When’s the Last Time You Reviewed Your Contract Templates?

Inspiration as Commodity by exquisitur from Flickr

Inspiration as Commodity by exquisitur from Flickr

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Photographer’s Adventure Club last week. In addition to discussion the basics of copyright and how to protect their rights in their work, we talked a lot about the importance of contracts.

I know the subject of contracts makes a lot of people’s eyes glaze over – it’s that fine-print-legalese-crap-that-no-one-reads-anyway stuff. A lot of people think contracts are boring and a lot of contracts are . . . but they don’t have to be.

I love contracts. They create the basis of so many relationships – whether they are written, oral, or pieced together through a series of emails. Too often people come to me with a question about a problem in one of their professional relationships and when I ask, “What does your contract say about this?” the answer is “I don’t know” or “We don’t have a contract.” We can still resolve the problem but we could have avoided a lot of headaches and frustration by putting everything on paper in advance so everyone’s on the same page from the beginning.

Having contract templates is often the best way to create the relationship with others that you want. In regards to photographers they should have a file of contract templates for clients who hire them, for other photographers when they have to hire an additional person to work a shoot, a copyright license for publications, a model release, and a location release. And contracts don’t have to be long, complicated, or riddled with crazy legalese to be effective. I prefer to write contracts in straight-forward English and I wish more of my legal counterparts would get on board with this idea.

And contracts can be fun. Recently I saw an episode of Man v. Food where Adam Richman took on the Hellfire Challenge at Smoke Eaters – 12 wings covered in crazy hot sauce. Before he could begin the challenge he had to sign a waiver that required the person signing to acknowledge that “I am an idiot.”

You can put almost anything you want in your contract as long as it isn’t illegal. And if you downloaded your contract templates off the internet, that’s not a bad place to look for ideas, but you should at least consult an attorney to make sure it suits your needs before you start using it. If the contract is valid and you sign it, you’re stuck with the terms so you want to make sure you’re not opening yourself up to get screwed over.

If you need additional information about the minimum you need for a valid contract, please check out my video below or here.

If you want to chat about your contract needs, please send me an email or contact a business attorney in your community.

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Affordable Legal Services for New Business Owners

One Upon a Time . . . a Direct Line to the President of the United States by AGeekMom from Flickr

One Upon a Time . . . a Direct Line to the President of the United States by AGeekMom from Flickr

Some of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year as an attorney is that a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those who are operating on a shoestring budget, don’t seek out legal services when they start their business. There seems to be three main reasons why a new business owner does this:

  1. They think it’s too expensive.
  2. They are afraid it’s going to be complicated.
  3. They don’t understand the legalities of starting a business.

None of these are valid reasons for not calling a business attorney.

I recently attended a business seminar where a young man admitted he put off creating a business entity for years because he thought it was going to be hard. He was blown away by how easy it was. His fear put him at serious risk because until he created an entity, he could have lost his personal assets if the business was found liable for causing damage to someone because he didn’t have an entity that separated the business’ assets from his personal assets.

Before you assume you can’t afford legal services, call an attorney and ask what you need and what it will cost. Even if you can’t afford everything a lawyer could do for you, a lawyer who understands your situation will work with you and your budget. They will tell you what you can do on your own and likely provide resources to help you do it. They can tell you when it’s worth it to pay an attorney to do something for you, and the ramifications you could face if you don’t.

When you can’t afford to have your attorney draft a document for you, ask them if you could purchase a consultation to discuss how you could do it yourself or if you could draft it yourself and pay them to review it. There will be times when it’s cheaper and better use of your time to hire an attorney to draft the document from scratch than to try to write the first draft yourself. Call the attorney you’d hire to review the documents first to make sure that’s going to the best course of action. It might be more expensive to fix what you wrote.

There may also be organizations that provide cheap or free classes and consultations for business owners in your community. I spend three hours on the first Monday of the month providing free legal mentoring at Gangplank in Chandler. These services are a great way to get your needs met while keeping you within your budget or to free up more of your budget to afford your business’ legal needs.

If you’re a new business owner or thinking of starting a business, please call a business attorney in your community to discuss your legal needs. I’ve worked with enough clients to know that it’s easier and cheaper to do things right the first time than to clean up the mess that results when you don’t.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Happy Birthday Carter Law Firm!

Raul's Birthday Cake by lokate366 from Flickr

Raul’s Birthday Cake by lokate366 from Flickr

January 4, 2013 will mark the 1-year anniversary of Carter Law Firm. It’s been an amazing year. Some much has happened since the day I sent off my paperwork to the Arizona Corporation Commission and opened my firm’s bank accounts. I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be an effective business owner. Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned.

1. Networking Can Be A Full-Time Job.
As a solo practitioner I am my business, so when I’m not doing work for my clients, I need to be out there promoting my business and networking with other business owners and potential new clients. I can easily attend 2-4 networking events a week. Networking Phoenix is a wonderful resource for networking opportunities in the Phoenix area. I used it a lot in my early days to learn about the chambers of commerce and other business groups in my area.

Early on, I went to every event I could attend. I learned that it takes a while to find my niches and watering holes where I could find clients and referral sources. I was pleased to become a member of Local First Arizona. It is a great group to meet awesome business owners and they have wonderful seminars.

2. Ask for Help.
There’s no reason for anyone in business to feel like they have to tackle any problem alone. I’ve found there are lawyers and business owners who will share their experiences, provide resources, and be a sounding board whenever I needed it. During the early days of my firm, I was on a first name basis with the state bar’s ethics hotline because I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right. I’m glad I’ve been able to pay it forward by sharing my experiences with other lawyers and business owners.

One thing I’ve learned as a business owner is that things are always changing so it’s impossible to know everything. It’s important to stay humble and teachable. And there are always new people to meet and connections to build.

3. Go After What You Want.
I’ve had to learn to be professionally bold as a business owner and to go after the experiences I want. If there’s a conference you want to speak at – apply. If you want to write a book – do it. If there’s someone you want to meet – send them an email or call them up. Just because you’re the new kid in town, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to offer.

Another thing I’ve learned is you’ll never know how great you can be unless you try. Don’t fear success and don’t sell yourself short just because you have a new business.

I couldn’t be happier about my first year of business. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped make it such a huge success. I’m excited to see what the next year will bring.

You can connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.