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2. Scope of Practice for Coaches (What You're Legally Allowed to Do)
Episode 22nd August 2021 • On Your Terms® | Legal Tips Meets Marketing Strategies for Online Business • Sam Vander Wielen
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Scope of practice is one of the most requested topics in my community, and in my DMs, so we’re going to get down and dirty, talking about what you are, and are not, legally allowed to do as a coach. 

First of all, you need to understand exactly what scope of practice is and which scope of practice covers what you do. This is where this episode starts. But there’s so much misinformation out there when it comes to scope of practice legislation that it can be a real minefield, and getting things wrong has the potential to land you in trouble, so I spend a bit of time myth-busting as well. 

Once that’s out of the way, I get into how you can design your business in a way that’s safe, covered, and will let you sleep tight at night. 

In this episode, you'll hear… 

  • 02:09 - What scope of practice means 
  • 04:08 - How it affects your business 
  • 06:17 - The myth of unregulated industries 
  • 08:17 - Where the confusion comes from
  • 16:04 - Do’s and don’ts of your coaching scope of practice

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DISCLAIMER: Although Sam is an attorney she doesn’t practice law and can’t give you legal advice. All episodes of On Your Terms are educational and informational only. The information discussed here isn’t legal advice and isn’t intended to be. The info you hear here isn’t a substitute for seeking legal advice from your own attorney.


On Your Terms is a production of Crate Media.

Transcripts

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So, before we start today's episode, just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in

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This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only.

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It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer.

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And please keep in mind that I can't offer you legal advice.

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I don't ever offer any legal services, but I think I offer some pretty good information.

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One more thing before we get started, also remember that I am based in the United States, and that is the only form of scope of practice that I'm familiar

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With that, let's actually get into it.

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Hey there, and welcome to On Your Terms, my podcast where I teach you how to legally protect and grow your online business, all while building an evergreen

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your terms.

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So, in today's episode, we're going to talk about scope of practice.

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One of the most requested topics both in my community, my DMs, my email, everywhere else because this is where we're going to get down and dirty talking

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allowed to do as a coach online.

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So, in today's episode, we cover what some of the problems are with scope of practice, some of the myths and misinformation that I see out there.

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One of the things that I think causes scope of practice and a little bit of stress around the issues related to scope of practice relating to a big, big

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we're going to work through today.

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And then, we're actually going to go through step by step, talk about what scope of practice is, how you figure out what yours is, how you figure out what it's

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take to design your business to make sure that you're doing things that only you can do.

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And my goal today is to help you sleep tight at night.

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I hope that you leave this episode with a big sigh of relief, having a better understanding, or at least that we can start this conversation.

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And with that, let's get into it.

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So, I get asked about scope of practice stuff all the time.

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And people might not necessarily reach out and ask me, like, "What's my scope of practice?" But I get every variation of every question like, "What am I allowed

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this in my membership?

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Am I allowed to teach this to my clients?

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Can I offer this service?

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Can I offer this program?

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How do I offer this in a safer way?" And, basically, all of these questions relate to scope of practice, and it's exactly what we're going to dive deep into

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I'm so excited for this conversation.

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So, it is so important to talk about scope of practice and what you're legally allowed to do in your business based on who you are, and what you do, and how

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and educated, and all of that, because you could be doing everything right, legally speaking.

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You could have great business insurance.

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You could have the best contracts, from, of course, Sam Vander Wielen LLC.

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You could have an LLC.

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You could have just done everything right.

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You could have dotted every I and crossed every T.

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But if you do things in your business, in your work with clients, that are outside of your scope of practice, you can get in legal trouble.

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It won't matter that you did all those things that I just mentioned.

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It will help.

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But I think what people sometimes confuse is that it is a pass.

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So, they think if you have someone sign a contract, for example, that says, "I'm not your doctor." But then, you offer them doctory-ly advice, or you do

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that only a doctor can do, or something that falls under the practice of medicine, then some people think that because they've had a client sign a

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they understand that the person is not a doctor is like a free pass.

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And that is very, very, very much not the case.

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In fact, I always say it's worse because you've just now established that you're not a doctor and that you're not legally allowed to do these things.

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But then, the fact that you turn around and do it is all that will matter.

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Like most things in life, all that really matters, in this case, legally speaking, is what you actually do, not just what you said you wouldn't do or

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So, if in your practice, you're actually offering tax advice, legal advice, medical advice, therapy advice, PT advice, whatever it is that's outside of your

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practice, it won't matter that you've had someone sign a contract.

