219 | Scaling a Business, Raising Your Prices & Protecting Your Intellectual Property with Autumn Witt Boyd

Autumn Witt Boyd



Welcome to episode 221 of Love, your Money. In this episode, I’m joined by my friend Autumn Witt Boyd, a lawyer and the founder of The AWB Firm – a law firm that helps business owners identify the legal questions they don’t even know they should be asking.


After landing what she believed to be her dream job as a copyright attorney, Autumn realized it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Instead of looking for a new job, she leaped into entrepreneurship and started her own firm.


Today, Autumn shares the lessons she’s learned from starting and scaling her business. You’ll also hear about how and when to adjust your fees, how to handle payroll growing pains, and key legal considerations for online business owners.

Here’s what you’ll find out in this week’s episode of Love, your Money:

  • How money convos as a kid can shape your career
  • Autumn’s journey to, through and after law school
  • Calculating runway when pursuing entrepreneurship
  • Growing your business while growing your family
  • Navigating pricing and payroll pains
  • How to raise your fees
  • Adjusting services for different client needs
  • Unique legal considerations of online businesses
  • Copyrighting vs. trademarking

Inspiring Quotes

“I thought, ‘Well, if I fail, I’m really good at relationships, so I know I can go beg for a job.’ I knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if it didn’t work.”

“It probably took three years of continually up-leveling and changing the way we marketed — changing the way that I built relationships and tried to find clients — to get to the level of business owner that could afford the level of service we were delivering. I did not want to compromise that.”

“Nobody cares about your business as much as you do. And that’s normal.”

Resources and Related to Love, your Money Content

Enjoy the Show?​

Hilary Hendershott: Welcome back to the Love, your Money show with Hilary Hendershott. I have with me Autumn Witt Boyd, who is a fellow professional, a friend. She’s also a lawyer who helps business owners protect their intellectual property. She provides legal guidance as outside general counsel, don’t we all need that, copyright and trademark protection, contract negotiation, and problem solving, just general problem solving. She loves helping business owners grow their dreams with smart collaborations and deals.


You can find her in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a very popular place to be, with her three kids, husband. She likes to monogram stuff and put glitter on anything that stays still. She loves champagne while she’s in bed, apparently. We’ll talk more about that. She also hosts the Legal Road Map podcast and she teaches business owners how to protect their rights and stay out of hot water. All right. That’s a lot.




Hilary Hendershott: Welcome to the show.


Autumn Witt Boyd: It’s a busy time. Hi, Hilary. Thank you for having me.


Hilary Hendershott: So, if I were to offer you champagne, would you be like, “You know what? I actually have to get in bed first”?


Autumn Witt Boyd: No, but I would. As we were discussing before we hit record, I’m having my last cup of coffee of the day. So, I’d say, “Let me finish the coffee, and then we’ll switch to champagne.”


Hilary Hendershott: I do feel like the whole day is best guided by herbs and meds. It’s like caffeine, caffeine, caffeine, caffeine, caffeine, and then let’s slow down, and the booze.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Just a bit.


Hilary Hendershott: Very good. How do you like Chattanooga? Obviously, you love it.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I came here almost 20 years ago for a two-year job and I’m still here. So, it got its hooks in me.


Hilary Hendershott: Yeah, a lot of people are raving about it. And so, you are in a role, lawyer, which is intimidating for most people. It’s one of those lawyer, doctor, engineer, sort of top career aspiration-type goals. But a lot of lawyers, I think, end up, they either go the big firm route or they hang up a shingle and then they’re like on their own in a small room for the rest of their lives.


So, your route is a little bit different. Tell me just kind of the salient points. What do you think about your growing up with money impacted your career success? And then we’ll get into kind of that narrative if you don’t mind.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, sure. So, I grew up solidly middle class. My dad was a doctor. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. We never felt wealthy, but we always felt like we had enough. It was just comfortable. It was a nice childhood. They got divorced when I was pretty young, and so, I think that was when the money stuff became a little shaky– not shakier, but we just started talking about it more because there was a pretty big disparity between my dad, who still was the professional and my mom who was now kind of living on child support. And so, there was kind of always this conversation of like, “Well, ask your dad to pay for that,” or like any of the extras or the nice to haves.


Hilary Hendershott: Go where the deep pockets are, girl.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. And to his credit or discredit, we didn’t have a lot of time together because my mom was definitely the primary parent, and so, he said yes a lot, which was nice. But then, I’d be with my mom, shopping for back-to-school clothes or whatever. And we were like at the clearance racks, like at the outlets, very much like very money conscious. And it felt like the opposite with him. But that didn’t feel like reality. If that makes sense? Because it wasn’t the day to day, it felt a little bit like a circus dad.


