Have you ever wondered how you can make your business official? In this episode, Camille welcomes Lauren Boyd, an attorney and owner of Guide My Business, who helps you understand what steps to take to be legal and have that worry-free knowledge that you own the trademark of your business and you can grow it with power.
Intellectual property is the lifeblood of your business. The content you’re creating, your brand, that’s absolutely worthy of protecting whether it be through trademark or through contracts with people you’re working with.
Lauren shares the step-by-step process in how you can register your business from the very beginning to how to hire the right people and draft the right contracts. She also shares her advice on dealing with challenges in trademarking, intellectual property, and setting boundaries in the workplace.
Messy action has its place. We’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. Give yourself grace and do something today that’s going to make you feel secure in the ownership of your brand, whether that is doing some initial searching yourself or reaching out to a lawyer in your area.
If you want to learn how you can protect the ownership of your brand and business, tune into this episode to hear Lauren’s advice on how you can successfully register your business and set yourself apart from others in your industry.
Find somebody that you know and trust that understands your industry, that’s going to be there to support you because it’s a long-term relationship.
LAUREN BOYD [0:00]
There's a lot of benefits to the peace of mind of knowing that you own your brand. You may not think you're ever going to sell your business. You may think exit is absolutely in your horizon. Either party, either version of that, you really need to consider trademarking. It's a right that's so important.
CAMILLE WALKER [00:19]
So, you want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO.
If you're a business owner and have wondered when is the right time to make your business official with trademark, lawyers, knowing what to do about hiring clients, you're going to love this episode. We're talking to Lauren Boyd, who is an attorney and owner of Guide My Business, who helps you understand what steps to take to be legal and have that worry-free knowledge that you own the trademark of your business and you can grow it with power. So, today's episode, we're going to dig into the questions of knowing when to trademark, knowing the steps to take when hiring employees or independent contractors, and how to protect yourself in all of the ways that matter. Let's dive in.
Welcome back everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO. Today, we are talking about legal advice. Now, if you are looking for any specific legal advice, of course, talk to your own lawyer or attorney. This is advice-based only. However, we have an expert in the house, Lauren Boyd, who is the owner of Guide My Business, which is a boutique law firm. It is a smaller boutique that is relationship-focused and helps you take power and education into play into your business so you can make it better and more secure in what it is that you're offering and who you are. So, Lauren, thank you so much for being here today.
I'm so happy to be here. It's fun to catch up on the podcast.
Yeah. I think that this is a really deep topic where there are so many things that we have already been talking about before we started recording here today. I know that I get a lot of questions about the best steps with building and growing a business and people wonder when they should talk to an attorney. So, let's dive into this. Tell me about how you get started in this passion piece of growing a boutique law firm from going from corporate to now where you are in the place where you are today.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I actually went to school for finance and entrepreneurship. So, when I was double majoring in the entrepreneurship program, I loved our mock little council from third year law students. And I really just moved away from the finance path that I was on and said, you know what? I think legal is the way I'm going to really impact businesses going forward.
And so, I applied to law school, went through law school, really focused on the business points, but at the same time, knew that one day, I would probably have something of my own. I really didn't know if it was going to be a law firm or something else. And I would hone my skills, hone my passions, I have this background in law that would be part of the success or if it would be a law firm itself.
And I was in my corporate job for several years. I owned my house and it was really nice to have a comfortable paycheck and I had just got a dog and I was on the bed. And I was talking to my boyfriend now husband over dinner and I was like, "I think I want to quit my corporate law job and start a law firm." And I was like, "If it doesn't work out, I can go in-house someplace else." And I had this whole, "If this doesn't work, here's what I'll do next."
But then that's four and a half years ago now and it feels like 10 sometimes, but it was really only four and a half. Four and a half years ago and I have several employees. We have clients that have been with us from the very beginning and new clients coming on all the time and it's kept us on our toes. It's kept it interesting.
We have really a wide practice area which we are starting to really niche down because really we want to grow with our clients in a particular way going forward, but it's just been fun to see the evolution of the firm from start to finish. And really a lot of it has been focused around building boundaries, evolving to a place where we can provide the best guidance possible. And I just feel like the firm has gotten better and better every year.
Wow. With that educational background of business and law, there is so much that you have to offer and I'm so excited to dig into that. I'm looking at what you've been going through in these past few years, you've had a pandemic, a wedding, and a baby and you've moved. I’m just like holy smokes, this is a lot to take in. I feel like the timing of getting your business started four years, how great is that that you were building that foundation first before those big changes happened? Was that something that sequentially you had planned on or did it just work out that way?
