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By Linda Rosencrance, Insureon Contributor

If you love working with computers, and you have extensive technical knowledge and strong communication and problem-solving skills, then you might want to consider a career as a freelance computer technician.

Sometimes called computer support specialists, freelance computer technicians install, maintain, and repair computer hardware and software for their clients. Simply put, computer technicians troubleshoot and analyze user problems and implement solutions. The work can be done in the technician’s business location, a home office, or at a customer’s location.

The outlook for job growth in the field is good. Employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 11% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And employment of support specialists in computer systems design and related areas is projected to grow 20% from 2016 to 2026. This means that companies that can’t afford to hire in-house computer technicians will most likely turn to freelancers to fill the skills gap.

Computer technician education and certifications

To become a computer technician, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent. However, you’ll likely stand out from your competitors by earning an associate’s degree in information technology or a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field.

You might also consider earning a certificate by completing a computer technician training course from a community college, vocational school, or industry organization. Some of these institutions offer training programs that prepare you for the certification exams. In these courses, you’ll learn the basics of computer software and hardware and gain the skills you’ll need to succeed as a freelance computer technician.

Certification exams test your knowledge of hardware, software, operating systems, peripheral hardware components, and networking protocols. These exams also test how well you execute installations, troubleshoot problems, and perform maintenance tasks.

Since technology is continually evolving, obtaining professional certifications could show potential clients that you possess the up-to-date skills and knowledge that meet industry standards.

Technical skills for computer technicians

As a computer technician, you’ll need the technical skills that enable you to perform the following functions:

  • Installations – Part of your responsibilities may include installing new computer hardware, servers, networking components, and integrating other peripheral equipment. You’ll also have to uninstall old applications and configure your clients’ computer networks as well as install anti-virus solutions and other tools your customers use.
  • Troubleshooting – You should be able to use diagnostic tools to discover and resolve any hardware or software problems. You’ll also have to know how to respond to malware and virus issues in personal workstations and your clients’ networks. You’ll have to repair and maintain servers, personal computers, and other equipment and work with your customers to resolve complex and routine computer issues.
  • Updating – When new software upgrades are released, it will likely be your job to update your clients’ systems, ensuring all the computers are working on the same software. You’ll probably be responsible for evaluating and providing suggestions for hardware and software standardization as well as maintaining an inventory for upgrades and software licensing. You’ll have to address the needs of your customers’ employees who are having technical issues during any updates. You may also have to coordinate with your customers’ hardware and software vendors to ensure that any new equipment is ready to operate according to schedule.
Important nontechnical skills

In addition to the technical skills, you should possess these nontechnical skills:

  • Customer service skills – You have to be patient and sympathetic as you’ll often be helping people who are frustrated with the software or hardware they’re trying to use.
  • Listening skills – It’s important to understand the problems your customers are describing and know the questions to ask to clarify the situation.
  • Problem-solving skills – A key part of your job is to identify, analyze, and solve simple and complex computer problems.
  • Speaking skills – You have to be able to describe solutions to computer issues in ways that nontechnical people can understand.
  • Writing skills – You’ll need good writing skills to prepare instructions and email responses to your customers and their employees.
Protect your business with insurance

In addition to the technical and nontechnical skills listed above, it’s important to protect your business from unexpected events with small business insurance. Clients might ask you to have technology errors and omissions, cyber liability, general liability, or another active policy before they sign an agreement to utilize your freelance services.

For example, general liability insurance can help pay for any damage you may have caused to a customer’s property, and technology errors and omissions insurance can help cover your costs if a client sues you over a perceived work mistake. Cyber liability insurance can protect your company against liability and expenses due to the loss of data and cybersecurity attacks.

Find out which insurance policy is best for your computer technician business and compare quotes from multiple carriers with a free online application from Insureon.

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By Desiree DeNunzio, Insureon Contributor

No matter how vigilant you are about trying to maintain a safe workplace, injuries on the job can still happen, and more often than not, such accidents fall under the category of “struck by object.” Struck-by-object injuries involve a worker being hit by any piece of equipment or object that’s falling, swinging, or rolling, including a moving vehicle. This type of injury is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “fatal four” hazards.

For instance, if equipment falls off a shelf in a storage space and injures an employee, or if a construction worker drops a sledgehammer on his foot, it would be considered a struck-by-object injury. These accidents can result in time away from work and prolonged medical treatment, and the most serious cases could be fatal.