Hilary Hendershott: Vacation dad, yeah, I get it. So, you got used to being constrained in terms of options.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, I think that did inform– now, I had dreams of being a musician. I joke that every copyright lawyer is a frustrated artist. So, I had dreams of going to music school. I’m a singer. And actually, my mom was the one who put her foot down, was like, “Absolutely not will you get an arts degree. You need to be able to support yourself,” which is just funny in retrospect. She never really supported herself, but that was something that was very important to her for her kids, which was smart. I mean, it was the right choice.


So, I think that did definitely impact then when I kind of– like I always kind of had that in mind when I was choosing a major and I kind of hopped around different career paths before I settled into being a lawyer. And being able to provide for myself and have the kind of lifestyle I wanted was definitely top of mind because I’ve started out in journalism and that is a tough road to hoe as far as income. And it’s a lot of moving in the beginning. And yeah, it’s a tough profession.


Hilary Hendershott: And part of being a card-carrying journalist, I think, is being underpaid.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Right. I was like, I’m not really excited about that. That does not seem appealing to me.


Hilary Hendershott: Right. Well, good on you for making that strategic choice. Most people wait till their mid-40s, so.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Well, it’s funny, a lot of my journalism school friends are now lawyers. It’s a very natural– the skill set is basically the same.


Hilary Hendershott: I feel like that about my friends who got degrees in economics. So, if you do that, you either go to law school or you go to management consulting, and here I am as a financial advisor. So, law school, so did you take loans or did Dad pay or was it hybrid?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I was very lucky that Dad paid for undergrad, but it was very clear from the beginning, like I got undergrad and we had a budget. It was not an unlimited amount, but he was like, “You’re on your own for grad school,” which I frankly think was smart because I was thinking, like, “Oh, am I going to get a graduate degree in English,” which is like lighting thousand-dollar bills on fire. There’s just not a lot of value-add to your life.


Hilary Hendershott: And when you say thousand-dollar bills, you don’t mean someone billing you for a thousand dollars. You mean you’re burning your money.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, this is burning money. Not that there’s not value in a graduate degree in the arts, but…


Hilary Hendershott: I hear you.


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, I really shopped for a law school and I applied to a lot of places and came down to the final two. Actually, this is funny. My dad was really wanting me to go to the University of Texas, which would have been out of state. The offer they made me, I ended up at Vanderbilt, which seems fancier and it was, but the offer that like, the money ended up being about the same because the financial aid packages were very different. So, yeah, it was on me, but I made the smartest choice anybody can make at age 21, which is, not that– I now talk to people looking to go to law school, I’m like, “I have a lot of lessons for you,” but it’s the choice I made. So, yeah, I took out, I had a lot of loans, even with the financial aid package.


Hilary Hendershott: Okay. And so, then what did you do out of school?


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, I wanted to be a big fancy litigator. So, big law was definitely the path that I thought I wanted to be on. And part of that, I think, is what all of the, smart…


Hilary Hendershott: It’s sexy.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Like, sexy it’s what the people at the top of the class were doing. And I have a background in theater, music. I don’t mind talking to people. So, it seemed like a natural fit. So, I got a clerkship for a judge right out of law school, which is kind of a stepping stone to being a litigator. And that’s what brought me to Chattanooga. So, no regrets. It was great. It doesn’t pay great, but like, okay, you’re working for the federal government. It’s a two-year gig. So, that was fine. And then I took a job at a medium-sized law firm here, which was better pay, but still not incredible. I mean, it’s not like New York City, but this is a low cost of living city. So, it was very comfortable.


Hilary Hendershott: And when did you decide to go out on your own?


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, I left the law firm. I went to work for a smaller law firm, a boutique law firm, doing just copyright litigation, which was my dream job. And they gave me a big raise, which was nice. And I got to work from home, which was also nice. So, I did that for almost seven years, but it was a lot of travel. So, it kind of worked until it didn’t. When I started having my kids, the travel became unsustainable.


And they had initially offered that I could potentially be a partner, but that was not materializing. And frankly, I didn’t really want to be partners with them after I knew them better as individuals. So, it got to the point where I was like, “Okay, I can’t do it.” Actually, my husband said, “You can’t. We need to make a change.” And he was right. I was so in it, that I was like, “No, it’ll be fine. It’ll get better, it’ll get better,” when you’re just in the pain cave.


Hilary Hendershott: We can put up with a lot. I mean, you studied for the bar. You’re like, “I got this, bro.”


