Listen to this episode of Simplifying Legal for Small Business Owners using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Are you a registered dietitian, health coach, or pharmacist consultant? Even if you aren’t, wellness professionals cover a pretty broad range, and many do business online by offering things like courses or virtual group programs.
In this episode, I provide an overview of the legal side of business for wellness professionals. So tune in as I walk you through choosing a legal entity, shoring up your website policies, protecting your intellectual rights, expanding your team, and more.
Please subscribe if you haven’t already. And if you like the show, I’d love it if you’d give it a review wherever you listen to podcasts!
In this episode:
[02:54] – Danielle discusses the importance of knowing the permitted scope of your wellness practice.
[04:52] – Should a wellness professional move forward as a sole proprietor or an LLC (limited liability company)?
[06:43] – Some states require you to create a professional entity. Verify your state laws based on the type of business and licensure you have.
[08:33] – Disclaimers are extremely important for wellness professionals. Danielle briefly touches on them, as well as terms and conditions.
[09:47] – Client relationships are the foundation of a wellness practitioner’s business. Here are the most important areas to address in contracts.
[10:56] – Depending on your services, you may need additional areas covered in your client agreement such as group program agreements.
[12:24] – Danielle talks about protecting your trademarks and copyrights.
[14:36] – As a wellness professional, you’ll need to have terms for your digital products as well.
[14:59] – What should you keep in mind as your practice expands and you hire more team members?
[15:38] – Danielle reveals the next action steps for wellness practitioners.
Links & Resources:
Welcome to the Simplifying Legal podcast, brought to you by Businessese. I’m your host, Danielle Liss.
Many years ago, someone told me I was the least lawyer-y lawyer she’d ever met because I helped make legal easier to understand. To this day, it’s one of the best compliments I’ve received in my professional life.
If you've ever felt legal was too scary, too overwhelming, too complicated, or just plain incomprehensible, you're not alone. The Simplifying Legal podcast was created to help.
In each episode, we’ll do a deep dive into a legal topic and give you concrete next steps so you can apply it to your business.
My goal is for you to walk away from each episode thinking, oh, that was easier than I thought it would be.
Let’s get started.
Hey there, I’m Danielle. Welcome to episode 36 of Simplifying Legal for Small Business Owners. Today’s episode covers legal for wellness professionals.
Disclaimer: As always, before we get into today’s topic, a quick disclaimer. This podcast is meant to provide you with legal information only. It’s not legal advice and does not create any type of attorney-client relationship between us. Please don’t take any action without consulting your lawyer first.
First, let’s discuss who this episode is meant for. When I consider wellness professionals, it’s such a broad range. But this episode is meant for wellness professionals who are doing business online. This might include wellness professionals who offer courses or virtual group programs, etc. This episode is a more general overview and will not include anything regarding HIPAA or telehealth requirements since those topics can vary a bit depending on your business, your scope of practice, and what services you are offering to your clients.
At Businessese, our products are often focused on Registered Dietitians, Health Coaches, and Pharmacist Consultants. This episode will focus more heavily on the legal areas for online businesses in these areas. However, if you have a different type of wellness business, aspects of this episode may still apply to you. We’ll cover business structure, protecting your website, working with clients, offering digital products, and more.
Like the other episodes in this series, there’s a lot of information and a lot of resources to tag. To make things easier, I created a PDF with some general information on each category, as well as a list of resources that you can consult. You can download the resource guide at Businessese.com/wellnesslegalguide.
Okay, now let’s talk about legal for wellness professionals.
Scope of Practice
The first thing that I want to address in this episode is the importance of knowing the permitted scope of your practice. As I mentioned, this episode covers general information that can be applicable to a broad range of wellness professionals, and I’m not doing a deep dive on licensure today.
However, most areas of wellness touch on areas of licensure, especially if you work with people from all over the country. And, please remember, licensure impacts those who are licensed as well as those who are not. So please don’t think, oh, I’m not an RD, so I can say and do whatever I want. That’s definitely not the case.
For example, if you are a health coach and you are discussing nutrition, you have to be extremely cautious in your services because it may cross over into the practice of dietetics. Depending on the state where your client lives, this could cause you big problems because you are practicing without a license. Most states that require licensure have stiff penalties like fines and potential jail time if you violate the statute. So it’s understandable why you need to be careful.
