Running your own business comes with good and bad. From naming your own wage and taking vacations whenever you want, to having to deal with contracts and all manor of legalese all steps of the way, I learned early in my career as an entrepreneur that it’s a good idea of have a lawyer friend on your side to help you out when the time comes.

From the good (partnerships and big launches) to the bad (nightmare clients and more), a lawyer is there to help you wade through the waters of the communication that makes business happen, because sometimes those communications—from emails to contracts—can be hard to understand or will need to be worded just so.

Having a lawyer to back you up and who understands your business will be imperative as you grow your online business. For examples of when I have had to lawyer-up in my own business over the years, here are 5 times that I had to consult a lawyer to get the job done:

1 – When someone tried to sue me.

Ok, I’m going to start with the biggest one – and the first time I ever had to lawyer-up: a few years ago a client tried to sue me. Yes, it was my worst nightmare, and no, my business didn’t fail because of it. We got to the launch phase of her website when she decided she didn’t want to complete the project and wanted all of her money back. Um, no—and then she tried to sue me for it.

I got in touch with a local lawyer to help me look over the facts to see what I should do. I took in my contract and all of our correspondence; he looked it all over, told me there was no chance in hell that she would win, and let me know which points would be best to bring up during mediation.

The lawyer couldn’t accompany me beyond this guidance, but he did give me the direction and confidence I needed to stand up for the work I had done.

Note: she didn’t win.

Also note: get as much in writing as you can, and always have a contract.

2 – When I launched my first premium offering.

A couple of years later I decided to step up my website offerings to a premium, long-term offering that would allow me to get more involved with my clients so that I could make a bigger difference in their business, beyond just launching a website. With this bigger offering came a larger price tag, and a need for a contract that was more specialized than the one I’d been piecing together over the years.

I hired a lawyer to draft a legit, specific-for-this-offering contract that would assist me in embarking on these engagements with everything laid out and agreed-upon so that they could be the dreamy engagements that I wanted them to be.

3 – When I took on a business partner.

When I started Being Boss with Kathleen, and then legally added David to Indie Shopography, we needed a lawyer to make these partnerships legal. Hiring a lawyer to help us set up these partnerships helped us wade through the nuts and bolts of a legal partnership significantly more easily than if we’d tried to do it on our own, and now we can all move forward knowing that everything is legal and outlined to take care of all parties involved.

4 – When I had to fire a client.

Even dreamy engagements with clear contracts sometimes go awry. Once I had to make the hard decision of firing a client due to multiple factors. To make it as clean of a break as possible, I got in touch with my lawyer to help me draft the email that would let the client know that we were terminating her project. It helped my team and I make a clean break from a client that left no room for error or miscommunication.

5 – When we launched a high-profile website.

When we launched the new Being Boss website, complete with new eCommerce functionality and the addition of the Clubhouse offering, we knew it was time to do one better than the make-do terms and privacy policy that had gotten us through the past few years. We hired a lawyer to help us customize these pieces of website legalize to specifically fit our needs, leaving us feeling secure in our offerings and online presence.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my 10+ years of doing business, online and off, it’s to have a lawyer friend in your back pocket for times when you need their special bit of knowledge. Obviously, the best time you’ll need them is when you’re growing and putting preventative measures in place, but even with the best customer service, systems and processes, and contracts in your hand, something can go awry and a lawyer will be there to help you sort it out.

Don’t wait until you need a lawyer because something has gone wrong to make a connection. Make friends with a lawyer now, and start working their expertise into your business as you go. The more boss you become, the more you’re going to need them on your side, and the more well-versed they are in your business, the better they’ll be able to serve you.

Lawyers can support you in so many places in your business, from the mentioned contracts and website terms, to helping you look over contracts, write hard emails, and wade through setting your business up correctly. Lawyer-up and start making your business legit as soon as you’re able. Then you can enjoy all the rest knowing your business hiney is covered.

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Emily is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business with the tough love they need to hear to do the work. She also owns Almanac Supply Co., a maker and retail business focused on creating and curating items to help you live closely with nature, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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