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, they put the fear of God into you about missing a deadline. So, it’s like you will just work yourself ragged because you know you cannot make a mistake, you cannot miss a deadline. So, I was very good at all that.


Hilary Hendershott: Yeah, I mean, you learn it. A good friend of mine is a trial attorney. And she told me once that she was very glad when she finally got engaged to be married because she could stop dating. So, she told her managing partner that she would be able to fill more hours now.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, yeah, very healthy.


Hilary Hendershott: Dating is so inefficient. So, I don’t want to step over something that left me a little bit confused. I’m sure my listeners are confused. You said being a copyright attorney is your dream job. Tell me, I can’t– I just imagine you in a room with boxes and fighting the patent desk or whatever. Tell me what’s dreamy about it.


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, I really went to law school, wanting to be an intellectual property lawyer because I think of my background in music and just interest in the arts. So, at that job, I was working with photographers, mostly, and stock photography agencies. So, it was creative people but running small businesses. And the issues are really– this sounds super nerdy, but it’s a complicated area of law, it’s not easy. It’s interesting, like there’s always new stuff happening. And the work that we were doing, we were suing textbook publishers mostly who were using their images without permission.


So, it felt like David versus Goliath. We were helping these little guys who were all just really brilliant at their craft. So, yeah, it was a total dream job, except I ended up spending my day arguing against the big law attorneys that the textbook publishers hired. And so, that was awful. I did not enjoy that.


Hilary Hendershott: Okay. Well, I’m so glad there are people to do that. As I was sharing with you, I think I have a trademark infringement happening right now.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, I still do that. I just don’t go to court as much.


Hilary Hendershott: You had finished your story of leaving the larger firm, and then you went to the boutique. Oh, you didn’t want to be partners with them, and so, the next step was?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I looked around and– I live in a small town, so there was nothing really appealing locally. It’s a lot of manufacturing here. So, that’s the kind of intellectual property that I would have been doing, and I just wasn’t very interested. So, my husband had been a consultant, entrepreneur, and he kind of nudged me and said, “I think you can start your own thing. I think you’d be good at this.” So, I had a little runway. We can talk about that more. But I was like, well, if I fail, I’m really good at relationships, so I know I can go beg for a job. I knew it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if it didn’t work.


Hilary Hendershott: I would love to talk about the runway. This is one of the most popular questions I get. How do I know when my business has to be profitable? Well, when your runway is over. So, how did you calculate your runway?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean imperfectly. But my last job was pretty well paying. And so, we were a little bit more frugal. I think it took me maybe four to six months, after I kind of decided, “Okay, I’m going to leave, to actually give notice and leave.” So, we had a little planning time. Yes, so we didn’t make any big purchases or trips at my last job. Also, it was a plaintiff’s firm. So, we took cases on contingency so there’d be big payouts every now and then. So, I would just get checks in the mail unexpectedly for a large amount. So, I kind of just banked my last couple bonus checks.


And my husband at that point– now, we’ve definitely had kind of a give and take. But at that point, his business was actually earning more than I was making in my lawyer job, which was great. So, it kind of felt like, okay, he could carry us if he had to. There’d be some cuts, but that felt comfortable. And then we had some bonuses banked. So, I felt like I had three to six months. That’s kind of what I had in my brain.


Hilary Hendershott: Wow. That’s fast.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, yeah, it’s not that long, but I also…


Autumn Witt Boyd: Maybe I was overly confident. But I mean, I started making money right away. I mean, it wasn’t a lot. And I stayed as a contractor with my old firm when I left. So, I knew I had, like, that was a couple thousand dollars a month. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough that I knew I had a little bit coming in. And then, I mean, I really hustled in the beginning, so I was like, “This has got to work. I’m going to really give this my all.”


Hilary Hendershott: What were the things you were doing to hustle?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Oh my gosh. Well, I am a high fact finder. If anyone has taken the, I think it’s the Kolbe. So, I did a lot of learning, and then I sent out a postcard or a nice mailer announcing that I was open and what kind of things I was doing. I sent that out to like everyone I’d ever met, all of my law school friends, everybody locally I knew. And I had a goal to do coffee or lunch every day. So, I was sending out just tons of like, “Hey, I’d love to connect. I love to tell you what I’m doing.” It was just a lot of that, and going to events, going to networking events. Yeah, a lot, but I mean, it works, like the more you talk about it…


Hilary Hendershott: It does. Okay, so this is largely in-person connecting, networking, lunches. You probably had some relationships you were leveraging because you had been being a lawyer for so long.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. But I had zero clients. I did not bring any clients with me. I was starting totally and I was moving from litigation to more of a business kind of transactional practice. So, it was starting from zero. But I started getting referrals pretty quickly. It’s like when people know what you do, I mean, that’s kind of, I’m sure in your industry too, like if someone knows a lawyer, they think that lawyer can do anything, and so, they will ask them questions. And then that lawyer is like, “Let me think of who I know who can do this because I want to help this person.”


