If you are a smart business person you will have a service contract or client agreement in place with all of the clients you work with. You will also be asked to sign a contract when doing business with another service provider.
For example that may be a contract or service agreement from your graphic designer, bookkeeper, virtual assistant or your social media manager.
All service providers should have a contract to hand over to clients before commencing work.
The Benefits Of Client Contracts
The person with the contract holds the power in a business relationship.
And that’s a good thing! You can exercise your power with grace, compassion and from a position of intimate knowledge of what works for you and your business and how you can help your client.
If you don’t have a contract or a client agreement for your business services – this alone is a powerful reason to get one.
A contract can be changed.
Whether it’s your business terms and conditions, a service contract, a freelancer agreement, or a non-disclosure agreement, they should all be “living” documents. Documents that you can amend, waive or change any terms, enforce or choose not to enforce terms – all at your discretion because YOU own the document.
As your business changes and develops so should you business legals.
Contract terms are used to create boundaries.
Terms of a contract are used to disclose how you work, what’s expected, and what is not accepted, and any local laws that apply. They also set out how the services will be delivered, when, and under what terms. This establishes a framework for a healthy business relationship.
Transparency and open communication are key to successful business relationships. Before commencing work, ask your clients to take the time to read the contract and invite them to get back to you if there are any terms they wish to discuss. This shows you are comfortable with questions and are willing to discuss options with clients.
Also take the time to read through and understand any contract provided to you BEFORE starting work or making payment. Ensure that the inclusions in the contract match what you agreed to. Also check that the terms of service work for you.
Have the contract easily available to access anytime so that you can refer back to it if necessary. And, if you feel your customer or the contract owner is breaching the terms of agreement, don’t be afraid to refer them back to the terms to ensure the working relationship stays positive.
What to do when asked for an amendment to your Service Agreement or Client Contract
Acknowledgement is a great relationship builder. Thank your client for working with you and taking the time to read the contract document. Acknowledge you hear their concerns and will respond to them as soon as possible after your own reflection.
Ask for more details of what the client seeks to change, remove or modify in the contract terms. By clarifying what they are asking for you can work out whether agreement will have a positive, negative or neutral effect on your business.
Consider each request for an amendment as an opportunity for improvement. If you can do it to help your client out without compromising quality and payment, then be flexible and accommodate the client.
Become familiar with the laws behind your policies and terms so that you can explain the legal obligations to your client if they ask for clarification.
Adapt or Refer
If payment is an issue, consider expanding payment methods to get paid – via credit card, bank debit, paypal, or payment plan and extended payment plans.
If you have a cheaper option ie templates or another service to refer them to DO IT – it saves you time and money chasing payment in the long run and the client will respect you for helping them by making a referral.
If a client can’t afford you, they are just not your ideal client right now and that’s okay.
Offer a new quote or proposal if the client is changing the scope of work that the contract terms refer to.
If a revised contract is sent, ensure you re-read the entire document not just the part that was changed.
With any contract amendment requests that you feel unsure about, please seek legal advice.
If you have requests around transfer of copyright or intellectual property, sometimes it makes sense and sometimes you may need a tailored clause to suit your purpose as well as the client. It’s best to seek professional advice on this matter to save yourself any problems in the future.
On the receiving end of a contract you have the power to question terms – if you are unsure, ASK! You can also request a contract with terms written in a way that is easier to understand if you feel the terms are a bunch of legal jargon or contradictory.
Remember, you can always say no. Declining a contract amendment request is absolutely okay if you disagree. It’s best for the business relationship to stop at this point than either party be unhappy with the terms of service they are operating under.
If the contract provider is not open to discussion nor negotiation OR cannot answer your questions about the terms in questions, seek legal advice or decline moving forward with the project until you are happy with the agreement.
To get more assistance with creating your Client Contracts or to query a contract you’ve been provided with, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance. You can book in a 10 min free consultation with me here.
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.