Take the following measures to make your workplace safe and reduce the risk of struck-by-object incidents at your business, and be sure to always protect your employees and business with adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage in case an accident does happen.

1. Provide safety eyewear

If employees are using tools that have the potential to create flying particles or dust, they should wear proper protective eyewear, such as goggles, safety glasses, or face shields. Many struck-by injuries are the result of chemicals or particles that can damage a person’s eye. Require workers to wear protective eyewear if any such hazards exist at your workplace.

2. Enforce hardhats at work sites

If there is work being done above (e.g., on scaffolding), anyone who is in the area – both employees and visitors – should wear hardhats. Routinely inspect hardhats for dents, cracks, or signs of age. Any hardhats that are showing signs of wear and tear won’t be as effective and should be removed from usage immediately.

3. Ensure workers are highly visible

Employees who are working in high-risk zones, such as construction sites or parking lots, should be highly visible at all times, particularly if they’re operating heavy machinery. Require workers who are at risk for on-the-job accidents to wear bright gear or reflective vests. Make sure that high-visibility safety apparel can still be seen under any lighting conditions, especially at night.

4. Lower blades and lock moving parts of machines when not in use

When potentially hazardous equipment isn’t in use, make sure that it’s secured. Lower blades and lock moving parts of bulldozers, loaders, and similar machines when they’re being repaired or not being used. Have employees attend regular safety training sessions to ensure they know how to secure machinery properly.

5. Inspect tools and equipment 

Regularly inspect tools and equipment to make sure they’re in proper working order and in safe condition. Check for defects, and take them out of service if any weak spots are found. Examine protective guards and components to ensure they’re in good condition and will protect workers from moving parts.

6. Limit access to work areas

Accidents are more likely to happen to workers who haven’t been adequately educated on workplace safety protocols. Ideally, only those who are essential to a project and who have been trained in safety procedures should be allowed to enter a work area. If workers aren’t aware of the dangers, they shouldn’t be allowed onto the site.

Work safety resources

Several work-safety resources exist online to help business owners prevent injuries at their workplaces. Consider using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Compliance Assistance Quick Start tool to research the safety regulations you should be following. Also, check out the National Safety Council’s Workplace Safety Training for information on how to make your business safer.

Compare insurance quotes from trusted carriers from Insureon

If an employee is injured in a struck-by-object accident, workers’ compensation can help protect both you and your business. Almost every state requires this coverage for businesses with employees, and there are sometimes special requirements for construction workers. If you aren’t sure about your state requirements, see our guide to workers’ compensation laws by state. 

Insureon helps business owners compare quotes for workers’ compensation from multiple insurance carriers with one easy application. Start a free online application today to protect your business and employees.

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By Erinn Knight, Insureon Contributor

Cybersecurity and cyberattacks reported in the tech and financial industries strike fear in the hearts of many businesses, conjuring visions of drained accounts, damaged reputations, and legal liabilities. These risks are equal for large and small businesses, although a small business owner might not have the means to recover from an attack if the right protections are not in place.

In essence, a sole proprietor, IT professional, or a retailer that accepts electronic payments faces some of the same risks as large companies, such as Amazon.

But first, what is a digital asset? The term encompasses any digitally stored content (on a hard drive, removable device, or the cloud) owned by an individual or a business. Examples of digital assets include client and partnership data, logins, company emails, digital chat messages, saved conference calls, email lists, social media accounts, website content, and more.

Here are some tips for protecting digital assets: 

Take steps to prevent human errors 

One of the biggest threats to a company trying to protect digital assets is its people. Missteps can leave assets vulnerable to cyberattacks if you and your partners, employees, and contractors are not properly trained. Servers and computers can be compromised by viruses that originate from malicious email scams, and breaches can occur if password protocols are not followed by everyone at your business. Common sources for human errors include:

Personal devices

Some businesses allow employees and contractors to access company networks, email, and servers with their personal laptops, tablets, or phones. This can leave your business vulnerable to attack from malware from devices you didn’t know were infected. Avoid this risk to your digital assets by discouraging personal devices and mandating security protections before providing access to any sensitive information. VPN (virtual private network) clients can provide a good buffer between you and the outside world and still allow file access.

Company devices and email

One bad link with malware can compromise an email server or PC and lead to entire network vulnerabilities. Make sure your email server has a virus scanner that scans all incoming messages for suspicious and potentially malicious links, and limit personal use on company PCs.