Yeah. So, I got my Enneagram typed. I don't know if anyone knows about the Enneagram. If you don't, check it out. I love it. I'm an Enneagram 8 and it turns out that I'm very forward-looking. I was like, yup, that sound about right. I think I knew that especially as a woman, I wanted to be able to build something of myself, something of my career that can be flexible at the point that we were going to start a family. And I knew that it was going to take a little bit of time to build into that.
And so, when I was with my now husband who we're dating and it was basically like, "Hey, I think I'm going to quit my job. Do you want to move in and help me pay the mortgage? Great." So, he was really that safety net and regimen to start, but we both actually came from entrepreneurial families. And so, I think he could understand why I wanted to build something like this and he could understand why I wanted to be at home more.
In fact, during this podcast, I can't help it. You may or may not hear her cry. We have our nanny here who works part-time and really I work part-time in the business now. And this is not something I could have done a couple of years ago. I knew that it was going to take time to get it to this place that I could hire and delegate and bring in a team that could support me so that I could work more of the high-level. I'm going to work part-time so that I could spend time with our family.
So, literally as I say that, I'm like she's awake from her nap. I can hear it. And that was the dream. I wanted to be able to work from home and hear my baby cooing in the other room and pop out when I wanted to. And it's been something that I've definitely been building and evolving into year-over-year with the long vision in mind. And the day-to-day and the quarter-to-quarter has changed and evolved based on feedback from clients, things that interest me, who we hire, what interests them. And yeah, gosh, it's been a journey.
I love how forward-thinking you are because many times, I will talk with people who maybe see where I am in my career or where you are, it's not something that happens overnight. It's something that you planned for and that you're okay in asking for help which is awesome and that you also have positioned yourself in a way that you can have that flexibility and pay attention to that high-level stuff so that the things you don't want to do that are sucking up all your time can be offloaded to other people.
And so, I want to talk about that a little bit about the sequence of how you were able to do that and how you were able to bring people onboard and how you advise people legally to take those steps. So, let's say, I'm going to put a little bug in your ear of what would be the best time? Say we have someone listening right now who has been in business for a while and they're thinking, "Maybe it's time to trademark. Maybe it's time to get legal advice." I know you may say from the very beginning, but let's just pretend they didn't do that that it wasn't from day one. When do you think is the must time where it's like, "Okay, these things are in place, let's go from there?"
So, of course, I'm going to say there's so many points where it's just like just talk to a lawyer first. There's so many businesses. I feel like the way we worked with our clients, we've really become a partner in their business. We're there to lean on when the time is right. And I think as a business owner or founder, you'll know when you come up against something that you need. Usually, the general red flags and I get it, give yourself grace. We've all made messy action. We've all done some copy and pasting. But give yourself some grace to say, you know what? I didn't do it in the past, but now I really am ready to take those next steps.
There's a stat for trademark specifically, but I think this is more of a mindset piece that actually applies to all the things that businesses that trademark their brand within the first year of business earn three times as much revenue in the first five years of businesses than don't. Three times, three times in five years. That is a ton of money. That's a ton of money being left on the table because, of course, there's revenue drivers that come from trademarking your brand. There is the prevention from confusion with another brand in your industry, ensuring that the goodwill that you're establishing, that brand recognition you're establishing with your customers and clients is actually coming through to you and not the competitor that's closely positioned themselves. It's, of course, licensing opportunities.
But I do think that a huge portion of it is mindset. The mindset of a founder that is willing to set the foundations in place of protecting the ownership of their brand and seeing the ownership of their brand is one of the most fundamental rights in their business that they should own. It's also the type of founder that is going to make sure that they have a secure contract for doing business with independent contractors and their clients.
I get this all the time. It has someone, "Hey, we're about to bring this person on. Can you review the contract and make sure we have all the rights?" Intellectual property is a huge driver these days and when you're delegating to independent contractors or you're hiring or whatever it may be, working with clients, you need to make sure that stream of intellectual property and who owns it and who has the licenses, who can put in their portfolio, all of that is actually aligned with how you work best.
And so, I do think that having someone in from the very beginning, I'll tell you some secrets during today of what we're working on, but I'm working on an offshoot sister company in the software space and I've fallen in love with a handful of names for said company and I've done a trademark search and realized I couldn't trademark that name in that industry. And so, I pivoted and changed and now, I've come up with a name that is something that I can trademark and own. And to be honest, it's more sentimental and it means more to me than the prior versions of the names that I thought were catchy at first.