Hilary Hendershott: Right. No, it’s a little different in my industry. But I mean, who’s going to be your first million-dollar client, right? Hi, I’m a financial advisor. How many clients do you have? Zero. Oh, wait a minute.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I’m definitely hiring you.


Hilary Hendershott: I’m so in. I thought I’m going to get five-star care. Okay, so then at what point– so how did that go? I’m imagining that building a team wasn’t the initial idea, but that you got to be so busy that you sort of went that route. Is that right?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Absolutely, yeah. No, I thought I was just going to– I ran the numbers because you’re stupid. I mean, not stupid, but I was just naive. I was very naive. Because I was like, well if I’m– we have a high hourly rate. I was like, okay, great. If I bill them out at $300 an hour and I’ve got 40 hours in a week, even if I just bill 30 of those, that’s great. I had no idea how it really works.


Hilary Hendershott: Then what happened?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Really, when you’re doing everything, in the beginning, if I was billing 20 hours a week, that was an amazing week because there’s just so much other stuff you have to be doing.


Hilary Hendershott: Oh, for sure. You can’t actually work much more than 20 hours a week.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Right, right. So, yeah. So, I made my first hire. I really, again, thought I would be solo, but realized I needed help. But I was learning a lot about business, and so, I was kind of drinking the Kool-Aid of like, okay, I can do this. It can be bigger than just me. This is not an impossible thing. I got pregnant with our third kid about eight or ten months after I opened the firm, which is…


Hilary Hendershott: Wow. You were just like, let me do all the things this freaking year.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I will tell you, I had really wanted a third kid for a couple of years. We had twins first, which was really hard and great and all the things. So, I’d been lobbying my husband for a third kid. And I mean, with my last job, there’s just no way we could have added another one more thing to the mix.


So, when I opened my own firm, it was so much more flexible and I just had so much more freedom. And our life just improved so dramatically that we kind of decided together. And I was getting older. So, we were like, “Okay, let’s just do this.” There’s really no reason to wait. And my firm was going well enough that I kind of thought, I was like, “I think this will be fine.” And it was fine. It was not a problem. But I hired a VA at that point to just– I needed a little bit of support. I wanted to take a maternity leave and not feel like I was dropping balls. So, that was the first hire.


Hilary Hendershott: Okay, so the VA was able to carry your business through a maternity leave. Had that person gone to law school?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I shut all my client projects down. So, I basically finished everything up and I told all my clients who were all very lovely. And I was not working with the level of business that we are today. It was much smaller businesses, so they didn’t have as frequent needs. I just gave them a lot of notice, like, “I’m going to be out.” I wrapped up everything well in advance, and if there was an emergency, it wouldn’t be a problem. And then I really was just not working. And then things started trickling in during my leave and we ended up with a very easy baby. And so, I ended up kind of starting to take things a little bit earlier than I had initially planned just because I was kind of bored, but I was prepared for really not doing anything during that time.


Hilary Hendershott: And so, when did you hire your first lawyer?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Probably, maybe a year and a half or two years in. It’s hard to remember.


Hilary Hendershott: Okay, so the baby is about just a few months old?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, the baby was maybe a year. Like you said, we were getting busier. I know I hired a paralegal first before I hired another lawyer. And she was helping with trademark work. There are these deadlines that if you miss, you lose your trademark. So, it’s really important to have a really good, like, we call it docketing, a system for keeping up with that. And that kind of tracking is not my zone of genius.


So, I hired a paralegal to come help with some of that and just kind of project management and organizing and the things that my VA really couldn’t do, but a paralegal, who knows how the law works, was able to do. And then I kind of hit the ceiling with her of, I really needed another lawyer to just do things. And she could kind of get things started, but then I really had to do the lawyering. And all of these hires were hourly. I was so scared of having a payroll. It was very low commitment for all of us.


Hilary Hendershott: Payroll is terrifying. And so, that really is my– my question is, what is the starting approximate pay range for a lawyer? In other words, when you started having a real payroll, I’m imagining it was six figures.


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, the first lawyer I hired came to me through a friend and she was a stay-at-home mom. She had been a partner at a big firm. She was a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years because she had moved away from her family, and just being a lawyer, as you mentioned, it’s just really hard to balance if you don’t have a lot of support.


