Most artists don’t often think about working with lawyers, but legal professionals can be very helpful to you in a number of different ways.
Let’s take a look at how it can benefit your business by getting good legal counsel:
1. Setting up your business structure. Are you interested in forming an LLC or a partnership for your art or craft business? Perhaps you want to start a nonprofit organization. An attorney can work with you to form your business and get everything into place to comply with the laws of your state.
2. Zoning issues. Opening a studio in a residential area may not comply with zoning; permits might be needed to renovate buildings or use signage. Make sure you are in compliance by checking with your lawyer before you face complaints from neighbors or costly zoning fines.
3. Tax advice. Don’t allow your tax obligations to stress you out. A good attorney, in concert with your accountant, can help you resolve or head off tax issues that might come up due to inaccurate reporting or late returns.
4. Liability issues. Hopefully, every artist has insurance coverage for their studio. Liability coverage is a very important concern, because it can be the most costly. Speak to your attorney (and your insurance agent) about how you can protect yourself from potential lawsuits.
5. Employees. Artists who may be considering hiring studio assistants or other employees should make sure they comply with state law. Consult an attorney for information on employees vs. independent contractors, sub-contractors, benefits, workplace issues and your responsibilities as an employer.
6. Contracts. A lawyer can be consulted for advice and review contracts for you. Whether it involve leases, licensing agreements, consignments, or other issues, make sure you don’t sign away your rights or get into an agreement you will later regret.
7. Collections. Unfortunately, collections are a part of life. When you haven’t gotten paid despite your best attempts, turn to a competent lawyer to handle this for you. It’s amazing what a forthright letter from a law firm can do to encourage your creditors to pay you quickly.
8. Copyrights. This issue is a huge worry for many artists. How do you file for a copyright and what can you do when you feel your copyright is violated? Speak to your attorney and get the facts on how to protect your creative product from ripoffs.
Concerned about the cost of an attorney? Organizations such as Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts exist to help creative entrepreneurs with their legal needs. Check with your state to see if such help is available.