We answer the most common business and legal questions from freelancers. Can't find the answer? We also provide all members with a free consultation. Just click on Business Advice, fill out the form and our partners will get in touch.
As a freelancer, be it a make-up artists, photographer, designer etc one of your main priorities is having a contract for your services. They could be delivered personally or through a limited company.
You will also need a contract for when you are receiving services from someone else e.g. a fellow contractor. On top of this, the documentation you need will depend on how you operate your business. If you are taking on staff, you might need a contractor agreement or even an employment contract. If you are renting a space, you will need a lease. If you have a website, you'll need to have Terms and Conditions, a Cookies policy etc.
We recommend you fill out the form to speak to a solicitor about your working arrangement to make sure you don't miss out on any important documentation that could harm you down the line.
If you don't have a contract and a dispute arises it's far more difficult to resolve. Sure you may have email correspondence or that elusive phone call where that specific piece of information was mentioned, but this is so much more difficult to draw upon and prove than a piece of paper which states it clearly.
Although contacts can be made by email or even verbally, they normally lack specifics in relation to rights, responsibilities, risks and rewards. Even if you do not have a dispute, it's a handy reminder of each of your obligations throughout the relationship, which will ensure a smooth process from start to finish. It may even help to prevent any disputes before they arise.
'Trade Marks' A trade mark is a sign that is represented graphically or via words or even via the shape of goods or packaging that distinguishes goods or a service. Registering a trade mark means you can:Take appropriate legal action against people using your brand without prior consent Sell and license your brand Use the famous ® symbol next to images of your brand which will act as a deterrent for those wishing to use it without your knowledge 'Copyright' You do not have to apply for copyright to be granted, as you would with a trademark. It is a protection that is automatically given to original creative works which gives the author exclusive right (unless granted otherwise) to use or distribute such work. 'Patent' Patents are much trickier to obtain and far more expensive. You could potentially protect a method your service uses by filing for a patent but only if you have created a new method of manufacturing or preparing a product which is unique. To make sure you do not infringe any patented manufacturing methods, make sure to undertake a patent search on the government's intellectual property office website. 'Trade Secrets' Similar to copyright, 'trade secrets' do not require registration and so will be automatically granted. In general terms, commercial information that is deemed 'confidential' because it gives you a competitive edge may be considered a trade secret. You should be covered with anyone you speak to about your trade secrets with a confidentiality agreement (NDA).
If they are using it on social media there may well be provision in the Terms and Conditions of that social media site which enable you to request a take-down of infringing material. If that doesn't work or the infringement takes place on a site which has no such policies then you or your lawyer can send a 'Cease and Desist' letter directly the infringer and often this will be enough to achieve your objective/stop the infringement.
If you're an innocent user you shouldn't have anything to worry about. if you've received the Cease and Desist notice from a social media site because someone else has complained about you then you should demonstrate to the social media site your proof of ownership. If you're approached directly by them you can provide that information directly. If you have infringed then it's best to stop infringing immediately so as to avoid the risk of escalating damages and costs in a legal dispute.
If you've already reminded your client to pay and they're simply refusing, don't worry there are legal steps you can take to recover the money you are owed.Settling payment disputes with the help of a solicitor If the client has ignored your overdue invoice emails, the fear of legal action can sometimes be enough for the client to finally pay the outstanding amount. A solicitor will be able to send a formal letter to the client on your behalf. However, make sure you get an up-front fixed-fee price to send the letter or this could end up costing you more than the claim is worth. Small claims track in England and Wales Depending on how much is owed to you as well as where you live, will determine which court to submit your claim to. As long as the value of the claim is less than £10,000, you may be able to submit a small claim yourself which will be allocated to the small claims track. The small claims track is a simplified system for dealing with lower value claims designed to be less formal and more accessible to litigants in person. Making a claim online As an alternative to issuing proceedings in court, claims for specified sums can be issued completely online at Money Claim Online (MCOL) - HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s internet-based service for claimants and defendants. This can work for debts of up to £100,000. After submitting a claim and paying a fee you can review the progress of your claim online. Defendants are given the opportunity to respond. Using a debt collection agency You could also choose to refer the matter to a debt collection agency to recover the money. These agencies will work with you to find flexible ways to resolve your outstanding balances; they usually charge a percentage of what you recover as a commission. Debt recovery agencies are also limited in what they can do unless you have a statutory demand or a court judgment in your favour. Issuing a Statutory Demand If a debt is undisputed and is for more than £750 (for a company debt) you can issue a Statutory Demand. This is another good way of inducing late payers to cough-up. If a Statutory Demand is undisputed and not paid within 21 days of its receipt you can start insolvency proceedings against the late payer to wind up their company.
If you run a Limited company together it may be that you have a shareholders' agreement which regulates disputes between you. If not, the company will have some Articles which provide its constitution and may give you some clues as to how a disagreement should be managed. If, instead of running a Limited company, you run a legal partnership together then either a partnership agreement will exist or a statutory partnership agreement will be deemed to apply to the partnership. In either case, disputes with a business partner are very stressful and can be quite complicated so it's worth getting some legal advice at the outset.
If it's a written contract, the document may specify circumstances in which you are entitled to terminate, and these might include a performance failure by the other side. If there is no specific term allowing you to terminate the agreement early then the risk you run is that you yourself might be in breach if you terminate early. If that happens you could incur financial consequences such as damages and costs. It is worth getting some advice before you take a hasty step.
If you are threatened with court action it is definitely worth having a lawyer represent you. It may be that the allegations made have no legal basis or that you have a defence, or that you have a counter-claim, or that the threatening correspondence you've received does not comply with the pre-action procedures which the courts require. A lawyer should be able to spot any inadequacies in the claim against you and advise accordingly.