The Legal Advice Every Business Owner Needs to Know 

Legal essentials every business owner should take with christina scalera

Attorney and HoneyBook educator Christina Scalera is the founder of The Contract Shop®, an online store that sells niche contract templates for creatives and entrepreneurs. Beginning her career as a trademark attorney, Christina brings years of legal expertise as one of the instructors in our Business Fundamentals for Creative Entrepreneurs series. Here, she opens up about who should watch her class, the craziest legal situation she’s consulted on, and why she firmly believes facing legal challenges in your business should excite you. 

Watch her class here (click “Get the Free Class” in the top right): Legal Steps Every Business Owner Should Take

Tell us about your Legal Steps Every Business Owner Should Take class. What’s it about? Who should watch it? 

My class is about the legal basics you need to have a grasp on in order to run a business successfully. You don’t need to be an expert or be able to repeat the class back to me, but it is all stuff you’re going to touch on at some point in your business. I hope it’s something you bookmark and save to watch over and over again when issues come up for you. I hope it inspires you to learn more about the topics that are applicable to your business. You may not want to DIY your own legal stuff, and that’s fine, but for those of you who do or have no other choice financially, I hope the class serves as a roadmap that helps you solve problems.

You should watch it if you’ve never paid attention to the legal stuff before, or if you think you’re getting to the level where you might want an attorney. It’s hard to be an effective communicator with your attorney if you expect them to read your mind without giving them some kind of direction based on the knowledge you pick up in the class.

My class is about the legal basics you need to have a grasp on in order to run a business successfully.

Watch her class here (click “Get the Free Class” in the top right): Legal Steps Every Business Owner Should Take

What are you most excited about with the Business Fundamentals for Creative Entrepreneurs series?

I’m most excited to see what ‘ah-ha’ moments people have and to help business owners understand legal basics. They can re-write the story of, “I’m not an attorney, legal stuff scares me.” I’m excited that this class will help normalize legal issues. If you’re a business owner, legal stuff comes up. It’s a sign of a healthy and expanding business pushing outside of its comfort zone. It’s important to get excited about legal stuff because when you get to deal with these things, it means you’re growing – you’re no longer a hobby or a dream. You are showing up for people, and they are better now that you’re in their life with your services or products.

It’s important to get excited about legal stuff because when you get to deal with these things, it means you’re growing – you’re no longer a hobby or a dream.

Selfishly, it’s always been a dream of mine to have a CreativeLive class, so this is a huge personal achievement for me and a proud moment for the entire team that supports The Contract Shop®.

You’re passionate about creative entrepreneurs having contracts in place to protect their business. What’s one of the craziest legal situations you’ve consulted on that could have been avoided with a contract?

She wasn’t a client, but one gal I consulted with accidentally flooded three stories of a hotel by hanging a wedding dress from a hotel sprinkler in the ceiling. To be fair, she was replacing it after taking detail shots – it was where the family had hung the dress prior to her arrival. Regardless, since it was her third wedding, she considered it more of a hobby and didn’t have a contract. I lost touch with her, and I wasn’t able to find out what happened. Last I heard, the bride’s family, the hotel and her homeowner’s insurance company were all trying to figure out who would pay for the damage. This could have been avoided with a simple sentence or two in her contract about which of the parties had insurance, what kind of insurance they had and whose insurance would pay for any damages on the wedding day or events leading up to it (e.g., engagement shoots, bridal showers, etc.).

What’s the most random business law you’ve ever learned?

It’s not really random – I don’t have any fun laws to share like, “In Poland it’s illegal to walk on the sidewalks chewing gum on Saturdays,” like those old trivia books used to have (do those still exist?) But, my favorite law thing is the distinction between the standard for infringement in trademark and copyright. I know, I know, hear me out.

Copyrights apply to fixed works you’ve created, like blog posts, photos, calligraphy designs (not just a word or two), graphic designs like a web page, paintings, videos, podcasts and more. To infringe a copyright, you must have access to the work you’re ripping off, which typically isn’t that hard to show. Usually my clients who get have their works infringed will find these perpetrators on their email list. But, in addition to access, you must also create a work that is substantially similar. So, for example, if you take a picture of a painting (or vice versa), even though these are different mediums, even if they were different sizes this would likely be copyright infringement. So copyright infringement = access + substantially similar works.

Trademarks (my babies), on the other hand, must be confusingly similar to the appropriate consumer. There are eight factors that go into this test for what is “confusingly similar,” but hopefully you can start to see the pattern with the following examples. They seem similar but are not trademark infringments.

  • Example 1: Delta faucets vs. Delta airlines
    • Why they’re not trademark infringements: You can’t log on to a travel booking site and buy a new sink.
  • Example 2: Nissan motors vs. Nissan.com, a computer repair company
    • Why they’re not trademark infringements: Nissan.com purchased the domain before Nissan motors could. Nissan motors has very famously (well, for trademark nerds like myself) tried to take over the Nissan.com domain and so far they have not been successful. Who knows? Maybe 2018 could be their lucky year, although it’s been 24 years of trying….

