legal

2 Simple Ways to Keep Your Website and Work Protected

Okay, let’s face it. Few of us lean in with anticipation when we start talking about intellectual property protection and legal stuff. But you know who does? My friend, Christina Scalera.

Christina was my business mentor for just over a year, and boy, did I learn a lot from here! She’s super smart, and removes a lot of the confusion and barriers to protecting your company and assets. Her genius business idea is The Contract Shop, a place to grab most of your legal needs in just a few minutes.

While you may not have any contract needs at this moment, most all of you will have a website (or will soon). And, guess what—it needs protecting.

I used to freelance write for a website developer, and we once found a site that was almost entirely copied from his design! Lawyers got involved, and the website got taken down, but it was just plain weird. I mean, who does that?

And while you may not get your website ripped off, you do need to protect the time, effort, and money you’ve put into it. I love writing websites for my clients, and would be heartbroken if anything happened to them.

Besides, you have your mission to think about, not to mention the secret sauce of the way you work. There’s also any proprietary photography and other assets. It’s all those details that add up to your beautiful and unique brand.

So, while this may not be the most exciting topic to discuss, it’s super important! Give it a read, and see what you think. Plus, Christina makes legalese a little more fun.

2 Simple Ways to Keep Your Website and Work Protected

You’ve got the shiny new website, blog topics nailed down, beautiful social media graphics, and curated photos to drive your mission home. You’re almost ready to announce the launch of your brand spankin’ new website!

But whoa—hold up for just a minute, buckaroo!

Have you posted the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions on your site yet?  

Some of you are nodding along, and some of you are saying, “Wait, what?! What the heck is that?”

There’s no need to get freaked out! These two bits of legalese aren’t hard to understand and use, but it is a good idea to have them displayed prominently on your website. In fact, you could be violating federal law if you don’t.

So let’s talk about what they are, and what you need to do.

Privacy Policies

At their heart, Privacy Policies are intended to create transparency between users (in our case, readers) and yourself via your blog or website.

If you read blogs (like this one!), then you know that you leave little bits of your personal information behind when you visit. Things like your IP address, your name (or username), and email. If you make a purchase, there’s even more personal info that can be collected by the seller.

A Privacy Policy informs your visitors what information is collected from them when they visit your site, how you use that information (i.e: emails for your newsletter), and who else has access to the information (like your website hosting company).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that any webpage collecting information from consumers, and/or that uses cookies, have a Privacy Policy available to visitors.

Not only is it legally required, but having one builds a greater sense of trust with your readers and makes you look more professional.

Where do I get a Privacy Policy?

Creating and implementing a Privacy Policy doesn’t have to be hard. You can start with an attorney-approved template, and then customize it to your situation.

You can also take note of what similar organizations use for their Privacy Policy. While I’m not recommending that you simply copy and paste, you’ll likely run across a few things you haven’t thought of, and you’ll get a sense of how a Privacy Policy can be made to represent your brand.

While this is the cheaper option, if you want to just get ‘er done and move on sans any worry or weird Frankenstein-ish policies you put together yourself, click here and snag your policies today.

Terms and Conditions

A basic Terms and Conditions policy tells people what they can and cannot do with your original content (like your photos, written words, or that cool idea you talked about in your last blog post). If you also sell content, it can be extended to protect you in the event that someone wants a refund or shares your content illegally.

It’s not at all uncommon for photos and content to be shared—with or without the permission of the creator—and often without credit. If this happens to you, what recourse do you have?

This is where a Terms and Conditions can help protect your interests. If you’ve clearly spelled out that you need to be asked for permission before your content is shared, then you’re on firmer ground if you need send a cease and desist letter or claim copyright infringement.

Just like the Privacy Policy, having a Terms and Conditions puts you on the level with your readers and consumers, lets them know that you’ve given thought (and care!) to what you’re doing and creating, and gives them clear instructions on how they can interact with your content.

Where do I get a Terms and Conditions policy?

Here again, you can cobble together your own, or start with a solid, attorney-approved Terms and Conditions template and customize it, which should cover everything you need and some things you might not have thought of.

