Hey friends, Rachel Brenke from TheLawTog …
and I just want to give you a quick little video about something that I have been seeing happening in a lot of Facebook groups and coming into my email inbox.
It’s about the excuses that you may be making about why you’re not following through on certain legal formalities and stuff you can implement in your business to prevent issues.
This may feel a little bit like a call out, because some of you are hiding behind these excuses.
I’m not just saying this as a lawyer.
I’m saying this as someone who has been in the trenches with you, understands what you’re going through, and really gets scared when I see these top excuses as to why photographers believe they shouldn’t do x y and z in their business.
Keep in mind that this is not legal advice, but this is general legal information you guys can apply to your business.
Also keep in mind this is not just for those of you that are brand new or are just going into business.
This actually is probably even more important for those of you who have been in business for many years, but have been kind of putting your head in the sand and ignoring the legal issues that could be circling your business, but you don’t know about it just yet.
Excuse #1 is “I don’t know how Rachel. I don’t know what to do,” or even “I don’t even know that there is stuff I have to do.”
Yeah, you obviously have an inkling that there’s legal stuff that you need to get taken care of. You also obviously know that there’s a legal resource just to help you guys out. In fact, I have a legal business checklist that you guys can run through, again, whether you’re new in business or whether you’ve been in business for 10, 15, 20 years, that you should be going through this checklist on a yearly basis.
— >>Free, download it, use it. It’s not state specific, but it’s a great overarching checklist for all of the business formation and legalities that you need to be mindful of, no matter where you’re at in your business.
So excuse number one is completely debunked, because I am serving this information to you. Now again, you don’t have to use my resources, you don’t have to pay me for anything, this checklist is free, and so is my community, but I want you guys to be equipped with this information and not just blindly hand it off to a lawyer.
Excuse #2 is “I don’t have any money,” or “it costs too much.”
Guys, it doesn’t cost too much to get protected.
Again, not just saying this as a lawyer, I’m saying this as an entrepreneur who’s also tried to protect my livelihood as well.
Think about how much money you’ve spent in logo design, website, your equipment, marketing.
It’s probably far exceeded what you need to get set up your business formation & the contracts that you need to have to outline expectation and protect yourself.
All of this can be done.
I want you to stop for two seconds and think about this: the cost investment is more of a preventative versus a clean up measure. Because I can guarantee you that clean up is going to cost you a lot more down the road.
Let me give you an example of one of my most recent clients.
They had come to me through the law firm side and asked me to review a contract that they had self drafted, put together from research they had done on the internet. Not a bad thing to start doing research. Go back to excuse #1 where I talked about not knowing how to do, or not knowing what you need to do.
TheLawTog resources and other stuff out there can help to give you a good information.
So yes, the internet is a great place to start, but don’t just stop there.
You want to have it lawyer reviewed to make sure that it’s applicable for your state laws, your situation. And contract drafting has a lot of theories and legalities to it, you don’t want to inadvertently draft against yourself, or make it unfair, or maybe even make it a potentially void document.
So this individual, who is a business owner, had come to me and said “Will review this contract that I’ve cobbled together?” I cheered, was excited, that they were going to prevent issues in their business. They had taken the steps to become educated, and they weren’t just blindly handing it off to an attorney, that they were being the CEO, the owner of their company and they were really investing, right? But then they kind of were like “Oh, I don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars to make sure this is a legal document, so I’m just not going to worry about it.”
Let’s fast forward eight months. They’re back in my inbox. They’re back in my inbox telling me now that they have a legal issue with a client, that they have been sued, and we’re looking at an eight thousand dollar claim against them. And it ended up costing thousands of dollars. We’re talking beyond five thousand dollars to fix the situation that a lot of the issues could have been prevented in the contract, or not even caused through the self drafting of the contract at all.
I share that example with you guys, hopefully to scare you. Yes, I’m okay with fear information if it helps you get you guys butt in gear and stop making the excuse that you don’t have the money.
We have the privilege of being in an industry that allows us to have a very low barrier to entry.
You essentially can get a camera and set up a Facebook page, and you’re relatively in business, right?
It’s not like we have a restaurant where we have to get all of this cooking equipment and food. We’re not having to carry inventory, we’re not having to get certain licenses, professional type, right?
So we’re thankful to be in an industry where we are very advantaged, but that doesn’t mean that you can get away with not taking the steps to make sure you’re protected, and investing little money into it.
The checklist is going to walk you through the different things that will cost you a little bit of money.
It is super easy to be able to do this. When I first started my photography business, and actually all of my businesses, I reinvested as much as possible.
However when I started over a decade ago, I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.
We had a very limited income coming in, and there just was not a lot to reinvest, right? So how is it you want to go about doing that?
I strongly suggest you do a couple of things. (This is what I did but you might find other creative ways.)
I looked around the house to see: is there anything that I could sell or get rid of, like at yard sales or thrift stores, to make a little money to put back in my business? A couple hundred dollars pays for your LLC.
