What would happen if your client refused to pay you? What would you do if the client insisted that you didn’t provide the services that you promised to provide? What if your client insists on a different price after you’ve already completed your services? What would you do? How can you protect yourself and your business from these issues?
The answer is a well-drafted and legally sound contract. You need to execute a contract with your client before you deliver any service. As you create your contract, do not make the following mistakes.
1. Making Verbal Agreements
You discuss the details of your services and the price that your client should pay. That should be enough, right? No way! You need to have a written contract. Have both parties read through it and sign it. A written agreement will define both parties’ expectations to prevent misunderstandings that could lead to problems later on.
How about when you have a contract but a few weeks or months later, your client and you discuss an additional service you’ll provide. Do you need to draft a contract for that service? YES. What if you’re offering to provide it for free? YES, you still need a written agreement. Whatever you’re providing or receiving, it must always be in writing to prevent refund requests, threats or actual lawsuits, hurtful reviews and most importantly, your brand and future business.
2. Copying Contracts You Found Online
You’ve never written a contract before, so you’re probably going to turn to the best resource that you have available: the Internet. You can get a lot of help with your contracts, but you shouldn’t just copy and paste material from any contract. Your contract not only needs to be comprehensive, but also legally sound. Your contract is also a reflection of how you conduct business and your level of professionalism. Make sure that you always include the services that you will provide, the amount that you should be payed, how and when your client should pay, who will be responsible for providing materials and equipment, and the length of time for the services. You should also include information pertaining to the circumstances that each party would be able to terminate the contract.
3. Amending an Existing Contract Without Written Consent
If changes to the original contract are made after both parties have already signed the original contract, an agreement to amend the existing contract is necessary prior to drafting an amended contract with the new or revised terms or services. Be sure to keep a copy of the original contract as well as the letter of agreement to amend the original contract.
4. Creating a Non-Negotiable Contract
Your client should read through the contract. Make sure that your client understands everything in it—even the fine print. If your client doesn’t agree with the contract, you don’t have to lose them as a client. Not yet. You can negotiate terms that the client doesn’t agree with to see if you can alter the contract to work for both parties.
5. Excluding ‘Act of God’ Clause
It’s important to state in your contracts that you are not liable for cancellations or delayed delivery of service caused by events outside of your control, including war, civil unrest, fire, earthquake, or other natural disaster. This should be standard language for your contracts. It is also recommended you include that you will take reasonable efforts to overcome the effects of the unexpected events or reschedule your services.
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