So, taking my own advice, I have definitely made messy action. I launched a podcast in 2020. I told you about this just before we hit record and I had to rebrand it because I went ahead and just launched the podcast as my fun COVID project before I did a trademark search and realized that to develop that as a brand, I actually couldn’t do it that I'd be infringing on an existing trademark. And so, I had to reimagine. I went with an easy approach with my name, The Lauren Boyd Show, and now we're actually taking a different approach and finetuning that once more because we found our niche in that space. And being a mother and being a wife and in this new evolution of my business, I found that I want the platform of the podcast to be different.
So, I'm not saying that I've always had it all figured out. So, as a founder myself, I understand messy action. So, if you're thinking, oh my gosh, I've had a brand for 4 years and I haven't trademarked, deep breath, now give yourself grace and go ask for help. Go ask someone to do a comprehensive trademark search.
That's what our team does for our clients. We do it within two weeks of you becoming a client because that allows you to make the most informed decisions. You can absolutely trademark yourself. So, the first step would be go to the www.irs.gov website and do a search on your name, similar spelling, similar sounds, look for things that would be the term is confusingly similar. So, go to www.uspto.gov website. Do a basic search. Look for some of those things. And if you're not finding anything, then that's good. You want to be apart from other people in your industry.
And remember, if you have a name, let me use this example of somebody else the other day and I was like this worked out really well and now I'm forgetting it. It was something about save the brand messaging. Save the brand messaging was about pipes like pipes something. You can have the name pipes for a company as a plumber and as a baker. And they were like, "What would the application for a baker be?" And I was like, "Piping like piping a cake." And so, see how you can you have the same brand messaging or brand name?
Now, I know that's pretty undeveloped, but for two different industries, that would not be considered confusingly similar because no one's going to walk into a cake shop and expect to find plumbing parts and vice versa. So, know that you carve out your space in your own industry and it's not confusingly similar if someone's using a similar or same name in a completely different industry. And I know this may sound a little overwhelming, but do an initial search. Get your feet wet. Play with it. And then, if you feel like you need to bring an expert in to help you do a comprehensive search, do.
Right now, if you file a trademark search, it's taking over six months to hear back, very first word from the USPTO and guess what? They don't give refunds. You can't be successful at registering your trademark. So, we help our clients do a really comprehensive search. We give them the results. We go through it with them and then we say, "This is how you can make the most informed decision because where would your company be six months from now? How much more money would you invest in your brand in six months and the recognition?"
And we've had people go, "Wow, I can't use my name. I can't trademark my name. It's time for a rebrand." Now, they get to do that on their own timeline and they get to reimagine this new rebrand with the software offering. So, that's all to say messy action has its place. We've all been there. We've all done it. Give yourself grace and do something today that's going to make you feel secure in the ownership of your brand, whether that is doing some initial searching yourself or reaching out to a lawyer in your area.
So, with the trademarking of doing that ourselves, I know that we can do an initial search and we can even trademark ourselves.
What's the cost average of something like doing it yourself versus getting someone involved? What does that look like?
Yeah. So, right now, it's about $250 and I say about because it depends on the description of the good or service. If you fall in the register and it's standard classification, so if you are a baker, we'll just go down that road and we want to do your retail bakery services and XYZ. We're going to look at what class you need to be in.
Now, you can do some searching on what class fits your particular industry on the www.uspto.gov website. So, you can play with it. I do this. I offer that and you can come up with some descriptions. You're going to pay about $250 per class that you register for. Now, I'll say most of the time, our clients are in 2-3 classes. But I will say when we first start, when we do our comprehensive search, sometimes we are coming back to them with a list of a handful of different classes that they could be in and helping them prioritize which ones to register for.
So, you're going to want to pick the classes where you are already out there in the world selling said good or service. That's considered in use. If you are thinking about this grand idea, like my grand idea, it's not available to the public yet, so I'm actually going to file as an intent to use. So, know that you have a good or service, you're either using it or not using it, and you're either going to file in use or intent to use. And then, you're going to file for all of the classes that that good or service is going to fall into. I would generally suggest thinking budgeting about 2-3and here's why. Have you ever heard about Girlboss? Have you heard the story of Sophia and Marissa?
Yeah, I know about Girlboss, but I'm just thinking the term girl boss. But no, tell the story.
So, Sophia Amuroso is the founder of Girlboss. She was also the founder of Nasty Gal. She went to trademark Girlboss at the beginning of her business and actually got pushback from I believe it's Hugo Boss has a female brand under their name and I can't remember the exact name of it. But they opposed from her registration and said, "Nope, that's confusingly similar to our existing mark." To be honest, it's hard for me to remember because it's so not similar. It's actually very different.
