Protect Your Design Business

Do you know how to protect your creative ideas and the income from them? Do you know how to protect yourself and those who work with you? What about legal responsibilities? Here are some ideas: use them to kick-start the personalized advice you get and the steps you take. Ensure sources of advice and information are properly qualified.

Protect reputation, premises, equipment and people

Precisely what insurance you should get depends on regulations in your country and what type of business you run. But here are several types of insurance commonly held by businesses: professional indemnity; employer’s; negligence; fire and theft; buildings; contents; and public liability.

Unbiased information and advice is provided by many organisations, including Chambers of Commerce, reputable business advice websites and professional associations* (see the end of the article for a short list of associations). It is often possible to get discounted insurance through professional associations.

Protect ideas

The most obvious example for a designer is copyright. To help prevent problems, discuss in advance what is your intellectual property (IP) and what is your client’s. Organisations including Chambers of Commerce and professional associations often offer workshops or fact-sheets on understanding, and protecting your IP. Specialist IP lawyers also provide advice.

Protect time and money

Assumptions and confusion can sour a promising relationship between a designer and client, and could involve issues like number of revisions included in a job price, amount of time in discussions with the client, acceptable payment timeframe – and many more. Agreeing things in writing before any work starts, perhaps in contract form can help.

Organisations including Chambers of Commerce, professional associations and lawyers usually offer information or advice on this. There are also websites with template contracts, these vary in quality and which country they apply to, but can be a useful starting point.

Protect yourself and other people

You need to understand relevant business law in your country and ensure you comply. Typical areas include premises, equipment, noise levels, chemicals and activities. People who work solo at home, are lone workers, which has its own risks. The government departments in your country that deal with Health and Safety, business, trade or industry often produce easy-to-understand information and advice.

Protect your home and other assets

In some countries the legal type of business formed, for example working solo as opposed to creating a company, affects the level of protection individuals have should a business be sued or fail financially. Organisations including government tax departments, Chambers of Commerce and professional associations often offer information or advice on this.

Protect your money and the tax-man’s

You must keep financial records of your business that are in-line with the regulations in your country. Obviously your government’s tax department can provide information & advice on this. Chambers of Commerce & professional organisations can also provide information. Don’t worry about this, it’s usually more simple than you might think!

The great news about keeping financial records, is that many expenses which businesses incur can be used to legally reduce tax payments. Tax departments offer information and advice on what will apply to different businesses. They often provide factsheets and sometimes workshops (which can be good places to meet other business owners and potential clients). Chambers of Commerce & professional organisations can also provide information.

Because business taxes are often paid some months after earning business income, many sources of advice recommended ensuring enough money is saved to pay business taxes, social/national insurances and any other taxes or levies that apply. Sources of advice often suggest saving 25% of your business income.

Protect yourself and the whole business

If you’re working for yourself, you must comply with legal business responsibilities in your area. These vary according to your country and type of business. It wouldn’t be sensible to think that ignorance of the law would protect anyone. Chambers of Commerce, local government, tax departments, government business departments, professional associations and lawyers can be good sources of information and advice.

* A small selection of professional associations for designers and other creative people

American Institute of Graphic Arts, NZ Institute of Professional Photographers, Chartered Society of Designers, Designers and Art Directors, Australian Graphic Design Association, Association of Photographers, Association of Web Design Professionals, etc.

Use a search engine to find an organisation in your area that fits your needs.