Welcome to the blog

A place where busy entrepreneurs find quick & valuable education.
After years of education, tons of work experience, sweat, blood, and tears, you have created an amazing business-growth package that you want to sell to small business owners in order to help them increase their profits. You are eager to share your hard-earned advice to help others. In your enthusiasm, you make a statement in your advertising that your product is the “best in the business” or “it is guaranteed to increase profits”. After doing so, you start to wonder if these types of statements open you up to any legal issues? If so, how can you protect yourself? If you have made such a statement in your advertising, it may be considered puffery, a guarantee, or even false advertising.   Puffery If you have made a big statement about your product’s excellence that turns out to be false, is it automatically false advertising? Not necessarily! Some statements might be...
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Viral videos are one of the latest byproducts of the ever-increasing popularity of social media outlets. Instead of slogging through the process of having to email a funny video to your friend, you can now share that video with all of your friends in one click. One of your friends does the same, and then one of their friends, and then one of their friends and a viral video is born. This chain effect may have been a desired outcome from a concerted advertising effort by a company, a private individual’s shot at their 15 minutes as fame, or even a complete fluke. You have probably watched viral videos and other videos through a variety of platforms. What you may not know is that you could be watching an illegally downloaded video. What downloading or sharing of videos is allowed?   Downloading Videos from YouTube YouTube provides the ability for...
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Graphics (or ‘works’) are everywhere. They are on every website, they are on every ad, they are posted across social media, and they are soooo easy to copy and paste…but is that legal? What if you credit where it came from? What if you only use a link? You may run across one of these situations: Wanting to grab a graphic or worksheet from someone to share – even without alterations – and just give credit to the creator Create a freebie and attached a cool graphic that belongs to someone else or you’ve randomly found on the web Let’s start with the base of legal protection surrounding most of those cool works you see online: THE COPYRIGHT. This is the baseline to keep in mind anytime you see another graphic, product, download, etc. online.   Copyrights The United States Copyright Office (USCO) defines a copyright as, “A form of...
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Protecting Credit Card Information: The World of PCI DSS Compliance
The increasing use of paying with plastic in person and the increase in online credit and debit sales is all about convenience for the consumer. However, one of the greatest worries in making these types of purchases is putting your personal information out into the world where it may be at risk. There seem to be constant headlines about payment card information (think your name, address, credit card number, etc.) breaches and identity theft. You run a small online store, so what steps are reasonable for you to do to protect your customer’s information? Even further, what steps are you REQUIRED to do to comply with industry standards?   The Council and PCI Compliance The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council was founded by five global payment brands: American Express, Discover, JCB International, MasterCard, and Visa. The Council is the organizing body in charge of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry...
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Sales tax, VAT tax & your business
It used to be easy. You had a brick and mortar storefront, customers came into said store to make their purchases, wherever your store was located told you how much sales tax was owed, and you paid them. Alas, things have changed. Now you have an online store instead of a brick and mortar store, customers purchase from your store from locations all around the world, and you may (or may not?) have taxes due all over the place. How do you begin determining what consumption taxes need to be collected from your customers?   “Old School” Sales Tax With a traditional sale, the government imposes a sales tax at the point of sale on goods and services. The retailer collects that tax and passes it on to the appropriate government body. Generally, that government body is the state, and they set their own tax rate. However, some states do...
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The case of the copycat website: what to do if your site is copied
You have spent a lot of time, effort, and money creating the perfect website for your business. You researched the best layouts, paid for a custom website, commissioned custom graphics, and regularly add your own unique content. THEN, you find out that someone copied you…not just one blog post or one photo, but your entire website. What can you do? Let’s start with what the law protects from copying or infringement, and then delve into what your options are to enforce any legal protection.   Is Your Website Protected The easy answer here is ‘yes’, but, of course, there are legal intricacies that may complicate this ‘easy’ answer.   Copyright Protection In general, content is automatically copyrighted upon creation, and the copyright is owned by the creator of the content. Thus, the second your website is developed, it is automatically protected under copyright law. This is true whether you register with...