And they opposed her use of merchandise particularly and she actually settled out like, "Okay, you can go ahead and trademark in these areas, but we're going to retain ownership in these areas." And so, one of the areas that she didn't take ownership that she didn't register her mark in was in the merchandise section which actually in hindsight she says, it could have been one of the most profitable parts of their business and a huge piece of actually creating the community that she's developed.
And so, I don't want you to only think about the good or service. I want you to also think about the community aspect of the merchandise or the other areas that actually might benefit your brand. So, think about, for example, stickers are a huge piece of the merchandise of your business. We need to trademark in that class. If you are doing a podcast that's being downloadable, that's on most class 9. Let's also trademark over there in addition to consulting services in class 35 or 41. There's a list of different applicable classes that you can register in.
And again for someone who's like, "Oh my gosh, this seems really scary," there is what feels like a Google search where you're typing in the types of goods or service and you can play and look at it yourself. Of course, we're very strategic in our description so that for the most part, we can say that you're already using it. We give you as wide a possible description if we can to give you the most protection possible, but in a space that's not going to create any pushback from the officers.
So, look for a nice balance. My preference is always to file as in already in use as best as possible but if it's a grand idea that you haven't brought out to the world yet, that's okay. You can file intent to use, but just know there's a lot of moving parts. So, if you file yourself, you're going to save the money on the attorney's fees because you're going to be, for lack of a better word I know this is not a patent, but stumble through it yourself. "Hi, founder over here. I've stumbled through plenty of things myself." And there's a learning curve and it's going to take you a little bit of time, but you're going to save money.
I would say right now, any application for a trademark is going to run you between $2,000 and $2,500. It's probably the going rate to hire an attorney and their team to help you through the trademarking process. And the whole process should take about a year, so it's a relationship. Find somebody that you know and trust that understands your industry, that's going to be there to support you because it's a long-term relationship.
So, for me, I'm thinking, gosh, $2,000 to have someone on my side for probably the better course of a year, learning need to all the different flings and deadlines and arguments and making the most strategic application possible, knowing that I'm not going to hear back from the USPTO for six months, I want to know as much information as possible before I file because otherwise that $250, we'll call it 3 classes, $750 is just gone. And six months later, I'm going to get an office action, I'm not going to know what to do. And then, I'm going to have to reach out to somebody. And what if the advice that they're given is just, "Sorry?" I actually had a friend reach out to me, a little sidetrack. Friend had reached out to me. She said she had trademarked with another friend. I never get upset if you trademark with somebody else, but she reached out to somebody else to trademark her business and her business is what we call merely descriptive.
So, the best thing you can trademark is arbitrary or fanciful marks. Arbitrary, think of Apple. And Apple to describe tech products, that's arbitrary. They just grabbed a word and they're like, "Apple for tech." Now, we say Apple and you probably think of Apple tech before you think of the fruit itself. So, that's arbitrary. So, that's really strong because that really has nothing to do with the industry you're in.
The next strongest is fanciful. They're both very strong. Fanciful, and that means like a made-up word, Google, Gusto. Gusto's a real word, but maybe it sounds arbitrary. But a made-up word where it really had no meaning before. You're giving it meaning. That's fanciful. So, that's very strong because you're probably making up a word that sounds cool in your industry. That's great.
And then the next, we're going go to strongest is actually going to be something that's suggestive. It's suggesting the industry that you're in. Think Airbus. So, that is for airplanes, that makes sense, but it doesn't necessarily say airplane. It's suggestive. What would be descriptive is something that is calling an accounting firm, The Accounting Firm. I can't trademark that for you.
I can't trademark Lauren Boyd Photography. First off, no one wants to buy my photos. Second off, it's just descriptive. It's my name with photography. And so, if you're one of those businesses, that's okay. I’m not suggesting you need to rebrand. I'm just telling you, please don't waste your money. So, to bring you back full circle, I had a friend that has a business name that's merely descriptive. And there's nothing wrong with that.
She is ready to own her brand and she is very interested in possibly rebranding in order to do so. She reached out to an attorney. They said, "Yes, I'll take your money. I will file an application for the merely descriptive business name that you have." And six months later, they got denied and there's really no argument that can be made to say that it's not merely descriptive.
You can, of course, if you've been around for long enough and you've created your own distinctiveness because you've been around long enough. There may be an argument. That goes really well for surnames in businesses. We see, and I might be wrong, like Swift for trucking or something. Maybe that's just their surname, but over time, we associate Swift with trucking and that's okay. Created its own, it has got its own distinctiveness over time, but that's a really hard argument to make especially when it's so merely descriptive they're like, "Yeah, we can't do it."
