You’re a trusting person, so when you start discussing a project with a potential client, you assume a verbal agreement is all you need to get started. But all of your freelancing friends are shocked that you don’t have a client services agreement signed by every lead first. They’ve been burned before, and they err on the side of caution by using contracts with every client. Should you, too?
Do You Need a Contract?
Yes, all indys should have a client services agreement in place with every single client. These documents set the stage for what you and your new client can expect out of the relationship. They detail what products or services you will complete and the delivery timeline. Most importantly, this is where the project specifics are listed, like how many revisions can be requested or how missed appointments are treated.
Service agreements also ensure an indy is protected. From what? Take nonpayment, for example. The agreement will outline the fee, when money is due and what happens if payment isn’t received. These contracts can also protect things like intellectual property, as long as these parameters are included in the original, signed agreement.
How Do You Write One?
Client services agreements don’t need to be fancy, just detailed. Start with the basic information: Both parties’ full names, business names and addresses, as well as an overview on which services or products will be completed and the specified monetary rate. Don’t forget to include any payment stipulations, such as when deposits are due or if interest will be charged for late payment.
Project-specific terms should also be written out clearly. Imagine you’re a business coach who provides video appointments to clients. What happens if a client unexpectedly misses a call or expects a meeting to take place even if they’re 20 minutes late? Hash out these details on paper before any work begins.
Best of all, you don’t have to create an agreement alone. AND CO hosts a contract creator for independent professionals. All you have to do is fill in some information, and the app creates a professional contract to send to your leads and potential clients. There’s nothing holding you back now.
But whatever you do, don’t copy an agreement from a friend. It could include wording that’s not relevant to your industry or the specific project. Take, for example, the difference in a website developer’s contract created by Pandadoc and a typical client services agreement that a writer may encounter.
“The Developer shall complete the development of the Software according to the milestones described on the form attached hereto as Exhibit B. In accordance with such milestones, the final product shall be delivered to the Client by [FINAL DELIVERY DATE] (the “Delivery Date”).”
“The Writer shall complete the Project of 10 articles as described in Exhibit A. Work will begin upon completion of the research phase. Client will provide feedback up to two times and Writer will revise work up to two times. The final product will be delivered in full upon receipt of final payment.”
When Is It Time to Get a Legal Professional Involved?
I’m always cautious when I create contracts, so my advice is to involve a lawyer when you make your first client services agreement — or, better yet, hire a lawyer to write it for you. After that, you can use your first agreement as a template for other clients.
Hiring a lawyer from the start lets you ask them about all the possible scenarios and future events you should consider when it comes to your contract. For example: How should you quote a cancellation or kill fee in a contract? Should it be a set fee or a percentage of the overall project? Is the kill fee legally enforceable if the client cancels the work midway?
There are also many legal professionals who sell contract templates to business owners. Think of these templates as a fill-in-the-blank option for an independent worker who wants to know that a legal professional has reviewed the verbiage without having to hire one on their own.
The process of creating your first client services agreement may seem overwhelming, but you’ll appreciate having one in place if you ever run into a roadblock with a client. With established guidance, you’ll be ready to tackle any issues that come your way. Just remember to revise your contract for every client, and tweak it to speak to any additional issues as they come up. That way, you’ll be ready to take on any new client — easily.