Circumventing security

Even with physical security in place, protocols are sometimes ignored. Sometimes comfort beats a robust antivirus system when an employee gets sick of the pop-up notifications and turns them off. Likewise, even with strong password protocols, sophisticated hackers can still potentially gain access to a business account. Set up an antivirus system with admin-only permissions so it can’t be turned off. Cultivate a list of logins with passwords using a secure password protector such as Last Pass (one password to remember) or True Key (biometric access).

Throwing out sensitive information

A list of leads or current customers tossed in the recycling bin could turn into a security nightmare if someone goes through the bin before it’s picked up. Keep a separate bin for shredding, and make sure to designate someone to shred sensitive documents.

Register intellectual property

Software and network security is essential, but protecting digital assets through copyrights, trademarks, and patents is just as important. This is one place where large companies have an edge over small businesses. They have lawyers and support personnel to create contracts and register their assets.

If the digital asset ownership is unclear, disputes can arise if an owner dies or an employee wants to reuse content that he or she created. It’s important to create internal documentation for digital asset ownership and take steps to protect your intellectual property rights by registering digital assets with the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Content rights should be specified in employee and business contracts, as part of email signatures, and on websites and blogs. Business owners should also clearly document all rights, accounts, usernames / passwords, and passing of ownership with an estate planning attorney.

Update security

Digital asset security threats are ever-evolving with security firms scrambling to keep up with highly motivated and well-equipped hackers. Almost half of external cybersecurity attacks are on small businesses because their security is often easier to penetrate. 

It’s crucial for small businesses to limit access points through locked devices and permissions. Setting an appropriate interval for updating security and antivirus software, as well as backing up data and securing password information are essential. Some business owners also take the additional step of having independent parties (white hats) test firewalls and other security features.

Digital asset insurance protections

Property value is quantifiable, but data often isn’t. If someone compromises your digital content, it can be expensive and messy, but cyber liability coverage can make a huge difference in addressing the costs.  As a final note, remember that as technology develops, the legal definition of digital assets will also evolve. Luckily, insurance companies are never far behind these changes and usually adapt accordingly.

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By Harry J. Lew, Insureon Contributor

When people hire your company, they want to know working with you won’t increase their legal liability. Similarly, when you hire vendors or subcontractors for your firm, you want assurance that hiring them won’t harm you financially. How do both parties put these concerns to rest? By requesting a certificate of liability insurance form.

A certificate of insurance (COI) form, also known as an ACORD certificate of liability insurance, is a document that establishes proof of insurance. It lists on one page your liability insurance policies, your coverage limits, and your policy effective dates. This shows everyone involved that you are adequately insured. By reviewing a COI, your customers can close deals knowing there’s an insurance safety net in place. (See a certificate of insurance example [PDF]).

Why is a certificate of insurance form important?

Most business owners strive to be competent, honest, and truthful. Sadly, reality may fall short of expectations. Vendors and business partnerships might:

  • Not be as skilled as promised 
  • Fail to mention prior legal disputes 
  • Claim to have insurance when, in fact, it expired many years ago

Asking for a current COI helps verify a potential vendor or subcontractor’s financial-responsibility claims. When lining up work with a new client or vendor, never hesitate to provide or ask for a certificate of insurance form. It’s simply a good business practice.

In what cases are certificates of insurance necessary?

Certificates of insurance have a wide application in the business world. Any time parties to a transaction are concerned about losses and legal liability – something most small business worry a lot about – certificates of insurance play an important role. Here are some cases in which COIs are essential:

  • A commercial property owner wants to confirm insurance in case tenants cause a fire or injure a visitor. Without a COI, the property owner might have to pay for repairs himself.
  • A manufacturer requests a COI from a contractor prior to beginning a facility renovation. Now the owner knows she won’t have to pay for any structural damage the remodeler causes.
  • A building design firm wants to insulate itself against the risks of bringing subcontractors onto its construction sites. Getting proof of insurance eliminates its risk of having to pay for the medical bills of injured workers employed by the subcontractor.
  • A commercial bank needs a COI before accepting the collateral pledged against a construction loan. This assures them that the loan will still be collateralized even if the pledged property burns down.
  • A municipal government asks an engineering firm to provide a COI before starting a road construction project. This creates a liability barrier for the municipality should the engineering firm draw up faulty plans.

