If you are just getting started with your online business or blog, you need to have a number of rock solid contracts for your small business.
In this post I will share with you 8 of the top contracts for creatives that you need for your website, as well as some of the top clauses that you must include in those contracts to make sure your legal rights are protected.
Many small business and online entrepreneurs severely underestimate the importance of having legal contracts in their business.
But like it or not, almost every aspect of your business (or even your day to day lives) is governed by a variety of contractual relationships.
Whether you are an independent artist or running multiple creative businesses, having a number of solid contracts in place is vital to your overall success as a creative entrepreneur.
But you don’t need to attend law school, or even hire a lawyer to get a well-drafted contract for your business (although as a lawyer, I typically recommend it).
That’s because there are a variety of really good legal templates that can be found online for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer to draft a custom contract for you. So whether you are running a photography business or building out an e-commerce website, you can make sure you are protected.
Here are 8 of the legal contract templates you should be considering for your creative entrepreneurship business.
#1 Custom Contract for Professional Services
Most people that are just getting started online are still offering freelance and 1x1 client services. If you fall into this category, you must have a custom contract that you can use with your clients.
Many creative professionals completely neglect having a solid contract template that they can use to protect themselves in their business relationships. But purchasing a custom professional services contract (or even hiring a lawyer to draft one for you) is the best investment you can make in your business and will provide you with peace of mind that your creative work is protected and that you have a solid foundation for your creative business.
Not only does it make tremendous legal sense to have your own contract for your professional services business, a solid contract can increase your prestige in the market and potentially lead to lucrative partnerships that will pay for the investment in your custom contract many times over.
So if you are just getting started with your online business and you intend to bring on private clients, you absolutely must have a professional looking custom contract that you can send to potential clients on a moment’s notice.
#2 Independent Contractor Agreement
Once you start to build your online business, you may decide that you need to hire a graphic designer, a website designer, a virtual assistant or someone in any number of creative fields that you do not have an expertise in.
When this happens, you must be ready with an independent contractor agreement. An independent contractor agreement will outline what your contractors will do for you as their client, how much and how often you will pay them, and make sure that you own all of the intellectual property rights to their work.
Many creative entrepreneurs piece these contracts together with information they find online, but this is a huge mistake. There is nothing worse than a poorly written independent contractor agreement (or any other type of poorly written contract, for that matter).
A bad contract is not worth the paper it is written on, and if you ever get into a disagreement with your contractor it could actually be used against you in future legal proceedings.
Here is an affordable independent contractor agreement template that you can put to use immediately in your business for all of your current and future contractor hires.
It is truly baffling.
How could a potential client or customer take you seriously as a legitimate business if you don’t have even the most basic of contracts on your website in 2022?
#4 An Operating Agreement for Your LLC
I highly recommend forming an LLC for your creative online business as soon as you can. Preferably before you even have clients or are generating any revenue.
And when you set up an LLC, you must have a proper Operating Agreement in place. This will allow you to open a bank account, take out a loan for your business, or even apply for a credit card. It is also vitally important in the unlikely event that your business gets into legal trouble.
Here is an LLC operating agreement template that you can put to use in your business today.
There are a number of reasons for why I recommend this, most notably because it is easier to set up a limited liability company (LLC) now than after your creative business gets busy. In addition, it will make you look more professional to have an LLC behind your website, and it will give you a mental shift that says “I have a legitimate online business” rather than just another side hustle or hobby.
If you would like to learn more about why I think it is important to set up your LLC from the beginning, watch this video:
The first thing you must do after you set up your LLC is apply for an EIN with the IRS. The second thing you need to do is write up an operating agreement template for your LLC.
Don’t skip this important contract!
#5 A Website Terms of Service
And while it is not legally required, it is vitally important as a way to protect your intellectual property and govern the use of your website by visitors.
Not to mention, it will provide a jurisdictional clause and important legal disclaimers in the event someone tries to sue you based on the information you provide on your website.
Here is a great website terms of service legal template that you can plug and play into your website.
#6 Social Media Policy and Disclaimers
So whether you are posting on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or even creating YouTube videos, having a social media policy in place is a smart move.
#7 Employment Contract
When you are ready to hire that first employee, you will want to make sure you have an employment contract in place. Many US states are employment at will states, meaning that you can fire someone (or they can quit) at any time for any reason that is not illegal.
And without an employment contract in place, you likely will have no protections against that employee stealing your intellectual property and the creative works they made for your business. You may also have trade secrets, business processes and systems and other things that you want to retain privacy rights over. Not to mention that you may want to prohibit an employee from going to work for a competitor (or even starting their own business that competes with you) and steals your clients.
