When business is booming and serving your clients is your main focus, it’s natural to let other parts of your business fall by the wayside. But as 2023 comes to a close and wedding season starts to wind down in most places, there’s no better time to check in on the health of your business – especially the legal components of your business. So, when you do finally come back up for air, revisit this post to help get your business #LegallySet for 2024!
Blog Written by Leah Weinberg and Kunbi Odubogun of Oduberg Law, in partnership with Aisle Planner
Client Service Agreements
There are two reasons why I always start out with client service agreements when talking with folks about the current state of their business. First, a strong client service agreement is one of the foundations of your business. Equally as important as having an entity set up for your business and having everything in good shape on the financial end of things (like having an EIN, separate business bank account, and separate business credit card) is having a solid client service agreement. Second, that agreement is also the foundation of the relationship with your clients. It sets forth the terms of your relationship – what each party’s obligations are, how you get paid, what the client can expect on the wedding day, what happens if things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to – and needs to be solid to protect both you and your client. I always say that a well-drafted and thorough (i.e., long) contract is not only good for you but it’s also good for your clients. Because it means that it addresses all the scenarios it needs to and won’t leave much open for interpretation.
When it comes to your client service agreement, you need to revisit that document at least once a year and determine what updates should be made. Are there any situations that happened during the year that you’d like to never have happen again and want to address in your contract? What were your pain points this year? Did you get pushback from multiple clients on the same provision in your contract? Reflect back on your year and update your contract accordingly. I also want to add that if you’ve never had an attorney involved in your client service agreement (whether drafting the initial contract or reviewing something you put together), then now would be the time to do so.
Employees and Independent Contractors
Every year it’s important to do an audit of the people who work with you. Step one of that audit is to revisit how you’re classifying those individuals as either employees or independent contractors. It’s entirely possible someone’s role may change over the course of the year, in which case you need to make adjustments accordingly. Maybe the person who was your virtual assistant was so great and so helpful that you decided to bring them on full-time and have them work in an office with you. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to consider whether that person went from an independent contractor to an employee. Or maybe your full-time salesperson decided to go remote, take on fewer hours, and start freelancing for other small businesses. They may have become an independent contractor. Just remember that this classification MATTERS, and whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is going to depend on a set of factors that vary from state to state, so be sure to check your state’s laws for any updates each year.
Step two of your employee and independent contractor audit is to revisit the contracts you have with these individuals or businesses each year. Over the course of the year, roles can change, pay rates may increase, and other aspects of the working relationship may need to be updated, and all of that needs to be changed in your agreements, too. Also be mindful of how these relationships can end in a contractual sense and how much notice might be needed to terminate before an agreement auto-renews for an extended period of time. No one likes being caught off-guard by an auto-renewal they weren’t expecting.
Your business’s intellectual property is so incredibly valuable, which is why protecting your intellectual property is so incredibly important. Before we even get to auditing this part of your business, I have an important question to ask you: Do you have a registered trademark for your business name? Do you have a registered trademark for your business logo? Now, some names may not be able to be federally registered as a trademark, but if you’ve never even looked into it for your business, now would be the time to do so.
When it comes to auditing your intellectual property each year, you’ll need to take a look back at what you created over the course of the year. Did you release a new product or name a new service that needs to be protected? Did you launch a course or release some other educational material? See what’s new in your business and talk to an intellectual property attorney about how to best protect your creations.
You should also remember that beyond registering a copyright, trademark, or patent for your creation, you should be protecting your intellectual property in your contracts. Things that you create during your time working with your clients (e.g., timelines, photos, videos, designs, ceremony scripts, playlists, etc.) are your property and should remain your property. And your client service agreement should make that clear. Also, if you’ve incorporated speaking into your business, it’s important that you limit what the event organizers can do with your presentation or photos and videos of your talk. Intellectual property is another key area where you have to make sure you’re protected
We know this is a lot to think about, and it may seem overwhelming at first but if you build this process into your annual routine, after a while it’s going to become second nature. And your business will be so much more protected because of it.
***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is intended for mass consumption and a large variety of different businesses. No attorney-client relationship is created with Oduberg Law, LLP as a result of you reading this post.***