As you can see, whenever businesses engage in projects that can trigger losses for multiple parties, certificates of insurance are the go-to document.

What are the main sections of an ACORD certificate of insurance form?

There is no standard format for a certificate of insurance form. However, ACORD (Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development), a nonprofit property and casualty insurance organization, provides a form used by most insurers, agents, and brokers. The ACORD COI packs a large amount of information on one page, including:

  • Date: When the form was issued
  • Disclaimer: Summarizing the nature of the COI 
  • Producer: The insurance agent or broker who issued the certificate
  • Insured: The name and address of the person(s) or business covered by the policy
  • Insurance coverages: The insured’s liability insurance coverages – typically general liability, commercial auto, umbrella liability, and workers’ compensation liability. This section also shows policy numbers and their effective and expiration dates.
  • Insurers: All companies providing the coverage listed above
  • Limits of liability: How much coverage in dollars each policy provides with coverage subtype 
  • Description of operations, locations, vehicles: A catch-all space to respond to specific requests such as being listed as an additional insured
  • Certificate holder: The person / company to whom the COI was issued
  • Cancellation: Notice that the certificate holder will be notified if the insured cancels the policy before the expiration date
  • Signature: Signature of the agent, broker, or an authorized representative of the agent or broker
How to read a certificate of insurance

Once you receive the form, here’s what to look for:

  • Make sure the business name on the form matches the vendor you thought you were hiring.
  • Verify that the policy expiration date does not come before the completion date of your project. If it does, ask the vendor to submit another COI confirming the policy’s renewal.
  • Determine that the vendor’s liability limits meet or exceed the limits on your own insurance. If they don’t, consider requiring the person to purchase additional insurance.

In rare cases, business owners will present counterfeit COIs because they can’t afford to maintain genuine insurance. If you have any reason to doubt someone, request the COI directly from the person’s insurance agent or broker.

Is a certificate of insurance form the same as an insurance policy?

No, a certificate of insurance is only a summary of existing insurance coverage. But it isn’t an actual insurance policy. In other words, when you give a customer your COI, you’re not entering into a contract to cover that person’s losses. You’re just providing proof that you have insurance. However, you may wish to provide coverage to the certificate holder. In that case, you must make your customer an “additional insured” on your policy. This is easy to do. Just call or email your agent or broker and ask the person to amend your declarations page to include the name of your customer.

Access your certificate of insurance with Insureon

Insureon provides an easy online application to compare insurance quotes for top-rated carriers in the United States. Once you have purchased a policy, you can download your certificate of insurance or request one from your carrier online with Insureon’s Customer Portal. Start an application today to compare quotes to insure your business.

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By Insureon Staff

You don't have to work in Hollywood to know that a film budget can quickly get out of control. Filmmakers of all types face the monumental challenge of balancing shooting and editing fees, crew and talent payments, equipment costs, and food and transportation expenses while trying to find enough money to finance the entire production.

But surprisingly, video equipment insurance might be one of the least expensive things you'll have to buy. Let's look at the specifics to give you a better idea of what your coverage can provide.

Video production equipment you might want to insure

Collectively, the cost of your video production equipment is one of your most significant expenses. Film equipment insurance can provide funding to repair or replace damaged gear, including:

  • Cameras
  • Lenses
  • Lights and reflectors
  • Microphones
  • Audio recorders
  • Boom poles, tripods, and dollies
  • Computers, editing software, and hard drives
  • Cables, batteries, and camera bags

In addition to protecting your equipment, insurance can also help you protect your production from risks related to managing on-screen talent, extras, your crew, support staff, and numerous other logistical expenses. Continue reading to learn more about different types of video production insurance.

The cost and coverage of film equipment insurance

So how much can you expect to pay for video production insurance? It depends on what kind of work you do and what film equipment you have. Many filmmakers opt for these options:

Property insurance

Videography property insurance starts around $425 annually, according to an Insureon analysis. Property insurance can cover most of your video equipment – everything from cameras and lenses to computers and editing bays. It can reimburse you if your gear gets damaged or stolen, letting you quickly get back on track to finish a project. In most cases, you can apply coverage to both owned and rented equipment and studio spaces. Consult with a licensed agent to make sure the policy you are considering meets your needs.