So, she had taken a break and was looking to get back in. And so, it was kind of perfect because I didn’t have a full-time job. I didn’t really even have a part-time job. And she was just kind of looking to kind of get started on being a lawyer again.


Hilary Hendershott: Oh, lucky you.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, and she really didn’t have a certain amount that she needed to hit. It was very easy for both of us to kind of ease into it. But I was paying her $100 an hour, which is not nothing. And now, I do have full-time lawyers on my payroll, who are…


Hilary Hendershott: You do, you do. So, were you pricing your projects correctly from the beginning? How did you design your first pricing structure and what happened to it?


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, again, I love podcasts. I was listening to all these legal podcasts and this was 2015. It’s still very trendy, although I think the trend is changing a little bit. Everybody was talking about flat fees, flat fees, flat fees, flat fees, which is fine, in theory. We do some flat-fee work now, but I didn’t know, I didn’t have enough experience with the kind of work you’re doing to even know what flat fee was appropriate. I was kind of throwing numbers out.


I mean, I remember I did a business purchase for $500, like, just insane. And I was learning and it was just me, like I had no expenses. It’s like me in our extra bedroom. So, it was kind of fine to have that learning curve. But when I brought– and Michelle is still with us. Michelle Coakley was my first lawyer. When I brought her in and started paying her $100 an hour and she was doing real lawyering, like she was not cutting corners, I started losing my shirt and I couldn’t tell her to not be as– now, we joke. We have a joke at the firm, like be less awesome. I did not yet know that I could tell her to be less awesome, but I mean, she wasn’t really overdoing it. It was just like, I didn’t know how long things take and I didn’t know what’s an appropriate scope to even– I mean, we didn’t even really scope things. We were figuring it out. We were figuring it out.


Hilary Hendershott: Really?


Autumn Witt Boyd: So, yes.


Hilary Hendershott: So, by your calculations, approximately how much were you undercharging? So, you charge $500 per business transaction.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I never did that again.


Hilary Hendershott: What would have taken her to do it? Okay.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, now, I would probably quote that as like $5,000 to $10,000 minimum, like getting started. It’s just so much work. Yeah. And I wasn’t underwater on every project, but we were tracking, she was– because I was paying her hourly, she was tracking her time, even though we weren’t billing it to the clients.


So, I had a lot of data, and so, I think she had worked for me maybe six or nine months. And I kind of did a big data dump, and that’s when I was like, “Oh, no.” And I think, yeah, we went through a couple of different phases, but…


Hilary Hendershott: And so, you’re right at the place where a lot of female business owners find themselves really paralyzed because, and I say this is like you take your dreams and your goals and you put them on a shelf because you’re too damn afraid to say to someone, “I have to raise my prices, like I have to.” I’m currently paying you to work for you, my friend.


Autumn Witt Boyd: This is an honor and a privilege. But I’m not actually making any money.


Hilary Hendershott: It is. It’s such a privilege. And so, to what do you describe the courage or the chutzpah that it takes to go to people and say, “I need to 10x my prices.”


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, we didn’t 10x right away. It was very incremental. So, I think that was kind of step one was, I think, maybe we raised our flat fees a little bit and we kind of kept creeping them up. But what I learned, we were working with very small, like teeny, teeny, tiny business owners, and a lot of really new business owners. And what I learned, and a lot of them just couldn’t afford to pay anymore. And that’s fair.


So, what we learned after we started raising our prices where people are just like, “I can’t afford that.” So, we lost a lot of clients, which I was working on bringing on new clients. It was fine. It couldn’t be that way forever. But I mean, we finally figured out we had to just– it probably took three years of just kind of continually up-leveling and changing the way we marketed, changing the way that I built relationships and tried to find clients to get to the level of business owner that could afford the level of service we were delivering. I did not want to compromise that.


And my sweet Michelle Coakley was a former big law attorney. It takes everything I can to get her. It was a habit. She had to break a little bit of delivering the Procter & Gamble level of legal services to $50,000 revenue, tiny little graphic designer business.


Hilary Hendershott: So, how did you accomplish that with her? What kind of boundaries did you put in place? Or I mean, there’s someone on my team, it’s not really a parallel story, but I’m just imagining that’s kind of juicy that you go into this person who’s not a business owner. She’s not responsible for the business, the bottom line, right? And you’re saying, “I need you to actually produce lower quality.” And it’s still quality enough to work for the client. So, tell me, what are the lessons learned from that interaction?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, it still is an ongoing conversation. But yeah, I mean, you just kind of fall into old habits, I think. But I think for me, what was important was I didn’t want it to be lower quality. She is great with clients. And she had a lot of direct client, like interactions. I think she learned pretty quickly too, that like they don’t want a 10-page memo. They need three paragraphs and a recommendation. They don’t need to know all the intricacies. And that doesn’t mean your lawyering is less.


