One of the scariest things about going out on your own is NOT having a contract.
I know this because I'm in an industry that should be using one and I'll be the first to admit that operating without one in my early days, was frying my nerves!
Depending on what you do or what your business does, you may not need one though. If you're selling products, for example, you shouldn't need a service contract with terms & conditions regarding what will and won't be done during the project.
If you're a service-based business, you should definitely have one! But where can you get one? Who can you trust?
(Psst. I've got an answer!)
What's so scary about not having a contract?
Your contract should state what you will & won't do in every conceivable situation, or at least provide an avenue for many common situations. This will cover your butt for situations like:
- non-payment or late payments
- delinquent feedback which effects the due dates &/or deadlines
- failure to meet a deadline due to an unpredictable event (like your computer crashing, or a bad car accident preventing you from completing the work on time)
- who gets the rights to the work and how they can use it
- what the payment schedule will be
- when payments are due
- what work will be included during the project (setting expectations)
- and so much more!
Without a contract in place, you have nothing legally binding to refer back to!
Once you have one, get to know it inside & out, so you can use the contract as the 'bad guy' if you need to, with problem clients. (Hopefully you won't ever have any of those though!)
Where can I get a good contract?
I can't afford a lawyer, yet!
Most lawyers are way out of a new business owner's price range. But that's okay! You can still get a great templated contract and customize it for your business, without spending thousands upon thousands!
This is where I point to Christina over at The Contract Shop™. Christina is a lawyer for a real firm (and works for companies like Honeybook), but also sells legal templates in her online shop!
They typically download as a Word document, where she has highlighted all the fields you would need to edit, in order to customize it for your business. She also includes a pdf guide to walk you through how to properly edit it.
All the legal jargon is there; you just go in & change all the parts with [YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE] and the pronouns, dates, etc. to fit your business. Easy peasy!
The best part about Christina's shop, is that she specializes in creating these legal templates for creative business owners! But she's also added items for other types of businesses as well.
That covers things like contracts, terms & conditions, templates, workbooks, checklists, canned emails and more, for businesses like these:
- Hair & Makeup Artists
- Floral Designers
- Graphic Designers
- Interior Designers
- Wedding Professionals
- Course Creators
- Virtual Assistants
- Web Designers
- Gifting Companies
- Furniture Rental Companies
- Online Business Management
- Independent Contractors
- Print Release
- Social Media Managers
- Public Relations
- Yoga Teachers
If your business falls into one of those categories, then Christina probably has something in her shop that will help you!
That's great, but is she GDPR compliant?
YES! Some of the templates are already GDPR compliant, and lot of the other items are being updated for compliance as well!
Are there other options out there?
Sure there are! Annette Stepanian also specializes in creatives, and I bought my first design contract template from her, before I found Christina. It has served me well!
Annette is great & I get a lot of compliments on that contract from my clients, but I like Christina a lot too & she seems to have more variety in her shop.
I've purchased from both women; I couldn't be happier and I'm very comfortable recommending either of them to you!
What are some FREE resources?
A lot of real brick-and-mortar law firms are beginning to follow the blogging trend too though, like Hogan Injury which has several offices throughout California. Their blog produces some good tips as well!
Honestly, my advice is to be resourceful! Hire an attorney if you can afford one, but if you can't, buy a template made by a licensed attorney.
Do your due diligence though and evaluate what you find very carefully, because now-a-days anybody can go online & pretend to be someone they aren't! You definitely don't want to get your legal tips from a poser, right?
(That's why I'm here recommending people I trust, who are reputable sources for this stuff! I'm giving you these recommendations so you don't have to scour the internet, sorting through the winners & the posers!)
Remember that when you find something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you can't tell, or don't know if the information is accurate, do some research & ask yourself questions like:
- How long ago was the information published?
- Does the blog post have a date?
- Is this company/person keeping up with their site, or has it been forgotten?
- look at their footer; does it still say "Copyright 2009" or something like that?
- Is this a reputable source?
- has anyone else been singing their praises?
- Are they featured by any other reputable sources?
- If not, do other reputable sources have similar published information?
You can get some other fantastic information from my favorite podcasters, or read the information from some of the business books on my To Read list.