Business owner’s policy / general liability

A business owner's policy starts around $520 per year and general liability insurance is typically $275 a year. A business owner's policy, or BOP, usually includes property insurance and general liability insurance, which covers lawsuits over copyright violations and third-party injuries (non-employees) that happen at your office or on set. It can also cover accidental damage to someone else's property – an important consideration if you're shooting on location.

Workers’ compensation insurance

If you have any employees, you will also most likely need workers’ compensation insurance, which is required in almost every state and provides essential coverage for workplace injuries and related liabilities. A workers’ comp policy starts near $660 annually for photo and video professionals.

By paying just a few hundred dollars a year, you can protect tens of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment that's crucial for your job. You can shield your business from common lawsuits and employee injuries.

Compare quotes from leading U.S. insurance carriers with Insureon’s online application and find out how much it will cost to protect your business.

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By Desiree DeNunzio, Insureon Contributor

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees and customers safe. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to take precautions, accidents can still happen in the workplace, and if you’re at fault, the cost of medical bills, repairs, and more can quickly add up. 

Slip-and-fall accidents make up a significant portion of injuries at businesses, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. A number of other incidents can fall under premise liability, including chemical spills, accidents involving equipment, or an employee or visitor injuring another person. 

Key to preventing such mishaps is to identify and eliminate the risks and routinely inspect your workplace. Here are six steps you should take to protect your employees, customers, and business:

1. Inspect your premises regularly and look for potential hazards

The best way to prevent injury or property damage is to regularly inspect your workplace to assess potential risks. Inspections should be scheduled at regular intervals, such as weekly or monthly, but you should also conduct unexpected inspections so that you can see what the workplace typically looks like without being tidied up in advance.

2. Maintain your tools and equipment

Without proper maintenance, your business’s tools and equipment can become faulty or break down, which puts employees and customers at risk. Clean tools and equipment on a regular basis, and consistently test them to ensure they’re operating safely and functioning properly.

3. Document inspections and keep a record of repairs

Keep meticulous records of all your inspections, repairs, and incident investigations. Maintaining records of such information can help you keep track of recurring incidents and help you identify the areas with the highest potential for risk.

4. Post warning signs if there is a problem or hazard

Make sure your workers know that if they spot a hazardous condition, they should report it immediately. If there’s an unsafe condition in your workplace that can’t be fixed right away, you’ll need to post warning signs to warn employees and customers of the potential hazard. A good example is setting out a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign if the floors have recently been mopped.

5. Ask customers to sign waivers and alert them of possible dangers

If your business involves inherent risks – e.g., certain sporting or athletic activities – you may ask people to sign waivers or post signs warning of innate risks. But be aware that state laws will vary on the requirements for such waivers and whether or not they can be enforced. It’s also important to note that inherently risky ventures will likely face higher small business insurance premiums.

6. Have adequate insurance coverage in place

Claims arising from business liability incidents can be costly. General liability insurance can cover the medical expenses for a customer who is injured on your premises or at your worksite. It can also provide means for a legal defense if that customer decides to sue. Additionally, this coverage may pay to repair or replace customer property that you accidentally damage. Compare general liability insurance quotes for small businesses from top U.S. carriers with Insureon.

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By Hannah Fillmore-Patrick, Insureon Contributor

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. While taking smart risks is what propels a new business to success, it’s good to have someone focused on the legal implications of your business too. A lawyer can give your startup legal advice, negotiate effectively with partners and competitors, and represent your business in lawsuits.

Here’s how to find, vet, and choose a lawyer for your new business.

Finding a lawyer for your startup

Not all startups need the same type of lawyer. If you need help registering your business’s intellectual property, for example, you might need a copyright lawyer. If you’re looking for advice on your startup’s tax situation, you might need a commercial tax attorney. And if you need someone to defend your startup in court, you might need a business malpractice lawyer.

Once you know which type of lawyer you’re looking for, recommendations from people you know are often the best and quickest way to find a good lawyer. If you’re plugged into the local startup scene, ask other business owners about their lawyers and let people at startup incubators, co-working spaces, and industry events know that you’re looking for a startup lawyer.

The internet is another good place to look for a lawyer. You can filter lawyers by location and area of practice with online databases, such as the Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory and Lawyers.com. Many lawyers feature testimonials on their websites, which let you see the type of clients and legal issues they have experience with.