Maybe you do the same amount of research. You’re just not spending as much time like laying out this incredibly thoughtful analysis in a memo. Maybe the analysis is just some bullet points on your notepad and then you’re not putting that into a beautiful memo. So, I mean, our standards are still really– yes.


Hilary Hendershott: Summarize it for them.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. And I think that was it.


Hilary Hendershott: Give me the top level.


Autumn Witt Boyd: It’s not that you’re doing lower quality. You’re giving the client what they actually want and need and the risk is so much lower. I think that’s the other thing. We think about this a lot as lawyers, like what is the risk that you’re trying to either reduce or handle or whatever? And so, just talking with her about the risks are– because she is always like, “Oh, malpractice, I’m going to make a mistake.” And I’m like, “It’s really fine. These are not high risks.”


I mean, now, some of our clients are higher risks, but at that time, it’s like the risk is really low, 95% of the way there is good enough. It doesn’t have to be 99.9% of the way. And that extra 5% is really expensive for them and us, and they don’t really need it or want it. So, it was kind of just that evolution, I think.


Hilary Hendershott: One of the ways we do that, I’m sure that you do this, too, is just to make sure we’re working for the same kind of client so we don’t do brand-new stuff or go way out on a limb to, as you said, you’ve said it to me before we started recording, you’d be paying me to learn. Yeah, so there’s people, we look at each other and go, “Yeah, we’re going to bless and release this particular one.” Again we can systematize.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. That was a big part of it. We have great forms. We have a ton of research banked. We don’t have to spend much time doing new research. We have really good processes because we do the same. We work with one type of business, so we’re able to develop a lot of expertise just off the top of our head, which is helpful for everyone.


Hilary Hendershott: Okay, so at some point, you settled on online business owners, coaches. I’m looking at your website.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Online course creators.


Hilary Hendershott: Online course creators, that’s right. Are these just the people you were attracted to, made friends with? Did you feel like there was a special legal need? When I say attracted to, sorry, you know I don’t mean sexually or romantically. You know what I mean.


Autumn Witt Boyd: I definitely was and not romantically or sexually. I started off thinking, I was going to be a startup, like tech lawyer because I have an IP background and that’s what we have a lot of here locally. I had a robust local network, and then I did a little bit of that and I had a couple of meetings with a 19-year-old with an idea and we spent three hours. I answered all of his questions and give him a proposal about what he needs. And he’s like, “Yeah, I’m just going to use LegalZoom.”


So, I figured out real quick that that was not going to be where I was going to find happiness. So, I think I mentioned, like they don’t teach marketing or sales in law school. So, I was listening to a lot of podcasts, trying to learn the business of running a business. I think that’s where you and I connected maybe originally because then we figured out, we connected like 2016.


Hilary Hendershott: 2016, yes.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, I joined these Facebook groups for these podcasts or for the– I think I took one or two little online courses just to learn things and they all had Facebook groups. And so, I was just asking my questions. I was seeing people post legal questions and there were no lawyers in there. I was literally in a Facebook group of 7,000 people, the only lawyer.


And at that time, there was a big trend of like, go into Facebook groups and just be helpful and then you’ll get hired. And really, it was true, like, probably the first two years– not true anymore. Probably the first two years of my business, that’s how I got a lot of clients. And it was on accident at first and then it was on purpose because the people were nice. I really liked working with them until I found out they could not really afford me. But I learned a lot during those years– when it was just me, it was fine.


Hilary Hendershott: So, how do you isolate now for the clients who can afford you? Do you have a revenue guideline or how do you do that?


Autumn Witt Boyd: We do. We have a pretty involved intake process. I mean, we try to message it on our website and in social media that we work with more established businesses. We use seven figures or million-dollar plus in a lot of our messaging, which is kind of cheesy and I don’t love it, but I just feel like you kind of train people like, oh, that’s who they work with. And obviously, that’s not the only people we work with. That’s kind of our ideal client.


And then, anyone who contacts us, we are almost all referrals, so it’s usually like an email introduction or something. We ask them to fill out a form that takes five minutes. But it has a couple of key questions, one is team size, one is how long have you been in business. And we do ask for revenue. And we say, “It’s not a cutoff, but just we want to make sure we’re providing value.” And frankly, under about $300,000 to $500,000 annual revenue, we’re just too expensive, like it just doesn’t make sense.


