Be Proactive not Reactive with Danielle Liss

Danielle Liss, Esq. is a partner and founder of Businessese. She is also the owner of Hashtag Legal, a law firm that focuses on social media law. Danielle is also the former Chief Marketing Officer of FitFluential, an influencer network concentrating on health and Danielle Lisswellness initiatives. She’s been blogging since 2004 at Kitten a Go-Go. Danielle lives in Las Vegas.
 Danielle and her partner started Businessese with one goal in mind, to make it easier for you to run your small business. Danielle is an attorney and experience business leader who has a lot of experience from running small businesses. Today we are going to talk to Danielle all about her specialty dealing with the fine print of business.

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What do you think is the most important thing for business owners to know?

Even though it seems overwhelming the legal side of the business is just as important as all other areas. If you look at any major company out there, there’s always going to be a legal team and a general counsel treat your own small business just like a big corporation would. Make sure that you’re covered there. It’s important to learn the basics. That doesn’t mean I want you to feel like you’ve got to know all of the legalese or all of the jargon. But find an attorney that you feel comfortable with or find resources that you’re comfortable with. One thing that I think is critical, every business is different. It’s important to make sure you find out what your business needs to protect itself and grow because my business and your business are probably very different. I’m not dealing with food products that could hurt someone. There’s a lot of different liabilities that a food entrepreneur may experience that a blogger may not have the same types of things. Just don’t be intimidated by the jargon a great lawyer is going to be able to translate that legalese for you and make sure you feel comfortable with the decisions that you are making. If you talk to an attorney and they make you feel intimidated its okay to shop around, it’s okay to do a consult visit with different attorney so that you find someone you feel comfortable with. Don’t just necessarily think that you’ve got to talk to your aunt or your uncle or whomever and say, “Who do you like?” They refer you to an old family friend and don’t feel like you’re stuck with that person. Find the right fit for you and your business.

When we go to Businessese, what are we gonna find?

Right now it’s very focused on bloggers and social media influencers but we’ll be expanding in the very near future. We will also be offering different types of consulting services, for example, how to price services. Our goal is to offer different types of legal templates, business forms, things that you need on a regular basis that you know we’re made for you.

What advice do you have to help people figure out how to price their services?

Pricing is based on more than reach. When you are talking about pricing you really want to make sure that you can, first of all, achieve success for your partner. Find out what their goals are and then second, make sure that its something that’s going to resonate with your audience. Never take it just because of the money. Make sure that you are going to keep your audience’s trust and that it’s going to engage. You want to see those shares and the comments. People are looking more at engagement rate and cost per engagement than they are just impressions.

What you need to know to operate your blog legally!

What should entrepreneurs know about trademarks?

Trademarks are such a nuanced area of law but it so important. The first thing we want is for people to know what our trademark is. I think that there sometimes is confusion between trademark and copyright. I’ve seen people say, “This person took my image online they’re violating my trademark…” If it’s just a picture that doesn’t have a logo or your name on it that’s about a copyright not necessarily a trademark. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design or a combination of those things that identifies and distinguishes goods or services from others in the market place. It’s essentially designed to protect against consumer confusion. I can’t create another running sneaker that has the Nike swoosh on it. I can’t go out and create a granola that’s called like Blissful Beats and say it’s got a music theme cause I think that would be very confusing toward your product.

If you are just starting out and you’re thinking about your business name, go to the US Patent and Trade website to search and see if there’s anything comparable out there. Do your research prior to setting up your business and setting up your domain because it can save you so much time and money if there something similar already out there. For a physical product that you are going to be packaging (particularly for food entrepreneurs), make sure there’s absolutely nothing out there that you are potentially going to infringe upon.  You could also hire an attorney to do just a trademark search prior to all of that set up that way you can rest easy that what you are doing is going to be yours alone.

What is the most important thing that we need to know about copyright?

The most important thing to me is the most simple aspect of it: don’t steal other people’s content. I think if you are going to use someone else’s content make sure you have permission. If you’ve taken a photo and you’ve put it on your website, you’ve got to have the copyright. I think one of the myths about copyright is that you don’t have any rights to it unless you filed something with the government. If you have filed you’ve got a much easier time defending those rights. However, it’s not a requirement. If you publish it and it’s your work the copyright is there. The critical aspect is make sure if you are using someone else’s stuff that you have permission. If someone else wants to use your stuff give permission and if you don’t want it used make sure that they know. Let’s say someone comes to you and says, “We’d like to license this image that you’ve done.” Get the information you need to make a decision. Find out where they plan to distribute it. Find out if they are putting it in a magazine, if they are also planning to put it out on the website, find out what levels of attribution they are going to be giving you. Things like that can be extremely helpful in protecting your copyrights.

Additionally, when people say, “Inspired by…” I think it depends on just how close it is to the original. Recipes are not subject to copyright because it’s a series of steps unless it is something extremely unique in a way that you’ve written the steps. If you really put your personality into it that’s one way to look at it. I think it depends on just how closely you are using someone else’s mark. I’ve seen a lot of the copycat recipes and things like that, just be very cautious and make sure that you are saying, “This is not in any way, shape or form affiliated with them. We do not make any type of claims of ownership of this person’s mark…” Things along those lines can protect you.

