Ep. 343: A Ten-Step Legal Audit for your Side Hustle with Girija Patel

I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Girija Patel!

Girija is a licensed attorney in Texas and her practice focuses on assisting creative and other entrepreneurs to create a solid legal foundation and craft legal solutions for their businesses at any point in the business cycle. She's a mom to two amazing children, a wife, and an entrepreneur.

Push play to listen to this week's episode, or read the full transcript below!

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Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 343 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I cannot wait for you guys to meet today's guest, Girija Patel, an attorney who helps creative entrepreneurs with all things legal in their businesses. So Girija, thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Girija Patel: Shannon, thank you so much for having me. First of all, 300 plus episodes. I am floored. That's amazing. I'm just so happy to be here with you and with your audience and with your community. Thank you so much for the warm welcome. I am a lawyer in Houston, Texas. Yes, you're right. I serve the creative community, whether you are entrepreneurs, brick and mortar, online business owners, I serve that community. And of course creative is such a big word. I think it just encompasses so many different industries and fields, but I just love serving that community. It is filled with so much warmth and it's just easy. And I just love it. It's something that I've really enjoyed that I've created this niche for myself.

Shannon Mattern: I want to kind of go back to the beginning and I want to hear your story. You decide to become an attorney, go to law school. Tell me about the path to serving the creative entrepreneur.

Girija Patel: It was actually something I kind of stumbled onto it. It wasn't something that I had really premeditated a long, long time ago in my life. But what I did premeditate was I'm going to law school. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer back when I was in middle school, I think. I'm like, okay, I'm going to be a lawyer. And I felt like I just had my whole path laid out for me. Everything was just placed out for me. This is what I'm doing. I'm going to college undergrad. I'm going to do business just in case something happens. I don't know what I was thinking. You know, the Type A personality, this is what I'm doing. I went to law school and I loved litigation. I love being in court. I love talking and presenting and all that stuff. I did my entire high school career also in debate. When I got out of law school, I went directly into the Harris County district attorney's office. So I was a prosecutor. And so I put bad people in jail. That's how I describe it to my children. But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun, amazing unparalleled experience. Also a lot of work, so much work. I don't know how many hours I put in. I mean, I was at work for at least 14 hours a day, if not longer, going in at before the sun rose, leaving after the sun came down. It was one of those types of situations, but it really served me well. And I love doing it in the season that I was doing it in. And then I got married while I was working at the DA's office. I worked a little bit more post-marriage. And then I was like, you know what? This is just not working anymore. All the plans I had in my life, well, this is just not working anymore.

Girija Patel: You know, my husband's schedule was very different. My schedule was very different. He has a family business that he's running. He's married to his business. I wasn't married to my job. I had my license. Nobody can take that away from me. My education. Nobody can take that away from me. And so I'm like, you know what? I'm just going to step away and start my own thing. And I started my own practice at that time. I did not want to do criminal law. I did not want to be a defense attorney with potential criminals, because I just didn't know. I, that wasn't my cup of tea anymore. And so I started doing business law. But at that time it was very different. It wasn't what I'm doing now. It was literally whoever walked through my door was my client type thing. And I was doing a lot of different various business law type of stuff. And while it was fun, I didn't have any focus. I did not have any plan of action. And that was just not me either. But I still kind of went through the motions. This was definitely a season of my life where there was a lot of going with the motions. Not too many plans are happening, but I'm just living in the moment, which is very different from what I've ever done before. And then I got pregnant with my first child. And so when I had my first baby, I kind of just wrapped up things and I'm like, you know what? I'm not going to practice law right now. I want to hang out with my child. So I hung out with my baby for awhile. And then I had my second baby and hung out with him as well for a little bit. So this hanging out took six years. Not a one-year hangouts. No, no, not at all. It was six years. I had the hardest time for the longest time to say that out loud also. Because I feel like in a professional world, that is the biggest taboo to not be working or practicing for that long, whether you are a lawyer, doctor, any other type of professional in that sense. And now though, when I look back, I think about the six years and in those six years I was doing so many other things that I probably would not have had experience with. I was helping my husband's business with his marketing. I was helping with his events. And then on top of that, I was serving on different boards for different charities happening in Houston also. So I got this taste of the creative world. Yeah. And I was exposed to different things and I was just like, gosh, this is amazing.