So, now, she's disappointed because now she has to rebrand. She wasted time and effort and money pouring into the goodwill of her existing company, legal fees for someone who didn't actually give her good advice. I don't know if the person thought that they could overcome it or just didn't know better, which worries me if they didn't know better. I'd be really careful. Talk to whoever you're going to hire. Just because they're a lawyer doesn't mean that they know the industry and maybe they're new into it. Talk to them. Make sure that they know what they're talking about and you feel confident in their advice because they're going to be your partner for a better part of a year.
So, off my soap box, but that's what I would tell you. If you are sitting on a brand, maybe you haven't launched it yet, please just start doing search and start trademarking. The domain and the Instagram handle are not the two most important things. Those are second and third compared to first making sure that you can actually own that brand.
Is there a risk of searching for the trademark name? Because I know when you are trying to create brand with a domain, for example, if you're searching for it, there are site sharks who will watch for searches and buy up the domain just so that they can sell it back to you at a higher price? Is there a risk for that in trademarking as well?
No, it is a little different. So, for example, what I would suggest is having somebody that can do a comprehensive search. So, we actually use a software to run a full search. It looks business industries, blog posts, we get stuff on Facebook returned back to us. A business formed in Ohio, we get all the things and we can run those different searches and they're through our software.
That's giving you a level of protection and anonymity on those searches. It's just like anything else. Tech is scary. There are people doing things that they shouldn't be doing and I can't tell you that it's foolproof. But what I can tell you is for all the people that we've searched, we've been able to do the searches, what we're actually seeing is things that are long-time been there and we're running what can we do and what can we not do?
So, priority of use is one of the most important things. So, who you used it first, who used that brand name, brand element, brand logo first, and then data filing. So, those are the two priority pieces. So, if someone goes, "I saw their trademark application and that's really cool. I’m going to throw a trademark application in and see if I can beat them to a punch," that's not going to work. And similarly, if there's two pending marks and one had an earlier first use date, that one's going to win even if they filed second.
We've had that happen where we filed right after somebody and they've never used it before. It was just an intent to use and my client's been using it for several years, we were actually successfully able to send them a cease and desist. Get them to drop their application and then allow my client to go through the registration. They have actually been successful in registering that brand which is really exciting. There's a lot of benefits to the peace of mind of knowing that you own your brand. You may not think you're ever going to sell your business. You may think exit is absolutely in your horizon. Either party, either version of that, you really need to consider trademarking. It's a right that's so important because you don't want to be that person on the phone getting a call from a friend and client that said, "I got a cease-and-desist letter."
She actually found a lot of success. She had 50,000 followers on Instagram and had a thing in her space, had been doing really well and all of a sudden, got a cease-and-desist letter. Unknowingly, she was using the exact same brand name in the exact same industry as someone who already had a registered trademark and there really was no defense to that. There was no carving out. There was really nothing to do.
It was the same thing. And she had to come up with a rebrand and I really did feel for her because you fall in love with your brand. I get it. I completely understand. And it's much harder to go through a rebrand with somebody watching your every move. They were gracious and they gave her some time to come up with a rebrand and she now successfully owns a registered trademark for a new name, but it took a while. There were tears. It's hard to go back and unwind the brand that you've built.
Yeah. I really think that that's tapping into the peace of mind aspect of that is huge because even as you're saying this, through the years, I've created many, many different things, so I'm like I know I have trademarks for some, but not all and all the categories. That's so much to think about. So, I agree that that perspective because I think that it is something that many are probably listening to right now and thinking, "Yeah, where am I in that scope?" Go ahead.
I was actually going to ask you if you think it because you've had so many incredible offerings if you feel like some of the offerings that you didn't trademark that maybe you didn't scale because there was that level of fear in scaling it. If this gets too big, because I know I've done that like I'm going to keep this small because I'm not feeling very confident in some of the foundational items. I feel like that's common for founders.
Yeah. And maybe not knowing if it's a passion project that you need to seek out to the point of, will I want to develop this to a point of having this be mine, my trademark name? And also, if and when I'm ready to sell or if I sell it, what does that look like? And that's a piece where I actually have an episode coming up in just a few episodes ahead of this one of the steps to take to be able to prep your company for selling your business. Yeah, stay tuned for that because that's going to be integral in that piece and what are those foundational pieces? So, I think that this is a really good precursor to that because down the road, you may want to sell. And so, I think that that's really important to have those ducks in a row.
