As an online entrepreneur myself, I see a lot of contracts flying around online — between businesses, between coaches and clients, and more — that aren’t up to snuff.
It’s not just the contracts themselves, but also the way they’re written, constructed, sent and signed that are all concerning to me.
And this isn’t just became I’m some random contract nerd or something. Before I started Sam Vander Wielen LLC, I was a corporate attorney in Philadelphia for about 5 years. Each day, my job was to draft contracts from scratch or to handle lawsuits between businesses because the parties used a bad one.
Here are 4 things you need to know about using contracts the RIGHT way in your business:
#1 Copying and Pasting Won’t Cut It
Maybe you’re wondering whether you can simply cut and paste a few contract paragraphs from contracts you’ve seen floating around online or you’ve been sent by other businesses before.
The ‘copy and paste’ method won’t cut it in actually helping you protect you or your business because those types of contracts don’t actually address any of your individual or unique needs.
It’s not just important that you have a contract. It’s more important you have one that works. At the very least, a contract should address your services, payment procedures, scope of practice, deliverables (aka. what’s included and what’s not), disclaimers, and liability.
#2 It’s Not Personal
You should send a written contract to anyone you work with, or perform work for, regardless of how well you know that person personally. People think that they don’t need to use a contract if they know someone as a friend or a referral from a friend.
But I actually think the opposite is true. Sometimes when you know someone (or know them better than a stranger), you may forget to discuss some of the things you would normally discuss with a unknown-to-you client.
So use a written contract with everyone you work with, and feel free to blame it on some former-lawyer whose blog post you read once.
#3 It’s All About the Process
So now you have a written contract, and you’re using it with everyone you work with, but how are you delivering and executing the contract with them?
The best way, especially if you work online, is to send the client an electronic version of the agreement via email or through your online client portal (i.e., Dubsado) for them to review, sign and date.
Once the client has executed the contract on her end, you should do the same (sign, date). As an extra layer of protection, you can send the client a separate email (or drop it in their client portal) with a fully-executed copy of the contract for their records. That way, you have another form of proof the client had the opportunity to review and sign the agreement before moving forward to work together.
#4 Clear Expectations
One thing that’s often overlooked in contracts are ways to state — as plainly as possible — what the expectations are of each party. Whether you’re a coach or a creative, there are certain expectations you can set out in your contract for both yourself and your client to abide by during your work together.
Contracts don’t have to just be all about legal liability, money, and disclaimers. The original purpose of contracts was really to reach a “meeting of the minds”. This can be easily accomplished by a “Coach’s/Designer’s Expectations” and “Client’s Expectations” section, which lists out the expectations of each.
By using contracts with everyone you work with which are tailored towards you and your business, you can avoid some unnecessary business road bumps (i.e., missed or late payments, miscommunications, legal liability, etc.)
Nothing in this post is to be construed as legal advice. It’s simply provided as general information and education. If you have any specific legal questions or concerns, you should always consult with a local attorney in your area.
About the Author
Sam Vander Wielen is an attorney-turned-entrepreneur who empowers women with DIY legal templates and mentorship to confidently run businesses they love. She’s on a mission to help women fearlessly pursue what sets their soul on fire and make legal accessible, easy and fun. She lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her husband. After taking the leap from corporate law to entrepreneurship to live a more authentic life, Sam’s discovering she loves to read, travel, and craft the perfect cup of coffee. You can find Sam on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.