Girija Patel: So in 2015, I started this thing on Facebook called City Tattler. It was the most random thing that I started, but it was full of people connecting and talking about their city in real time. So in 2016, I went to this blogging conference, Thrive Blogging Conference by Bree. We love her. And I did not know the plan that God had for me, but it literally was this opening and a push into an area where I was getting experience, but now I could actually take that tangible experience, apply it to my education and help other people out. And it was the most beautiful thing that happened. And very organically, I started realizing that there's this whole industry of creative entrepreneurs that need help. They need help to create solid businesses so they can grow, they can scale. And I also believe law should not be inaccessible. It is so integrated in our daily life and in our businesses that we just cannot, 1)shy away from it, run away from it, but instead we need to embrace it. So that is my mission now and my mission is to help other entrepreneurs. Of course, give them legal help and give them legal consulting. But also change the rhetoric and the narrative surrounding law.

Shannon Mattern: I am so glad that that was your trajectory. And I don't know if you know this about me, but I started off my career after graduating college with a communications degree, doing marketing for a corporate law firm. And so my first experience in a real job was in a law firm, in a legal setting. And my sister worked in the it department. That's how I ended up getting the job there. And I could never imagine now being the business owner that I am. Being able to reach out to a single partner at that firm or a single associate or anybody at that firm and get the kind of help that I see people like you providing in the creative space. There's just not a law firm here, a local law firm here that's like, Oh yeah, this is the type of business owner that we would even consider having a conversation with. They would have never even had a conversation with me had I knocked on their door and said, Hey, this is what I do. They'd be like, no, there's nobody for you here. So I love that you do that.

Girija Patel: Yeah. And actually you're right. And it's so true. It's sad that that is the truth. But there are a handful of us that do this. I'm not the only one that's doing it. But we are most definitely paving a whole new way of practicing law. A way that is very untraditional. A way that might be uncomfortable for the old school lawyers or even people who are currently in law school. We're all trained a certain way. And we're trained to try to get the best job out there in the law firm, the pathway to becoming a partner. And so there all these things that are kind of ingrained in thinking, and I am just so happy that I'm able to have my own law practice, where I can serve a community that I know I am truly impacting and who are really receiving my help in a way where they're so grateful for it too, which is just amazing. And yes, you're right. Lawyers should not be inaccessible. I don't want to say no I can't help you because I think your business is too small to help. That's ridiculous. Right? And that's why I'm here. I want business owners, small business owners, big business owners, to know that legal is actually very important. And it's also very much in your business. You can't run away from it. And so rather than thinking and having that perception that I can only go when I have a big problem and seek legal help, or I can only go if I'm making this much money in revenue to seek legal help, no., You should have a solid legal foundation from the beginning where you are preempting these issues, where you're mitigating these issues. And where you're also like, you know what? I love my business and I'm going to be the CEO that I'm supposed to be for my business. And I'm so happy you say that, because that truly is what I want my community to feel about my practice and my brand.

Shannon Mattern: I think you were one of the first people that I had come across that I'm like, wait, there are lawyers that serve people like me? Because I spoke at the Thrive conference. I think it might've been a year that you spoke there too. That may have been when our paths first crossed. And I was like, that is so smart that there is someone that's like serving this community because what I saw for myself when I was first starting back in 2015, that I would have to figure out how to do all of this myself. I would cobbled together things that I saw other people doing and try to kind of figure out how to make a contract and try to figure out how to do all of this stuff on my own. And I had no idea what I was doing. I figured I probably needed a contract, but I didn't know what to do. There was nobody out there, you know, saying, hey, I help somebody like you. And I think for me, what I saw was someone like myself who was just like, I worked at a law firm, I'll DIY it. No, don't ever do that guys. People trying to either do DIY legal on their own, by researching stuff online or being completely oblivious to even needing the resource or just being afraid. Being completely afraid of, like you said, Oh, I don't want to grow my business too big because what if I have a legal problem? So they would hold themselves back from even doing a lot of things because of these fears that they would have, that they might get sued and they don't have anybody to navigate those things. And I love that you're like, let's just handle things before they even would ever get to that point.