Hilary Hendershott: Is that right? Okay. And so, tell me, this is from my personal curiosity, you have lawyers always talking about how important those disclosures are on the website. I’ve never heard of anyone getting hurt because they didn’t have disclosures. You’re nodding your head or just shaking your head?


Autumn Witt Boyd: I mean, it is important. And if there were a lawsuit, like, I could see that being one factor among many. If someone’s like, “Oh, you are giving tax advice and you shouldn’t have been.” And I did something that I wish I hadn’t. And now, I’ve been harmed, and now, I’m suing you about it. But I’m knocking on wood. We really are not seeing those lawsuits, at least right now.


So, it’s something I still advise my clients to do. It’s a best practice. It doesn’t hurt. And we put it in their contracts and we like to put it in lots of places, but I don’t see it being a huge problem, at least right now. We’re recording this in 2023. Things may change. I see it there like bigger things that I worry about more. That, I guess, is how I would put it.


Hilary Hendershott: Yeah. What are the big things? What are the things people are getting into trouble for?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Not having good contracts is the number one thing. That’s like our day in, day out.


Hilary Hendershott: Contracts for engagement.


Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, like their client contract is usually, unless they’ve worked with another lawyer who really understands the online space. It’s usually just missing things and is not really doing them any favors.


Hilary Hendershott: Really? So, what’s different about the online space? I think of that, it’s just the way people meet people.


Autumn Witt Boyd: For my clients, it’s more like the way they’re delivering services typically. So, a lot of our clients who are coaches, they have larger coaching businesses. So, maybe they’re running a group coaching program, maybe that has an online curriculum, it has weekly calls, it has potential for one-on-one coaching. There’s all these different elements. Maybe there’s a Facebook group or some kind of community. So, there’s intricacies with each of those things where things can go wrong, where your customer can get mad, or where you can mess up.


And there’s some regulations around some of that, like recording calls, using testimonials, some of that. And then just refund policies, termination, like how can a client fire you or how can you fire a client, and it all be handled as smoothly as possible, so yeah. And then we build IP protections into all of our contracts, and as an IP lawyer, that’s kind of the lens that I view a lot through but kind of gives you just extra protection above registering your copyright or trademark, like put it in your contract, and that’s one more way that you can hold people responsible for not violating your rights.


Hilary Hendershott: And that is something I saw you publishing and talking about is when to put or establish IP into what you’re teaching or offering online. So, talk a little bit about that. How do people know when to go that route? And what does that really mean?


Autumn Witt Boyd: What I have found is that it’s typically a very natural progression for a coach or a course creator, like an educator-type business, which is who we work with. Typically, they start out because they’re good at something or they know about something, and maybe they’re consulting one-on-one or they’re coaching one-on-one. They’re helping people, they’re providing services usually, and then maybe they decide, “Oh, I want to scale that. So, I’m going to create a group.”


Well, if you have a group, you can’t teach the same thing to everybody separately. So, typically, that maybe not intentionally, but it usually evolves into some sort of curriculum because they’re like, “Oh, I’ve said this thing 17 times, maybe I should document it so that I can teach it more easily,” or “Maybe I should create a worksheet or a workbook or whatever.”


So, what we see happen most often is, even with coaches, they develop a curriculum or some kind of program where they’re taking people from A to B, learning a skill, or making some sort of life transformation or achieving a goal. And then that is typically copyrightable and the name of it may be trademarkable. So, then we start kind of figuring out, like, if it’s really valuable to your business, not everything is, but if it’s– that’s the core of what you’re selling and that’s what you don’t want people copying, I think that’s the other thing. People develop their curriculum, they become known for it, and then either a student knocks them off or a team member leaves or somebody in the industry starts copying them. So, that’s when we see kind of the rubber meeting the road with that.


Hilary Hendershott: I do read about this. It’s so funny. I have a friend who is a film editor. And she was trying to convince me that trademarked is not a thing. It’s actually copywrited, C-O-P-Y-W-R-I-T-E-D, copywrited because she works with copywriters. And I said, “I don’t think so. I’m not going to go to the mat with you on this one.”


Autumn Witt Boyd: It’s a common mistake. They sound just alike.


Hilary Hendershott: Is that right?


Autumn Witt Boyd: There’s no W in copyright.


Hilary Hendershott: And so, what do you think would be more valuable for people listening if we talk about just briefly how to know when to copyright or trademark something versus the difference between what those two things are?


Autumn Witt Boyd: They’re both pretty quick. So, I’ll start with the second one. That’s kind of your foundational. So, with copyright, we think of creative works. So, you mentioned your friend, the movie editor, like movies, music, photos. I used to work for photographers, statues, anything you can– think of artistic works.


