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Summary:

So, you’re out on your own and you’ve lined up your first couple of web design, programming, or creative jobs. Your home office is all set up, the coffee is brewing in the kitchen, and you’re enjoying your new-found freedom. You’re ready to get to work! […]

So, you’re out on your own and you’ve lined up your first couple of web design, programming, or creative jobs. Your home office is all set up, the coffee is brewing in the kitchen, and you’re enjoying your new-found freedom. You’re ready to get to work!

Not so fast. Like it or not, when you hang out a shingle and start taking work from clients, you become a business. And in today’s society, that means paying attention to some basic business realities. While I’m not a lawyer, I’ve been freelancing for more than 15 years now, and I’ve hired a succession of lawyers to keep me out of trouble. So far they’ve been successful, so I feel reasonably confident passing on these seven rules of thumb for new independent web workers:

  1. Hire the best attorney you can afford – and listen to them.
  2. Do business as a business (corporation, LLC, or LLP) to limit your liability. Make sure to follow the rules when you set up your business.
  3. Don’t start work without a signed contract that was reviewed by your lawyer.
  4. Use your contract rather than your client’s contract whenever possible.
  5. Specify binding arbitration rather than lawsuit in case of contract disputes.
  6. Walk away from any work that doesn’t smell right. If you don’t trust the client, or the job seems shady, find something else to do. Legal expenses will wipe out any profit you might make.
  7. Be honest and up-front with your clients. Don’t hide issues or think they’ll go away.

Sadly, there’s nothing you can do that will absolutely prevent all problems. But following these seven rules will, in my experience, minimize your chance of trouble down the line. It’s worth putting a bit of effort into a good business foundation so that you can concentrate your energies on the work that you really want to do.

  1. Is there a less expensive way to become a business? I live in California and I have been doing business for years as a DBA not an LLC or LLP. What does anybody suggest when all my profit that I could put toward this is eaten up with bills and so on?

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  2. [...] Web Worker 101: 7 Business BasicsLike it or not, when you hang out a shingle and start taking work from clients, you become a business. And in today s society, that means paying attention to some basic business realities. While I m not a lawyer, I ve been freelancing … [...]

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  3. How about have a business plan? I would say even people that plan to blog on a topic often and make money should have some sort of plan.

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  4. Thats a great business information indeed.Well in hiring a attorney….Personal Injury | Bankruptcy lawyer advice at getlawyeradvice[dot]com is an online legal assistant for Bankruptcy and Personal Injury Attorneys

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  5. [...] inspired by the recent article on Web Worker Daily titled “Web Worker 101: 7 Business Basics”. The tips are wise but there isn’t a link or suggestion on where to find a good, beginner [...]

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  6. What a load of crap! Are you sure you’re not a lawyer? Or sleeping with one?

    And this:

    I’ve been freelancing for more than 15 years now, and I’ve hired a succession of lawyers to keep me out of trouble.

    How bad must you suck that you need “a succession of lawyers” to keep you out of trouble? Is there just some huge string of unhappy clients in your wake? WTF man?! And you want us to take your ‘advice’ seriously?

    Please allow me to offer some helpful edits for people who are actually interested in doing business, rather than working their asses off to keep their lawyers in business:

    1. Provide your customers with good value and good service.

    2. Do business as a business (corporation, LLC, or LLP) to limit your liability. Make sure to follow the rules when you set up your business. (I can agree with this one, but probably not in the top 7.)

    3. Don’t start work without a signed contract (STOP. If you aren’t able to understand the contract and need a lawyer to interpret or review it, there are plenty of employee positions available in the service industry.)

    4. Use your contract rather than your client’s contract whenever possible. (Provided, of course, that you’re able to understand your own contract without paying a lawyer to review it.)

    5. Specify binding arbitration rather than lawsuit in case of contract disputes. (Because, you know, we wouldn’t want any focus being spared for the WORK YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING and taking away from all the attention you spend on legal issues.)

    6. Walk away from any work that doesn’t smell right. If you don’t trust the client, or the job seems shady, find something else to do. Legal expenses will wipe out any profit you might make (if you’re moronically beholden to some schyster who’s got you convinced that you can’t put your pants on in the morning without paying them a fee).

    7. Be honest and up-front with your clients. Don’t hide issues or think they’ll go away. This should be #2. If so, you might not need so many damn lawyers.

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  7. [...] Web Worker 101: 7 Business Basics – Some cool tips for SOHO owners/freelancers. [...]

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  8. I’m with Diogenes on this. This article is full of terrible/sad advice, unless you’re designing myspace pages for mafiosos… :|

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  9. [...] 14th, 2007 (11:00am) Mike Gunderloy No Comments We’ve recommended before that you hire an attorney as part of getting your new freelancing career underway, and we’ve [...]

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  10. [...] There are many rules and regulations to establishing and running a successful business that vary from state to state.  For authoritative advice, consult your CPA and/or lawyer. [...]

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