All in all, people confuse trademarks with copyrights all the time, but they are actually quite different, especially when it comes to protecting creatives’ works! It gives us as attorneys a lot of fun ways to strategize for our clients to get them the result they want.

How does HoneyBook help you run your business? 

I actually have two HoneyBook accounts. My law firm is run entirely through HoneyBook. It’s everything I could have dreamed of and lawyers who use the clunky, traditional CRMs “meant for them” are really missing out on a lot of time and ease. I use HoneyBook in my law firm to set up automatic invoicing for clients and reminders to potential clients if they forget to check out the proposals I sent. This is amazing because I often forget to follow up on my own. I have my other attorneys in my client portals, so they can see any and all communications that come in from the client. My goal is to over communicate, and while I’m not perfect, HoneyBook makes it much easier to do so.

My law firm is run entirely through HoneyBook. I use HoneyBook in my law firm to set up automatic invoicing for clients and reminders to potential clients if they forget to check out the proposals I sent. This is amazing because I often forget to follow up on my own.

In my other company, Christina Scalera LLC (I know, super clever name I stayed up all night to discover), I use HoneyBook to negotiate one-off affiliate or sponsorship deals, or to send proposals to potential consulting clients. For example, I ran an in-person retreat last year with a graduated payment plan. The idea was that at the beginning of the program, they hadn’t learned anything from me yet, and they wouldn’t be making any extra money. I mean, that’s why you make an investment in your business, right? Then, as the months went on, they would pay more down as they were making more based on what they’d learned from me. For example, it looked something like this:

  • January 2017 – $100 due
  • February 2017 – $300 due
  • March 2017- $600 due
  • And so on

It worked out really well! I loved it because unlike traditional payment plans, it gave the participants some room to breathe as they found their footing. This NEVER would have been possible with such ease using an online course tool, or even our old standby, PayPal. I would have had to manually increase and invoice those amounts instead of setting predetermined amounts due on predetermined dates. I loved it, my participants loved it, and the best part was either of us could see how far along they were in their payment plan at any time.

What’s your favorite thing about HoneyBook?

My favorite thing about HoneyBook is the support. I know that if I have an issue, it’s going to be resolved to my satisfaction in a timely way by a real person. This means the world to me, and the reason I made the controversial decision to use HoneyBook as my law firm CRM. It’s like having my own tech department if I ever need them, which thankfully I almost never do.

You quit your job as in-house trademark attorney to become a yoga teacher. Can you tell us about that?

I had severe health problems that no one should have when they’re 25 years old. I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing gal, so instead of taking it easy at work, I quit to become a yoga teacher. One of my now-friends (Kelly Newsome Georges) had done this successfully in D.C., and I thought I could follow her model in the Atlanta area. I’d made a commitment to being a yoga teacher, but it was hard making it work. I was clearly struggling. 

What was the turning point that led to founding The Contract Shop?

While I was training to be a yoga teacher, I started blogging and learning graphic design. That led me to discover Rising Tide. I was one of the first 700 or so followers. I wanted more of this creative economy, so I spent the last money I had on business retreats and workshops. I’m so glad I did, because that was where I met Jenna Kutcher. I was at Bonnie Bakhtiari’s Illume Retreat, and Jenna had been pretty quiet the whole time. I actually had no clue who she was back then (I’ve always been a bit bad at following influencers and trends), so in hindsight what she did was really sweet, and I feel very fortunate.

Even though I was there as a yoga teacher, I was still an attorney, troubleshooting contract questions and legal basics during the retreat. I told Jenna that it seemed like there was a need for someone to help creatives with their legal stuff, but that I was discouraged because there were already others doing it. She told me a (now public) story about the first time she told someone she was a photographer when they asked her, “what do you do?” The fear she described really resonated. She encouraged me to pivot one more time to try this thing I felt called to do, despite “others out there already doing it.”

Within two weeks, the first iteration of The Contract Shop® was born on a Squarespace site, with no products and my blog posts from my yoga blog copied and pasted onto my new site (I wasn’t good at content back then, okay?). It took another three months for me to make my first dime, which was on the first Rising Tide Society webinar ever.

The Contract Shop® almost runs without me at this point. When we hit some pretty big financial goals in the next year or so, I’d like to remove myself even more from everything but the essentials that I must touch (the templates, the legal content). It’s my dream to explore eCommerce even more with physical products.

Thank you, Christina!

Watch her class here (click “Get the Free Class” in the top right): Legal Steps Every Business Owner Should Take

Sobrina Pies

I'm a HoneyBooker, writing about small businesses, the people who run them, and tips and tricks to help them grow. HoneyBook helps you manage all aspects of your business from a central place, saving you time and money. From sending proposals, invoices and contracts to managing your projects and getting paid, HoneyBook gives you the freedom to do more of what you love. Try HoneyBook for free here: http://bit.ly/2IYCoXu

Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This