Turn Your Blog Into a Business: A Legal Perspective
Are you ready to turn your blog into a business? You can use it to sell digital products, engage in affiliate marketing, or reach out to potential clients. Learn to use the law to your advantage when you monetize your blog.
Accidentally Being in Business
You might be tempted to ignore the legal stuff when you first start out. You’re not making much money yet, so what’s the harm? But once you start doing business – whether selling a $5 ebook or $500 programming services – you automatically enter the business world as a sole proprietor, whether you mean to or not.
Being a sole proprietor means you’re personally liable for your business’ debts. “Debts” go beyond your WordPress hosting costs on your personal credit card. It also means lawsuits.
Imagine you sell a defective product on your e-commerce site. Your customer comes after you and the manufacturer for any damages. Even if the lawsuit is worth a small amount – say, $10,000 – it can sink a small e-commerce business that’s just starting out.
And as a sole proprietor, you’ll have to cough up that entire amount – even if you’ve only spent $1,000 on your business. The other $9,000? Look to your personal checking account, savings, even your car.
And it’s not just products you could be liable for. You might also be on the hook for bad information or a client’s business losses based on your actions.
This applies even if you choose another “doing business as” name. “Joe Blogger, d/b/a Joe’s Best Blog Design” offers no legal protection. You need to protect yourself by creating a company.
Protecting Yourself with a Company
A company provides limited liability protection for its owner. That means that you can only lose as much money as you have in the company. Your personal assets aren’t on the line for your business debts.
Of course, your company itself will have to pay back the full debt if it can. But if it can’t, the bill collector can’t come knocking at your door asking for a personal check.
When creating a company, you have two options: a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation.
An LLC is a flexible solution. It’s easy enough to create one through your state’s website with a few clicks. The filing fees aren’t usually too high, usually a few hundred dollars.
Also, an LLC’s paperwork won’t have you tearing your hair out in frustration. You usually don’t need anything other than the filing from your state to get started. You also don’t need to hold shareholder or board meetings, and you can file your business income on your personal taxes.
The other option is a corporation. A corporation can also be created online, but it’s more involved than creating an LLC. It’s also usually more expensive.
A corporation’s paperwork is more complicated than an LLC. You’ll need to write articles of incorporation and bylaws. Going forward, you’ll need to hold regular meetings of the shareholders and keep minutes of those meetings.
A corporation is taxed at the corporate level, then you’re taxed on any dividends you take from the profits of the corporation. This double taxation makes the corporation inappropriate for most blog owners. Simplicity makes the LLC the better bet.
Other Legal Issues for Blogs
You’ll want to disclaim any relationships with affiliates you have. Visitors to your site should know that they’re clicking on affiliate links so you’re not being deceptive. You’ll also want to disclaim any possible warranties that could apply to products you’re promoting.
With limited liability protection and your legal bases covered, you’re ready to turn your blog into a business. There are many challenges to running an online business. The law doesn’t have to be one of them.
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