Categories
Business and work

Plotting a course around business failure

Nathan Jeffery is an entrepreneur, developer and speaker (among other things) who I have mentioned a couple times in the past (including when he basically saved this blog after I almost killed it). He recently published a series of blog posts that essentially plot a course around business failure that every entrepreneur should read – yes, every single one! 😉 – and I want to share them with you:

Micro Failure

Nathan tackles the popular notion that failure is something to be embraced, even sought after. While there is certainly value in the lessons you learn when you fail and not repeating those mistakes, it is a mistake to romanticize failure. As Nathan puts it:

When you fail in business you lose money and often wreck the lives of your employees. The current flippant and arrogant approach to failure is disrespectful to everyone who works with and depends on you for their livelihood.

Do what you love

I believe strongly in doing work you are passionate about. When you do work that doesn’t challenge you and doesn’t tap into your passions, it can be soul destroying (almost literally). At the same time, there are some practical considerations and a different way to think about fulfilment in your work that aren’t usually mentioned in the myriad articles about doing what you love.

You need to get satisfaction from producing quality work; this is especially true for the creative industries. Your clients will hardly ever comprehend how much effort you’ve put into your work, and quite often they won’t really care, many won’t even thank you. You need to be happy within yourself and get joy from the work you do.

Take Ownership

This short piece is really about taking responsibility. When you take responsibility for what you do, take ownership of your decisions, you make the choice to take more control of your life.

Taking ownership, to me, is more than taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions or lack thereof. You need to constantly be learning and questioning situations, especially when things go awry.

Focus and Commit

There are many ways to distinguish between businesses and one perspective that is increasingly relevant is to distinguish between businesses is between those that specialise and become experts and those that try to do everything and don’t do anything particularly well. I thought about specialisation and hyper-specialisation often in my previous career and I see it in my new industry.

Do one thing, maybe two but whatever you do, do it so darn well that it’s all you need to do. You can expand your service offering once you have a big enough team to handle it. There’s enough work out there for specialists to exist.

Hire a boutique accounting firm

Accounting is not even remotely something I enjoy dealing with or even have a clear handle on despite needing to understand legal accounting in order to set up a practice as an attorney. At the same time, having your books in order is essential if you want your business to function effectively so make the right decisions about who manages those books.

You need to know and understand what is going on in your business’ finances. Accountants can make mistakes. By understanding what is going on in your business’ books, you’ll not only be in a better position to manage your business but you’ll also have a better chance of spotting mistakes in your financial statements should your accountant slip up.

Pay for good contracts and use them

On this I am more than a little biased. In my previous career (and in one aspect of my current role), I wrote contracts for my clients that were intended to give their commercial relationships better structure and protection.

Unfortunately contracts are perceived as largely superfluous, to a large degree because they are often badly written and poorly understood and, as a consequence, regarded as “necessary but preferably no longer than 1 page”. Contracts are a critical component in business, it is worth having them done properly.

Hire a good lawyer, pay for good contracts and use them.

Image credit: Map by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication

Categories
Business and work Legal Writing

You gave up your rights to your writing

So much for that portfolio

Obligatory disclaimer: even though I am a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice so don’t rely on it. I’m just sharing a few thoughts to spark an awareness of a legal challenge so verify with your lawyer.

This link bait-style title was inspired by a question a friend asked me recently about creating writing portfolios. We were discussing ways to create portfolios of our work which become dynamic collections showcasing our writing skill and I suggested trying Medium.

I’m a big fan of having your own site on your own domain so my starting point is usually creating your own blog at your domain (like mine). That said, for people who don’t have the inclination or patience to set up a site, a Medium profile can be a pretty easy way to create a portfolio and even gain a little attention in the process. I did something along these lines with Digital Stunt Factory.

Gone at the stroke of a pen

I suggested that he import his blog posts and articles from various sources into his Medium profile using the “Import story” feature. It got me thinking about the copyright implications of doing that so I did a little research. It turns out that, as an employee, you probably gave up your rights to your writing. Many employment contracts have clauses like this:

Employee acknowledges that any original works of authorship s/he creates, whether alone or jointly with others, within the scope and during the period of employment with Company, shall be deemed a “work made for hire” as defined by the United States Copyright Act and are protected in accordance therewith. To the extent that such work is not, by operation of law, a work made for hire, Employee hereby transfers and assigns to Company all his/her right, title and interest therein, up to and including copyright.

There is often another clause that deals with something called “moral rights” which the contract may require the employee to waive or otherwise give up.

For writers who put a huge amount of effort into their work and take pride in their literary brilliance, clauses like this are analogous to amputations and this is why:

  1. The “work made for hire” clause has the effect of saying that your brilliance which you create as an employee actually belongs to your employer and you don’t have any rights to it from the moment you start populating that blank screen.
  2. If your contract has a clause that requires you to waive your “moral rights”, that basically means you give up your right to be known as the author of your professional work.

The effect of these kinds of clauses is to take your work from you and create a fiction that you didn’t create it and a legal fact that you have no rights to do anything other than admire it from afar. When it comes to building a portfolio, it also means you can’t just add it to your portfolio website and point to it as proof of your creative genius.

In other words …

You didn’t write this, it isn’t yours, just keep working

There are other options for building your portfolio which could work. One option is to simply point to an author page of the company blog that lists your articles by author (if you have that option). You could create a collection of links to “your” articles and insinuate that you may be the author of those marvelous works.

The best way to avoid this situation is not to sign a contract that contains those legal scalpels. At the very least, hold on to your moral rights so you can publicly assert that you wrote those works.

Best case scenario: you negotiate clauses that give your employer co-ownership of your work (most employers would insist on this level of control) while retaining co-ownership yourself. That gives your employer the security of knowing it can do what they want with your work (because, after all, it is paying you to write that stuff) and you have the rights to do stuff with it all too, such as include it all in your portfolio.

Just something to consider. If your written art means something to you, that is.

This article was originally published on Medium on 2015-12-25 as “When you signed away your rights to your writing“.

When you signed away your rights to your writing

Categories
Legal

If you want to see your lawyer cry …