How to write terms of service and a privacy policy that create trust and transparency

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome a new contributor to Dear Handmade Life… photographer, creative business owner, and lawyer Kiffanie Stahle. Kiffanie specializes in helping creative business owners navigate legal issues and we’re so happy that she’s joining us at Craftcation 2016! Be sure to check out her FREE 5-day e-course to help you create your privacy policy. -Nicole S.

How to write terms of service & a privacy policy that creates trust & transparency from Dear Handmade Life

Eating ramen for a month when you are used to shopping at the farmer’s market is rough. But that’s exactly what can happen when you put all your eggs in one basket.

Platforms like Etsy and Handmade at Amazon can give your business amazing exposure. Your products get in front of new eyeballs. But there’s also a downside to these platforms: you have to play by someone else’s rules. And when they change the rules or fail, then all your business revenue vanishes.

If these platforms are working for your business, then I encourage you to continue using them. But I also encourage you to examine other revenue streams. To diversify your income, so you aren’t totally reliant on any one source. Creating an e-commerce section on your website is one of the most common ways to diversify income.

But just throwing up a shopping cart isn’t enough to convince people to hit the buy button. And that’s because there are several factors that go into getting someone to hit buy:

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Perceived value
  • Cost of shipping
  • Brand trust

I don’t have the expertise to help you with most of the list. But leveraging two legal tools and resources can help you establish brand trust. And that’s because trust comes from transparency.

And in order for there to be trust and transparency we need to explain what’s going on behind the scenes. Our potential purchasers are not mind readers. So we need to lay things out for them and show them that we aren’t going to pull a fast one on them.

Now these documents come with scary legal names: privacy policy and terms of service. But just because they have legal names, doesn’t mean they have to be stuffed with legalese. You can write these documents in a way that’s true to your voice and your brand. Don’t believe me? Here is my privacy policy and terms of service.

So what goes into these documents? 

Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy provides transparency about what information you know about your website visitors. It pulls back the curtain and lets them know what juicy details you know about them. Do you know their email address? What kind of computer they use? Their IP address?

In your privacy policy, you are going to answer the following questions:

  • Who is collecting this information?
  • What kind of information are you collecting on them and how?
  • When do you share it?
  • Where do you use this information?
  • How do you protect sensitive information (like credit cards)?
  • How can I find out what you know about me personally?
  • Why do you collect this information?

While all these questions are important, I think the last one is the most important. As consumers, we know that you as the business owner are getting a benefit for collecting data on us. (If there wasn’t a benefit Google and Facebook wouldn’t be free.)

But what’s the benefit for me? The benefit might be that it allows you to create more products or content that your customers love. The benefit might be to allow you to deliver the products or services that the customer ordered. Brainstorm what benefits those you are collecting information on are getting.

Terms of Service

This document is the same thing with many different names: terms and conditions, terms of service, terms of use. But the point of this document is to explain your rules. What can I expect from you the business owner, and in turn, what do you expect from me.

Your terms of service might contain several topics. But laying out your e-commerce rules helps persuade visitors to click the buy button.

  • What are your payment terms?
  • What are your shipping terms?
  • What are your return and refund policies?
  • How are credit cards processed and stored?
  • Do your products or services come with any warranties or promises?

I know that creating these legal documents isn’t sunshine and rainbows. But having them does make an impact on your consumers. Because think about it, would you purchase from a website that you couldn’t find out:

  • When the product was going to arrive
  • What happens to your credit card number once you enter it
  • What you can do if the product arrives damaged

I encourage you to set aside a little time this week to create these documents. And if you want a little assistance, I am helping you get them all squared away at Craftcation. But if you don’t want to wait, I’ve developed a free 5-day e-course to help you create your privacy policy. You can sign up for it here.

Have you created these policies? If so, leave a link to your policies in the comments. It’ll help us all brainstorm how to make them better and what to write. Here’s a link to mine.

-Kiffanie Stahle

Kiffanie Stahle is a photographer, fellow creative business owner, and lawyer living in Oakland, California. She’s on a mission to teach creative entrepreneurs that the law doesn’t have to equal scary. When she’s not chatting law, she’s probably in her garden, her kitchen, or if it is summertime catching a Giants baseball game. Get her free five-day email challenge designed to help you start building trust with your e-commerce website here. Join Kiffanie on social media: Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.

Kiffanie Stahle


How to write terms of service for your website + online shop from Dear Handmade Life
How to write a privacy policy for your website, blog or online shop from Dear Handmade Life
The two most important sections of your website to legally protect your business from Dear Handmade Life


One Comment

  1. I’m starting up my blog (haven’t launched yet) and have been stressing over the legal pages! I’m nothing if not detail oriented (of course I’m subject to those pesky typos like the typical human of today’s time of course.) But I feel like this post was just the most awesomely concise and helpful thing I’ve found thus far! Thank you so much for putting this together! Definitely bookmarked on top of a Pin.

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