After a recent meeting with my attorney, I thought I’d share some nuggets that could benefit all you fellow freelancers. Much of what he said only reinforced what I already knew, but it’s always good to have confirmation from an important, expensive mind. This applies to you whether you’re a freelance designer, artist, writer, or any of the related fields, although I would recommend consulting your own attorney for legal advice. This article is not to be mistaken for legal advice.
With that said, here are some tidbits I took away that will definitely benefit you:
The Legal Structure of Your Business is Important.
Whether you are doing business as a name (DBA), or as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), it’s important to give careful thought to your business structures. For many graphic design freelancers in particular, they will start as a DBA, also known as a Sole Proprietorship due to its ease of formation. An LLC comes into play when you take on more risk, such as hiring other contractors, because it protects your business assets.
Always, Always, Always Have a Contract.
This was something I’d already known, but it’s so valuable, it’s worth repeating. Always have a contract written up and signed not only between you and your clients, but also between you and any contractors working for you. Depending on who the contract is written for, there are certain important items you want to include. For clients, you want to have an outline of the services expected, project schedule, deliverable dates, and payment dates. For contractors, you want to include their status with your company (freelance contractor vs employee), the services they are expected to deliver (graphic design, illustration, etc), a confidentiality clause, and a blurb stating the photos and graphics they use are their property, and that they’re not infringing on the copyright of others. Very important.
Your Contractors Represent You.
This mainly applies to those graphic design firms/companies that have hired on contractors to do work and communicate with clients. In this case, it’s vital to keep in mind that these people are representing you every time they lay out a poster or communicate with a client on your company’s behalf. My attorney used the fancy term “agents” which was suitably intimidating, but there’s no reason to fear as long as you have a proper contract between them and yourself.
Personally, I recommend LegalZoom.com as a great source. I use them, and they’ve been quite helpful. It’s free to sign up, and they actually walk you through the process of forming legal entities and filling out the forms. Quite useful. Whether you use them or not, it’s vital we educate ourselves on the legal side of business, because it’s just as important as the creative side of our business.