When most of us started our business, it likely began with a small thought, big dreams, and not a lot of legal considerations.
After all, any simple google search of “how to start a business” makes it seem like you just pop online, throw open an Etsy shop or a website in 15 minutes, and boom, baby – you’re in business!
And while that is partially true (I mean, that’s what I did), your business was basically left blowing in the wind if you didn’t tick off any legal boxes.
So I wanted to cover two ugly (ie. boring, ie. do I have to?, ie. seriously don’t make me), but necessary, business things I’m doing this month:
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Because for one, for my business, it’s federal LAW.
And two, because the European Union has thrown everyone for a loop with their new GDPR policy and since I have visitors, email subscribers, customers, etc in the EU (hi, guys!), I need to stay up to date and be GDPR compliant.
If you’ve checked your inbox just once in the last week, you’ve seen 847 emails about the new GDPR legislation (or at least that’s what it feels like!)
And lemme just say – while the new policy went into effect last week, there’s still a lot of confusion and unknowns.
I’ve been receiving emails from non-EU based companies telling me I have to re-confirm to stay on their list (which according to my research shouldn’t be true since we’re both not EU-based. They would need to get their EU subscribers permission.)
Okay yes, let’s back up — in case you’ve managed to not receive an email about GDPR yet… it’s a new EU privacy regulation aimed to help people located in the EU gain more transparency + control over their personal data, including email addresses and browsing history.
There’s a lot to unpack and I’m certainly not the legal expert – but if you sell to countries in the EU, have email subscribers from the EU, have ever collected email addresses at a craft fair and don’t know the person’s location, etc.. then you probably need to care about GDPR.
At the high level, I love this policy and it’s something I’ve always aimed for in my own marketing and business – I don’t spam you. I’ve never bought email addresses. You can always opt out of my email list.
But (due to lack of legal knowledge!) I probably fell a little short in really addressing all the nooks + crannies. So I did a lot of research and then invested in The GDPReady Bundle from lawyer Christina Scalera of The Contract Shop (I’m an affiliate of The Contract Shop, but hey, I bought it myself so I wanted to recommend it to you).
It was a hefty expense – but so are the fines for non-compliance (I’ll briefly talk about “don’t panic” below!).
If your head is spinning over GDPR and how / if / what you need to do to be compliant, here’s a couple quick questions to ask yourself:
(*and note: I’m not a lawyyyyyyer, if not made obvious by the fact that I used 6 y’s, this is not to be considered legal advice, so don’t come knocking. Please consult your own lawyer if you have specific questions.)
- Does my company offers goods or services to EU residents? Regardless of whether you’ve ever actually sold a single thing. If you state you ship there, have shipped there and have their personal information in a data processor, offer payment in euros, etc. And here’s the weird thing – they don’t need to be a citizen, just that someone in the EU
- Does my company monitor online behavior of EU residents? If your website does any sort of tracking, has customer profiles, or your email tracks clicks, opens (hint: they pretty much all do)
If your answer was yes to any of those, you need to be GDPR compliant!
Shall we talk panic?
If you’re feeling like I just slapped you in the GDPR face (seriously, it’s starting to sound like a dirty cuss word), then deep breath.
Don’t go running to FB groups in a panic… the info I’ve been seeing there is all over the place, often in contraction to other attorney’s advice.
This article from Forbes was really helpful and will give you a solid understanding to go from. If you feel you need to make changes, consider the bundle or template above, educate + protect yourself. And this Forbes article explains why your US-based business may be affected.
While the fines being thrown around are pretty terrifying, it’s not the IOC’s goal to bankrupt everyone – most of this legislation is targeted towards the big guys who may have been mis-using our information in ways us small businesses don’t even play in.
BUT that doesn’t mean we’re exempt, or don’t have to take the proper measures to treat our visitor and customer data with respect + transparency.
2 | Filing The Shop Files as an LLC
Why Would You Want To Do This?
In simplest terms: to separate your business + personal assets.
If the unthinkable happened in your business, an LLC provides a legal “fence” between your personal life and business.
And I don’t know about you, but feeling comfortable that I’ve legally protected my small business (and myself!) is worth the little time it take to set up.
As I’ve grown and things like client contracts, new legislation (I’m sure GDPR isn’t the law we’ll see), I started to feel the pressure of “oh shit, this is real. I should treat it like its real.”
And I think that’s a good thing to recognize and make it official.
If you want to check out if you should considerate filing, Kiffanie of The Artist’s JD has a great article, The Secret to Deciding That It’s Time to Become an LLC.