Yeah. Intellectual property is the lifeblood of your business. The content you're creating, your brand, that's absolutely worthy of protecting whether it be through trademark or through contracts with people you're working with. And I never say any of this to scare people. I just want those red flags to go off and you'll know when it's time.
Yeah. No, that's perfect. So, switching gears a little bit, I want to talk about what it looks like to create contracts when you are growing your team, whether it's with employees and/or independent contractors and what are the best steps to do that as far as protecting your time as the founder, creator, owner and how do you implement independent contracts or employees in a way that is step-by-step progressive and not too overwhelming?
Because I get questions about this all of the time especially with the virtual assistant business that I have on the side, teaching and coaching people to do that, and then I also teach and coach people on when to bring on virtual assistants because there as so many of us that need that extra help? And so, I love this question because I think that this is going to answer a lot of those questions that I get about what are the best steps with moving forward with that and what contracts do you need in place?
Yeah. So, delegation is the constant struggle of a founder because we have this vision and honestly to be able to continue to imagine and be that visionary, you actually need to bring people on to help you execute. And so, the best advice I can give you is find the right people. And I really subscribe to the theory of hire slow and buy fast.
Know who you're looking for. Know the job description and be very intentional. Have a series of interviews whether they be an independent contractor or an employee. Start building some of that rapport and make sure that you're seeing past maybe the façade of the first and only interview. You really need to go deeper. Have a good application process.
Make sure that if you're reaching out to an independent contractor that you've gotten a couple of referrals. Ask them for testimonials. Ask if you can speak to an existing client. Find ways to really make sure that you're going to invest your time and energy in the right person because whether they're an independent contractor or an employee, you're going to invest a lot of time into getting them to speak. Make sure they have a really clear vision for what they're going to be doing.
If they're an employee, that's really important for the job description and making sure that you understand when and when not they're fulling obligations of their job description. That's going to go in their offer later. Same thing. The responsibilities, the deliverables, the timeline, that you're going to be a little more specific than an independent contractor agreement, but those are going to go on an independent contractor agreement.
And if they don't meet those deadlines or deliver the deliverables that they're required to by contract, that's going to be a breach of contract and you're going to be able to step away and find somebody else to delegate that work to and figure out what went wrong. But clear vision on who it is and what boundaries you want to have with them, what culture you want to set up a flow.
Now, I want to really urge people to be careful with their classification between an employee and an independent contractor. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "My 1099 employee." A 1099 is an independent contractor. They are not an employee. An employee is someone that you give a W-2 to and that person is someone that you have more oversight, more control over their work product and how they do things. You're probably helping pay for the equipment, the software for them to accomplish their job. And an independent contractor should really be hiring an expert in an area, someone that knows how to do things, someone who likely has multiple clients.
Much like a virtual assistant, that is an area of expertise all in itself. It's very hard to find someone that can go through your marked schedule, communicate on the fly, build relationships with people that you're working with. It's very much a learned skill. And if they have their own business and they're doing that for several other people, it's appropriate for them to be an independent contractor because you're likely buying a few hours of their time depending on what your needs are as opposed to an employee who's your assistant that you bring in that you get to tell them when to show up, when to go home, what needs to be done, how to do it.
Just think about what version of that it is. If you want to be able to tell them how and when, they're going to look more like an employee. And I don't want to sway you away. There's nothing wrong with hiring employees. I have employees. I love my employees because there's a different level of loyalty and commitment and flexibilty and your ability to delegate because they're there. They're there and ready to help.
There's a few more constraints with an independent contractor. Independent contractors are incredible. When you yourself don’t have the expertise to train or bring someone in that area, so I'm currently developing a software. I'm not bringing an employee in. I'm going to a firm that has the bells and whistles that knows what they're doing and they're an independent contractor. And we're discussing the scope of what the deliverables are, what the timeline is, and who is going to own the intellectual property.
Ownership of intellectual property is much easier with an employee because it's their work product what they're doing in the course of their employment is something that the company will own. An independent contractor, you better read that section of the contract because you don't want someone who you're hiring and paying to own the content that you're paying them to create. I have a podcast episode on this, so you can definitely go back and dive deeper into that concept of employee's ownership and independent contractor ownership. Please check it out. But I will say it's a delicate topic because there are businesses driven by intellectual property, so don't take that lightly.
And then, I would say, of course, boundaries. Boundaries for me is a huge thing with clients. We have a texting rule. We don't work on Fridays and outside of an emergency, we uphold those boundaries. And I think that those are things that we need to remind ourselves that we can absolutely and should do. So, there's a lot of things that you can put into your contract. I put all this into my agreement with my clients and I expect them to do the same.