Depending upon the type of work that you do, if you have any questions about your allowed scope of practice and how it impacts working with clients around the country, I strongly recommend that you talk to a lawyer as it can involve a lot of different aspects.
I often work with wellness professionals on this aspect of their business through Strategy Sessions at Liss Legal. For today’s episode, just know that this is critical for your business and if you aren’t well-versed in what you can and can’t do in your role, it is something you should discuss with an attorney.
Starting Your Business
Now, let’s look at starting your wellness business.
Starting a business is exciting, but if you are more interested in serving your clients, the administrative side can feel completely overwhelming.
On the legal side, you may be considering whether you should form an LLC, which is a limited liability company, or move forward as a sole proprietor.
When you’re a sole proprietor, it usually doesn’t require a lot of paperwork, other than possibly obtaining a business license. As a sole prop, you and your business are considered the same entity. This is easy, but it could expose you to the possibility of personal liability in the event that something goes wrong.
For those who want to avoid exposure to potential personal liability, an LLC may be a great option. But, it is something to consider carefully since it requires more effort and expense than having a sole proprietorship.
To form an LLC, you have to file official paperwork, typically Articles of Organization with your secretary of state’s office. Your Articles will also name a registered agent, which is someone who can accept service of process if your business is served in a legal action. You should also have an operating agreement for your LLC, which is the document that governs the business. This is especially important if you have more than one person starting the business.
After the LLC is formed, you’ll need to be careful to keep your personal assets separate from those of the LLC. Since the LLC is a separate entity from you personally, unlike a sole proprietorship, it’s important that you treat it like a distinct and separate entity, or you could reopen the door to the potential for personal liability in the event something happens.
When it comes to LLCs, you will also want to verify your state laws, based on the type of business and licensure you have as some states require a professional entity be created. If you are a therapist, for example, some states will require you to have a professional corporation or LLC. That will be dependent upon state law. So, if you’re a licensed professional, please carefully review the statutes or talk to an attorney before deciding on your entity.
Protecting Your Website
Next, I want to talk about your website. Since you are a wellness professional doing business online, it’s important to make sure that you’ve considered the legal side of your site. Typically there are a few legal policies you should include:
Terms & Conditions
The next important policy is terms and conditions. Your terms and conditions are your contract with your audience on how they can use your site. Often, these terms will include things your audience can do with your content, things they can’t do, intellectual property notices, licenses regarding user-submitted content, and other legal terms.
The next policy you need is a disclaimer. It’s there to protect the business from liability for use of the information you publish. As a wellness professional, this is an extremely important policy since your website content is likely focused on wellness and could be perceived as health advice. Make sure you have a disclaimer to help you minimize your liability.
The last policy that you may want to include is an accessibility statement to show your commitment to providing an accessible website. Check out episode 31 for more information.
Working with Clients
Our next topic is contracts. If you are a wellness professional who is working with clients, those relationships are the foundation of your business and you need the appropriate agreements.
For wellness professionals, there is a broad range of services that you may offer to your clients, so some of the information you need in your agreement may vary, but here are some of the most common things you should address:
- First, and most important, your agreement should have a detailed and specific scope of work that describes the services you’ll provide to your client. Here, you can talk about deliverables, timelines, and cover all of the details.
- Next, make sure that your agreement explains how your compensation works. How much and when are you being paid.
- Next, what happens if either you or your client wants to end the agreement? It’s important to have a termination clause that discusses this. Make sure you also cover refunds.
- And, you can use your agreement to set boundaries with your clients. If you don’t plan to respond to things in an hour, make sure they know how to reach you and what your response times typically look like.
However, as a wellness professional, you may need additional areas covered in your agreement.
For example, if you are providing one limited service to your clients, you may want to discuss that your services are limited and you will not be providing other things. This is a good way to help ensure your clients are familiar with the scope of the services. For example, if you are serving as a health coach, you may want to include a clause to ensure that your clients know you are not practicing medicine or dietetics and that they will need to see their medical provider for certain things.