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It won't matter that you call yourself a coach and they know you're not a doctor or something like that.

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So, this is really an important topic to understand.

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There are a lot of really, like, bad misinformation that gets passed around.

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Of course, there are whole groups of people in parts of this industry, too, that are very like, "Who cares?

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No one's going to get in trouble for this.

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Let's see if I ever get caught." But I don't think that's you because you probably wouldn't be listening to this podcast because I think you're here

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wrong - what you're legally allowed to do and you only want to do that, but you also want to help people.

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So, I very much understand this practical balance between feeling like you have to talk about certain things, you have to dive into certain areas or offer

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sleep tight at night. And that's what I'm here to try to help you better understand and also to better teach you how you can go about doing this.

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It's one of the biggest things that I focus on in my Ultimate Bundle program, where I teach people how to navigate scope of practice.

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I teach them what it is.

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I teach about copy for your website and language and all that good stuff.

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And it's one of the most popular topics there for a reason, because this is just such a huge part of what you do online.

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So, you can run off and get a contract but this stuff is super important to understand.

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And by the way, I feel like sometimes people think that scope of practice stuff only relates to those of you who are in the health and wellness or fitness

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So, we're also talking about people who are teaching things about business and life and therapy stuff, like self-care or intuitive eating body image stuff,

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all of these things, anything related to money, obviously.

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All of these topics end up touching on things that are highly regulated.

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So, one of the biggest myths and misunderstandings when it comes to scope of practice is like my area of this industry, or what I do, or me being a coach, or

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regulated. Therefore, I can do whatever I want.

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And that is not the case.

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So, I always say that when I was an attorney and I was the litigator, which means I was on my feet, as we would say as lawyers.

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I was before judges on it all the time.

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I was arguing in court, you know, arguing motions and all kinds of things.

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And I always joke with my customers about how there never would have been a situation where I went before a judge - and trust me, I had my ass handed to me

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because being being a lawyer and being on your feet is hard, especially as a woman - where there wouldn't have been a perfect law that

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related to the situation that we were talking about.

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And the judge would just be like, "Well, since there's no law about this, you can just go on your merry way." Nope, that doesn't happen.

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What they do is that they find a law and they apply it to you.

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And the same goes here.

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If your industry isn't regulated, if being a health coach isn't regulated in your state, or being a money coach is not a thing where you are, it doesn't

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professions above you that are heavily regulated.

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And those laws will then apply to you because you will be accused of doing the unauthorized practice of whatever, unauthorized practice of medicine, law,

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whatever, therapy.

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So, that is why it's so important.

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So, please don't accept these people's bad information online telling you that because this is not heavily regulated, it's the Wild Wild West.

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That is not true. There are laws around a lot of what we do already directly, and then indirectly, because these things will get applied to us and they will

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These things are actually developing as we speak.

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There are certain states who are coming up with laws related to nutrition, for example, like who can talk about nutrition and food plans and all of these

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And so, this stuff is rapidly developing as our industry develops even more.

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So, one of the things that caught my attention when I thought about doing this episode, and I feel like one of the patterns that I see online - and this is not

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There are tons of amazing business coaches out there.

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Many of whom I've either worked with or who I'm friends with and they're amazing - sometimes you see business coaches who think that they have to be

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And it's one of the areas that I see it the worst where they will be giving out, like, tax advice and money investment strategies.

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And then, they also include legal contract templates.

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That's something that I see.

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And they're actually doing you a disservice and exposing you to potential liability because they're going outside of their scope of practice when they're

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Now, just a quick note on that, by the way.

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I get a lot of messages from people saying that their coach or some program that they bought gave them some sort of legal template or the coach just said,

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on and use my client contract." And then, it came back and bit them in the butt because it wasn't actually that good.

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So, don't just assume that if you see a business coaching program or you see some sort of course that you want to take, just because someone includes

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I'd rather somebody be honest with you about, "Hey, I'm an expert in this." Like, I'm an expert in funnels, or in marketing, or in email marketing strategy

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stuff to the person who's the expert in that stuff.

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So, just don't be drawn in sometimes by this whole "You can have it all."

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And sometimes I think that this issue comes from a little bit of a scarcity mindset on their part.

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And I see this with health and wellness coaches a lot as well that you're afraid that if you don't provide it all or if you don't know it all, then no one

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And what I always tell customers and I always go live in my Facebook Community for the Ultimate Bundle members and everything, and we talk about this a lot

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there is, I think, a big difference between what you think that people need from you and what they actually need from you because of how much of an expert

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are about what you do.