Girija Patel: Absolutely. You know, contracts are, again, such a great way to mitigate issues or to even kind of just make them go away. They' don't even exist. Not to say that anybody can't sue you. You know, anyone can sue anybody. But the thing is that when you have these kinds of systems in place, legal systems in place, it also avoids a lot of these issues because some people are afraid to do it, but we have a contract. Or no, but this is protected by their trademark. Or no, this is protected by the copyright. And so all of these things, these legal strategies, are actually tools for the business CEO toolkit to put into your businesses and integrate them and actually leverage them to protect your business and to position yourself for success. And I think that's the conversation that we're not having enough of, rather than we're having, Oh my gosh, someone stole my copyright. What am I supposed to do now? Okay. Yeah, I get that. That's an actual problem. But what if we do some really simple little tweaks here and there that can maybe prevent nine out of the 10 people from doing that?

Shannon Mattern: I want to talk in a little bit about the legal life cycle of a new business, but I want to dive more into your story a little bit further. So when you decided that there was this whole community of creatives out there that needed to be served, what was your journey to figuring out, okay, now I'm going to start basically my own online creative business and start serving these people. So I want to hear how that kind of all came together.

Girija Patel: So in 2016, January, I think that's when it was, I went to this conference and prior to the conference, they actually had these little mini squads of groups of women or people attendees. And they're like, Oh, you're in the same neighborhood. Why don't you guys meet up? So I met with them and it was actually the most wonderful thing. I literally was very uncomfortable because I was putting myself out there with all these different people that I have never met before my life, in a whole other industry that I had nothing, I had no knowledge about. Okay. I was like, I'm a lawyer. I am not a techie person. I was so bad at that stuff. And then writing a blog post I'm like, I don't know how to do that. I only write formal stuff, which is so boring. So, you know, it's crazy how intimidated I was feeling. And I know somebody across the table might be like, you're crazy, but no. I mean, it doesn't matter what walk you're coming from, but when you're walking into an unknown, you feel intimidated. You feel scared. And those feelings were very real. They were happening, but I still went forward. And I went and met these amazing women who were still my friends. In fact, one of them is my brand photographer now for like everything that I do. Beamery Photography. She's amazing. But, I'm still friends with these women. They're amazing. And while we were talking, we were all talking about our backgrounds, and of course, I talked about mine and conversations stopped. They stopped about business. They stopped about blogging and they all turned into, we need help with this.

Girija Patel: What do we do? I'm like, why haven't you done this yet? Why are we doing this now three years into your business? And so, you know, I was a little dumbfounded, but at the same time, I was in awe that, wow, this is a whole area that needs help. And actually, at that same conference, there was a lawyer and she was talking about the same stuff. Now, she does some other stuff too online, but I was just like, wow, this is amazing. So afterwards I talked to a lot of other people and realize that, yes, I can definitely start helping this community. I just need to get myself going. And so 2016 was a year of dabbling, of experimenting, of exploring. It was definitely not a year where I plunged into it. And I was helping other people out, some of the same women that I met in the little mini squad. I was working on some of their stuff, just to kind of get a little experience in the area of businesses that they were in, because I knew nothing about it at that time, except for whatever experience I had and the basic legal stuff that I knew. And 2017 also kind of went into that as well. But then what happened was in 2017, I had some health issues and those health issues were where I'm just like, thank you God, for a second chance in life. And now I'm not going to waste it anymore. And I plunged into it. I literally after my second round of whatever I had to go through, I just started. I came home and I started working. I did not look back. I started working like nobody else's business. Although 2017, I was building up to it. And I most definitely had reached out to people, spoken at different places. But 2018 was when I rebranded, started my website and just went full in. And I think sometimes we need a little kick in our butt and I definitely got that in 2017.

