Quick Tip: Save Your Important Contracts

If you use an electronic signature service to have your clients sign your contracts, remember to download and keep a copy on your computer (and not just on the e-signing program). Better yet, keep a hard copy. Hard drives fail, computers crash. Your future self will thank you. I mean who here has experienced the horror of losing all your data when a computer crashes on them?

Want to learn more about electronic signatures? Read this post.

 

Quick Tip: Choose a Business Structure that Fits the Needs of Your Business, Not Someone Else’s

When starting out, the first thing most entrepreneurs want to do is to establish their business as a limited liability company or a corporation. Although the pros to forming an LLC or corporation include protecting against personal liability and taking advantage of tax benefits, they can be costly to set up and to maintain. Take into consideration the line of business you’re in, your potential exposure to risk, your future plans for the company, and your personal assets to select a business entity structure that best fits your unique circumstances. 

 If you’re just starting out and you’re unsure if this entrepreneurial life is really your cup of tea, consider beginning as a sole proprietor and graduate to LLC or corporation status as your business evolves and your circumstances change.  Remember to keep your eyes in your own lane. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you.

Click here to find out the 6 questions to ask yourself before you file as an LLC.

Quick Tip: Review Your Business Contracts on a Regular Basis

When was the last time you read your contract that you have your clients/customers sign? Remember to regularly read and update the contracts you send to future clients so they reflect your current policies and procedures. As your business evolves, so should your contracts. 

In need of a contract overhaul? Then check out the contract templates available on the site.

12 Ways To Stay Busy When Business is Slow

“I have nothing to do” – said no business owner ever.  Yet most businesses experience a “busy season,” followed by a period when business is slooooow. For example, product-based businesses tend to slow down during the summer months only to ramp up through the holidays.  Wedding professionals may experience the opposite– busy summer months, punctuated with slower winters.  Whatever may be the case for you, take advantage of slower paced days by using the time to tend to projects that you’ve been putting on the back-burner during the rest of the year.  Here are twelve ideas to keep you busy when business slows down: 

1.     Catch up on content creation for the coming months.  When you’re in the midst of running the day-to-day activities of your business, it can feel like SUCH a chore to write a blog post, send out a newsletter, or prepare your social media posts. Create a content calendar and batch process these elements as much as you can, so you’ve got a library of content that you can pull from during the course of the year.

2.     Pitch content ideas to magazines, blogs, and podcasters for some extra exposure.

3.     Review your website to identify how you can make improvements. Do you need new photography? Maybe a better “About Us” page? Or maybe you never got around to properly posting your terms of service or privacy policy.

4.    Learn something new. Is there a topic that you’ve been meaning to learn more about? Whether it’s related to business or just for fun - use this time to brush up on old skills or pick up some new ones.

5.     Reach out and connect with others. Whether you schedule phone calls, Skype chats, or coffee dates, take this time to establish relationships or reconnect with those you’ve lost touch with. You never know what kind of collaboration opportunities might come about.  Join my Facebook community to meet and connect with other entrepreneurs.

6.     Do you find yourself doing the same task over and over again – like sending out contracts or answering the same questions about your services and products? Think about how you can systemize these activities so that you can recoup some of that precious time spent doing these redundant tasks. For example, you can set up template email responses to your most commonly asked questions or create templates of frequently used documents.

7.     Upgrade your technology.  In my business, every piece of technology is like my team member.  Good software helps me get things done more efficiently and cost-effectively.  What are some pieces of technology that you need to invest in or upgrade? Take this time to learn how to best use that tech for your business.

8.     Review your client experience from start to finish to identify where you can deliver better customer support.  Send your customers a survey, or better yet, pick up the phone and call your clients/customers to learn more about their needs, then use that insight to improve your business.

9.     Review your sales over the last period to understand what products/services are selling like hot-cakes. Consider eliminating or tweaking what isn’t working and driving attention to what is working.

10. Revisit your social media accounts to update profiles to reflect your current services/products and engage with your followers.

11. If you’re not already keeping track of the key numbers in your business, then start doing so.  Here’s a template of the monthly report I use. 

And finally,

12.. Find time to relax and recharge. Running your own business can be consuming, so take advantage of this moment of pause to rest and reconnect with life outside of your business.

The Basics of Hiring Interns

Small businesses have long used unpaid internships as a way to lower costs. But internships are not supposed to be free labor. There are actually specific requirements that must be complied with if you run a for-profit business and plan on offering unpaid internships. In such circumstances, the relationship must be more like a training program for the benefit of the intern and not the employer.   An employer who fails to pay interns who are otherwise entitled to pay may be liable for unpaid wages, taxes, interest and penalties.

