Why Contracts Are Not a Scary Thing...
So, I need to talk to you about your contracts. Ugh, boring… I know. But hear me out. I’m not going to talk you through the fundamental principles of contracting (you know the ones - offer, acceptance and consideration) or preach about the fine print. I am going to explain why a clear and simple contract is a critical tool for your business and why no business at any stage - from conception to grown - should be without one.
1. It is a record
How many of you remember every single conversation that you have with a client or vendor? How often are you sifting through mountains of emails, Facebook messages and even text messages to remember these details?
I personally know that hours can be spent searching for records of what services are being provided, what bonuses are included, when the services will commence or terminate and even payment details.
Think of it this way, when you don’t know these details, it can cost you money. When you are burning time finding these details instead of engaging with your clients or chasing leads, it will cost you money.
A clear and simple contract is not just a legal agreement, it is the cornerstone for great client management practices - particularly for service providers.
2. It enables the right conversation at the right time
If you have taken the time (and really, with the right templates and practices, it doesn’t take a lot of time) to clearly set out the details of the agreement, it means that you can confidently raise issues with your client or your vendor.
You don’t have to be Harvey Specter (side note: yum!) and start schooling your client or vendor - in fact, best you don’t - but you can confidently raise an issue with the client or vendor, or even better, quickly and confidently respond to any issues that THEY have raised. There’s no guess work for you, which shows the client that you are on top of your game.
When a clear and simple contract is in place, you do not lose time, which means money, or reputation and credibility, which also means money.
3. It shows that you are a serious business owner
When you have solid business practices in place - yes, that includes legals - you become a credible, reputable and capable business owner, which you are! It shows clients that you are not only across the details, but the details are important to you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust my business with anyone who doesn’t look like they have a handle on theirs. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s and people will trust you to do the same with theirs.
Let me break down the myth about legals. Often businesses, particularly small businesses and startups, shy away from legals (to their detriment!): It feels hard, because you don’t want to get it wrong. It feels hard, because words like “commitment”, “binding” and “damages” are scary. It feels hard, because there are a whole bunch of words and it just seems complicated. BUT, it does not have to be complicated. Boom! Mic drop.
No, honestly - it does not need to be complicated. But for service delivery, it is so important! Products are relatively easy - I’ll have three of those in these colours for this much - thank you! You issue an invoice, you get paid, and off go the products. If the client has a question about what they received, all you need to do if bring out the invoice. Simple, right? So, the best place to start is to think about your service as if it is a product.
Here's what to do
what services are you providing? No really, what is it called?
what does that entail? Are you providing hourly coaching sessions or 20 pages worth of proofreading?
when do you start your services and if relevant, when do they finish?
are you providing any bonuses?
what is the price of your services and importantly, when are your fees payable?
Anything else important that the client needs to know? For example, if your work is time sensitive, let you clients know that lead time that you require. If you have a strict refund policy, now is the time for that to.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or starting to gain momentum, these contracts only need to be one page. Nothing that would scare away a potential lead or put off a client. But it provides you with a record of your discussions, which allows you to have the conversations you need to with your clients with ease and grace.
Consider your business and your clients right now - how would you fare in a difficult conversation?