We creatives are known to be rebels but there are some rules that must be followed in order to ensure the protection for everyone and everything involved and provide direction to the necessities that will benefit anyone starting out with a creative endeavor.
Establishing a DBA (also known as Fictitious Business Name) or LLC (Limited Liability Company) seems to be the last thing many creative types look into or establish when they decide to become self-employed. And to function as a freelancer, contractor, sole-proprietor business owner, you have to register with city government to operate. Yes, you can get away with it for some time, but it will catch up with you. Many newcomers think that by getting a domain name for their website will be enough to establish their business name and protect them from any legal recourse as well as take legal recourse if others steal the name and start a legal business with the same name. WRONG!
While a DBA is an inexpensive measure to allow you to legally operate in your state under your desired business name, your business assets and personal assets are grouped together and if someone takes legal recourse against you, you can lose all your personal and business assets as well as having any reported taxable income garnished. An LLC is a slightly more expensive route, it is the next step up from a DBA but that advantage is you can separate your personal assets from your business assets in the event of a lawsuit.
Too often too many people operate off verbal agreements. Watch Judge Judy, Judge Mathis and People's Court and try to prove otherwise. In the event of any legal recourse that may be taken against one another resulting from dissatisfied service or being ripped off, etc. if there is nothing in writing you have no case and taking someone to court without an agreement or contract will be a waste of everyone's time and money. Ensure that documentation is drafted regardless of how nice a person is or even if they are your friend, loved one, teacher, or family member. The terms and conditions, scope of a project, payment arrangements, etc. stted in writing within the documentation and is signed by all accepting parties becomes binding there after and everyone is held accountable for anything they do not fulfill for which they agreed to fulfill.
Releases are important to get completed. Anyone who was involved in a project you executed who did not sign a release form come back at a later date (and usually when they learn you are making money off the project) to file a lawsuit against you because they did not give you their permission to use their likeness, their music, a picture of themselves and any other number of ridiculous claims of something of theirs that you used in your project. Always make sure that all of your documentation (releases, contracts, agreements, etc.) absolve you and protect you from any legal recourse that might be taken against your client. By doing so, if they get sued, you will not, provided your documentation is drafted properly.
Technically, as soon as you make your concept into a tangible form, it is protected by copyright law. However, that is not enough in today's time. Also, mailing a copy of your concept in some tangible form (drawings, text documents, sculpture, CD) while does hold more weight that the simple giving birth to an idea into tangible form, does not technically receive protection either. You must fill out the documentation for filing the work or works with the U.S. Copyright Office. It is not that much money for filing your body of work under a single collection. Only when you want to break up the body of work into more specialized categories does the cost go up. It will take time to file and to receive the notice of copyright protection confirmation but you get a filing ID number which can be used in the interim.
Trademarks are trickier and more costly to establish. You can trademark the name only, the name and any stylized font used for the name, the graphic logo design, or a combo set of the name with stylized font and the graphic logo. A trademark can be executed state by state to nationwide (provided someone else has not managed to beat you to it in another state). If that happens, you cannot use the trademark in that state(s) for which someone else has already established the same or very closely similar trademark. Also, to make it more complicated, two companies can have the same name but have to be different enough that consumers will not confuse the two. Real life example is Delta - there is the Airline and there is a Faucet Manufacturer.
Licensing is important as it is another form of permission being given to you that is allowing you to use something in your project that is not yours and is copyrighted. You may luck out and not have to pay anything if you can work a good deal with the copyright owner, but most likely, you will have to pay money. It is better to pay the licensing fees ahead of time that risk the penalty fees and a ruined reputation.
Determining your employment status is the first step to knowing which taxation process you will have to use. Most independent filmmakers, musicians, artists, designers, etc. are usually of the self-employment variety unless they have a day / night job to provide income until they begin making income from their desired profession. Any income made outside of any hourly or salary job is taxable by the government. Any money made as a freelancer, contractor or from your own business (all of these are considered self-employment status) require you to pay taxes at a later date. So while you make more now, you still have to pay for it later.
As with taxes, it is important to be aware of your employment status, meaning, check to see if you are a freelancer, contractor, work-for-hire, or a W-2 employee. The labor laws for protecting you from scrupulous employers do vary drastically based on your employment stats. Some employers may try to skirt the line between making you an "employee" versus a "freelancer / contractor". There are things an employer can and cannot do to contractors and freelancers that they can do with taxed employees. Whether you are the employer or the hired hand, these links will direct you to the essential information you need to know.
This is the way of the future folks. While there are pros and cons it is the software companies way of trying to control piracy. For those of us who rely on Adobe Software this is a great saver of money as for a nominal monthly fee, you get access to the entire creative suite. This trend has caught on to other software companies such as AutoDesk, Microsoft, Toon Boom, Storyboard Pro, and much, much more.
Looking for affordable vendors and rental facilities from which to acquire your own equipment, tools and supplies? Look no further as we have compiled a helpful list of people and places you may contact to fulfill your needs. While there is some validity in spending a few more bucks for a higher quality product, when starting out, you are simply not gonna be achieving Academy or Emmy Award Winning material. The tools of the trade are only as effective as you are at using them to tell your story. Once your budgets increase and the income from your projects increase, only then should you begin investing in upgrading your tools. Until then, be creative and allow your limited means to foster creative solutions.
For those who still prefer the tangible form of distributing your music, audio, photographic, video, film transfers, VHS transfers, and animations - there are still service around to help you out and trust me, they are not going away anytime soon dispute the push to total online streaming your content. There is something refreshing about actually holding the item in your hand as well as knowing you have a hard copy back-up of your content.
Yes, printing is still around. Here are a variety of printing services that can print on everything from paper to clothes to merchandise and offer short run, large runs or both, extremely short runs for promotional items or swag.
Below are a list of social media sites we have found many people in the entertainment business utilizing. Not all may be right for you but still take a look as trends come and go and the original intended use of a social media platform can change as well. We will keep this list updated every 4 months to keep in sync with trends.
Below is a list of sites and videos that offer up professional advice and tutorials that will quickly advance your own skills to the next level. How do we know, because we have used them ourselves to get to where we are. We are "paying it forward" by connecting you with them so you can learn and grow the same way we did and have fun along the way.