I often encourage clients to start with them and how they work best. And I ask them again how they work best, not how they're doing it right now because they're like, "Currently, clients are sometimes texting me. I'd really rather not." And I'm like, "Okay, why don't we put in a no texting rule?" They're always talking after hours. Let's put in standard office hours. Let's talk about these things and let's understand how we work best, and then we'll flow through those things into the rest of your contracts in different relationships. So, everything really does come from how you want to show up, and then making sure that everything flows that way when working with and building a team.
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Yeah. I love the idea of creating a contract with what is deemed as appropriate behavior especially if you're getting into the space of coaching because I feel like a lot of times, your coaching calls can bleed into your time. One thing that I had where someone was coaching me, they actually set a timer that would go off in the middle of our call, so she knew and I knew and without having to say, "We're past our time." It was like a polite way of saying, "We've met our time and if we went a little bit over that that's okay."
It happened today. I did a coaching call with someone and we went 30 minutes over and it was our first call, so I mentioned something like, "This was our first coaching call and it went over and that's okay, especially with it being our first, but I really like to keep it between 45 minutes to an hour." Something like that where you're communicating that, but to have that in the contract as well. What would you suggest is the best practice for onboarding a client and/or an employee and/or an independent contractor? What kind of a form are you using for that?
So, think about it. As a service provider yourself, you have customers, coaching clients, you're an independent contractor to them. So, a lot of this, so the independent contractor touches your services to somebody else, B2C, that is going to be an independent contractor agreement. You bring your independent contractors in and that's also an independent contractor agreement. You're just going to want to make sure that the balances of boundaries shift accordingly based on the relationship.
An employee should get an offer letter. You should consider having an employee handbook. You should have a lot more things in place. Employment can be its own episode to set up its own boundaries and expectations. But an independent contractor agreement, just don't be afraid to push back a little. Make sure that there's no ambiguity. Make sure you understand who owns what, who's walking away with what deliverables and when. Be very clear on what those are.
And I love what you're saying about find polite ways to create those boundaries. I think what your coach was doing is absolutely appropriate. In your contracts, you should have up to 1-hour calls, meaning they can be 15-minutes and you fulfilled your obligations. Up to 1-hour calls and anything over that, they need to be charged the hourly rate. If they don't show up, is there a cancellation rescheduling or no-show policy? Consider those things to also effectuate your boundaries because you need to have tools in place that actually help keep those boundaries in place like being charged if they go over, being charged if they don't show, because it's enforcing the boundary of, "We come here for 1 hour and we show up."
And then think about how you can effectuate that. Remember the boundary in your contract is the baseline. You can always stray from it. You can always make a choice to let things slide whenever appropriate, when emergencies happen, etc. But you want to set the expectation, so everybody knows how to show up. And oftentimes, I found that our no texting policy and some of our policies that we've had in place have actually given permission to some of my clients to do the same. So, know that if you are a coach, holding strong peer boundaries is actually giving your own clients permission to do the same in turn with their clients, so just think about it as an ecosystem. We're training each other. Most often we just want to know what the expectation is. What's expected from us? And you can't do that unless there's clear expectations set in a contract.
I love that. Now, I have two more questions for you. One is what is your preferred way to schedule your day and business with everything that you have to get done? And then, the second to that is how do you like to schedule and create task lists for your team?
Yeah. So, I think it's a little mix of both. You have to figure out what works best. We do a handful of things. I’m actually going to look at my calendar. I time block. So, we have a family calendar. So, anything my husband needs to know is on our family calendar. That is a huge piece of me not having to answer the question, "What are we doing on this day?" And knowing that everything goes in there.
So, I actually have a calendar that shows my family calendar, my work calendar. My family calendar has when our nanny's here, what commitments Will has, what commitments I have and we have our out of town, all of that stuff. So, we can see it all at one time. And then, I can time block my work around that accordingly.
And so, I actually do chunks of client work. I actually find I work best with some deep time and focused work. I don't love popping in and out of client items. I like at least 1 hour at a time for client work, not any less. And then, I also have time for some education integration. I put integration on my calendar because so much times, we're learning things, we're not taking time to implement them into our business.
And then, actually at the end of all of my days, I do a done for the day priority. And then, on Thursday afternoons, instead of done for the day, I call it done for the week. And so, I do the priority that's going to allow me to close up shop for the week and that includes scheduling out the next week knowing, communicating, touching base with anybody. It gives me time and space to say, okay, it's time to wrap things up. What's that one thing I need to get done or two things I need to get done?
