If you’re in a small business that works with clients – like mine with interior design – do you have contracts, or at least a letter of agreement? Many people don’t operate with them, seeing them as too much of a hassle. Sometimes they’re just too embarrassed or timid to ask their clients to sign a contract, or they don’t want to be held to an agreement themselves. And sometimes they think they just don’t have the time to sit down and iron out the details for a contract that the client will sign. But that’s just flirting with disaster!
Having a contract protects you and your business just as much as it holds you to specific standards. For example, you can cover return policies for products, you can specify that you have the write to promote a successful project, that you must be paid for out-of-town or out-of-state travel, and more.
Even more critically, your contract can spell out your fees, payment schedule, and retainer policies. It can cover liabilities and warranties. The contract is the place to spell out all the parameters of the job and any issues that can come up later. They minimize risks – for you and for the client.
And this has to be created with a lawyer – period. Don’t think that you can just type something up and use it as an agreement. You want to button up any possible future issues, and that’s what a lawyer can do for you. It’s worth the money and the time that you put into it.
I can hear a lot of your creatives out there saying: “Ugh, Tobi. I know I need one, but it’s intimidating to sit down with my clients and try to make them sign a contract.” I hear you, I know this isn’t fun. But you HAVE to do it. It’s non-negotiable. What I tell my clients is that this protects THEM, too. Because my company will also have to uphold everything that’s spelled out in the contract. It keeps the relationship running smoothly.
And I always sit down with my clients and go over the contract together, in person. That allows us to talk about all the details, like why I have to be able to photograph their homes for my business. And they actually appreciate that I want to protect them as much as I want to protect myself. It professionalizes our relationship – and it shows them that I really mean business. Too often, creatives bootstrap their businesses to the point where their own clients almost don’t consider them a “real business,” and this is one area where you can really change that.
So I hope I’ve convinced you how important contracts are for your business and your clients! Let me know in the comments below if you have a contract and how it’s working for you.