In the business context, it’s all the things that might go into an online course, so like the videos, if you have a podcast like this one. Your podcast episodes are covered by copyright. It can’t be in your brain as to be like out of your brain into some sort of either digital or physical medium.


But things that you don’t think of as super creative, like your standard operating procedures could be copyrighted. If you have workbooks or worksheets or templates that you use in your business, those could be protected by copyright if they have some creativity to them. So, a lot of digital online businesses, like most of what they really have, that is anything valuable is copyright protected.


So, trademarks are, think of brand. So, think of the name of your podcast, Love, your Money podcast, that is a brand. It could even be your name if you’re very famous, like Kim Kardashian has a million trademarks. But typically, it’s going to be a business name, product name, maybe a logo or a slogan. Think of like, how do your buyers know that they’re hiring you or that they’re buying from you. It’s supposed to really help consumers find what they’re looking for. So, trademarks are all about brand. And there’s some overlap, like Mickey Mouse could be either one. Mickey Mouse is creative, but also signifies the Disney company. But most things are pretty separate.


Hilary Hendershott: So, if we’re talking about a decision role for people, kind of like as soon as you’re making a half million dollars and you’re putting your ideas out there and teaching stuff, now is the time to start thinking about either copyright or trademark.


Autumn Witt Boyd: If it’s been repeated. I typically will say, “Are you making money from it? Do you plan to stick with it?” I mean, depending on how big the business is, we do sometimes do protections in advance, but that’s like you’re usually at multi-million because they are going to invest a lot in a launch, like they’re not just going to try something and float it out there.


But yeah, I typically want it to be kind of a proven product, making money, not just like, oh, I had this idea or I have a passion project. I mean, you can. If you have unlimited resources and time, sure. But most people have to prioritize. So, that’s how I like to think about it.


Hilary Hendershott: Right. For me, the financial space is so crowded that any time I thought of anything, I wanted to trademark it. I was like, “Let me put a tent somewhere on this crowded campsite.”


Autumn Witt Boyd: No, I was just going to say, for service providers like you and me, I’m an unpopular opinion here, but I don’t think trademarks are critical for most service providers because most people, it’s a personal relationship. They’re hiring you because they know you or someone they know has worked with you. Until you reach a very large level, people are not typically looking for your brand. They typically know, “Oh, it’s Hilary and her team,”.


Hilary Hendershott: Correct. Correct. But we do have a curriculum inside our profit consultancy. Okay, did I miss any salient points about your financial story? We were talking about how you evolved into being an effective pricing strategist. This is something my audience struggles with a ton. So, is there anything I didn’t ask you about there?


Autumn Witt Boyd: Our most recent evolution, and I have a feeling your audience probably struggles with this as well, is that I think the pendulum swung a little too far. I left my last law firm where I was working all the time, and it was absolutely crazy. And so, I wanted to be the opposite kind of boss. And so, the last couple of years, I’ve been working on my own leadership skills and having to put a lot of guardrails around. Like, I didn’t have a minimum hours requirement for my billable team, but they were all on salary. And so, at some point, you have people who are maybe not as profitable as they should be. And you’ve got maybe one person kind of really supporting the whole business with their work and other people who are not.


So, we have had a journey of kind of putting those guardrails in place in a way that still feels true to our culture, which is very collaborative. And we value balance and all of those things. But at the end of the day, we have to sell things for me to pay them. So, that has been a journey.


Hilary Hendershott: I do feel like that’s the evolution of anyone who is good at a profitable thing that they do. You grow a business and then you end up having to be mean boss, and you don’t want to be mean and you don’t always have to be mean. But sometimes you’re like, “Stop doing this. Stop.”


Autumn Witt Boyd: And nobody cares about it as much as you do. And that’s normal. But we do all have to contribute if we want to still keep getting paychecks.


Hilary Hendershott: It’s called the team. Okay, amazing. Thank you for the primer in pricing strategy, copyright, trademark. And also, good to know who should hire you and how they can find you is at AWBFirm.com, that’s Autumn Witt Boyd, AWBFirm.com. We’ll link to that in all the places. Thank you for joining me today. It’s so great to see you.


Autumn Witt Boyd: That’s been a juicy conversation. Thank you, Hilary.


Hendershott Wealth Management, LLC and Love, your Money do not make specific investment recommendations on Love, your Money or in any public media. Any specific mentions of funds or investments are strictly for illustrative purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice or acted upon by individual investors. The opinions expressed in this episode are those of Hilary Hendershott, CFP®, MBA.


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