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Non-Compete Agreements in Mentor-Mentee Relationships
Have you ever had a mentor or been one? Perhaps you identified as a business coach or consultant? Maybe you had an informal mentor-mentee relationship, such as a family friend, or maybe a more formal relationship, such as a guidance counselor or a boss at an internship. Chances are most people can answer yes to this, but how many have signed a non-compete agreement for such a relationship? As employment agreements are on the rise, so are non-compete agreements. Something that was once reserved for executives is now being used for every employee of a company and branching out into new business areas that have never used them before. So do you need to ask your potential mentee to sign a non-compete agreement, or should you sign that non-compete that your potential mentor asked you to sign? Before you can make either of these decisions you need to know what...
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Pinterest seems pretty easy to dominate, right? Well, I thought so too. But then I checked my analytics and got so frustrated. I had done my research on time of day to pin, scheduled pins with Tailwind App for automation, and made sure to do this every first of the month for an entire month. I thought I had my Pinterest market on lockdown. Then along came Stacie from Paper and Prosper to show me almost every single thing I was doing was only “Ok.” Okay no, let us be honest. It was mostly wrong. It was like throwing spaghetti noodles against the wall and hoping they stuck.  Some did, but a lot didn’t. My analytics were showing the following: 61% organic traffic – so my SEO was good! 40% direct links (emails to my list + facebook + twitter) 3% Pinterest The rest was random and unidentified resources 3% for...
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What you need to know about return policies for your products
Whether you accept or do not accept returns, a well-written policy informing your customers of what to expect can be a powerful business tool. It may sound like just another thing to attempt to fit into your busy schedule, especially if you don’t allow returns, but it is a necessity. It will keep your customers happy and protect your bottom line. Where do you begin when trying to decide whether to allow returns or not? A good place to start is with any applicable laws. Once you know how you will (or will not) be legally bound, then you can consider the balance between your customer service policy and protecting your business. Once you have crossed these bridges you can review your policy options; allow returns, don’t allow returns, or both.   Return Policies & The Law In general, merchants are not required to accept returns of goods. However, most...
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Are your readers safe when they visit your blog?
There are a few things that are of paramount importance when you are creating and maintaining your blog. They are the content you provide, the relationship you have with your followers and readers, and the knowledge that your readers are completely safe when they read your blog. Your readers are a valuable resource, yet also human beings who deserve to be appreciated. Cybercriminals out there see them the same way, except that they hold no interest in their humanity, only in their profitable data. Your readers trust in you whenever they read your blog or subscribe to it. It is time you checked in on whether you are keeping your side of the bargain. Here is what you should know:   Stewardship Over Data If you have a successful blog, then there is a good chance that you are keeping a good deal of data on your readership. You might...
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How to legally use testimonials in advertising
Using testimonials in advertising is one of the strongest pieces of marketing that one can use.  These testimonials can come by way of formal feedback requests (surveys), comments on Facebook walls, and tweets on Twitter. While there is great power in the punch for the strength of a testimonial, legalities come with it that place a duty on the individual using them in marketing. Testimonials legalities are pretty clear-cut and straight to the point. The name of the game is disclosure. The reason for this is because there is governing law that requires that we do so, but the law is there to protect consumers from misleading or deceptive practices such as false testimonials. One thing to remember, disclosure and adherence to the law will only increase buyer confidence.  It will not diminish the strength of the testimonial in marketing. What will weaken the marketing strength is if you are...
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Protecting client information: Your duty as a business owner
“Watch the curb! Watch the curb!” I raised my voice to provide this guidance to my oldest child attempting to learn a bike without training wheels.  As parents or caretakers of others, we are given a duty to provide guidance for operating in life, as well as looking out for their well-being. Without this small direction, my child would’ve learned the hard way and probably ended up with some bumps and scrapes. He may still learn the lesson after, but if I could prevent injury before it happens – even better. As a business owner, we have a duty to guide and protect our clients/purchasers in a similar manner. While your role may not be to provide guidance to your client, as you may be providing a product or service, it is our duty to provide measures of business interaction that safeguard these individuals entrusting faith and monetary investment in us. This duty is as...
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Free email list building course from LeadPages
I want to give you something. I wish it was dinner or a coffee, but the logistics would be a nightmare.  So for now, let’s stick with something that can help your business grow significantly this year.  You see, LeadPages has put together this phenomenal course on Email List Nurturing, and they’re allowing me to give this to you. No cost, no obligation, you don’t even have to opt-in. The only thing you have to give in return for all of this incredibly useful information is about two hours of your time. Yes, in two hours, you can watch this entire 9-video course, created by Bob Jenkins, LeadPages’ Marketing Educator, and be well on the way to growing a much stronger, much more effective email list, and boosting your sales. Because Bob isn’t just showing you how to get people on your list. He’s also showing you how to turn those...
