Freelance Writing Legal Issues

There are only a few legal issues that freelance writers will have to deal with. Thankfully, these are a little bit less than a small business or corporate office would have to deal with. Even if you outsource work on a contract basis, you really only need to be concerned with your legal responsibilities as an individual. Here are the legal issues that freelance writers should be aware of.

Business/company registration. If you want to have a writing company, and hire official employees, you will need to register a name either with your local county office, state, or nationally. As a freelance writer, you will most likely just be in business for yourself, and therefore coming up with a company name is unnecessary. Use your own name as a company name, and you will avoid trademark issues. Even though you are an individual, you are still considered sole proprietor of your own business, for tax reasons. You must register your business on the state and federal level.

Taxes. Any self-employed income that exceeds a profit of $400 is taxable. In the U.S. you are required to pay taxes on an estimated and quarterly basis. Since taxes are not automatically taken out of your pay by an employer, you have to figure it out on your own. Understanding profit and loss is really important. I suggest visiting irs.gov and learning more about tax law as an individual business owner. Hiring an accountant is a good idea, but you really should learn as much as you can on your own, since not everyone is honest.

Copyright issues. This is two-fold: you should know how to protect your own intellectual property rights, and you should be intimately familiar with knowing how to avoid infringing on other people’s copyrights. Copyright.gov is helpful on both fronts.

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  1. I’ll play devil’s advocate here.

    There are plenty of other legal issues to deal with. There are trade regulations – interstate and in between countries, for example. There are contractual issues that can come up. There is the potential for lawsuits for unpaid work. And on, and on, and on.

    Now, freelance writers have fewer legal concerns than doctors or, let’s say, accountants. But they do have quite a few issues that can crop up.

    Having said that, the issues you identify certainly are valid.


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