What to ask your potential lawyer

It’s a good idea to meet with several lawyers, so that you understand all your options before you choose the one that’s right for your startup. Many law firms offer free consultations, particularly if you were referred to them by a current client. During this consultation, be sure to ask questions about your potential lawyer’s experience, clients, connections, and rates, as well as their thoughts about business risk and growth.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask when you meet your potential lawyer for the first time:

  • What kind of experience would you bring to my startup? Lawyers with experience in your industry and in the area of practice you need them for will be able to understand compliance and resolve your legal issues more efficiently than those without any relevant experience. Prior experience is particularly important if you work in a highly regulated industry.
  • Do you represent other clients in my industry? This question helps you understand how much experience the lawyer has in your industry while, at the same time, exposing potential conflicts of interest. If the lawyer already works for a direct competitor, you may want to find someone else to represent you.
  • If I came to you with an issue that was outside your area of expertise, would you be able to give me a referral? Whether you’re looking for a generalist to keep on retainer or a specialist to advise you on a specific legal issue, it’s useful to hire someone with connections in other related areas of practice as well.
  • How is your law firm structured? If you’re thinking about hiring a larger law firm to represent your startup, ask how the firm is structured. Will the lawyer you’re talking with be the one who works with your startup? What work will be handled by your lawyer, and what will be delegated to others?
  • How much do you charge? Some lawyers will offer a flat fee for certain services, such as business incorporation. Lawyers also charge different hourly rates based on their seniority and the size of their law firm. Be sure to ask about their fees and how they bill their clients.
  • What’s your approach to business risk and growth? During that first meeting, ask your potential lawyer about their approach to risk and growth. Their response will help you determine whether they’d be able to work with your business strategy.

During the consultation, make it clear that you need a lawyer who’s skilled in getting new businesses off the ground. Many business lawyers have only worked with established businesses and may not be prepared for the complexities of working with a startup.

Choosing the right lawyer for your business startup

Choose a lawyer who understands your industry, has worked with new businesses before, and sympathizes with your business strategy. A great startup lawyer shares your strategic vision or, at least, won’t second-guess the nonlegal aspects of your business. Look for someone you enjoy working with and, most importantly, can trust.

Here are a few other things to take into consideration as you choose a lawyer for your business startup:

  • Small legal firms have less overhead and often charge smaller fees. The generalists in these firms will likely have a broader knowledge base than specialists.
  • Large legal firms have more specialists on hand. They’re usually more expensive, but they can often resolve more complicated legal issues in house.
  • Choose a lawyer with the right level of seniority for the task at hand. You don’t want to hire a senior partner to prepare routine incorporation documents, and you don’t want to hire a junior associate to represent you in high-stakes litigation.
  • If you have a pending legal issue that might end up in federal court, make sure your lawyer has a license to practice in federal court.
  • Make sure there are no surprises or suspicious ambiguities in the fee agreement the lawyer gives you. You want to hire a lawyer you can trust and afford.

The best startup lawyer is the one who, later on, you never seem to need. A good startup lawyer will lay a solid legal foundation for your business, allowing you to grow your startup free of legal obstacles like compliance issues, tax liability, and expensive litigation.

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By Desiree DeNunzio, Insureon Contributor

Fire is one of the most common causes of property damage – and it can also be one of the most costly incidents for a small business. Approximately 10% of small businesses are affected by a fire, and the average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, according to The Hartford.

Although modern safety regulations have reduced the risk, fire is still a major threat. To protect your business, it’s key to educate your employees on fire safety and emergency protocol, keep your workplace free from clutter, and properly maintain your equipment. These six fire prevention tips can help keep your business safe:

1. Inspect and maintain fire extinguishers

Keep fire extinguishers inspected and maintained according to the local fire code and train employees on how to properly use them. Many people have never operated a fire extinguisher. Basic training can save lives during a fire emergency.

2. Install a fire sprinkler or fire suppression system

All businesses should have a fire alarm system, but you should also consider installing a sprinkler system or fire suppression system – some local jurisdictions also require these systems in commercial buildings. Both help to extinguish fires before the fire department arrives. If you’re operating a restaurant, for example, you should have a UL 300-compliant wet chemical fire suppression system, and follow the NFPA 96 standard for ventilation and fire protection.

3. Regularly clean and inspect equipment

Faulty equipment is a common cause of electrical fires. Make sure your machines and equipment are in proper working order, and switch them off when they’re not in use. Clean tools and equipment regularly to ensure they’re functioning properly and safe to use.