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How to put your Facebook Ads on autopilot
I have a big secret y’all. I haven’t seen anyone discussing it in the groups. I do, however, see people discussing their frustration in trying to figure out the Facebook Ads Manager. I see the exasperation as brands are trying to read the analytics and screw up targeting. I see the giving-up of many who are spending more money than they need to simply because they don’t have time. Drumroll please. AdEspresso is the best thing since sliced bread for your Facebook Ads. And no, AdEspresso didn’t pay me to say that.* AdEspresso provides a plethora of extra capabilities that the standard Facebook Ads Manager does not. These include autopilot, at-a-glance visual comparisons of ads, and enhanced analytics.   Autopilot Anytime you have a system that provides autopilot options allowing you to be hands-off but still moving closer to your goal – you need it.  This is particularly true when running Facebook Ads as the ads will keep running, taking money, and not...
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Gmail is amazing for all of the integrations and capabilities, but sometimes you just need to hack it a little bit more to get some extras features. Here are some Gmail hacks that will keep you professional, efficient and even legal!   #1. Send Email at a Specified Time Want to stick to your office hours in your clients eyes but need to get work done at weird hours? Simply use Boomerang for Gmail and have all emails queued up to send at the time you choose!   #2. Recall an Email We’ve all done it – wrote a quick and heated email and almost instantly regreted it.  If you send an email like this and need to get it back, simply go into the right-hand corner > Labs > Undo Send > select Enable > Save Changes. Then go to General > Undo Send > and set a time...
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Here I go again: talking about how to make money. But Rachel, you think, I have plenty of money! I am just blogging for fun! Well, dear reader, congratulations, but this post is for the rest of the blogosphere who needs to pay some bills. So let’s get down to it. One of the most common ways people monetize their blogs or websites is through online advertisements. As with any other steps in growing your business, however, it is crucial that you consider the best methods of advertising for your particular brand and manage your advertisements and any related disclosures closely. When you are on top of your advertisements and disclosures, you won’t risk endangering your credibility with your readers.   Selling Ad Space on Your Blog When you think about advertising on blogs, you’re most likely thinking about selling traditional ads like graphic images in banners or sidebar ads....
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Why having a custom email name is mandatory for success
With the massive overhaul technology has provided for business, attitudes have become more relaxed and allow for off-the-cuff type images (think Instagram) and injection of personality into business marketing.  However, professionalism is more important than ever to marketing and business success on the Internet. There is a misconception that professionalism is portrayed through large displays of business engagement, however, it can be as subtle as having (or failing to have) a custom domain email name. Let’s walk through reasons why having a custom domain email is near mandatory for success of your business.   What is a custom email name? Custom email names are the address you provide to potential clients.  A custom email name is like this: rachel@rachelbrenke.com.  A non-custom email name: Bloglegally@gmail.com, BlogLegally4u@aol.com etc.   Why do I need a custom email name? Professionalism Professionalism is key to building buyer confidence and setting yourself up to be taken seriously by clients...
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The number one success factor MOST entrepreneurs don’t know
One of My Most Vulnerable Moments I was in a beauty contest once, “Homecoming Queens of America.” But an inexperienced one, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t even have a talent. So the plan was to skip the talent portion of the competition… On the day of, I watched as contestant after contestant took to the stage reciting monologues. (Apparently this is what beauty queens do when they have no talent. I missed the memo.) So I got an idea… I couldn’t even believe I was considering it but somehow I knew I had to do it. I stood up and informed the coordinator I did, in fact, have a “talent.” I was called to the stage: “Miss Oregon will now be performing a monologue.” Terrified, I stood up in front of a room full of strangers and began… “Row, row, row your boat,” I spoke slowly, emphasizing...
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Do you need a collaboration agreement to work with others?
