5 Must-Have Website Policies and Legal Documents for Small Business Owners

Alongside marketing and finance, legals is one of the main pillars of any business. So, why is it that so many small business owners seem to spend way more time and money on their marketing and financials than their legals?

You might think you’ve ticked all the boxes with getting an ABN, registering your business name and building a brand new website. But, did you know there are other policies and documents that you should have in place to manage client expectations and resolve customer issues?

That’s where Shalini Nandan-Singh comes in. Founder of Legally Shalini, she is an expert in contract and legal documentation for small business business and creates templates and customised documents to help business owners get on top of their legal obligations.

Shalini recently talked to our Organic Digital Marketing group about the importance of getting your legals right and how having the right policies in place can help streamline your processes and manage client and customer relationships.

If you feel lost when it comes to legals and unsure of what policies you need and how to develop them, then this talk is for you! Find the talk as part of the guest speaker series in the Organic Digital Marketing group or read on to find out more.

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Why it’s important to have your legals sorted

2020 illustrated the devastating impacts of the unexpected. COVID-19 and the government response to the pandemic highlighted the need for clear and robust terms and conditions to lead the way when the unexpected happens.

The truth is, small business owners and solopreneurs are more exposed and vulnerable when it comes to legal issues. Unlike big companies, you don’t have access to an inhouse legal team nor the money and resources to deal with legal challenges.

To avoid costly issues, it’s important to have comprehensive terms of service in place for both you and your customers. This manages expectations, sets out the terms of service and explains what happens if something unexpected happens to either party.

Comprehensive legal policies are good for your customers but they are also vital for your business. Terms and conditions not only give protection and reassurance to your clients but they also protect your business, yourself and your reputation from harm.

So, what documents do you need as a service or eCommerce business?

The 5 Legal Documents Your Small Business Needs

You will need slightly different documents depending on whether you’re a service-based or product-based business:

Service-Based Business
Service Agreement
Privacy Policy
Website Terms of Use

Product-Based Business
Terms of Sale
Privacy Policy
Website Terms of Use
Returns Policy

Service Agreement

Also referred to as a service contract, client agreement or terms of engagement, this is the single most important document for service-based business owners. This document sets out the terms of your contract and how you’ll deliver services to your client. If you don’t have a service agreement in place, it’s hard to manage expectations or resolve issues should they arise.

While you can buy template service agreements online, it’s best to get your service agreement specifically drafted to suit the needs of your business. Copying someone else’s agreement is also not a good idea as it may not provide the right protection for your business. To be effective, your service agreement needs to be clearly understood by you and by your clients.

Terms of Sale

For product-based businesses, having up-to-date terms of sale are key. Ideally you should have a tick box at checkout with a link to your terms of sale so your customers can confirm they’ve read them before purchase. Your terms of sale protect both you and your customers, providing guidance if they have questions about the product or about the service encounter.

Your terms of sale sets expectations for your customers and is an important document to refer back to if there are issues later on. Terms of sale should include details about warranty, quality, returns, delivery and any other aspect of the product or sales process that needs to be explained further. This should be easy to find on your site and easy to understand for your customers.

Privacy Policy

It’s mandatory for all websites to have an up-to-date privacy policy. If your website collects or uses personal information (such as email subscriber details), you need to have a policy that sets out the type of personal information you collect, how you use and disclose this information and how you store it. Otherwise, you could be in breach of the Privacy Act and subject to penalties.

If your site attracts international visitors you also need to ensure your privacy policy is GDPR compliant. Again, it’s not enough to download a free online template or copy someone else’s privacy policy. In order to be fully compliant, it’s best to seek professional advice so your policy includes all the information necessary to comply with Australian and international law.

Website Terms of Use

Another important policy for online business owners, website terms of use outline how users use your website and also acts as a disclaimer against improper use. Creating terms of use not only manages the use of your website, it also protects your legal interests, safeguards your intellectual property and promotes your business as a professional and trustworthy entity.

Also known as terms and conditions or terms of service, website terms of use are usually found in the footer of your site. It’s a simple and effective way to help your business avoid legal issues  by setting our acceptable and unacceptable use of your information. While not mandatory, a website terms of use policy is highly recommended for all businesses with an online presence.

Returns Policy

If your product or service fails to meet consumer expectations, customers have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund under the Australian Consumer Law. While your returns policy is generally included in your service agreement or terms of sale, it’s good practice for eCommerce sites to have a separate returns policy in place that’s easily accessible.

Your returns policy should specify the grounds for seeking a refund or exchange and set out how your customers can begin the process. It should state the number of days they have to return a product, how a refund will be made (credit, cash or replacement), if you offer refunds for digital products or in-app purchases and who pays for shipping to return the product.

If you haven’t already got these documents in place for your business, now’s the time to rectify that for the new year. If you’d like to learn more about the legal documents your small business needs, check out Legally Shalini and don’t forget to follow her Facebook page for more tips and advice.

And, If you haven’t already, join our free Organic Digital Marketing group to discover more ways to grow your business. You’ll be able to catch up with all our guest speaker sessions plus benefit from the knowledge and experience of other amazing members. The best bit – it’s free!

Got questions about updating your website and your online policies? Schedule a free 30-minute chat with Desiree from Naked Digital Marketer to discuss how we can help you design an optimised and compliant website to help your business grow.

Post by Desiree

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