Let's get legal.
Updated: Oct 14
Let it be said, loud and clear that I am not a lawyer. No way in heck I would go through all of law school and NOT be pursuing that career so, rest assured, I am not a lawyer. I am speaking from a place of experience and my own personal learning after walking through owning a business. I highly encourage you to connect with a local lawyer who specializes in small businesses to really hone in what is best for you!
So, you start a wedding business and you’re like… okay, what’s next?
You’ve got your own experience + skill down PAT but, you’re a little lost on all things legal. LLC? S-Corp? DBA? Sole Proprietorship? Where do I even start?
I don’t have all the answers but, I do have some. From my own experience + what I’ve learned talking to the lawyers in my life + the people I’ve talked to about this for my own business.
Let’s start here -
STEP 1: Decide on a business that you want to start. Hooray, this is fun!
STEP 2: Brainstorm a million and one names. Finally (!!!), find one that sticks + is available.
Be sure to check through your state and on a national level that the name you would like is available. Rebranding is fun but, you certainly don’t want to have to do it because you’re in a pickle!
STEP 3: File as a business!
I, personally, have used LegalZoom in the past to file. It’s simple, clear and makes your life easy! The best route to go is to connect with a personal lawyer, who will be able to work more closely with you with all the details.
When you file as a business, you have a few options! You can become a DBA, LLC, S-Corp, Inc., and a few other big name options. The truth is, when you’re starting out, you’ll really want to consider either being a DBA or an LLC.
A DBA stands for Doing Business As. It is a synonym for saying that you’re a sole proprietor. Essentially, it means that you and your business are ONE entity. When filing as a DBA, you are essentially saying that you are your business. One and the same! I’ve heard it said that it’s essentially the equivalent of having an additional arm. It’s a bit more risky in terms of liability.
For example, if you were to file as a DBA and get sued, ALL of your personal assets are on the line. Because, you and your business are under the same umbrella.
The other option for when you file as a business is to file as an LLC.
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. Filing your business as an LLC essentially means that your business is a separate entity from you, but you run it. (Much safer in terms of liability or other problems that might arise!) It is the equivalent of having any other asset and stands alone.
For example. if you were to file as a LLC and got sued, only your business assets would be on the line. Your house, your car, your own personal savings would not be touched.
Every state has different fees for filing as a business and in the great state of California, our LLC fees are much, much higher than any other state. (Who’s surprised?) In California, you pay an $800 fee each year to remain an LLC. Whereas, in a great state like Missouri, it is a grand total of $0 each year in fees. (Can we all collectively sign, California peeps?)
If you’re looking to start a business in California, there is a buzz around town (and by town, I mean state officials) that the $800 starting fee will be waived for new LLC’s. (Sad day for existing LLC’s, it ONLY applies to your first go around). I mean, that’s one way to really get the economy moving again, right?
If you’re unsure which to file as, there is no perfect rule of them. It’s all personal! In my opinion, I would consider filing as an LLC because if you have more than 5 clients. It’s a bit of a safer route!
STEP 4: Work on getting your contracts written and reviewed by a real life lawyer.
Believe you me, you do NOT want to start your own business without solid contracts. If COVID is an indication of the importance of a well written contract, I wouldn’t sleep on this step!
Another option for this is to buy contract templates. If you go this route, then be sure to still have them reviewed by your local lawyer who knows YOUR business and any other local regulations or uniquenesses that need to be taken into account.
Here’s the thing -- you don’t want your contract to just be full of big words and fluff. You want it to be clear and inclusive. If you don’t even know what it is saying or what it means, that’s a red flag. You want to be sure you know what you’re asking others to agree to!
STEP 5: Get excited because this is getting REAL!
After you’ve worked hard on these legal elements of your business, you can start dreaming up the real thing. Hooray! There are a few other next steps to consider:
Start talking to a branding and marketing specialist or team! This is a luxury for sure and I, personally, didn’t start this conversation until later in my business. But, I truly with that I had earlier! (I thought it was going to cost a million dollars which was a million dollars that I didn’t have because I was not yet in official business… I get it.)
My go-to gal that I cannot recommend enough is Moxie Gal Marketing. She brought THIS VERY website to life! And makes a million other things behind the scenes work like butter. G + G wouldn’t be what we are or where we’re at without her!
Get your ‘gram handle + announce it!
Build your portfolio + do some styled shoots!
There is no perfect way to do all of this! But, I sure as heck don’t want you to get bit in the booty by not covering all your legal bases before jumping into entrepreneur life. (We’ve got enough going on, we don’t need no lawsuit.)
With grit and grace, always -