Technology makes it so easy to collaborate on creative projects with other people. You don’t have to be in the same place as your creative partner when you share ideas virtually. But with the convenience and speed of online collaboration comes some often-ignored, but important, copyright and conflict-dispute issues. Before you start working with someone on a new creative venture, you should consider whether you need to sign a collaboration agreement.   Potential for Joint-Work by Law Under federal copyright law, without a specific agreement, a collaborative work will be considered “joint work” with co-ownership of a copyright and an equal share in any royalties. Without a collaboration agreement, you cannot unilaterally license (e.g., granting someone else the ability to use your logo) or sell your product or project without the consent of both creators. And the conflict between the collaborators may arise when there are multiple offers for exclusive...
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While you are busy working on The Next Big Thing, how can you be sure that your employees, partners, and service providers aren’t blabbing about what you are creating? If you need to keep your business operations under wraps, you want to consider having your team members sign a nondisclosure agreement, also known as an NDA.   What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement? A nondisclosure agreement is a confidentiality agreement between you and another party. It is used when one party wants to prevent the other party from disclosing its trade secrets or proprietary information to outsiders and to provide recourse if the other party violates the agreement. NDAs are commonly used to protect information like internal processes or methods, customer lists or contact information, or growth or sales plans. But you can use an NDA to protect any information that you don’t want disclosed to outsiders. It is one of...
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Should you offer online lifetime access to your product?
Two common ways you can sell your product online are by subscription service or lifetime access. A subscription service is a payment plan. Your customer pays you a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee, and as long as the customer is current in payments he or she may access your product online. Lifetime access, however, is not often as clear-cut. Many companies offer or have offered lifetime access (or a “lifetime subscription”) to their products – TiVo and Sirius satellite radio are two examples. Generally, lifetime access means that for a single payment, the customer gets unlimited access to the product, and sometimes, free updates or other benefits as the product or technology evolves. But what does “lifetime” really mean? How long is a lifetime in the constantly-changing, online world? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of offering lifetime access to your product.   Pros to...
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Is your blog name legal?
You picked a niche. You pop in your scratched-up Friends Collector’s Edition discs into the dvd player. Crack your knuckles to fire up the new website. Only to stop… ….and ponder whether your business name is legal or not. Before you go any farther, let us check out some information on this. Because, let’s be real, naming your website is probably as hard as naming your human, or even fur, children.   What’s in a name? If you are doing business through your website, you may need to file for an “assumed name” or “fictitious name” certificate, also known as a “doing business as” certificate. This post will give you a general overview of when you need to file for such a certificate and how to go about it.   What is a fictitious or assumed name? A fictitious name is a name you conduct business under that is different from your business’s official...
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How to get paid by a client who owes you money!
You wrote great copy. Nailed the consultation. Signed the clients. But when the time rolled around to get you to get paid on the remainder of the monies, you hear crickets. What do you do? This post may be most useful to those of you who are business owners, but in fact, anyone who is owed money can use this information to help collect what you are owed. Debt collection is a highly regulated industry. Our old friend the Federal Trade Commission (you bloggers should be familiar with the FTC by now!) and the states have many laws in place to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices, so it is always a good idea to look over those rules before you start calling your customers and demanding payment from them. Here, though, we will discuss how to get started on the collections process, who you may want to hire...
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I’ve been challenged by many when I say that EVERY Entrepreneur should write a book. I’ll plead my case in a moment but first I want to explain how I came to this understanding myself. I was a licensed insurance agent several years ago and a company recruited me to sell their insurance product. The real draw of their recruitment was the promise that they would give me “all the leads I could handle.” Imagine my disappointment when the leads they gave me consisted of a phone book. I found myself sitting on the phone for hours and hours thinking, “This is not what I want to do.” I wanted the people who knew the value of what I did to find me. At the time I thought that I was looking for a miracle. That’s how I got started in Attraction Marketing. Attraction marketing is a method that sets...
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You may have considered offering gift certificates through your website. Or maybe you already do. In the past few years, gift cards and certificates have been the subject of federal and state legislation to protect consumers from overly restrictive and abusive gift card practices. We want you to know the federal legal requirements for issuing and using gift cards and gift certificates and where to look for your state’s specific requirements. In 2010, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (the CARD Act) went into effect. The CARD Act sets forth the bare minimum of rules governing all gift cards in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission governs the use of gift cards at the federal level. The states are free to create even stricter rules. Gift cards come in two forms: 1) retail gift cards or certificates, which can be used only at the specified...
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