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The top 3 legal things you need to bump to the top of your list

Indie Law attorney Joey VitaleJoey Vitale is another returning Reset breakout speaker, three years running! Joey is an attorney for thriving small businesses. With his law firm, Indie Law, Joey works with creative small business owners to protect their passions and give them the legal foundation they need to thrive. Indie Law offers innovative year-long plans and flat-fee packages. With these services, Joey focuses on the legal issues that matter most to creatives: trademarks, business formation, copyrights, and contracts. While based in Chicago, Indie Law serves business owners all over the country.

Entrepreneurs tend to have a lot on their to-do lists.

Whether you’re just starting or taking things to the next level, it’s critical to get clear on what you actually NEED to get done. Otherwise, you’ll feel like a hamster on a wheel — staying busy but feeling overwhelmed and unproductive.

That’s where this post comes in.

Here are the main three things you need to do on the legal side. And if you’ve already gotten these three things down, then congrats — you’re already ahead of the pack of most online entrepreneurs.

1. Get a freaking LLC already.

If you don’t yet have a limited liability company in place for your business . . . what are you waiting for?

There’s a difference between the purpose of an LLC and the power of an LLC.

  • The purpose of an LLC: it shields your personal assets.
  • The power of an LLC: it gets you out of that scarcity mindset.

Say it with me: you are not your business.

Don’t get sucked into the hobbyist or side-hustler mentality. Forming an LLC can play a SUPER HELPFUL role in adopting an abundance mindset that takes your business to the next level.

Maybe you’ve decided to form an LLC but feel stuck in terms of how to do so. Here’s a list of answers to some common questions I get.

  • Where do I form it? Your home state.
  • What if I’ve got a business partner? Set up a call with an attorney — you’ll need extra legal documents in place.
  • What’s this EIN thing, and do I need it? An EIN is like a social security number for your business. It’s used for tax purposes. While you might not need one right now, you will when your business grows. And it’s free, so why not cross it off your list now?

(Note: You could also form a corporation, but an LLC is usually a solid entity choice for most new business owners.)

taking notes with coffee and ipad

2. Protect your business name.

Guess what? Even if you’re the first person to use your business name, that doesn’t automatically give you “dibs” on your business name the way you probably wish it did. Sorry, that’s just not how US laws work.

Whether you’ve already committed to a business name or are trying to come up with one, you need to think about this issue.

And in the legal world, this issue falls under trademarks.

So many businesses mess up here, and I’d hate for you to fall into the same trap. Here’s what you really need to know:

  • Do your research, but don’t stop there. Securing your domain name, social media handles, and even forming the LLC in a certain name are all important steps — but they don’t GIVE YOU RIGHTS to use the name.
  • Register your trademark. The way to have strong rights to your business name is through a US trademark registration. You can technically go through this process on your own, but this process is very complicated. (You’ll be thankful if you have an attorney do this for you, or at least if you get proper guidance on how to do it yourself.)
  • Search the trademark database. You can run a search to see if your name is already “taken” due to another trademark registration. I show you how in this blog post.

3. Have a contract ready to send to an assistant.

If you want to grow your business into something that you run (instead of having a business that runs you),  you can’t do it alone.

There is just too much to do in your business. There’s not enough time in the day to do it all, and you should be focusing your time and energy on the revenue-generating aspects of your business. If you haven’t learned this hard lesson, you will soon.

I recommend that most entrepreneurs start delegating work to a virtual assistant, or a “VA.” You can start them off at just 5 hours a month doing menial tasks and work your way up.

When you do start bringing on an assistant, you want to make sure that everyone stays on the same page. You also want to make sure that they keep certain things confidential and don’t act in a way that would harm your business.

There are two important legal documents that help solve these problems:

  • an independent contractor agreement
  • a non-disclosure agreement

Now, one thing that you DON’T want to happen is to realize that you need help ASAP, be ready to hire someone, and then not have these important documents in place to send to them.

I always recommend that business owners get these documents in place BEFORE they have an immediate need for them. That way, when the time comes and you need help fast, you’re not wasting any time or stress trying to get the paperwork together.

Don’t procrastinate on your trademark protections

My Trademark Toolkit is an online course that walks you through how to protect your trademarks on your own without hiring an attorney. I cover how to run a stronger search, how to submit your application, and more. Learn more about the Trademark Toolkit here.

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