 So how can you ensure that your unpaid internship complies with the law?

Under federal, there are six factors in deciding whether an intern can be unpaid:

  1. The internship is similar to training the intern would receive in an educational environment.
  2. The internship is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not occupy the position of a regular employee, but works under close supervision of current staff.
  4.  The employer gets no immediate advantage from having the intern; the intern may occasionally even be an impediment.
  5. The intern isn’t necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern isn’t entitled to wages (something you should put in writing).

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist between the Company and the intern, and therefore minimum wage and overtime requirements and other employer-employee obligations do not apply to the intern. If the factors are not met, then the intern is to be treated as an employee – and therefore must be paid. Contrary to popular belief, high school or college credit is not required for an unpaid internship and neither is paying a stipend that falls below the minimum wage standards.

Also note that in addition to these federal requirements, individual states may have additional requirements that need to be satisfied. Check your state’s Department of Labor for more information.

There are some exceptions to the six-factor test. Unpaid internships may be acceptable if the intern volunteers to perform services for:

·       a state or local government agency
·       humanitarian purposes for private non-profit food banks.
·       religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations.

As you approach the process of hiring an unpaid intern, it’s important to understand that an internship is a learning experience for the intern.  As such, the experience should complement the student’s field of study, be structured as a mentoring relationship (you’ll need to appoint a dedicated supervisor to assume this role) and has distinct learning goals throughout the course of the program.  

Otherwise, you ought to consider hiring an intern as an employee.  When hiring a paid intern, you must comply with the same requirements as hiring a non-intern employee.  In other words, they must be named on your company payroll and you must meet minimum wage, overtime pay and other state and federal employment requirements. 

What Do Those Trademark and Copyright Symbols Mean and Do I Need Them?

Those trademark and copyright symbols you see - ®, TM, SM, © - sometimes they might as well as read like hieroglyphics. What do they mean and should you be using them? That's the question from Monique, who asks:

I have a slogan that I intend to register as a trademark, but I haven't done so yet. What's the difference between all those symbols - ®, TM, SM, © - and should I use it for my slogan? 

Find out the answer to that question including their proper use and placement in this video:


 

WANT TO PROTECT YOUR BRAND FROM COPYCATS? 

 

 

 


How to Draft a Contract When Providing Multiple Services

Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades? A multi-talented entrepreneur who provides a variety of services to your clients?  Your clients have scored big-time by having such a talented person to help them, but what's the best way to draft a service contract when you provide a long list of services to a client? 

That's a question I received from Kami,  who is an event planner, florist, and designer. She asks:

“If I’m providing all three services – planning, floral design and event design services – to a client, what’s the best way to address it in a contract. Should the client sign three different contracts or should I carefully list all the services with a price breakdown for each service in one contract?"

Find out the answer in this video:


 

 

ARE YOUR BUSINESS CONTRACTS UP TO SNUFF?

Here are just some of the ways we can fix that.


Introduction to the Trademark Filing Process

Registering your trademark - we often hear it's a must to protect our business and brand.  In this quick video, I'm breaking down the process I walk my clients through in getting their trademarks registered

In this video, we'll cover:

  • What is a Trademark? (0:25)
  • Step 1: Evaluate the Strength of Your Mark (0:51)
  • Step 2: Conduct a Trademark Search (1:35)
  • Step 3: File the Trademark Application (2:37)
  • Step 4: Respond to Follow Up Requests (3:13)

 

 

WANT TO PROTECT YOUR BRAND FROM COPYCATS?


Is an Electronically Signed Contract Valid?

In today’s office talk, I’m going to be answering a question that has come up a few times during my workshops and webinars,. The question has to do with contracts and electronic signatures – more specifically is an electronically signed contract valid?

Watch the video to find out.  In this video, we'll cover:

  • Is an electronic signature valid? (1:27)
  • What is an electronic signature? (2:25)
  • Can e-signatures be used for all documents? (3:07)
  • One more tip (04:33)

That's probably more than you've ever wanted to know about electronic signatures. {wink}


 

 

ARE YOUR BUSINESS CONTRACTS UP TO SNUFF?

Here are just some of the ways we can fix that.


What is a DBA and Do I Need One for My Business?

This post is a double whammy – we’re going to be talking all about DBAs. In particular there are two questions that come up from folks about DBAs

1)   What are they and do you need them, if  at all?

2)   And what do you do if you want to have one business entity with multiple lines of business?

In this video, we'll cover:

  • What is a DBA (Doing Business As) and do I need one for my business?  (0:54)
  • Why do I need a DBA? (1:45)
  • Things to Consider Before Filing Multiple DBAs for a Single Entity (02:16)
  • How to file for a DBA (04:02)