Now you’re ready to rumble (legally-speaking anyway)!

I want to mention a couple other things before I wrap this up.

First, make sure that both the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions are posted with a prominent and direct link on your blog or website footer somewhere.

Second, don’t stress too much about making sure your policies cover every tiny thing. You can always update them as you go along. (Pro tip: It’s also a nice thing for your visitors if you include a “last updated on” date at the top of your policies, and make sure you mention that the policies can be updated at any time.)

Third, and finally, if you have visitors from the European Union, you should check out this article to make sure you have that extra step covered.

The moral of the story? Privacy Policies and Terms of Conditions are important. Don’t ride the range without one! (Or launch a website… you know what I mean. ;)

Note: Links are affiliate links, but I have Christina’s Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions, and Independent Contractor templates myself! They are awesome and so easy to use.


Christina Scalera, The Contract Shop

Christina Scalera is the attorney and founder behind The Contract Shop, a contract template store for creative entrepreneurs, wedding professionals, and coaches.

When she’s not staring at a computer or awkwardly standing on cafe chairs for the perfect overhead latte photo, you can find her in the woods doing things that are sometimes dangerous but always fun, like riding horses, skiing, and reluctantly camping.

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A basic Terms and Conditions policy tells people what they can and cannot do with your original  content  (like your photos, written words, or that cool idea you talked about in your last blog post). If you also sell content, it can be extended to protect you in the event that someone wants a refund or shares your content illegally.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


7 Simple Tools That Build a Strong Small Business Foundation

It's mid-January, and you may already be struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions. It's pretty common, and I feel the tug backwards too. Staying motivated just isn't easy when it's 20 degrees outside, am I right? But one of the best ways I've found for keeping myself focused and moving forward is to stay immersed in a subject, rather than it being a one-time lesson.

So, for the final weeks of January, I wanted to talk about "small business resolutions" that we should make and keep this year. These are things you may or may not have already thought about, but I believe they are key to a thriving nonprofit or social enterprise.

First up, I want to talk about seven simple tools that build a strong small business foundation. Think of this as putting your best, professional foot forward. You may consider the items below to be the next progression of your organization, or you may even just think of them as resetting to zero because they've been on your list for a long time, and you just haven't made the effort yet. Either way, they'll not only up your game, but they'll also improve people's perceptions of your organization, which, let's face it, is important whether we want it to be or not.

7 Simple Tools That Build a Strong Small Business Foundation

The Contract Shop

Many of us spend thousands of dollars ensuring that we have a beautiful, functional website, but after it's live, we do little to protect it and our business. Enter The Contract Shop. An ingenious way to make legal contracts easy and handy from my friend and mentor, Christina, you can stop by the shop and purchase a terms and conditions template for your website site in a jiffy.

When I launched my site, I knew that I needed to include all the legalese, but had no idea how to write it or what it needed to say. However, once I purchased this template, I had the terms, conditions, and privacy policy online in about 15 minutes! I've heard terrible stories about people's website design and content getting ripped off, and even saw it happen once to a client. This is an simple way to protect your uniqueness, and gives you legal standing, should you ever need it.

While there, you can also grab an independent contractor template, the conference speaker template, or nondisclosure template, if needed.

HelloSign

Along the same lines, I use HelloSign to send contracts via email. There's nothing worse that scanning Word doc pages back and forth, is there? And do you ever skimp and send just the signature page rather than the whole doc, meaning it could really be the last page to just about anything? This is where HelloSign comes in handy.

For those of us who may only need something like this now and again, you can even get three, free uses per month. Regardless, HelloSign makes it super quick to upload or create docs, mark them for signatures, and send. It keeps the entire document together, gives you status updates, and best of all, makes electronic signatures legal. And bonus, you look like a pro and someone to be taken seriously.

 

G Suite

If you're running a professional organization, I beg you to use a branded email. This means, avoiding "generic" emails like Gmail, Yahoo, or something similar. Those kinds of things can cut it when you're only speaking to friends and family, but if you really plan on increasing your reach, and especially taking sales or donations, this just doesn't look good. 