I always have a task list of things that I'm doing and I use 2 programs. So, for our internal stuff, we use Planner because we're already in Microsoft for everything else. We figured let's just stay in one platform. So, I use Planner for our internal projects and my own tasks. But for our client-related tasks, we use our client management system so that I can tie it to an actual client. That's where we keep time. That's where we do invoicing, so I keep all client-related tasks in there.
So, I really only have two places to check. But when I'm ready to do an internal task, know where it lives and when I'm ready to work on a client task, I know where those things live. And what's worked best for everybody. For me, time blocking and giving myself space to schedule things out allows me to schedule out my week quicker and not spend too much time in any one area because I am working on a handful of different things and I can't be all in client work or all in somewhere else. It needs to be a nice balance of both and that really allows me to time block my day and figure it out.
Now, I'll be honest. Not every day goes as I time block, so I love to leave buffers. If anyone has read the book Essentialism and the follow-on book Effortless, please do. I've listened to them multiple times and they're just great reads. He's a wonderful author and he talks about buffer, creating buffer time because we tend to somehow always underestimate how long something will take. And if we create some buffer time, then it allows us to not have to reschedule that domino effect if something's slipping.
So, I actually like to time block what time I want to get things done because I often find that the stuff that we do fills the container you've given. But throughout my day, I create buffer time not necessarily for that one task, but just in general. So, if something runs over or I need to attend to something that I didn't expect, I've got buffer time to create it. So, I don’t create a back-to-back-to-back schedule.
I create a schedule that has lows and I honestly even put lunch in there because if I don't see the thing pop up and go lunch, I won't do it. And you can attest to this now. I had my lunch sitting next to me because it's like thank God I got the reminder that was, "It's lunchtime." I went out and made something, but I have honestly gotten a little sidetracked with a client thing and was still finishing it when we hopped on this call. So, schedule you time like breaks. That's important too.
I love that I asked that question because that was so good.
Thanks. I’m very system-minded.
I can tell and that's a skill that I wouldn't say is necessarily my strength. So, I love hearing the way that everyone does things a little differently. And I'm curious what calendaring are you using for time blocking?
So, I'm on Outlook because again we're using Microsoft. So, I just Outlook. I have a couple of Google Calendars, so they all link into just one platform. I will be honest. Google is really great calendar platform. My friend was showing me how she puts her tasks on her calendar using Google like the web platform and it was really, really nice. If I wasn't so ingrained in Outlook, I would consider moving to Google Calendar.
That's what I use is Google.
They have some cool stuff.
Yeah, it does. That's really cool. What I also love about it if you guys are nerdy like me is if I put in dance, ballet shoes will pop up in the calendar or barbeque and it shows a cute little barbeque and I love that.
I change my description on my family calendar or something to get a different icon like that's weird.
Yeah. That's so cool. So, I think that you have packed this so full of tangible practical information as well as things that obviously go beyond the scope of what we have to cover right now. So, I would love for you to give information to the people watching and listening to be able to get in touch with you to follow up if they have questions.
Absolutely. So, best place to come find me is on Instagram @thelaurenboyd. You'll find links to our Instagram page for our business, which is going to drip out content at least twice a week because I had a VA schedule it out for the next year, all repurposing actually our podcast content, little nuggets that you can take with you that might help you identify some red flags or things to be thinking about. You can go check out our podcast, but it is going through a rebrand which we'll be announcing on my Instagram. So, just check it out there. And honestly, it's just a really great place to see some cute baby pictures. I’m taking a break from a serious Instagram and just doing what feels good. What feels good right now is posting lots of cute pictures of my 6-month-old.
There's nothing in the world that you can do in the world that replaces that time, so lean into that because that's so fun. They grow up so fast. Thank you so much for being on the show today. I learned so much. I hope all those listening did too. I’m sure you did and we will see you next time.
Hey, if you're listening to this right now and you're thinking, "I'm in a phase in my life where I do want something a little extra to make some money," I am now opening up my virtual assistant course which is 60 Days to VA where you can watch the courses at your own pace to have a business that you love at your own schedule where you can still be at home with your kids, make money on the side, and it is in demand more than ever. I'm getting messages every single day from CEOs who are looking for reliable, knowledgeable, incredible virtual assistants and everyone that has gone through my program has loved it and turns out to be all of those things.
Now, on the flip side, if you are a busy CEO or you have a business that is overwhelming you enough that you need help, reach out to me and I can individually talk to you and match you up with one of my virtual assistants and coach you through how to use a virtual assistant effectively. If either of those are something that you're interested in, please DM me @callmeceopodcast on Instagram or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's help each other create a life that we love.
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