What about Google Images?

Just don’t grab google images.  There’s this myththat if it’s on the internet its part of the public domain and public domain is something very different in the copyright world. The concept is fair use. Public domain means that copyright is no longer applicable. If you see the images of old newspapers that are like a hundred years old, you’ll often find those and they’ll say that they are public domain photos. That means you don’t have to worry about the copyright on those but just because it’s on the internet that still doesn’t mean it’s public domain.

Can you share the importance of having a privacy and disclosure page for your website?

The importance of the privacy policy and the disclosures are so that your audience knows what you’re doing and knows what they can expect as being a part of your audience. For some people that can mean a separate privacy, for some people they’ll have a site terms page that has all of their information in it. Let’s say somebody has a healthy living blog and they are giving dieting advice there it is important to have a medical disclaimer in your post that essentially says before making changes to your diet it’s important to go see a medical professional and if you are not a medical professional make sure people know that. It’s important to be honest with your audience. Now, in terms of privacy policies what I think is so important is if you’re collecting data about somebody they have the right to know and they have the right to not visit if they don’t agree with those terms. Just be honest about what you’re collecting. If you are collecting audience demographics through Google analytics make sure you are being clear about what’s being collected. If you are doing sponsored content through networks that use tracking pixels make sure that you are being honest that certain information may be tracked or that there may be cookies that are installed in the site that have to do with your ad networks. As long as you are honest and you have everything set forth in your privacy policy you should be set pretty comfortably there.


What do you think is the biggest legal mistake you see and how can you fix it?

I think that the biggest thing that I see is when people are reactive rather than proactive. What I mean by that is people would rather not get a contract because it is cost prohibitive. It might go okay one time but in another situation what if somebody breaks the contract, what if they don’t pay you and then you are reacting and it’s gonna cost you a lot more on the back end than if you had a contract in the first place. My advice there is don’t wait until you’re in trouble to seek legal help. Get it when you are setting up your business, always make sure you got written contracts even if it’s with your best friend. If you have everything set out in writing and you have all of those expectations set as to how profits are being split and what happens when somebody wants to leave the business.  I think it is important to just lay it out, get it in writing; a small investment upfront can save you so much heartache and money if something happens later on.

I think another area that I’ve seen that’s been so common recently is people purchasing content. It’s a really big trend right now. Even though they call themselves virtual assistant, it’s content that they’re creating and purchasing. It happens a lot in the recipe world and they’re not getting contracts. One example of something that’s come up recently is someone purchases a recipe from someone to put on a blog and then they find out that they sold the exact same thing to four different people. What do I do? First question I ask is, “what did your contract with that person say?” And they say, “Well it was just a really small transaction so I didn’t get a contract.” In those situations it’s really hard because you have to get it in writing to know what your rights are. I think that sometimes if the price is really low maybe it’s a little too good to be true. Make sure you are establishing what you have and what you’re getting from that before you enter into the transaction.

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How did you take the leap to get started?

The leap to get started honestly, it was really scary. I think that anytime you are ready to start a new company it starts with something you feel really passionate about and that’s what it was for Jaime and me. We really wanted to give people this option where they could access legal advice, business forms, consulting for a price that works with the type of businesses that they had. I was working with for a great company, I was CMO, I had a great position and I loved the people that I worked with. It was a really tough decision but it became almost a distraction where I felt like I have to see this through, I have to know what is going to come from this and I decided to make the leap. I couldn’t be happier with the decision because it really was terrifying and everybody toward the end, once I announced that I was leaving, everybody would say, “Are you excited?” And I have said, “Yes excited but slightly terrified…” That’s still a little bit how I feel. You want everybody to love your baby just as much as you do and so we’re constantly taking feedback, making tweaks things like that. For anybody who’s looking to make that leap, if you see a need in the market, trust your gut because it’s probably something that needs to be fulfilled. Talk to people, look at your potential audience, look at your competition if there is any with what you are planning to do, and really make a plan, make a good solid business plan. For anybody who’s terrified it’s going to be okay and just have that confidence and faith in yourself and its okay to be a little bit scared.

danielle liss

What is one thing you do in your day that contributes to your success?

To-do list. I have always been a list maker.

The other thing that we use in the business is Trello.com. It’s very similar to a Asana which is a task management type of thing and it allows you to assign people to task and you can make a calendar from it.  What I love about Trello is its extremely visual. You can make boards, add photos and we have so much content mapped out for probably the remainder of the year as far as our business plan goes. It’s just been so helpful to see it all. You can move things around, you can prioritize, it’s a fantastic tool.

The to-do list is the critical piece for me because it really helps me focus on what I’m gonna do that day. Trello is our bigger, overall business goal type of thing. My daily to-do list that is what I go to everyday. I number my tasks so I know this is what I’m doing first, second, third, fourth. Stuff always comes up but as long as I’m able to get back on track after those little interruptions it’s really helpful for me.

Tell us one thing you want the listeners and our followers to know about you that you think they don’t know.

The thing that I think people should know about me is I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about dessert.

Click to listen to Danielle Liss from Businessese on the Blissful Bites Podcast in iTunes

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About Nicole

I’m on a mission to help as many women as possible step into their power so they can have a positive ripple effect on the world.

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