Would you rather give a large donation or make a large purchase to company@gmail.com or customerservice@company.com? With all the data breach issues we've had over the last couple of years, my money is only going to places that I can verify, and I don't think I'm alone in that mindset.

G Suite is a simple and reasonably-priced way to brand your emails. My email technically flows through Gmail, but my URL is in the address, making everything look way more legit. Plus, there are a lot of other benefits that come with G Suite, like Google Drive, which makes storing and sending large files less complicated.

 

Freshbooks

Need to send invoices? Freshbooks is way to go because it's incredibly simple to use. In fact, it's so easy to use that sometimes I double-check it, thinking I missed one of the steps. Nope! 

I used to create invoices in Word or Excel and they didn't look all that great, took some time to edit, and I didn't like the way they were organized. I don't have that problem anymore! 

And I haven't really started utilizing it yet, but Freshbooks also has a time-tracking feature that I want to take advantage of this year. You can even store receipts in Freshbooks as well. 

Note that this isn't a full accounting suite, but it does the job for me.

MailChimp

To be completely honest, I have a mixed relationship with MailChimp. I have used them for years at previous jobs, and currently use them for Signify's email marketing, but that likely won't always be the case. However, for the vast majority of my clients at nonprofits and social enterprises, MailChimp does a good job. If you have pretty simple email marketing needs, and just need to send regular e-blasts, you'll do just fine with them.

I bring this up, though, because I've recently seen a couple organizations that still use Constant Contact, which frankly, I'm surprised is still in business. Their templates and blasts look years behind those sent by MailChimp and it's competitors. And, again, whether you like or not, looks matter. The content and design both speak to where your company ranks in people's minds, even without them realizing it.

Like I said, if you have pretty straight-forward email marketing needs, MailChimp can do the job. And another one of the reasons so many people use them is the affordable pricing. It's even free if you have under 2,000 subscribers, so there's little excuse. Of course, at this point, I'll remind you that you have to actually send emails to your database. But we'll leave that bigger rant till later in this series . . . 

 

Canva

Gone are the days when social media was new and we could just post some simple text online and call it a day. Photo, and especially video, are trends that aren't going anywhere. You need to get people to see what you're doing online, and graphics are one way to say, "Hey! Look at me!" And Canva can help.

Canva is another one of those genius ideas that I wouldn't have a clue how to build, but wish was my idea. It gives anyone the ability to create professional-looking graphics. And they're perfectly sized to wherever you need to post them! It's a free tool that you need to get on board with, if you haven't already. For those of us who don't have a designer on staff, or can't afford to pay someone for our regular, graphic needs, Canva is a lifesaver. 

 

Moo

Part of your business strategy likely includes networking events. And whether you're attending a three-day conference or a two-hour seminar, you need to show up with business cards—unless you don't want to talk to anyone, tell anyone about your organization, or have anyone follow-up with you about how they can support you. Umm, those criteria probably do not fit, correct? (Hope not!)

I attend a lot of conferences and events, and am always surprised when people say they'd like to get my info, or give me theirs, but they don't have business cards. Sure, we need them less and less in today's world, but guess what—we still need them sometimes! 

Moo is where I got my business cards, and I love them. They look (and feel) great, and because I originally needed them for a last-minute work trip, I also received them in just a couple of days. You don't have to order many, but I would suggest always having a few on hand.

And depending on your needs, you'll also find letterhead, greeting cards, stickers, and more on their site. I'm actually thinking of ordering some greeting cards with Signify's logo on them to use as thank you cards. 

 

As you can see, building a strong small business foundation includes a lot of different things. Sometimes you have to think in terms of legal compliance, and sometimes you just need to get with the times. Either way, I hope these seven simple tools help you.

What would you add?

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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Here are seven simple tools that build a strong  small business  foundation. Think of this as putting your best, professional foot forward. You may consider them to be the next progression of your nonprofit or social enterprise, or you may just think of them as resetting to zero because they've been on your list for a while. Either way, they'll not only up your game, but improve people's perceptions of your organization.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.