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So, I remember when I started my business, I thought that, basically, I had to make everybody else a lawyer.

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I was trying to teach you all the things I learned in law school and I thought I was doing everyone a favor.

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I didn't realize until I practiced - I mean, not practice law - in my business that that's not what people want.

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Nobody wants to be a lawyer that go to law school.

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They want the give me the quick and dirty version of what I need to know and how it actually applies to me.

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But, also, people's questions were a lot different than what I thought they needed to know, and they actually wanted something different from me.

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It tends to be a little bit more in the beginning.

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Like, I'm thinking of things like big picture or further down the line and people are asking me questions more in the beginning.

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That's something that I see a lot in your industries as well, where you think, whether you're a health coach or a business coach, that you've got to offer it

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to everybody and make it this super big and complicated thing, when really sometimes people just need support, and strategies, and habits, and community

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- and I don't know what else - to have an ability to process into self-actualized.

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So, it's a lot different than what we think that they need.

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But I think that because we feel like if we don't provide everything, then people won't want to work with us.

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We then get into trouble of trying to include things that are outside of our scope of practice.

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So, that's exactly like the example I was giving of the business coach who offers a program that gives you legal templates, and tax advice, or strategies,

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And I'm not talking about people who bring in experts - that's a great way to cover, by the way, your scope of practice.

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But if they're actually the ones giving it out, that's something that's a little bit of a red flag to me that they're nervous that they're coaching, or

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business advice, or their business templates, or something that they do related to business isn't enough.

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That they have to add it and make themselves even more valuable by giving you all this other stuff.

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You also want to remember what the role really is of a coach.

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Because it's not to hand out advice, that's the thing.

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So, sometimes when people reach out to me and they start asking me a lot of questions about, Can I do this?

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Can I do that? Can I do this?

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Is this legal? I'm like, "That's not even what a coach does." First of all, not only is it outside the scope for a coach to read lab work, for example, and then

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what to do, like take these supplements, or eat these foods, or do this thing with your health.

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That's not only way outside of your scope as a health coach, but it's also really not what a coach does.

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That's what a doctor does.

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Because the doctor is meant, just like a lawyer is meant, or an accountant is meant, to look at all your information, look at your situation, look at your

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Where, as a coach, it's more of a supportive role.

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Somebody described it to me as, you know, the two of you, you and your client, are on a hike.

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And the coach is the person that's holding the flashlight illuminating the path in front of the client.

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But the client is really the one that has to design and walk the path.

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You're not meant to walk the path for them or tell them where to go.

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So, you know how to be a coach much better than I do.

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I'm not telling you how to be a coach.

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Just remember what the role is of a coach.

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If you get a little tripped up about like, "Am I legally allowed to do this?" You might not only be going outside your scope, but you might be going outside

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And that may be relating back to the fact that you think you have to do that in order to be valuable.

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And I can assure you that there's so much need for you and what you do outside of anything that's outside of your scope of practice.

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Like, there's tons of stuff that you are legally allowed to do.

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There are many, many ways.

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I see this every single day.

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I have thousands of customers that I see doing this in a really safe and great way.

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There is a way for you to build a very successful business without having to offer stuff that makes you uncomfortable or that's not

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okay.

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Have you ever felt lost about where to begin with the legal side of protecting your online business?

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Some people say you can just wing it at the beginning and get officially set up later.

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Not a good idea, by the way.

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Whether you're afraid to even start working with clients because you don't want to do something wrong legally and then get in trouble or your business is

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pieces, I've got you.

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I don't want you to live in fear of the internet police coming after you and your business, but you do have to do certain things and get certain things in

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online. As much as it just feels like an unregulated Wild Wild West online, that is very much not the case.

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As an attorney turned entrepreneur and former corporate litigator, I can assure you that there are rules.

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There are real steps that everybody who runs or starts an online business needs to take.

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And you're not behind at all.

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We can get you set up and following the rules right away.

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In fact, we can even do it today.

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I want to teach you the five very simple steps to take to legally protect and grow your online business.

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You don't need an MBA to be a successful entrepreneur and stay out of legal hot water, but you do need to dot your legal I's and cross your T's in a few key

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That's exactly what I'll teach you in my free one hour legal workshop called Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow your Online Business.

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Just head to mylegalworkshop.com, drop in your email address, pick the time, and I'll send you a link to watch the workshop video whenever you have time.