Girija Patel: And it was like, God, okay, I got you. I know I have a second chance. I'm going to make this work. And so my goals are not to... like, yes, I would love to make a lot of money. Right? Yes, I would love to have all of that. But my bigger goal is that I want to share my knowledge in abundance, and I want to give the gifts that I have received and share them with everybody abundantly. So my platform is really based a lot on education. I try to keep on educating as much as I can educate. And in turn, if people resonate with me and they want me to help them with their services, I do that one-on-one. And then, last year during COVID times... you know, sometimes we have these dreams and they're sitting on the back burner, things that we're always talking about, but we just never get to it. And so last year was one of those years where I actually was so blessed enough to achieve two of those things that I kept thinking about all the time. One was a contract template shop where I'm digitizing and offering products now on legal stuff. And the second one was my own podcast that I started last year also. And it's been such a blessing to have all of that and to grow, but to also help other people in so many different avenues and not just ,hey, call me. Which you can always call me or email me, I'm always available. But, you know, just to be able to see a video, or chat with you on the podcast, or, hey, you don't want one-on-one, I got templates for you that can protect you for right now. And so the journey was not necessarily easy. There was most definitely points where your mindset shifts were happening, where I'm continuously still working on my mindset, continuously working on the funks that I get during the roller coasters, right of our seasons that we have. But what I do know is that each time I pick myself up and move forward, I get stronger. And so the next time that funk happens, I have an easier time getting over it.

Shannon Mattern: I am so glad that you said that. There are a few things that you said that I wanted to touch on, but that we all, all of us, every single one of us, goes through seasons of feeling really amazing, things are going really well, to points where it seems like things aren't going the way that we want, or we're emotionally not there. Or we're physically drained. We all go through it. And I think, you know, as a content creator or someone who's here to show up and educate my audience, and that was another thing that you said. I think this is why we we've connected so much. We're all about empowering our audiences to have this dream and do all these things. And we'll give as much as we can give until it's to the point where we do have to actually collaborate one-on-one to like help you get to the next level. Like, I'll give you everything, the education that you can take with you to do it on your own. There is a point where you do need that level of help. But I'm just so glad you said that because people listen to podcasts like this or see people's Instagram posts or whatever and they just think everybody's got it together a hundred percent of the time. And then when they don't, they think something's wrong with them, or they're doing something wrong. You have to know that you just have to persist through those times. We all go through it. We all go through it. And you put bad people in jail for a living. And yet you're intimidated and scared to start a blog. And so for people out there who are feeling like, Oh, you know, I shouldn't be scared, of course you should be scared. Everybody is scared when they do something new. Your wheelhouse was something that would terrify other people. Right?

Girija Patel: You put it in such a funny way. You're right. I never thought about that. I mean, I could go to court today and have a great argument about whatever I'm arguing about. Maybe I'll flinch for like five seconds, but that's it. And here I'm like, Oh my gosh, blog posts! Oh my gosh, website updates! I cannot even! Don't ask me these things!

Shannon Mattern: It's so interesting because it truly has nothing to do with our ability. It has everything to do with our mindset and it's so important. And it's such an important piece of our business that I think we probably don't spend enough time on it. I think there are probably two places that I don't think people spend enough time. I think one is legal and the other is mindset. I think people want to get into the tech and all of this strategy and all of the everything else, but they don't think about the long-term piece of their business. And they also don't think about like, Oh, Hey, I'm not supposed to show up on day one, knowing everything.

Girija Patel: Shannon. Can I talk a little bit about that? Your right. I always felt like I had to have every answer. If somebody called me with an inquiry or curiosity or whatever, I felt like I had to have the answer. And if I didn't, I felt like I wasn't a good lawyer. And I'm like, who does that? Now I'm like, that's crazy talk. But that was a training I had to give myself from when I first started was that it's okay to say, I need to do some more research before I give you an answer or I don't know exactly, but I'll let you know in a little bit. And of course, you know, if you have mentors defer to them, especially if they're in the same industry as you, or if you have friends in the same industry as you, ask them and try to get some confirmation that it's okay. You know, validate your "I don't know's", because you're not going to be perfect in the sense like you're not going to know all the answers all the time and you have to say it out loud. I don't know it, but it's okay. I'll figure it out. And if you have the willingness to figure it out, you're going to gain so many more steps in your business because you're learning and educating yourself. I love learning. I love educating myself all the time. And then therefore, I think that's why I'm always like throwing it out also.

