118. How to Protect Yourself and Your Side Gig with Autumn Witt Boyd

January 9, 2020

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I’m not selling anything yet, I don’t need to worry about any of this stuff.’ But you do.”

Autumn Witt Boyd is an award-winning intellectual property lawyer who works with online business owners to protect their brand, content, and business.
When it comes to intellectual property and business strategies, Autumn is known as a thought leader in the online business community. She speaks frequently at conferences, seminars, workshops, and appearing as a guest on podcasts hosted by other experts and business owners.
And I’m so thrilled that she was game to spend time with me to talk about some of the most pressing basic questions that you’ll need to consider as you start your business (whether it’s on the side or not) or a freelancing career.

Highlights of Episode 118

  • The single most important thing you have to do when starting a side business, or starting a freelancing/consulting career
  • What to consider when starting a project with a colleague or a friend
  • What you need to put in place if you’ve created a website, even if you’re not selling anything yet
  • Why a contract is important even when you’re offering your services for free
  • Do you tell your boss/employer about your side gig


Mentioned in this episode

Here are a few highlights from this conversation:

Please note: As Autumn mentions on the podcast, she is a Tennessee-based lawyer. And none of these should be considered legal advice. 🤓
I think even if you’re doing it for free, it’s really important to set that expectation for both sides. This is what I’m going to do. This is what the next steps might look like. This is how we’re going to end. This is how we know when we’re done. Just some things to think through.
When you are a new business owner, especially if you’re side hustling, I don’t think that the first couple thousand dollars you should spend should be on hiring a lawyer. It doesn’t make any sense. Your risk is very low. Lawyers are expensive. It’s time-consuming for everyone and frankly, you don’t really know enough about how you’re going to work with clients or what you’re going to be doing. You just need something basic.
Borrowing (and using) your friend’s contract is okay in the beginning. Something is better than nothing. And then think about up-leveling. Maybe you do a couple of projects and now you’ve got a little revenue coming in. Then maybe you buy a template that’s made for the kind of business you have. So that you’re sure. Okay, I at least know that I’ve got my basics covered.
Even if you just have a newsletter sign-up or you have a “Contact Us” form. Even if you’re not up and running really and you’re not selling anything yet. If people are sending you their personal information — they’re sending you their email address or they’re sending you their name — that means now you’re handling personal information and you have to comply. Under California law, you have to have a privacy policy. Most of us in the online world are dealing with people in all 50 States. So California law applies to us whether we’re there or not. And then if you are interacting with EU residents, you have to follow GDPR. If you allow comments on your blog, that’s another place you might be collecting information. I think people don’t think about this. Oh, I’m not selling anything. I don’t need to worry about any of this stuff. But you do.
People come to me and they say, “We’re really good friends and we want to stay good friends. And so we need you to help us work through what can be really tricky conversations.” And you’re almost like a third-party neutral mediator. Not that they’re in disagreement, but just kind of helping them work through some hard conversations.
Most lawyers are not tax experts. I would honestly say start with a CPA because of the tax issues. The legal issues are really pretty simple for most, especially if you’re just a one-person company. Most people can really set up an LLC or corporation themselves.

Subscribe to Second Breaks

or search for “second breaks” wherever you listen to podcasts.


Master your craft or learn something new with creative classes taught by the world's best. Answer your calling and start for free.

The world of work is changing. Stay smart about it.