It’s the end of the year, which means (in theory) we’re all focused on wrapping up 2017, prepping for 2018, and carving out time to enjoy the holidays. In reality, most of us are running between our emails, calendars, and client work, trying to frantically wrap up end of year projects and wrap all the gifts and figure out how exactly we can take time off from our businesses to make time for enjoying the holidays at all.
Balance. It’s easier said than done, right?
Well, when you simplify what needs to be done, it becomes so much easier to end the year with a little more margin for what matters, and a strong start to the new year. Today, I’m breaking down exactly what you need to do/think about (legally) to start the new year strong. After all, none of us want to spend December 30th frantically Googling “how to get your business legal for the new year”, right?
Before I get started, there is one thing I tell each and every client/potential client: in order to have a sound business, you need to have three people on your team: a good accountant, lawyer, and financial advisor. In my opinion, if someone has to be licensed by the state in order to provide their services, or carries a fiduciary duty with their clients, there is no sound reason why I would rely on my own “research” (read: Google) to try to figure it out on my own.
- Take a look at your plans for the new year. Duh, right? Hear me out. What do you have planned for the new year? Do you foresee yourself branching out into new offerings, or hiring any support staff? Unless your answer is “no, I want to stay stagnant, outsource nothing, and bring in very small amounts of income, then you need to examine which business structure is best for your business.
- I won’t take time to discuss all of the pros and cons with you right now, but there are very few circumstances in which I would advise that you remain a sole proprietor. I challenge you to answer this: can you state an actual, discernible reason why a sole proprietorship is best for you? If you plan on growing your business this year, your potential reasons become slimmer and slimmer. I wrote more about that here in an article for the Rising Tide Society.
- There’s also a time-based reason for you to consider this with the start of the new year. For example, if you want to elect for your LLC to be taxed as an SCorp, you must file your election either within 75 days of forming your LLC, or at the start of the new year. Therefore, it’s critical to examine this consideration at the end of the year.
- Do you have a corporation? Take a look at your corporate resolutions and meeting minutes to see what requirements there are for your corporation.
2. Assess your business’ annual requirements. For example, if you have an LLC, you’re required to file articles of renewal each year. In Oklahoma, this document must be filed on the anniversary of your LLC filing, with a $25 filing fee. This information will be found on your state’s Secretary of State website- make sure you take a look, and plug that date into your calendar now.
3. Get your taxes/financials in order. I will be the first to tell you that I don’t practice tax law or give tax advice (although I am excited about some things coming down the pipe in this regard in 2018). However, you need to make it a priority to have your finances in order for your bookkeeper/accountant at the end of the year. Not only will having reconciled books give you a fresh start to the new year but examining them now will allow you to make key investments and purchases that might be necessary for deductions, etc. Most importantly: get your 1099’s in order. List out any subcontractors you’ve paid more than $600 for 2017. They should fill out a W-9 now so that you aren’t both racing the clock during tax season to get this done. This isn’t something you can skimp on either- the IRS will levy a $30-$100 fine for each form you neglect to send or send late. If they find you intentionally did not fill out this form, you could be facing a minimum penalty of $250 per form.
4. Look at your contracts. This year, were you nervous each and every time you sent your contract to your client because:
- It didn’t look professional
- You didn’t know how to actually answer any questions they might have about it
- You had no idea if it would actually protect you if you needed it to?
If the answer is yes to any or al of the above, then it’s time to tie up those loose ends, and upgrade. I spent this fall launching 45 new contract templates at www.shopcreativelaw.com, and it may behoove you to keep an eye on the shop in the new year…just saying.
5. Insurance. Much like tax matters, I do not give any advice on insurance requirements. However, the end of the year is the best time for you to examine what insurance your business needs, and reach out to a local financial advisor who can point you in the right direction. Full disclosure: my husband is a financial advisor, and an advisor in his office focuses solely on insurance requirements for small business advisors. Working with him has been such a game changer for my small business- not only has it saved me a ton of time and money, but I know that I am working with a professional rather than just hoping that what I google is accurate. I can’t put a dollar amount on my peace of mind.
Now that we’ve talked about all that legal stuff, what about the actual business considerations?
I’ll give you a peek behind the curtain of my own business: there are certain areas of my business I wanted to edit/revamp/tighten up before the end of the year. I know I don’t do my best work when I hustle from one task to the next; instead, I need to take time to start with the bird’s eye view of my business and work my way down from there. Therefore, I’m taking the time to step back, and map out these primary areas:
- Updating my website. I worked my tail off getting both my law firm website and shopcreativelaw.com launched this year… but “update website” has been on my to-do list since July. Whoops. I did a brain dump of everything I want/need to do on my website, and I’m carving out a day for just that.
- Delegating. I’m also going through the details of my work- mapping out everything I touch in my business: my common client projects, workflows, etc, to see where I can outsource. I’m bringing on an intern in 2018, so stay tuned for details from that endeavor!
- Organizing. I thought I was doing a decent job at this…until things took off last fall, and I realized disorganization was costing me my peace of mind, efficiency, and most precious of all: time. So, I’ve been on a ruthless path to simplify and organize. I’ll be sharing more about how I do this on Google drive at a later date, but here is my progress so far:
- Mapping out my content calendar. Last but not least, my content calendar. First, I’m starting with a bird’s eye view and mapping out my biggest launches, special events, etc. From there, I’m jotting down general topics I want to discuss, then breaking them down into more specific topics. There is a great breakdown of how exactly to scope out your marketing calendar here.
And there you have it! A simplified, direct checklist of everything you need to think about from a legal perspective as we head into the new year. Tell me, what topics would you like more clarification on in 2018? Each blog post I write is a direct response to a question I’ve received. I’m building my editorial calendar now, and I want to hear directly from you! Email your requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.