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As you know, starting and operating a business takes money. And one of the many tough decisions business owners must make is whether that money should come from debt or from equity.

Most people are probably familiar with debt, whether from credit cards, car loans or home mortgages. A business loan is no different: You borrow money in exchange for the promise to repay it under agreed-upon conditions. Loans allow a business owner to maintain complete control over a business, but also require regular payments regardless of how the business is doing; they also often require a business owner to put up personal assets as collateral. That's why some business owners decide to raise business capital by securing equity investments in their company.

But what is equity?

With the job market tighter than ever, more and more Americans are turning to freelancing as a way to put their skills to use.

According to freelance worker advocacy group the Freelancers Union, a recent survey found that 53 million Americans are freelancing, working as independent contractors for clients as a "small business" of one. But along with unique benefits -- such as scheduling flexibility, being able to choose the projects you work, and being your own boss -- there are also several legal issues that freelancers in particular should be aware of.

Here are three legal tips for freelancers to follow:

"Public benefit corporations" may sound like charitable organizations, but they're actually a great way for small businesses to make a difference while staying in the black.

Take the Curious Iguana bookstore as an example. It opened last September in Frederick, Maryland, under the state's benefit corporation statute, choosing to hold itself to strict standards of charitable giving, environmental impact, and employee welfare, reports Southwest: The Magazine.

Where else is this type of corporate structure available, and what are the benefits of your small business becoming a "public benefit corporation?"

Small business owners who incorporate may wonder if their company is considered a "closely held corporation," especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision.

As you probably know, closely held corporations like the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby are now eligible for an exemption from Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, so knowing the distinction can have real legal consequences.

So what exactly is a closely held corporation?

At the center of today's U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby are three family-owned businesses: Hobby Lobby, Mardel, and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The businesses were ultimately successful in their suits to avoid providing post-conception contraception to employees as mandated by Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act), Reuters reports.

How did these businesses prevail in front of the nation's highest court? Here's an overview of the three-step legal analysis that won their case:

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney has been ousted pending investigations of sexual misconduct, leaving the clothing company to pick up the pieces. The lesson for small businesses: You may need a CEO succession plan.

Charney's "highly sexualized" private life often seeped into his role with American Apparel, leading to his eventual ouster and replacement by company CFO John Luttrell, reports the Los Angeles Times. Charney's departure also has the potential to put the company in a financial tailspin.

So can a CEO succession plan help you avoid an American Apparel-type disaster?

CEOs can resign or be removed like any other employee, yet your business needs a plan if its leadership is going to step down.

Just today, Reuters reports that Target removed CEO Gregg Steinhafel after massive data breaches during the holiday season made headlines. While Target is many times larger than your small business, a CEO's departure can raise similar issues.

When the head of your business is gone, here are some simple but necessary next steps for your company:

The time may come for your business to vote out one of its partners, and the NBA's recent scandal may serve as a good lesson.

Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has been banned for life and fined millions over racist comments, will likely be forced to sell his team by the NBA, reports NBC Sports.

Take a lesson from the NBA: Make sure your business is prepared to vote out a partner.

Cole Haan Pinterest Contest Spurs FTC Warning

Fashion brand Cole Haan landed in some hot water for a Pinterest contest when it received a letter from the FTC alleging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The FTC interpreted the pins as endorsements for the company's "Wandering Sole" contest and dinged Cole Haan for not clearly communicating that there was a financial incentive to win a shopping spree.

So what can small business owners learn from Cole Haan's FTC warning letter?

7 Lawsuit Settlement Tips for Business Owners

If your business is sued, should you settle? The vast majority of lawsuits are resolved before trial, but there are many factors a business owner needs to consider before making an initial settlement offer.

Not only can a settlement be much less costly than going to court, it can also be a way to protect your business' reputation. Still, choosing to settle a lawsuit is not a decision to be taken lightly.

If you're thinking about settling, here are seven tips to keep in mind: