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The Brief: How to Handle the Lock-Down, Legally and Otherwise

If your state or city hasn’t issued an official stay-at-home order because of COVID-19, it’s likely only a matter of time before it does. If you don’t have an order to stay in, you really should as much as possible anyway. If your work is usually not at home or even if you are someone who usually works at home, you can make good use of this “downtime.” I have some suggestions, both legal and not.

Review your standard paperwork.

Estimate forms, invoices, contracts, releases, licenses, etc. If it’s paperwork that you use in business, now is a good time to review it and make updates and changes. Maybe you’ll need legal help for this, maybe it’s just a case of fixing the format so it reads more clearly; whatever it may be, this is a great time to get your paperwork in better shape.

Consider updating your business insurance.

One thing many people have already learned in this crisis is that not having business liability insurance or disability insurance (etc.) is unwise.

Inventory your gear and update your insurance coverage, if needed.

Whatever your gear is, take photos, update serial numbers, make sure you have enough coverage for your critical tools and gear, including computers and software. At worst, doing the inventory will give you a clean list you can have for later claims (keep a copy off-site/in the cloud).

Register a bunch of your work with the USCO.

Now is a great time to play catch-up with your copyright registrations. Yes, there is some cost here but in the long run, it will pay off, almost certainly. 

Check on your estate plan/will/pay-on-death beneficiaries.

No one wants to think about death, but if you love your family and friends, take care to have some sort of plan in place. At the very least, check on your financial accounts—most of those likely have a pay-on-death option where you name a person or persons who will get the assets in the account essentially automatically when you die (i.e., no probate hoops to jump through). You’ll sleep better knowing your loved ones are taken care of, just in case.

Check-in with clients.

Call or email your contacts, personally, and wish them well. Simple, generous, kind human interaction now will be remembered later. 

Check-in with your vendors/crew.

Like clients, your vendors and crew people will appreciate the kindness, even if you can’t hire them or buy from them right now. If you are in a place where you can buy something from them now, consider doing so to make sure they are around later. For example, I get regular facials but can’t now, but I can buy a bunch of products from my esthetician (she’ll deliver or I can pick up), so I do. 

Give yourself a personal project to work on.

I mean a creative project, whether that is in your usual medium or not. Some photographers and other creatives are using their art to document their experiences, which is fine, but I suggest something that is non-virus-related for this. You can do both, of course, but something creative that isn’t about the crisis would probably be good for your stress levels, too.

Consider volunteering or making masks to donate (I’m doing that).

Or, do something else to help those who are on the front lines in this. It helps to give you a sense of control when everything feels uncontrollable. More importantly, it helps the fight.

Permit yourself to do less.

Lots of people are trying to work full-time from home and do all the other stuff that they now have to like taking care of kids or spending hours to do the grocery shopping and are getting burned out, fast. Give yourself a break and be flexible. The world won’t end if your to-do list reads only “feed kids; read a book” sometimes.

Permit yourself to be (very) imperfect.

Too many people, especially women, are trying to be perfect in this crisis–stop it. You’re going to have days where you won’t get any “work” done or days, where your kids won’t have formal lessons or the dishes don’t get washed… if you hold yourself up to your usual standards of perfection, as you do in your creative work you will burn out faster. Instead, embrace the suck, as a good friend says.

Do something specifically for your mental health.

Meditate. Take long walks or runs by yourself. Do yoga or other exercises. Watch a comedy film. Take a long hot bath. Sing to the radio. Dance in your living room. Play with your dog/cat/kid/lover. Write a journal. Bake cookies. Eat cookies. Simply find something that brings you peace and equanimity, then do it. Yes, this is good for your business as well since your brain will fire better. 

These are difficult times, but they will not last forever. The suggestions above can help you feel more in control even when we seem to have so little of that.

Wishing you wellness, safety, and happiness.

©2020 Leslie Burns

Leslie Burns

Leslie Burns became a lawyer (licensed in California) after a career as a commercial photographers’ rep and consultant. Not surprisingly, her San Diego-based legal practice is centered on artists, especially photographers, whom she helps with copyright, small business, and other legal issues arising in their lives. She believes strongly in preventive and mindful lawyering, understanding that the best (and cheapest!) kind of legal help is the kind that prevents harm later. Learn more at Burns the Attorney or follow her on Twitter @burnsthelawyer.

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