I work with a lot of wellness professionals and many offer educational group programs to their clients. This is often a hybrid model since it has course-like components and live client interaction. For this type of program, I often recommend a group program agreement. This has a lot of the same information as your client agreement, but it also contains additional information on how the group members are permitted to interact. This section often has the usual don’t-be-a-jerk guidelines, but it may also cover things like keeping group member information confidential and prohibiting screenshots.
And, don’t forget, if you are a covered entity under HIPAA, you need to ensure you are compliant with HIPAA, which will require other forms in addition to these agreements.
Protecting Your Brand and Content
Next, let’s talk about protecting your business and the brand that you’ve built through your intellectual property.
For many wellness professionals, the most important types of intellectual property are trademarks and copyrights.
A trademark is something that identifies your brand as the source of a product or service. It can be a word or phrase, a logo or symbol, or your company name. It can be anything that helps distinguish your brand in commerce.
If you are using a distinctive name for your business or services, I strongly recommend that you consider whether it is time to apply to register a trademark with the patent and trademark office.
If you register your trademark, it gives you the exclusive right to use that trademark for the types of goods and services that you offer.
Talk to a lawyer to see if this makes sense for your business.
Next, let’s talk about copyrights. First, you need to make sure that none of your content infringes on someone else’s copyright rights.
Additionally, your original work, whether it’s your written content, images, or videos, may be eligible for copyright protection. This means that you have certain exclusive rights in content, like the right to display or sell the content.
Ownership of content comes up frequently in online programming as you may have videos, handouts, or a particular methodology you use, so it is an extremely important area to learn about and make sure you address for your business.
Adding Digital Products
As your business grows, you may add digital products, to give people a DIY option. This could include ebooks, printables, or courses. And don’t forget, digital products can also include freebies, like lead magnets, which are just ebooks that you’re offering in exchange for an email address.
Unlike the group program option that I mentioned earlier, this is usually for the products where you won’t be doing a live component. For many wellness professionals, it’s usually an online course. So what should you do when you add this aspect to your business?
First and foremost, include a copyright notice on the content. This is the copyright symbol, the year, and your business name. This puts viewers on notice that you own that content.
You will also want to have terms for your digital products, which can be added to your website’s terms and conditions. If money is being exchanged for your products, you should include a purchase policy that discusses refunds and any other important information regarding the purchase.
Additionally, if someone can purchase your copyrighted content, your terms should specifically address what license you are granting them to use your content.
Building Your Team
The last thing I want to discuss today is building your team. As your business grows, you may not have capacity to serve all of your clients personally. This is often when it’s time to start building your team.
When it comes to hiring, it’s really important to know what type of role you are hiring for and whether that person will be an independent contractor or an employee. If you plan to hire an independent contractor, be sure to check your local laws regarding hiring contractors as they are not the same everywhere.
Remember, it’s important to have an agreement between you and your team members.
This wraps up our overview of legal for wellness professionals. Now let’s talk about today’s action steps.
- First, do you have a set business structure? If not, this is a good time to consider if you want to create an LLC or professional entity, depending upon your state law.
- Next, do you have the website policies you need for your site? If you sell digital products, you should also ensure that you have clear refund and purchase policies.
- Next, are you using a client agreement? This agreement should help protect your business and set out clear expectations for your client. If you have a group program, make sure you have the appropriate information included in your agreement.
- Next, have you protected your intellectual property? If you haven’t, consider whether or not a trademark or copyrights are appropriate for your business.
- Next, have you hired team members? Make sure you have agreements with them.
- Last, as always, if you have questions on any of these aspects of your business, please talk to a lawyer. Some of this can be very confusing for wellness professionals, especially if you are new to offering online programming. If you aren’t sure where to start, I do offer strategy sessions through my law firm, Liss Legal and I’d love to talk with you more. I’ll include a link in the show notes and you can visit the page for wellness professionals.
Thanks for joining me for today’s episode. In the next episode, I’m wrapping up this series with legal for social media managers. Remember, you can download a PDF with resources at businessese.com/valegalguide. There’s a link in the show notes.
I’d love to connect with you outside of the show. Visit Businessese at businessese.com. To find show notes for today’s episode, visit businessese.com/podcast.
Thank you for listening to the Simplifying Legal Podcast. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.
If you like the podcast, I’d love it if you give the show a review in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
If you have any questions, you can reach out via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening and we’ll continue Simplifying Legal on next week’s episode.