I am a freelance website designer. I have contracts, policies, invoices and copyright forms (is there anything else I need?). I am wondering if I legally need a DBA, or if I am fine doing business as myself.
You should consult with a business lawyer. This will be money well spent. That lawyer will probably suggest that you organize as an LLC, draft and operating agreement, help you chose an appropriate designation for tax purposes, and otherwise give you advise that will keep you safe, save you money in the long run, and generally give you peace of mind.
Hire a lawyer to help you now. Spending a small amount now could save you big problems and money down the road. Good luck.
I agree with the other attorney's answer. You should talk to an attorney now while you're getting set up. An LLC might be the best idea for you, as that would protect you from personal liability if a judgment was ever entered against the company. You can also find more information about forming an LLC in Wisconsin here: http://www.wdfi.org/. Good luck.
You can do business under your own name or a fictitious name as a sole proprietor; however, you open yourself up to unlimited personal liability. A LLC or corporation provides you with numerous benefits including: limited liability, tax benefits, and others. Since, you are doing business as the sole owner, you should consider the LLC. Consult with a business lawyer who will assist you with business planning and due diligence, formation, market assessment, raising capital if needed, and all the necessary documentation to help your business be successful.
Q: "I am wondering if I legally need a DBA, or if I am fine doing business as myself."
R: Registering a fictitious business name and doing business under that name is a branding decision that's based on your assessment of your business and the marketplace. If you think doing business under a snazzy name will boost your credibility and drive business your way then you should do business under that name. If you think your personal name drives business your way then continue to do business under your personal name. Either way, unless you formally create a company [an LLC or partnership or corporation] then you are doing business as a "sole proprietor" regardless what you call your business. To put a fine point on the matter, a fictitious business name does not CREATE a company -- it just names the business that you're providing yourself.
As my colleagues note, you should speak with a business attorney licensed to practice in your state who will advise you on how best you should do business. Good luck.
Are You Planning on Opening a New E-Commerce Website?
There is much you need to know as you begin your new business. I suggest you do not attempt to write your own legal policies. This is not where your training and background lie, and though you are probably as smart as an attorney, you do not have their experience.
Below is a checklist for legal issues I use for new e-commerce clients.
1. Business Model – Is your idea viable as a web based business?
2. Business entity - Are you going to be a C corp, a sub-S, an LLC or a sole proprietorship?
3. Terms of Service - This is your contract with your visitors and is the most important item for any e-commerce site. A little work here brings big dividends in the future.
5. FTC guidelines - The FTC has been regulating business advertising for almost a century. All of their advertising guidelines apply to e-commerce sites.
6. Domain Name issues? Is your name available. Can you create a Trademark?
7. Trademark - Do you have a brand name free from conflict? Should you start with just common law rights? Should you register the mark, and when?
8. Copyright - If it is on the web, it already belongs to somebody. Did you buy a license for the images you are using?
9. Do you need a DMCA policy?
10. Web Site security issues?
11. Do you need and have an EIN? You can get that for free.
12. Do you need an arbitration clause?
13. Do you have employees? - If so you need written policies regarding their authority and use of the internet.
14. Do you know the difference between a "browser wrap" and a "click wrap" and which do you need?
15. Are you abiding by the Child's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)rules?
When I discuss this list with clients other issues arise. Finally, I always discuss with my clients their need for good accounting services. An accountant's advice as you start up can save you many dollars in tax that you might not save if you wait to speak to an accountant until your first tax return is due.
I hope this list will give you pause to think about those issues for which you might need to seek professional advice.
You may want to discuss your situation with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo, including myself, offer a free phone consultation.
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