We have all, at one time or another, have probably heard Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I heard my mother and grandmother say it often. Admittedly, I was not always happy to hear those words because often it meant that I must do something I really didn’t want to do. However, deep down, even as a child, I understood the concept that if you take care of something up front you won’t have nearly as much troubleshooting to do down the road. Our businesses are no different.This old addage has served me well, but there is no place it has served me better than in running my own creative business and giving solid legal counsel to others who do the same.
As creative entrepreneurs, we love to create. It’s in our blood. It’s in our genetic makeup. It’s in our soul. That is our strength and what makes our brands outstanding in so many ways. Make no mistake about it though, creativity is only half the battle of building a brand and running a business. As business owners, there are many aspects of running a business that are just not that exciting, creative, or even enjoyable. My husband appropriately refers to it as “taking care of the back end of your operation.” For the creative types, but really for most businesses, there are seven areas that you will want to consider managing and protecting.
Take Care of your Business Set Up
Have you made the leap from sort of kind of doing this creative thing to committing to making a real of go it? There are many benefits to incorporating your business. There are potential tax benefits. Incorporating creates a layer of personal protection from liability that separates you from your business.
Record Keeping is Crucial
At the outset, sometimes entrepreneurs do not realize how important it is to maintain meticulous business records. Let me just say this very plainly. IT IS EVERYTHING. I know doing the whole math things is really not that exciting. However, keeping clear and unambiguous business records will save you a ton of headaches and trouble in the future.
Don’t Just Take Someone’s Word for It
How do you agree to work with others? What understanding do your employees or interns have with you? Do you verbally explain the terms and conditions or do you commit them to paper? Written contracts and agreements can be tedious and sometimes cumbersome. Leaving terms and conditions of collaboration or working together for interpretation is what lawsuits are made of.
Have You Protected Your Creative “Children?”
If yours is a business that is driven by designs, artwork, writings, photography, music, sculpture, performance, and many other categories, then you will want to obtain copyright registration for your works. When I design for my stationery company, I always have retailers that ask me, “Which design is your favorite?” I cannot answer that question because I love all of them. They are all a part of me. They are like my children; I love each differently. Just like my children, each design represents a unique and different part of me that the other cannot possibly duplicate. Each design is important. If this is true, then it should be protected.
Establishing Your Brand
Building a brand is a day by day endeavor. We are all, in one way or another, building a brand. Once you have amassed many days of building your brand you certainly do not want someone to decide your brand is a great name to take and duplicate products or services. That is why it is important to make sure if you are building a brand that you protect your trademark through federally registering it. Your trademark is your source identifier; it is how your customers know the products came from you. The last thing any creative entrepreneur wants is for someone to imitate or duplicate that.
Are You Covered on the WWW?
Let’s face it most of us have a web presence. We are living in the days of a global economy. So do you have the appropriate notifications, disclaimers, and disclosures on your website? Are you accurately portraying your goods or services?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—Oh My!
With a web presence come that ever changing phenomena called social media. Social media is literally changing before our eyes. So it is imperative to make sure that you understand the rules and regulations of the platforms you use. Each has their own set of rules; each has their own way of handling conflicts. Separate from how the social media platforms deal with various issues, you should have your own policies set up to deal with social media.
So it turns out, being a creative entrepreneur is a pretty large undertaking. There are lots of decisions to make, lots of variables to consider. There is an inherent risk involved. Back to that famous quote, how much IS an ounce of prevention worth? It’s worth whatever your business is worth to you.
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Angie Avard Turner is an attorney who exclusively represents clients in the creative arts industries including retailers, wholesalers, artists, photographers, event planners, bloggers, and other creative service providers. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, but she is able to handle copyright and trademark issues nationally. For more information regarding her practice, visit www.angieavardturnerlaw.com. Angie is also the owner and creative behind Hype Strype, a fine stationery company that caters to those who love bright colors and patterns.
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