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This is the best place to begin if you're just getting started legally legitimizing your business, so head on over to mylegalworkshop.com and sign up

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Business now. Let's get into a

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bit of what scope of practice is, how you go about figuring it out, and then how to make sure that we're not doing things outside your scope.

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So, scope of practice in the United States is state specific.

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Meaning that every state has its own set of laws and regulations and all of these kinds of fancy things related to what professions are what.

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Like, What is a doctor?

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What qualifies as a doctor?

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What do you have to do to become a doctor?

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What do you have to do to become a registered dietitian?

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What amount of schooling and what number of hours do you have to put in?

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And all of that kind of stuff.

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And then, they tell you what the scope is of what a physician can do, or what an accountant can do, or therapist, a physical therapist, any of these things

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about. So, every state is a little bit different.

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So, you can't take like a cookie cutter answer, and this is why.

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Not only because I can't offer you legal advice, whether it's on this podcast or whether you're one of my customers, but I also can't give you a cookie cutter

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Z, because it's different everywhere.

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In some states, they might be a bit stricter about whether or not you can talk about nutrition.

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Some states are looser about it.

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It really depends.

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So, when it comes to scope of practice, you want to remember that we are focusing on a state by state approach.

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And so, the first step is to see if your state actually has your industry defined.

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Is it defined by your state?

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If you're a coach, first and foremost, the answer is probably not.

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So, I always say, first, we just check just to make sure.

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And I always preach that you need to know your state, wherever you live and work, first and foremost.

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But, really, you want to take a general look at what's going on.

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And I have resources that we'll drop in the link here about places that you can look and there are certain websites, depending on what industry you're in.

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But really, I want you to take a broad look.

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If you're working virtually with people all over at every place because you could be legally exposed in other states as well.

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One of the things that I'm concerned about in our industry is that people sometimes only focus on where they live.

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Like, say, you live in Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania allows you to do X, Y, and Z.

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But you work with a client in California virtually, and what you're doing is not legal in California.

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One of the things that I would be worried about - and we haven't really seen this play out a ton in our industry since it's so new - that you could be

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practice of medicine, in this example, in California.

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Because what you're doing there is not okay, even if it's okay where you live.

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Because, technically - and I don't want to get too technical with the law - entered into or reached into this other state by entering into a contract with

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So, of course, there are things that we build into your legal templates, in my case, into the contract templates, or through your client contract that can

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are, and that the law where you live applies to your client contract, and all of that good stuff.

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But at the end of the day, we just don't know how this might play out in the future.

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So, my approach, although conservative - to me the safest approach, and I tend to attract people who want to be pretty safe.

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So, that's the way I teach it and this is also what helps me sleep at night - I, generally speaking, will tell you to create a business across the board that

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safe overall. Because I also would find it exhausting too.

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I had my own health coaching business back in the day and I couldn't imagine getting on the phone now and being like, "Wait.

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You're in Florida? Okay.

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So, I need to change my title, change my copy of my website, not do the service with you." "Oh, you're in Texas?

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Okay. I can do that with you." That just doesn't seem practical.

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But the other element to it is that laws keep changing, so you would have to keep updating it.

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Like I mentioned earlier, I really encourage you to get comfortable and get familiar with what the true role and definition is of a coach, and then design

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services around that on a safe across the board approach.

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So, now, we're going to talk through a little bit about how you go through and do that.

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So, since most coaching professions, if any, are not defined by any state in America.

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What I'd say as the next step is to then look at umbrella professions.

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So, if you were a health coach, for example, I would tell you that you should look at what your state and what the other states define as a physician in the

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therapist in the practice of psychiatry or something, a business coach.

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If you were a business coach, I would tell you to look at what a lawyer is only allowed to do, and want an accountant is only allowed to do, or a certified

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Kind of the related umbrella professions, the one that your state does define and that is maybe licensed in that state.

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Whereas, your role, whatever you call yourself, is not currently defined.

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So, that's what I would recommend doing next.

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So, once you take a look at those umbrella professions, you want to make sure you're not doing anything that falls under that umbrella profession, because

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So, what I always say to customers is like, "Look at what this umbrella profession is allowed to do.

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Obviously, you can't do any of that." It's not necessarily true that just because they don't, maybe, describe a certain task or something like that in

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There might be some related thing, like maybe a nurse can only do that or something like this.

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So, you want to take a wide look at what other people are allowed to do, who kind of hover around what you offer.

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Now, again, you want to make sure that you're not actually doing any of this work because it's not just about making sure that you have a contract that says

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"I'm not your doctor. I'm not giving you medical advice." If you then turn around and give them medical advice, that will be not good for you.

