5 Critical Things to Know about Contracts

15 Mar

The freelance / free work debate blowing up the internet reminded me of a great talk I listened to a couple years back about the importance of contracts in freelance work. How many projects have you started without a contract? My guess–probably one. As Design Director Mike Monteiro so eloquently put it, starting a project with no contract is like putting a condom on after you’ve taken a home pregnancy test…I’m just going to leave that one there.

But to summarize Monteiro’s long but insightful discussion, here are five critical things to consider when creating and negotiating contracts.

1. Contracts protect both parties. Never feel uncomfortable about bringing up contract terms. Good contracts clarify project goals, timelines, payment terms, and project deliverables. They protect you and your client. Should anything weird happen on either end, contracts are there to protect both parties.

2. Don’t blindly accept client terms. Often, clients have their own contracts they want you to sign. Review everything before signing anything. If you’re unsure about terms, have them reviewed by lawyer. The process of negotiation is what makes contracts fair. It’s an expected part of the process, don’t be afraid to assert yourself.

3. Decide what’s nonnegotiable for you and your business. Don’t back down. Again, it’s okay to have a back and forth with clients. Initial contracts are like wish lists, so it’s okay to negotiate details of terms. Both parties will have things they cannot negotiate on so it’s better to find out up front if terms are compatible.

4. Let lawyers talk to lawyers. Lawyers have years of experience and are professionals trained to protect their clients. It’s a business essential to have a lawyer you trust who can help you navigate larger or more complicated projects.

5. Be confident. If you know how much something costs, tell clients. You know your cost of doing business, so be confident communicating that. If you don’t know, say let me find out and follow-up quickly. Remember, you are being hired for your fantastic vision and knowledge, so have faith in your business and convey it to clients.

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