Shannon Mattern: Oh yeah. So I mentor web designers and I teach them how to market their businesses. They bring the skill of web design to me and I teach them how to turn that into a business. But the exact same thing happens with them. They think that they need to know how to do everything a client could ever potentially ask them how to do right there on the spot. And that's not possible. It is impossible for you to be able to know what to do in every single scenario that could ever come your way and just already know it. And the only skill that you need to have is your confidence in being able to figure it out. That's it. And your client would rather hear you say that you're going to do your due diligence and figure this out than just be like, I know everything I'm gonna wing it. Like, I think this might be it. No. I would much rather someone tell me that they're going to take some time to answer my question than just say whatever and act like they know what they're talking about.

Girija Patel: Yeah, exactly. But I do believe that when you're a newbie business owner, when you're starting up, when you're trying to get more clients through the door, a lot of times we'll say we know it all. And it's okay to say, yes, I'll take in that business. But if you're asking you a question, I feel like sometimes we feel intimidated to say, no, we don't know. I mean, that's what I felt. But I think you're right. There is so much more power in saying, I'm not sure, but I'll figure this out and we'll get this work done. Like I got you, we're going to get this done together. And I think that makes it feel like a team effort, that also makes it feel like you're invested in what they're doing. And you're truly wanting to make whatever job or services you're offering them a hundred percent as, as good as you can get it. And that does take practice. If you're not doing that, it does take practice. It will be intentionally answering it that way and then acting like that also. And then hopefully it becomes more of a habit the more you do it.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. It'll press on your imposter syndrome a little bit at first. Probably.

Girija Patel: Yeah. Imposter syndrome was a real thing and it's true. And it still is. I started my law practice after six years. I had the hardest time saying that out loud because my imposter syndrome would tell me, who do you think you are? You're starting a practice after six years. And there are so many other people out here who know so much more than you, who've been practicing for six years. I would look at my friends who graduated the same time as I did in law school. And I'm like, gosh, they're still working and look where they are and look where I am. But it was definitely a season I had to go through in order for me to become a more confident owner of my own business and a person who is providing legal services to other businesses as well. I had to hone into my own courage and my inner strength in order to be shooing that away, the imposter syndrome. Saying, whatever, I'm still smart. I'm still intelligent. And the experience I gained in those six years, I bet you no other lawyer gained those experiences, to be able to serve their community the way I'm serving this community right now. Because I understand it. I get it. I'm not a contract drafter and you come to as an influencer and be like, what does that even mean?, What is an influencer? Right? No, I can speak your language because I understand it.

Shannon Mattern: I love everything that you just said there. I think that so many people want to value themselves based on how long they have been doing something. And yes, there's something to be said about all the experiences that you gather along the way, but just because you haven't been doing something, or you had that six year gap, or whatever it is, or you're a brand new web designer building your first website or you're taking your first client, the value of the solution that you provide to that person is no less valuable because it's the first time you're doing it versus the 100th time you're doing it. It is still valuable to that person. So we have to stop making it all about us and measuring it about us, and making it all about can I get this outcome for my client? Sure. It might take me a little bit longer. I'm a little bit rusty or I'm new. But I can still get them the same outcome. And the value to them is the same whether I'm been doing it for six years or not.

Girija Patel: Exactly. I love that.

Shannon Mattern: So I want to come back to what we touched on earlier about like the legal life cycle of a business. So this podcast is Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. We have people who have already quit their day job and are onto making six figures and beyond, which is amazing. And then we have the people who are just really getting started, trying to figure out what their next move is. So if someone were just getting started, what is the typical trajectory of when they're getting started, what they will need at these different stages of their business.

Girija Patel: Right. That's such a good question because I think we completely forget about that. So one of the first things, when you are starting, is get a good accounting system. I know it's not legal related, but get a good accounting system, whether you're using online tools, a CPA, a bookkeeper, anything. But start that because what happens is at the end of year one you're going to be trying to figure it out and scrounging around, trying to figure things out. It's a lot of work. I speak from experience. Okay.

Shannon Mattern: Been there, done that.

