by Sam Vander Wielen | Featured Contributor
Hi friends! I help women entrepreneurs protect themselves and their businesses with DIY legal templates and resources. If you’re a coach, entrepreneur, or creative with a website, you need to think about whether you’re protecting yourself and your business online.
I know this stuff gets super confusing. But it really doesn’t have to! Legal can be easy and approachable — that’s my mission!
Most of all, it’s really important your website is an accurate reflection of you, what you do, what you’re qualified to do, and how people can work with you.
Here are 7 things you should know about protecting your business & website online:
1. Who You Are, What You Do
It’s best to tell your readers off the bat who you are and what you do. That way, you’re super clear and there’s no confusion that you’re their doctor, lawyer, medical professional, personal chef etc. etc.
You might think it’s super clear already, but that’s not always the case. A disclaimer is a great way to simply and explicitly let your visitors know not only who you are and what you do, but who you aren’t and what you don’t do.
2. Protect Yourself (Disclaim Liability)
Especially for you coaches or online business owners, your website is a great place to protect yourself and your business with a liability disclaimer. You can protect yourself from things that happen to your readers based on your site, blog posts, services, suggestions, or endorsements.
Basically, this is your opportunity to let people know you don’t accept responsibility for their decision to try your recipe with an ingredient in it they’re allergic to or to run a marathon after they’ve never even gone on a jog.
3. Collecting Personal Info
Do you collect email addresses and reader’s names on your site to build an email list? Or do you collect info from them to send them an opt-in freebie? Or maybe you have a contact form that asks for their email, name, and website?
I love reading testimonials as much as the next girl. But the lawyer in me always gets a little nervous when I see entrepreneurs using testimonials on their site without a disclaimer.
In your disclaimer, you should let readers know that the testimonials featured on your site are examples. You know, the usual stuff: results not typical, not guaranteed, not for everyone. It’s important you tame the claims made in your testimonials by letting everyone know that the testimonials don’t in any way imply that they’ll get rich, skinny, or happy.
5. Before You Buy (Terms & Conditions)
If you sell anything on your site — coaching packages, products, ebooks, downloadable items, etc. — terms & conditions are the ‘contract’ that people agree to before purchasing from you. This way, they agree to payment, refund, and intellectual property terms that you set.
If someone purchases something under a subscription or membership option and later cancels their form of payment, you want to make sure you have a way to go after your money. Or if someone purchases your downloadable product and then asks for a refund, you can easily refer them to your terms & conditions they agreed to before purchase saying “no refunds on downloadable products”.
6. Get That Money (Sponsored Posts/Affiliate Links)
Running your own site isn’t cheap. So if you’d like to take sponsored posts or posts linking to affiliate products/services, make sure you’re upfront with your audience by including affiliate/sponsor language in your disclaimer.
But your readers aren’t the only ones expecting notice of where your money comes from. Some affiliate programs (like Amazon, for example) require that you use specific language in your disclaimer to let your readers know how you operate your blog.
7. Protect Your Hard Work
After all of this hard work, perhaps the most important thing to do is make sure it stays yours. You can protect your website and its content by including intellectual property notices in your terms & conditions or disclaimer.
You should also drop a note in your footer that says “© [year] [business/blog name]”. For example, my blog says © 2017 Sam Vander Wielen LLC. This lets your visitors know you’re all about protecting your hard work.
So, after reading this: what can you do to strengthen your website? Are there areas where you could explain who you are, what you do, and what you don’t in a clear way? What questions do you have about what you should or shouldn’t have on your website?
This post does not constitute legal advice — it is simple legal information and education meant to empower you to build and grow your own business. Sam is an attorney licensed in the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Reading this post or use of any of its information does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and Sam. Thank you for reading!
Sam Vander Wielen, attorney + entrepreneur at samvanderwielen.com
Sam Vander Wielen is a corporate attorney-turned-entrepreneur and health coach from Philadelphia. Through Sam Vander Wielen LLC, she helps women confidently create businesses and content they love by protecting themselves with DIY legal templates and resources. Sam helps coaches, entrepreneurs, and creatives find out what they need to protect their businesses, when and why. When she isn’t helping boss babes build their online empires, she’s usually drinking coffee, at the beach, or watching the Bachelorette because Rachel Lindsay is the bomb.