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So, the whole point of doing this is to make sure that we're actually following through.

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We're designing our programs and then we are attracting the people who actually need our help with the things that we're legally allowed to do.

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I think that's sometimes part of the conversation that's left out of this, is that, people are so concerned about not attracting the right person or like,

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No one will want to work with me." And I'm like, "No.

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Let's focus on attracting the person who does need what you're legally allowed to do, and then we don't have to worry about it." That's why we're going through

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And that's what I hope that you'll walk away with in this episode, too.

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Next, now that we have looked at and see if our industry is defined, we've looked at these umbrella of professions, we understand what falls under it and

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we then want to build out our programs, our services.

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We want to write our copy, like all of the verbiage on our website and our social media posts.

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We want to even check in about the way that we talk about what we do on social media and how you answer questions.

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For example, I see this all the time on Instagram, where people will do a Q&A, where they give people advice.

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Which is like the worst place to give advice, by the way, because you get no information.

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You get this little box with one question with a hundred characters or something like this, and you know nothing about the person's situation.

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So, it's really important that you remember that your scope of practice applies across the board.

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It's not just in your work with clients.

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You want to also check the way you talk on social, in your emails, wherever.

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And that is part of how we attract the right people.

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Because if you're on social media and you're talking about things that are wildly outside your scope, of course, people are then going to try to buy your

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advice and help, because you've now gone and talked about a bunch of things that you really shouldn't be talking about.

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So, we want to stay within what we can do there, and we want to attract the people who need that kind of help, and that type of help.

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Last but not least, of course, I always recommend that you can go work with a local to you lawyer to see if what you're doing is okay.

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Because he or she will be able to review not only your actual contract and stuff to make sure that the verbiage is good, but you could explain to them how

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what you're doing, and describe the types of services, and how you provide your services, and what you say.

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Like, most of my client sessions, we talk about this, this, and this.

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And clients are asking me to review their blood work or look at their investment strategy or whatever.

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Is that okay? Is that something I'm legally allowed to do?

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And then, that is where only your own attorney can go off, evaluate the whole situation.

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They can look at everything.

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They can evaluate, not only the state law, but maybe any recent case law that's come out about it.

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They can look at your website.

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They can see if maybe any regulatory body has issued an opinion recently or something like this.

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There's just a lot more that they can do to really get down in the weeds, and only they can give you the opinion as to yes, no, okay, not okay.

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So, not a free Facebook Group, not your friend who's doing what you do, not your business coach.

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Only your own attorney can look at what you're doing and tell you whether or not it's legally okay.

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That is not something I do, by the way.

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I don't offer legal advice.

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I don't offer any legal services.

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So, you know, I would love to help you, but please don't reach out to me and ask me if I can tell you if it's okay or not, because I can't, even if you buy

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But it is really the only way that you can kind of get that peace of mind and assurance.

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So, I would recommend reaching out to somebody near you.

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If you're in the business realm, it could be somebody like a local small business attorney.

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If you're in the health care realm, I always recommend looking for a health care attorney near you who's also familiar with working with small businesses.

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Many of them are, I worked with many lovely, lovely lawyers who do that kind of work.

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So, just look for someone who can truly either they already understand what you do or they're willing to try.

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That's what I definitely recommend.

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So, with that, I am so glad that we talked about this today.

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I know that it can be a tough topic.

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I know that it can trigger some emotions.

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People sometimes feel a little defensive having this conversation.

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I just appreciate you being here and hearing me out and being open to hearing about this.

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If you're worried about this kind of stuff and anxious that what you're doing is maybe not okay or you just want to make sure you're a proactive person, which

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But if you are, then I hope that you took away something from today.

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I would love it if you would screenshot this episode, let me know that you listened.

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Tag me on Instagram @samvanderwielen, so I can share and I can reach out and say hi.

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Of course, if you have any questions, feedback, comments, you can DM me on Instagram as well.

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But I would absolutely love to connect with you there.

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So, with that, I'll drop some of the links in the show notes below, where you can find some of our scope of practice, trainings, and blog posts, and links to

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But I so appreciate you listening to this episode of On Your Terms.

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Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms podcast.

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Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast.

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You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at

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And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram @samvanderwielen, and send me to say hi.

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2022 Sam Vander Wielen LLC | All Rights Reserved | Any use of this intellectual property owned by Sam Vander Wielen LLC may not be used in connection with the

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