Beginning to work in a freelance capacity online is not a terribly complex undertaking in most cases. All you really have to do is create a profile with a service like ODesk, Elance, or Textbroker to begin taking side jobs or build up to a full-time slate of clients. Or if you’re serious about launching an online operation you might start a website for your business, learn how SEO can help you to increase your online presence, get on forums to start networking with your peers, and cast a virtual net to draw in prospective customers or clients. But before you get the ball rolling you should be aware that there are laws that affect and protect freelancers working in the online arena. And since what you don’t know can definitely hurt you, here are a few freelance laws and legal issues you should be aware of!
Freelance Laws You Need To Know
The main thing you need to be careful not to infringe on is copyright laws. Any time you engage in content creation for use in the online arena, whether textual, graphic, audio/video or other, you need to make sure that no undue amount of “borrowing” is going on, especially if you’re getting paid for your work. Any time you use the intellectual property of another person in any way, shape, or form you risk a lawsuit for copyright infringement. So you need to make sure that you gain permission to use content as necessary and credit applicable sources. Of course, such accusations are much easier to avoid if you simply create your own original content and utilize software that checks for potential overlap with other sources. It is incumbent upon you to look out for your own welfare in this matter because if someone else discovers that you have used intellectual property that is not your own, it could negate a contract and end in litigation.
Along those lines, you should also be aware of legalities pertaining to contracts, since this type of document can both help and hurt you in your professional pursuits. If you fail to use a contract for your online work, you may find that you have trouble getting paid. In truth, you might have a hard time getting payment anyway, but if you have a contract in place you at least have a legal leg to stand on. So long as your contract contains information pertaining to the work you are hired to do and the payment you are supposed to receive, you can use it in a legal capacity. It is for this reason that you should insist upon a contract, regardless of the fact that you are working in the virtual realm. Of course, your clients may want to use their own standard contracts, and they could have further stipulations, such as non-disclosure agreements, so just be aware that you are bound by any contract you sign.
Like any other type of self-employed individual, you are also required to pay taxes on your income. Just because you operate in the virtual arena doesn’t mean the IRS won’t still come after you for their cut. And online payment venues (like PayPal, for example) are required to report all payments to the IRS, so it’s not like you can fly under the radar on this one. Of course, your clients will no doubt report any and all payments, as well, at least if they’re smart. You may be able to avoid legal issues related to accident and injury as an online professional (not to mention the need for an injury attorney), but while you might avoid the risk of death associated with other types of occupations, you definitely can’t avoid taxes, at least not for long. Becoming aware of legal issues that could affect you as a freelancer working in the online arena is essential to making your online endeavours a success. So think about talking to a lawyer to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row – as a bonus, you can legally write off the expense!