I have been working in the world of client agreements intensively for the last 18 months. Each time a client contacts me to talk about their client agreement, we devote a session to what I call “THE STRUGGLE”: the recognition that we all need self-advocacy skills in business.
What does self-advocacy mean?
In business, as in life, self-advocacy means a person’s ability to effectively communicate, negotiate, or assert their own desires, needs, and rights. Self-advocacy means making informed decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions.
How can you be a better advocate for your business?
Every business that interacts with clients to provide a service or product should have a client agreement that sets out the business relationship between the business and the client.
This is serious stuff. Avoiding or putting off a client agreement in your business is about hiding from aspects of your business and your client interactions that you are not comfortable with or confident about—and this means that you are not advocating for your business by communicating how you choose to do business with your clients. You are leaving them to figure it out for themselves.
So, why do so many businesses neglect their client agreements?
My experience in working with clients has proven that it’s not time, money, or a disregard for the legal requirements of doing business well that are the big blocks for business owners to stop playing small and level up their business.
So what’s the problem, then?
An inability to self-advocate.
Tough call, I know—but I call it like it is. When you are in business and you are taking money for your services and products, you owe your clients a client agreement. Clients have a right to know how you conduct your business, what your boundaries are, and what your terms and conditions are.
Like it or not, to level up in business, you have to play fair—and that means educating your client about how you work and do business. They have a right to have it spelled out for them. To do otherwise is expecting your client to read your mind.
Why do so many business owners balk at the notion of having a client agreement, or (even more worrying) discussing the client agreement with their client?
It’s because they lack core business confidence.
What is core business confidence?
Core business confidence is the confidence that comes with knowing your business really well—the ins the outs, what works what doesn’t, what feels right and what doesn’t.
Business owners often lose their core business confidence in the marketing hype of finding their purpose, stating their mission, and defining their big WHY. In doing all of this, business owners neglect or forget to consider what their business is all about: the client interaction, the client transaction, and where our values, our strengths, and weaknesses fit in the business process—and, of course, that is it critical to educate your client on how to become your ideal client.
And so entrepreneurs avoid client agreements, create one from a generic template, or “borrow” one from another business because they do not have the courage to look at how they are really conducting their businesses, how they are showing up, and what their actions, in-actions, or communications really mean to their client interaction.
Why is thinking about client agreements so difficult for business owners?
Client agreements are difficult for business owners because they require you to advocate for your business. You will have to look at your business processes (warts and all) and answer the hard questions.
Some of these questions might include:
- How do you see things going wrong with a client or why do you feel so negative about presenting your client agreement?
- What is in your client agreement that you feel will put a client off? Is it the length, the language, the legal jargon?
- Would you sign your own client agreement?
All these questions lead to the number-one question… How do you really feel about your business? Or, put another way, how does the way you do business make you feel about you, your business, and your clients?
And this is where the whole business of self-advocacy in business comes in. Remember that self–advocacy refers to your ability to effectively communicate, negotiate, or assert your desires, needs, and rights.
Failing to look into your business and provide your client with a client agreement that informs them about the true nature of the business relationship that they are entering into with you may mean:
- that you are not intimate with every aspect of your business
- that you have missed the opportunity to refine your service and educate your client
- that you are not even comfortable enough with your business processes to stand by them.
It’s time that you do the work necessary to arrive at a place of confidence where you can convey your boundaries and assert your rights and expect that your ideal client will get it and be happy to discuss it with you if they need to.
And working to get your client agreement right is the perfect vehicle to advocating for your business.
Want to work together on your client agreement? Book in your free 15-minute consultation now.
Lawyer, Contract Specialist, Speaker & Advocate for Women in Business.
Drawing on more than 15 years’ experience as a lawyer and a woman in business, Shalini Nandan-Singh helps Australian service-based entrepreneurs protect their businesses and their bottom lines with empowered legal advice and contracts.
Encouraging listeners to #loveyourlegals, Shalini firmly believes that business legals should be an authentic extension of your business. Her goal is to educate audiences that, rather than confusing legalese, business legals should be an authentic extension of your business, creating positive business boundaries that support you in working with your clients with compassion and understanding.
Disclaimer: This blog is written to support business owners to consider legal requirements and issues that may arise in business. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for your individual circumstances. Please consult your lawyer for advice specific to you and your business.