I ended up working a second job waiting tables in the evenings. A couple hundred dollars was able to get me the contracts and the other legal information that I needed to know, because keep I mind I wasn’t a lawyer at the time.
So I’ve been where you are and I understand. Those options may not be viable for you, but the excuse of “I can’t afford to get legally protected or do the right things,” is not a viable excuse at all.
You’ll be in that situation where you could have invested three to four hundred dollars, but ended up having to spend over five thousand dollars to fix an issue.
And, here’s a little plot twist, that client still had to end up paying the two, three hundred dollars to revise the contract.
So we’re looking at cleaning up an issue, plus having to do what we should have done to begin with anyways.
So excuse #2, that you don’t have the money, is debunked. Totally, can’t even … don’t even want to hear the excuse any more. Doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize with your situation, because I’ve been there, but there’s creative ways for you to fix it.
Excuse #3 is “I’m not making enough money in order to legally protect myself.”
Guess what? Liability doesn’t really care.
Your clients don’t really care if you’re actually profiting anything when they have a problem. So keep in mind whether you’re growing your business or you’re in the red, you still need to be legally protected.
Business formation, contracts, insurance, all in that checklist for you, do not fall into this trap of “Well, I’m not making enough money. It doesn’t matter.”
If you’re putting yourself out like a business, you have to do the steps to be a business.
If you’re trying to get clients, if you’re taking money in whether you’re in the green or the red, the liability issues are still potentially there, and you could still potentially get pinged. W hether your client sues you, whether your client has an issue, or even the government tries to crack down on you.
So please just think, if you’re going to try to tell a taxing agency “Oh, well, I don’t make enough money,” generally speaking, government agencies are not going to care whether you’re making enough money or not. They still want their piece of the pie. You still need to be legally protected, because your clients are also not going to care either.
So, excuse #3, you’re not making enough, if you’re putting yourself out there, you are making enough.
Excuse #4 the biggest excuse that I hear from many of you, “My clients will not like me using contracts.”
I’ve been affectionately referred to as the Contracts Queen, and that’s because I know the grave importance and the grave potential issues that can happen if you don’t have a properly drafted one, or you don’t have one at all.
Now, the biggest excuse that I hear from many of you, and I’m seeing in groups, and it really sucks because I end up seeing many of the people who assert this excuse come back later and say “Oh, crap, I have a problem.” They say “My clients will not like me using contracts.”
Hmm, well, your client’s not going to have a problem when they decide to sue you or have an issue with you later on, and you have nothing to fall back on.
Contracts are one of the best ways to set yourself up as a professional, outline expectations, offer customer service, and legally protect yourself.
So yes, this was excuse #4, but I also just gave you 4 great reasons as to why to use properly drafted contracts, making sure you’re using them right, and making sure that you understand what’s in them so you can explain them and use them properly to your clients.
Because we’re not going to use them to hit our clients over the head. We’re going to use it to be a backbone, so that we can stand firm on our policies.
We’re going to use it to offer customer service to our clients, but while also showing them that we have certain policies and things they had agreed to, but it’s also going to be a nice protection for us should a legal issue arise.
So no, clients are not going to have a problem with your contract, because if they do, they’re probably not a client that you want to have.
Excuse #5 is why you’re not a legal photography business such as “I don’t have any assets, or enough assets to warrant me being a legal business.”
Guess what? It really doesn’t matter what you have, you need to protect it.
Because here’s the thing: if you don’t set up, for example, the business formation as a LLC or a corporation, your personal stuff is on the line.
If you also have an LLC or a corporation, but you don’t act like it and you’re not afforded the benefits of it, it’s called “piercing the corporate veil,” which we can get into in other resources, but you could be sued personally.
All of you have assets. You want to know what?
You’re making money and you’re breathing, okay? It doesn’t matter if you don’t own a home, don’t own a car, or own anything, or even a dog, right?
The fact that you are alive, the fact that you are generating income, whether or not it’s with your photography business or elsewhere, there is potential for you to have assets taken.
So don’t tell me, “I don’t need to be protected because I don’t have assets”.
The government’s not going to care when you don’t pay your taxes, they’re still going to try to come after you.
Your clients, if they have an issue and try to sue you, they’re going to go straight to whatever it is that you have. And all of you have something to lose.
If anything else, consider this: you’ve put all this time, money and effort, and kudos to you for that, because it shows that you care. You’ve built a business, you need to keep it. So please do not fall into this trap of believing, or reading on the internet this misinformation of “Well, unless you own a car of a house, it doesn’t matter if you’re legally protected.”
It does matter if you’re legally protected, and it does matter if you’re doing the proper legal requirements that are required of you.
So, excuse #5 is completely out the door and debunked.
Protect yourself, protect the time and money, and just energy investment you’ve put into growing your business.
So now you guys have read the five top excuses I’m seeing in inbox and emails.
I’ve debunked all of them. I’d love to continue the conversation. Please feel free to comment below. I will be engaging with you, and you never know, I might choose someone in the comments to get some of the resources free to help you to make sure that you are not falling victim to one of these excuses.