Girija Patel: Now for the legal, though, I would say that when you are first starting your business, you want to make sure that if you are starting it alone, that's totally fine. If you're starting it with another person, with a partnership of two or more people, you need to have a partnership agreement from day one. The reason is because day one, everybody's happy, everybody is assuming the best outcome of what's going to happen. Super optimistic. And then maybe day 250 you're going to say, gosh, this is a terrible idea. I can't believe we were doing this. And emotions are high. Frustrations are absolutely part of the equation now. And if you don't have a partnership agreement to navigate the icky issues, that's going to be a tough situation to get out of. And when emotions get involved, you're going to have a hard time finding a solution also. So having a partnership agreement really helps if you have it from the beginning of day one. That's if you have two or more people that are owning the company, whether that partnership is with your friend, a random person, your family member, you need to have it there.

Shannon Mattern: So it's like a prenup, it sounds like.

Girija Patel: Actually it's a great way of describing that because when you are starting a business with somebody else, you're marrying them in a business transaction. And there's a lot of information that goes back and forth. And so you need to have that definitely there. And plus it does help, like if XYZ were to do this or that, then what happens? So that's very important. And then, another thing is that a lot of questions come up about LLCs and sole proprietorships. And while there are many other entity formations, generally small businesses go from sole proprietorship to LLCs. The LLC being the limited liability company. If you are first starting your business and there's just very little risk exposure happening at this beginning of stages of your business, liability is also pretty low key, not a big deal. You can still keep running as a sole proprietor for the most part. However, if you are really risk averse, or if you have a really big exposure to risk, or you're providing services that can expose you to high liabilities if someone were to sue you, then you want to get an LLC. Because what happens is that when you have an LLC you add an extra layer of protection to your business, and you are now protecting yourself from somebody personally going to your personal assets to fulfill any judgment by the court. So say somebody sues you, they take you to court. The judge is like, okay, you owe this person $300,000. They're now going to run after every single asset that you own, your car, any extra homes, whatever that could be. But if you have an LLC, that LLC protects you. It doesn't allow that because now you're functioning as the business and not on a personal level anymore. So LLCs are great. Plus it's with tax consequences also. It's pretty much similar to sole proprietorship. It's pass through income so you're not double taxed, where the LLC revenues tax, and then also whatever you take from it is taxed as well.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So when I started my business, I started as a sole proprietor. I didn't know any of this. I had no idea. I was just like, Hey, I'll take some money to build a website for you. And I kept everything. I kept all my bank accounts separate and everything like that. And then I realized, since I was working for companies at that time that had way more assets than me if I would have messed something up with their website and causef them to, I don't know, who knows. I was just like, if this company sues me, I want to make sure that they're not coming after me. So then I decided to form the LLC. But in the beginning, I didn't even know. I was like, am I even allowed to take money to like build a website when I don't have a legit company? And that's when I figured out Oh, I was just a sole proprietor and that's what that was.

Girija Patel: Yeah. And so you're not an entity. If you're a sole proprietor, it's just a default setting, essentially. That's your default setting. It could be a general partnership also, which is just basically a sole proprietorship that has more than one owner to it. It's a default setting. So entity formation is actually going the LLC route, going the corporation route and then getting that statutory protection that comes from the books now. And I love that you talked about the bank accounts because that's really important. I think it's so important to get a separate bank account. Even if you're a sole proprietor. If you can start up your bank account, you do that. And you probably need an EIN number for that too. But having a separate bank account allows you to then essentially show that funneling of the money properly so there's no co-mingling of funds. And you want to make sure that once you do have an LLC that you're not co-mingling your funds. So have a separate bank account. Have a separate credit card that's a business credit card. So you can use that. It's easier to put money from your personal account into your business account because now you're loaning money to the business or you're putting capital into your business, right? That doesn't look as shady all the time. But what it looks more shady is when you're constantly taking money out of your business to pay for personal expenses and that's not okay. And so we need to keep that super clean cut, with the least commingling as possible. And so, getting the general beginning contracts, whether you are an LLC or not.

Girija Patel: So a lot of times, many different states have different rules. In Texas you're not required to have a company agreement if you have an LLC. However, company agreements are very important because what they do is, let's say you are more than a one member LLC, then the company agreement, again, will be the navigating instrument if something were to go wrong. But even if you're solo member LLC, the company agreement helps protect you because now it's an agreement between you and the company, rather than you, somebody else and the company. And so now you're agreeing with the company that, okay company, you're going to protect me if something happens. Okay, company, I'll give you money when I need to give you money. But it sounds funny. It sounds weird because you're just like, well, this is mine and I'm one and done with this, right?