4. Reduce clutter

Keep your workspace as clutter-free as possible. Boxes, piles of paper, and other combustible materials can provide fuel for a fire. In addition, be sure to keep electrical appliances (e.g., microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers) away from paper or other fuel sources, and give computers and other equipment plenty of space so that air can circulate around them and they’ll stay cool.

5. Have an exit strategy

Create an emergency exit plan, and practice fire drills with your employees. Make sure emergency exit doors have proper signage and are well-lit. Employees should always have ready access to at least two exits. Regularly check stairwells to ensure that nothing is blocking them.

6. Maintain outdoor spaces

Some businesses are at high risk of fire damage not because of what they do, but where they’re located. The American West is particularly vulnerable to wildfires in the summer due to an arid climate and dry vegetation. If your business is located in a dry or forested area, take steps to protect it. In areas prone to wildfires, keep trees and brush from growing next to your building, and remove dry grass that’s within 100 feet of any structure.

How small business insurance can help with fire damage

If a fire does occur at your business, small business insurance can help cover the damages.

Commercial property insurance is designed to help fund repair or replacement of damaged property (e.g., equipment, buildings, supplies, and inventory). Many property insurance policies cover fire damage. You also may want to consider a business owner's policy, or BOP, which bundles commercial property and general liability coverage into one policy, typically at a discount.

Insureon helps business owners compare quotes from multiple insurance carriers with one easy application. Start a free online quote today to protect your business.

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By Linda Rosencrance, Insureon Contributor

Today, organizations live and die on information, or more precisely on the insights they extract from that information, whether it’s to anticipate the behaviors of their customers or determine where to spend their advertising dollars.

As such, more companies are looking to hire freelance data scientists to help them analyze trends, solve complex problems, and glean meaning from massive amounts of data. You’ll likely find freelance data science jobs in a variety of fields, including tech startups, transportation, biotechnology, and telecommunications.

A freelance data scientist typically needs at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, social sciences, physical sciences, math and statistics, or other related fields. You may also need a master’s degree in computer science or a related field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition, you’ll need to integrate your IT knowledge with other in-demand technical and nontechnical skills, including programming, data visualization, and communication.

Technical skills

To start a career as a freelance data scientist, you’ll need to know a number of technical skills including:

  • R programming language: Many freelance data scientists prefer to use the R programming language to solve statistical problems since it is specifically designed for data science needs. However, it has a steep learning curve, and it’s easier to learn the core data science skills once you’ve mastered the basics. R is a common programming language used at top tech firms, and it’s also used by banks and other financial institutions, analyst and consulting firms, research labs, academic institutions, and other organizations.
  • Python programming language: Python is great for freelance data scientists because it can be used for nearly all the steps involved in data science processes. Python programming has a simple and fast learning curve, and many data scientists consider it to be straightforward to use with better readability and easy-to-use syntax compared with other programming languages. You can use Python to develop web services, machine learning models, data mining, and classifications. Python coding language is also good for building data analytics tools since it can offer better insights, correlate data from big datasets, and understand patterns.
  • SQL (Structured Query Language): This programming language is important for freelance data scientists because it's needed to perform such tasks as adding, deleting, extracting, or taking action on information in a relational database. It also helps you transform database structures and perform analytical functions.
  • Apache Spark: This is a fast unified analytics engine for big data processing and machine learning. Apache Spark is designed to support a wide variety of data analytics tasks, including simple data loading and SQL queries as well as machine learning and streaming computations. Apache Spark’s strength is in its speed and platform, which makes it easy to use with data science projects. With Apache Spark, freelance data scientists can carry out analytics, including data intake and distributing computing.
Nontechnical skills

To be a leading freelance data scientist, you’ll also need to continue to develop some essential nontechnical skills, including:

  • Industry knowledge: Successful freelance data scientists need to have a good understanding of the terms and concepts of whatever industry they’ll be working in. It’s crucial that you comprehend how the industry functions and how data is collected, evaluated, and used in your industry. Keep current on the market and trends. Whenever possible, attend workshops, conferences, and other industry events. You should also explore new methods and techniques to solve the problems your clients in the industry may have in the future. Good freelance data scientists have to be savvy enough about the business so they can adequately interview company stakeholders to understand their problems and determine which data will be most relevant.
  • Communication skills: Freelance data scientists typically have to present their technical findings to clients’ nontechnical teams, such as sales and marketing, who may be relying on that information to do their jobs. Therefore, you need to be able to clearly and fluently communicate those findings, verbally and in writing. It’s important to communicate with your clients the results and values embedded in the data that you analyzed. Most business owners don’t want to know what you analyzed. What they do want to know is how your findings can positively affect their business.
  • Critical thinking: Freelance data scientists have to be critical thinkers, which means objectively analyzing facts on any given problem before formulating opinions or making judgments on the issue.
Protect your data science company

