business. (This isn’t an affiliate link, a partnership with them or anything like that. I just genuinely think they could be helpful to you!)
After filing and paying a little fee, they sent us papers laying out our next steps and made it all incredibly easy to understand.
It was all online and SUPER easy. 10/10 would recommend.
Tip #2: Doing taxes
Ah yes. Taxes.
As an independent contractor, entrepreneur, freelancer, consultant, coach (the list goes on…), your taxes don’t have to be a headache. Especially when using TurboTax.
I think of TurboTax as the “DIY” for taxes. You get to file your taxes however you want (legally of course).
But that’s not the only way to utilize TurboTax. Here are a few ways you can go about using them:
- File your own taxes: Just answer simple questions online and they’ll guide you through filing your taxes. Have a tax expert review your return before you file.
- Live tax experts can help: Just use the “Live help” button to chat with an expert or set up a video call at a time that’s convenient for you. Get advice and answers as you go, with a final expert review before you file.
- They do your taxes for you: Have a dedicated tax expert handle everything, from start to finish. Yes, seriously.
When I was first starting out as an entrepreneur, I was getting so many 1099-NEC forms and so many documents from so many businesses. It took forever to file each of them one-by-one.
What’s cool about TurboTax is that you can take a picture of your 1099 forms using the TurboTax app, it verifies your data and securely auto-fills the forms for you. Which is pretty freaking phenomenal.
So do yourself a favor and get started with TurboTax Live Self-Employed today.
Tip #3: Webiste disclaimers
If you have a website, you’re going to want to have three disclaimers listed on your website. Not only that, but make them easy to find at the bottom of your site.
This one is legally required, especially if you’re growing an email list.
This is a disclaimer saying how you are gathering your visitors’ personal information and how you distribute it.
You’re basically disclaiming the “who, what, when, where, why, how” of all the personal information you’re gathering and how you plan to use it.
2. Terms & Conditions
This is super important. It’s especially important if you have or sell digital products.
I have a lot of digital products like courses, downloadable presets and templates, e-books, etc. Due to the digital nature of these products, when somebody buys them, they forever have access to them.
There’s no return for these, so refunds are obviously going to be a little different.
That’s what I include in my terms and conditions. It’s important that I include this information here and on my website in case somebody does want a refund or if they want to “return” a digital product.
3. Website Disclaimer
This basically states who you are, what you do, who you do it for, AND what you don’t do.
Another “who, what, when, where, why, how” situation, but for your business as a whole, not just related to personal information.
There are plenty of resources you can use to get started with writing your disclaimers. At the bottom of this post, I have a section dedicated to my favorite resources. Or you can click here to jump straight to that section (but come back because we have a lot more to cover).
Tip #4: Money
It is so important to have your business money and your personal money separated.
This helps keep everything organized, especially when tax season comes around.
I ignored this during my first two years when growing my online business. Once I started keeping both incomes separate, it all of a sudden clicked for me.
I had all these different payments and subscriptions to different tools I was using for my business. I wasn’t even aware of how much I was spending for my business and how much I was spending on myself.
When I started separating all the payments, it made much more sense why I was spending so much money. My life got easier and less stressful after that.
The better you are at tracking what you’re spending and organizing your money, the more of it you’re able to handle.
Organizing Your Money
What I personally did to organize my income at the beginning was I created two personal accounts at my bank.
The first had a savings account for the money I was personally saving and a checking account for all my personal income.
The second account had a savings account for money I wanted to save for business purposes and a checking account where all my business expenses could be withdrawn from.
When we grew, we eventually created a business account with our bank. I would give more advice on going about that, but honestly, I credit the entire way we set up our business to my husband.
He would recommend reading the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. That book was a game-changer for our business and how we set up our money.
Tip #5: Use Contracts
The topic of contracts is actually something I love talking about. I talk about it more in-depth on my influencer course, The Modern Influencer, when it comes to brand collaborations and words to look for in those contracts.
But for now, we’ll just scratch the surface to get you started.
Once you’ve found the right brand to collab with, you’re still not done. Now you have to send them a legal contract to make it official.
When I first started, I did a lot of one-on-one work with brands and businesses doing coaching, consultation, and social media management. Now, most of my contracts are collaboration contracts. I need different contracts for all of those different deals.
Regardless of what you’re doing and who you’re working with, always have contracts!
Whenever there’s an exchange of goods, money, services, even free gifted collaborations, have a contract in place.
It’s the best way to set clear expectations and to protect yourself and the other company.
Whether you’re writing disclaimers for your website or making contracts for your business, I would highly recommend looking into Rocket Lawyer. They’re a great website that has templates you can download and use for your business.
You can also follow Sam Vander Wielen on her website or her Instagram. She’s a lawyer who helps small businesses legally protect themselves. So if you have a small business, she’s your go-to. She also has templates and courses you can utilize for creating contracts and much more. Simply, she’s amazing.
I also recommend my friend Kameron. She’s an influencer lawyer and does influencer consultations, specifically on the brand collaboration side. So if you’re an aspiring influencer and need contract templates or consultation services, she’s your gal. I cannot begin to explain how helpful she’s been to me.
If you plan to use these resources for templates or general assistance with writing legal disclaimers and contracts, I still highly recommend getting it checked by a legal professional. These are simply tools and not by any means a replacement for legal advice or consultations with a legal professional.
Those are my 5 legal tips for influencers. Take the advice and incorporate them into your business as you see fit for your situation.
Hopefully these tips will get you headed in the right direction and make your life so much easier. At least that’s what these tips did for me.
I know I learn from you all just as much (if not more) as you learn from me. So I want to know, are there any tips you think I missed? What other legal tips do you have for aspiring influencers? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts and see how we can all make living that #InfluencerLife better.