Girija Patel: You think of yourself anonymous, but in the legal world, you are a entity. That company is an entity and then you're a person that's working for the company. And so that's also something that I really encourage my clients to do is if you're doing the LLC, I encourage them to get the company agreement as well. Some other things that you want to have when you're starting a business is a good client contract. A contract that you have with your clients and this contract states why they're hiring you, how much they're going to pay you, what services or products you're providing them, how frequently you're providing them. And if it's a membership, how often they're paying you, what the membership entails. But the idea is to be very clear on the expectations of that relationship. Your contract should be a reflection of what you and your client have talked about and what the outcome is that they are expecting and what outcome you are expecting.

Girija Patel: And so that's like the meat of the contract. And then you have those boiler plate clauses in there, which are essentially over time, lawyers and court law and everything has just been like, okay, these are important clauses to have. And so those are all included as well. And that can be a whole conversation for a whole other day because I could probably take up your entire podcast time, but client contracts are very important. Vendor contracts are important if you're working with vendors or manufacturing companies, or, some third party where you're getting goods from to sell to your consumer. So those are really important. Those everyday contracts are very important. Another thing that is important is if you have a website, I mean, most of your audience is creating websites. I would encourage every single one of you for your own personal website, you have to have a privacy policy. That's required by law. And the privacy policy should be a reflection of what your business practices are in reality, and not just a copy paste from a bigger company, because they're going to be using their names. And if you don't fix that, that privacy policy will be invalid. It just won't even make sense. And so you want to have a privacy policy that states your company's name. And also it's either a reflection of how your business handles other people's private personal information. Another thing that is required on the website is Terms of Use, or Terms and Conditions. I would encourage all of you to have that. That is essentially letting your user who is coming onto your website how to use your website, what they can or cannot do. And especially if you're selling digital products, have that element in the Terms of Use as well regarding digital products or free downloads. Like what are they doing with it. Also include your intellectual property notice that I own this, or for giving them a license because of the download, include that in there as well. Whatever resonates with your business essentially. And so that's very important. And I also know a lot of times people create websites and they go to website designers. And then, so what happens is that sometimes the website designers don't necessarily put in those Terms of Use or the privacy policy, and rightfully so, because they're not required to. And plus you also don't want to take on yourself the whole liability of giving somebody something legal. So I would just at least let them know, Hey, you need to get the privacy policy or the Terms and Conditionss, so that your clients know that those two elements are necessary, but you cannot provide it or you don't provide it for whatever reason.

Girija Patel: And so those are some really important elements. And then of course protecting your copyright and trademark Your trademark is your brand. It's the things that distinguish your brand or identify your brand. If you have a logo and you are a new business and you're creating a logo, don't go to Fiverr and think they're going to create a unique logo for you because more likely than not, it's not going to be trademarked. And you can't trademark it. So you want to create something that is unique to you. Something that is not copying somebody else also, because then you might be infringing on somebody else's trademark. And so that's really important that from the beginning, you are alert about it and you're cognizant about what's happening around you. So, that's the trademark. One more thing is the copyright. And then copyright is, you know, if you are creating product, or creating works of authorship that are new and original, and you're selling it, you might want to go ahead and copyright it so you're protecting it. And so that if somebody does steal it, you have extra protection over it. And just don't copy somebody else's stuff. Just because it's on Google doesn't mean you can copy it. So please create your own content. Create it, or make sure you're using it from a place that's giving you the license to use it.

Shannon Mattern: That's a lot of information. That is a perfect, basically 10 step checklist that you just really ran us through of kind of all of the things in order of importance that we need to know as new business owners. So definitely go back and listen to this episode, if you want to like go through those. But you also have some resources that spell all of this out for people. So can you tell them where they can go and get that from you?

