This is a guest post by Leon Harris.
Working as a freelancer sounds pretty great in the beginning: you get to set your own hours, choose clients, and virtually be the boss. And while this is definitely awesome, there are some potential drawbacks, as well, like hustling for work, juggling multiple clients, and having to pay for your own health insurance. Like any type of work, there are both challenges and rewards.
But when it comes to the legal aspects of running your business you may not know where to begin. Do you need legal services? What laws pertain specifically to independent contractors? And what kinds of legal issues could you face in the course of your work?
These are all valid questions and there are plenty of resources to help you find the answers (and services) you seek. Here are a few that every freelancer should check out.
The Small Business Administration is a great place to begin your search for legal advice because the site provides you with information on laws pertaining to small businesses, which technically includes the army of self-employed citizens and LLCs operating out of a home or shared office. If you’re seeking facts about licenses, permits, registering a business name, estimated taxes, W-9 forms, legal documents (contracts for work, NDAs, etc.), and more, this is like one-stop shopping that will help you to develop a base of knowledge and point you in the right direction.
Acquiring legal documents can be a pricy affair if you have to have them drawn up by a lawyer. Luckily, Docracy can provide you with a number of useful document templates for you line of work – for free. Whether you need a basic contract for work or a non-disclosure agreement of some sort (if you hire subcontractors, for example) this site can help you get them, gratis.
Many freelancers work for a slew of clients, but they also spend time working on their own projects (blogging, web design, etc.). If you need any information on how to copyright your work, there is no better place to get the 4-1-1 than from the source, Copyright.gov.
Because of the way billing works, a simple legal question could end up costing you beaucoup bucks if you call a lawyer. So try posting your query on LawGuru, a site run by lawyers, to see what kind of response you can get for free. If you need more information, they also offer paid services.
LawDepot has a number of contracts that you can create by filling in your own information. You’ll provide the relevant details of your contract and it will produce the legal document.
Although a certified public accountant is not an actual legal expert, that doesn’t mean your accountant or tax prep specialist can’t help you when it comes to figuring out what you can legally deduct on your taxes, for example. Seek out a CPA that is well versed in tax laws pertaining to freelancers and you’ll have a much better chance of saving money and avoiding an audit. If you’re doing taxes on your own, you can also call or email the IRS for information.
7. Contract Lawyer
Depending on your type of business, you may need specific legal documents in order to protect yourself. In this case you should consider spending some money up front and hire a contract lawyer to ensure that you’ve got your legal ducks in a row. It could save you a lot down the road.
What legal resources do you have for your freelance or contract business?