13 Questions to Ask a Lawyer When Starting a Blog for Affiliate Marketing
If you’ve scrolled through Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok for ANY amount of time recently, you’ve probably caught on to the world of affiliate marketing.
There always seems to be an influencer posting some sort of #ad in their feed and stories and even your average person is posting links that are eligible for commission.
It’s clear that affiliate marketing is here to stay and what started mainly in the influencer and blogger community as a way for them to earn a majority of their income, is now alive and well with lots of businesses too!
And it makes sense – having affiliate programs for your products or services OR becoming an affiliate for various businesses is a great way to earn passive income and I’m allll for it.
But like anything, I want to make sure you’re doing it legally!
So, if you’re considering jumping into the world of affiliate marketing with a blog, there are 13 questions I’d encourage you to ask a small business lawyer FIRST.
13 Questions to Ask a Lawyer Before Starting a Blog for Affiliate Marketing
If you’re starting a blog and plan to use it for affiliate marketing, there’s one major thing you want to understand: you must treat it as a BUSINESS.
Even if it’s a hobby or side hustle for you, if you’re making money from it, in the eyes of the IRS, it’s a biznas. 💅🏼
Which means that you have to set up a proper legal structure, such as an LLC or sole proprietor, just like any business must!
To help you fully understand which legal structure is best for your blog (and to avoid any tax or legal trouble in the future), CLICK HERE to download the free roadmap to starting your LLC with ease!
So, since your blog is technically going to be considered a business venture, you might be wondering… “do I need a business license for this thing?”
Short answer: you usually don’t!
But to be safe, call your county’s Business Administration Office to verify because laws can vary by state and county.
If your eyes completely glazed over at the words “FTC”, let me explain: FTC stands for Federal Trade Commission and they’re the people you don’t want to cross when it comes to money issues in your business.
The FTC has a LOT of guidelines when it comes to making money and selling products or services as a business.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, they have specific guidelines and when starting a blog where you’ll be linking products with the goal to earn commission, it’s essential to know how to comply.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this research yourself – CLICK HERE to grab The Boutique Lawyer’s free Sell Without Getting Sued guide!
When you earn any type of money as a business owner (or as a blogger selling affiliate products), you have to take into consideration what tax implications you might face.
The best way to understand how to file your taxes and what exactly to keep up with as an affiliate earner is to talk with a tax pro that can help you specifically!
When you’re creating anything online, there’s always that fear in the back of your mind – “are people going to steal my content?”
And as much as I wish I could say that’s an irrational fear… it’s not.
There are LOTS of copycats out there and it’s a huge frustration when creating in the online business world.
To protect your creations, including your blog posts and other creative works, it’s VITAL that you implement the correct copyright notices on your website in order to give you maximum protection from infringement.
If you’re new to the online business world and aren’t familiar with copyright and how it works, CLICK HERE for the full breakdown of what it is, what it means, and where it’s needed.
And even after implementing this notice, it’s important to understand what to do when someone does unfortunately steal your content. 🙃
In fact, remember the FTC you were introduced to above? Well, they can actually fine you up to $2500+ per visitor to your site for NOT having this policy! 🤯
And this policy is not just to protect your customer or website visitor – it’s also to protect YOU as the business owner.
Essentially, this policy lets people know what personal information is collected, how that info is collected, how it’s used, and, most importantly, how it’s protected.
Remember that copyright thing I mentioned above? That’s where this comes in!
As a creator, it can be very easy to be “overly inspired” by someone else’s work and create something similar to them. When you do this, not only do you run the risk of infringing on copyright, but you also decrease your own credibility as a blogger.
If you really want to build a brand that generates quality and consistent results AND be seen as trustworthy in the eyes of your audience, be original in all that you do and make sure that your ideas are well… your own.
This includes using original images unless you have specific permission from the brand or business that you’re promoting!
While making money through affiliate links is perfectly acceptable, what’s NOT acceptable is not disclaiming your earnings potential.
The main purpose of this disclaimer is to provide transparency and disclosure to your audience by letting them know that you can potentially earn commission from links throughout your site.
Like most legal policies required for your blogging business, I’ve also made this one very easy for you to implement with the General Disclaimer template.
When using trademarks or brand names in your blog content, it's generally acceptable under the principle of nominative fair use, especially for informational or descriptive purposes.
However, certain guidelines should be followed to ensure legality and avoid potential issues.
Many brands or businesses that you work with for affiliate marketing will typically provide “swipe copy” and “swipe images” meaning it’s content that they’re giving you permission to use on their behalf.
Additionally, many brands will provide information on how their trademarks, brand names, images, or additional content can be used and it’s essential that you abide by their requests to avoid any risks.
If you’re ever questioning whether or not you can use the trademark or brand name, it’s best to ask for approval before moving forward!
Email marketing is another HUGE way to generate income as an affiliate marketer and many bloggers and influencers use this method, as well as posting on social media consistently.
While this is perfectly acceptable to do, like anything, you want to make sure you’re aware of all legal requirements and take those into consideration.
Email marketing in general has its own set of guidelines put forward by the FTC, including permission-based marketing rules to ensure that subscribers explicitly opt in by providing their information and the ability to easily unsubscribe at any time with no hassle.
As far as the content goes in your emails, you must follow similar guidelines required on your website and on social media by transparently disclosing your affiliate relationship with any products or services that you promote, adhere to all FTC guidelines, and maintain honesty in your endorsements to comply with consumer protection laws.
Since email marketing is a whole thing in and of itself, we cover all of the ins and outs in Landing Sales Legally – the ultimate toolkit to help you protect your sales funnel from top to bottom – and in the Business To Brand Membership – where you’ll learn how to grow your business into a protected brand with ease and have access to resources on an ongoing basis!
This is a legally binding agreement between you and ALL of your website visitors that typically covers topics like if or how they can use your website images (including your logo), how they can backlink to your website and even how they can quote your blogs.
This agreement also helps limit your liability for any possible errors, such as typos or technical glitches.
This is a SUPER common issue for those in the blogging and influencing space, so take the necessary steps to protect yourself and avoid yet another legal headache.
Most of the things mentioned above are the most critical liability concerns you should be aware of when diving into the world of affiliate marketing through a blog.
Overall, you want to make sure that you avoid creating or promoting misleading or false information about affiliate products/services and properly disclose your affiliate relationships.
Additionally, it’s important to stay compliant with copyright laws with the content you create and data privacy laws regarding user information collection through your work.
Establishing a contract for your affiliate marketing partnerships is highly recommended as it offers clarity, protection, and a clear understanding of expectations for both parties involved.
While most affiliate programs and brands provide terms upon sign-up, a separate contract curated by you can allow for more specific details, including commission rates, payment schedules, promotional guidelines, and conditions for termination.
This contract serves as a legal safeguard, ensuring compliance with FTC guidelines for disclosures and promoting transparency.
A well-crafted contract not only mitigates misunderstandings but also fosters a more fruitful affiliate marketing relationship, allowing you to build relationships in the industry while also protecting all parties involved.
If you aren’t sure where to start with your contract curation, CLICK HERE to browse the marketing collection of The Boutique Lawyer Contract Shop!
How To Monetize Your Blog Legally
The moral of the story is this: don’t get so caught up in the fun of this business that you forget that it’s… well, a business.
When you have all of these legal policies in place, you can live your best influencer and blogger life while strolling the aisles of your favorite store with a coffee in hand. 💁🏼♀️
These 13 questions can help you get started in the blogging world with ease AND on legal footing right from the start.
If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to CONNECT HERE, so you can fully understand what’s needed for your blog specifically!