Girija Patel: Yes. Actually this entire checklist that I just gave you, this is your basic legal audit for your business. And so I have a five day legal audit challenge, which essentially is a self-paced email. It comes into your inbox and has videos. And then it also has lots of worksheets for you to walk through your own business and audit your own business on your own time and your own pace. And so this really empowers you as a business owner to understand what's required in your business, but also understand what these legal mumbo jumbo means because I kind of break it down. And of course, if you're going through it, and you're just like, what does this mean, message me I'm available? I will tell you what it means. I am a DM away. I'm an email away. And so I'll give you the link. You can put it in your show notes. I do have a five day challenge. You can even go on my website, gbplaw.com and access the five day challenge as well. And of course, if there's contracts out there and you're just like, gosh, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to get a Terms and Conditions. I don't know how to do a privacy policy. I do have all these templates available, especially for the new business owners who are eager to protect themselves, but eager to also position themselves for success. Go to yourcontractbuddy.com and access those templates from there. And you can just start with a good footing and a solid footing in the legal realm.

Shannon Mattern: So we'll link all of that stuff up in the show notes. And you guys can also go to shannonmattern.com/343 to get your hands on all of that. But pointing out all of that stuff not only protects you and helps you just start off right, It makes you look super legit when you're working with clients, right? Those are the kind of intangible signals that say I am a legit business owner. Look, I have all of these pieces and parts. I have a contract that is like an actual contract, not just something that is thrown together with all these different patchwork clauses that really make no sense. It's something that really like spells out the relationship. And when I'm talking to my web designer students about it, your contract is how you set boundaries with your clients. It's not just like, Oh, this is to protect you just in case. It's like, no, this is so you can have the conversation before the project even starts about what your expectations are and how it's going to go. And it's the most important piece of your whole web design process, not to protect yourself from getting sued, but to explain to your client what's going to happen when they don't get you the content that they said that they were going to get you. And it makes those hard conversations so much easier when you can just be like, Hey, per our contract, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Instead of you coming out of left field with why you're canceling this project.

Girija Patel: And you know, you say that, and I'm going to say something else. If your contract doesn't give you the leverage to cancel because something did not happen, you are breaching your contract. So you can just go ahead and cancel if something doesn't happen, unless it specifically says in your contract, if XYZ doesn't happen, we have the right, we reserve the right to terminate this relationship. If payment is not made in time, we reserve the right to terminate. If it doesn't have that, and you terminate the contract, you've breached the contract now. So be a little bit mindful of what is also in that contract. And yes, there's lots of templates out there. And you want to make sure that the templates that you are buying are exhaustive, and they are covering all of these types of nuances that may not be in a regular template that you Google and find, or something that you're putting together.

Girija Patel: And just to kind of talk a little bit about what you had said about positioning yourself for success, and also looking like legitimate business, if you want to get a bank loan, if you want to get investors to come in and invest in your company, you need to have a business plan. You need to have contracts. You need to have some type of LLC made or a corporation or something like that. Especially if you're looking for investors other people's money. They're not going to pour it into you unless they know they're protected.

Shannon Mattern: So, so good. So I could talk to you for another hour about this stuff. But we're out of time. I have one more question that I want to ask you before we wrap up. And I asked this to everybody that comes on the show, and that is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?

Girija Patel: Such a good question. I think it goes back to, I've always had a sense of confidence in me. Of course, that confidence has been wavered at times, and I've had to generate more confidence by putting myself in a position where it's uncomfortable. And I educate myself more where I had to really put in more tangible experience into something where I feel more confident about it, but I think my main thing is that I can do it. And I always felt like maybe I cannot do it. Or maybe I just don't have enough willpower to do it, or I don't have this. But my biggest evolution has been that I can do it. I am made for this. If I have a dream in my heart, I am made for that dream. Now, it just depends how much I'm willing to pour into it.

Shannon Mattern: That is the perfect place to wrap up this episode. Can you tell everyone where they can go to connect with you and just learn more from you?

Girija Patel: Yeah, so I am absolutely available on Instagram. I'm very active on Instagram. So @gbplaw. And also I have email, gbp@gbplaw.com. And, of course, my website, www.gbplaw.com and then yourcontractbuddy.com. And then also my podcast. I'd love for you guys to hang out there and listen to some podcasts as well on Law Chat with Girija.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well, we'll link everything up in the show notes. So head on over to shannonmattern.com/343 to get all of those links. And Girija, thank you so much for being here.

Girija Patel: Thank you so much for having me. I just loved our conversation today.

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