An employment contract can assist you in protecting these rights and allow you to obtain injunctive relief against a former employee that is looking to rip you off or violate your employment policies.
Click here for an employment contract you can use in your business.
#8 Podcast Guest Agreement
Are you running a podcast? Do you have guests on that podcast?
If so, then you likely will need a podcast guest agreement.
Again, this is a contract that will protect your intellectual property and says to the guest that they can use their name and likeness in promoting your podcast. Without this contract, if your relationship with the guest breaks down, then you could have legal issues.
Here is a podcast guest agreement that you can use for your podcast.
Important Contract Terms for Your Legal Templates
Whether you decide to purchase one of the legal templates listed in this post or attempt to draft your own legal contracts, there are certain clauses and contract terms that are best practice to include in any legal document. Here are just a few elements of a good contract, with a brief explanation of what they do.
Choice of Law Provision
Every jurisdiction (i.e. state or country) has its own set of laws. There can frequently be conflicts between what the law says in one state versus what the law says in another state. A choice of law clause states what law governs the interpretation of your contract.
It will frequently sound like this:
“The validity, interpretation and/or enforcement of this Agreement shall be governed by the laws of [STATE], including its recognition of applicable federal law, but excluding such jurisdiction’s choice of law rules.”
Cancellation Clause or Termination Provision
A cancellation clause is just what it sounds like. It is a clause that indicates under what conditions or circumstances the contract can be terminated.
You can write these clauses such that it is difficult to terminate a contract, or easy to terminate a contract.
These clauses became all the rage at the beginning of the COVID pandemic because many in person events had to be canceled for completely unexpected reasons, i.e. the pandemic.
Many existing contracts did not list a pandemic in their force majeure clause, and some contracts didn’t include a force majeure clause at all.
A force majeure clause outlines what happens when a contract cannot be performed as a result of a specific event or specific problem that was unanticipated or beyond the control of the parties to an agreement. These could include acts of war, acts of God (i.e. storms, earthquakes, fire, etc.), and yes, a global pandemic.
Here is an example of a force majeure clause that you can use in your contracts:
“Neither party shall be held liable or responsible to the other party nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached this Agreement for failure or delay in fulfilling or performing any obligation under this Agreement when such failure or delay is caused by or results from causes beyond the reasonable control of the affected party, including but not limited to fire, floods, embargoes, war, acts of war, insurrections, riots, strikes, lockouts or other labor disturbances, or acts of God; provided, however, that the party so affected shall use reasonable commercial efforts to avoid or remove such causes of nonperformance, and shall continue performance hereunder with reasonable dispatch whenever such causes are removed. Either party shall provide the other party with prompt written notice of any delay or failure to perform that occurs by reason of force majeure.”
Source: American Bar Association
What Happens if there are Late Payments or Breach?
Many contracts are written such that one person or party will perform certain services in exchange for monetary compensation.
But what happens when the person or organization that is supposed to pay is habitually late with their payments or stops paying altogether?
Typically, this would be considered a breach of the contract. But there are times when non-payment is excusable, such as if the person providing the services stopped providing them. Or if the services were unsatisfactory.
You should have a clause in your contract that indicates what happens if payments are late or if they stop altogether.
How to Purchase Legal Templates for your Creative Business
The One Stop Legal Contract Shop is a great place to start and get all the contracts you need for your online business. We sell legal templates that are different from the types provided by other online contract shops.
Most online contract shops will sell you a word document that has multiple clauses and instructions contained within the document itself.
When you purchase a legal template from One Stop Legal, you will receive some instructions as well as a link to an online contract template form.
This form will allow you to enter all of the information needed to complete your contract, and give you options to include the clauses you need, and keep out the clauses you don’t. Once you finish the online form, you will be able to download a legal document that is 95% of the way completed. All you need to do is read it over, make sure all the information is correct, and then upload it to your favorite contract software or convert it into a PDF document that you can use with your clients, employees, or contractors.
Hiring a contract attorney or other legal professionals will frequently cost you many thousands of dollars, and while we won’t discourage you from hiring our sister law firm if that is what you need, we also want you to have the right contracts at the right price for where you are as a business.
This is not Legal Advice
I realize it goes without saying, but One Stop Legal is not a law firm, and no attorney-client relationship is formed just because you have read this post. This post is for informational purposes only, and if you require additional legal support or advice you may click here to schedule a strategy session with a lawyer from The Hart Law Firm, P.A.
If you require additional legal expertise or legal resources, please contact our sister law firm for expert contract negotiation skills and assistance with any of your business related legal needs. Stop worrying about the legal stuff and hire a business lawyer instead.