Business intelligence and data mining professionals face business risks every day that could lead to costly and time-consuming lawsuits. For instance, a client could claim that actions taken on recommendations from your data analysis caused widespread financial damages. The costs to defend yourself from a lawsuit – even if it’s unwarranted – could harm the future of your freelance business.

Technology insurance offers some financial protection from risks. Errors and omissions insurance covers disputes with clients about your work, and cyber liability insurance can protect your data science company against liability and expenses due to the loss of data or an external data breach.

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By Harry J. Lew, Insureon Contributor

For small business owners, it’s important to understand the difference between occurrence vs. claims-made insurance before you purchase a policy.

The two policy types can affect what you pay for coverage and the lifecycle of some of the most common small business insurance coverages. For example, general liability insurance is mostly available as an occurrence policy, while professional liability, errors and omissions, and directors and officers insurance mainly have claims-made coverage.

With an occurrence-based policy, you’ll be protected as long as the loss happened while your policy was active. As long as you were insured when the incident occurred, you can file a claim with your insurer. Occurrence policies accommodate “long-tail” events – situations that don’t produce lawsuits or claims right away.

With a claims-made policy, your coverage only kicks in when you file a claim during the policy period. As long as an insurable event happened after the policy’s retroactive date, your insurer should provide coverage. With a claims-made policy, you need to have active insurance when you file a claim. If you canceled your policy – or forgot to pay your premium and the insurer canceled it – you’ll be uninsured.

Some insurers provide the option to purchase an extended-reporting period (ERP) or tail coverage for some claims-made policies. An ERP gives you the ability to file claims even though you have no current insurance. However, an ERP only applies to losses that happened during the prior policy period and for which you now need to file a claim. If a new loss occurs after you cancel your policy, you’ll still be uninsured.

Policy limits: Claims-made vs. occurrence

When you purchase a policy, you have to decide how much protection you need with your aggregate limit. This refers to how much coverage you have available for all future claims. Per-occurrence limit is the most your insurance company will pay for a given incident.

With occurrence policies, your aggregate limit resets every year. For example, let’s say you purchased a $1 million occurrence-based general liability policy. In year one, you get sued for $1 million. When your policy renews at the beginning of year two, you’ll have another $1 million of coverage to protect you.

In short, occurrence-based policies provide ample coverage as long as you keep renewing them. For this privilege, you’ll generally pay more than you would for claims-made policies.

With claims-made policies, the amount of coverage you purchase must last for as long as you keep your policy. For example, if you had a $1 million claims-made policy and got sued for $1 million in the first year, you would have no further protection in your policy. Unless you increase your policy limit in the second year, you would be uninsured.

Claims-made vs. occurrence: Is one policy type better?

With occurrence vs. claims-made, is one policy type better than the other? It depends on your business needs.

  • Occurrence-based policies are simpler to own. When you switch insurers, you’ll still have the ability to file claims on your prior work, unlike with claims-made policies.
  • Occurrence-based policies also offer more peace of mind since you get a new aggregate limit each time you renew your policy. This means you won’t have to worry about a large claim exhausting your limit.
  • Claims-made policies have lower initial premiums, but pose problems when you cancel them or switch to an occurrence-based policy.
  • With claims-made policies, you may run the risk of exhausting your limit if you have several large claims.

The final answer depends on what you and your business need. If you’re just starting out, you may want a lower cost claims-made policy. And if you don’t plan to cancel your policy, this may be perfect.

However, for a larger firm with more disposable cash and more assets at risk than a new firm, an occurrence-based policy may be more appropriate, even though it costs more.

When you’re shopping for small business insurance, always ask your agent whether the policy you’re discussing is occurrence-based or claims-made. Insureon has helped thousands of small business owners compare quotes for both policy types. Start a free online application today to compare quotes for your business. Insureon’s agents are licensed in 50 states and can provide advice at any point during the process.

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