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8 Legal Tips That Will Save Your Business Time & Money

There are a myriad of factors that self-employed individuals need to confront when running their business. When it comes to legal advice for your business, while talking with your attorney is always recommended, there are some simple legal tips and business strategies that can help give you an edge and make your everyday life easier.

#1 – Keep creditors at bay with this tip
If bill collectors are harassing you, you can invoke the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to stop the phone calls. You’ll want to say something along the lines of, “Pursuant to the FDCPA, you are to never call me again about this debt.” (Note: This has to be made to 3rd party bill collector and not the original creditor.) Once they have been given notice (doing it by certified mail is even better) they have to stop calling. They may sue you, or not, but the threats will cease.

#2 – Try DIY legal resources for basic legal needs
There are plenty of times when you don’t really need a lawyer and can do something yourself far less expensively. For basic needs such as forming an LLC or creating a will, do-it-yourself sites like LegalZoom.com are a good place to start.

#3 – The threat of action can be enough
When someone owes your business money, it is understandable that you want to sue them. However, lawsuits are messy and expensive. Often, a strongly worded letter from a lawyer can yield even better results than costly, complex litigation, and at a fraction of the price.

#4 – Don’t settle for the quote a lawyer gives you
If the letter doesn’t work and you need to go a little further, a little secret lawyers don’t want you to know is that their fees and costs are not written in stone. You can often negotiate cheaper prices. They may not reduce their hourly rate, but you can bet that paying 50 cents per copy, or $2 a page for a fax is negotiable.

#5 – Make sure you protect your intellectual property
If you are a creator or inventor, it is vital that you protect your IP – your copyrights, patents, or trademarks. Patents usually require legal help, but copyrights and trademarks can be registered and handled on your own at www.USPTO.gov.

Also, one good thing to know about copyrights is that they need not even be registered with the federal copyright office to be legal; they are created as a matter of law at the moment of creation. See, this sentence is now copyrighted (though registration does offer a lot of extra protection.)

#6 – Always put it in writing
This is one of those common sense tips, but it’s amazing how often it’s overlooked. To truly protect yourself, always make sure to put things in writing. Memories fade over time, people remember things differently, and people lie. A written record prevents all of that.

#7 – You may still be protected even without a contract
This is lesser-known fact – sometimes you can enforce someone’s promise to you, even though you don’t have an actual contract, and you don’t even need to hire a lawyer. It’s called promissory estoppel and happens when you rely, to your detriment, on someone’s promise.

For example: A contractor asks you, a subcontractor, for a bid for a project and you give a very low bid. The contractor then gets the project, but you now say you can’t perform with the low bid you gave. Even though there is no contract, you may be forced to live up to the low bid price because the contractor relied on your promise.

#8 – Know when to admit blame.
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and fighting will cost you money. Save everyone some time and effort and just admit it.
 

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About Steve Strauss

Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host here at TheSelfEmployed.com.


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