Do you start projects without having the client sign a contract? Let today be the last day!
If you don’t have a contract (that you use EVERY time), it’s time for an intervention. When it comes to contracts:
- You must have one. No ifs, ands or buts about it!
- You need people to sign it before you begin a project. No exceptions!
- While what’s inside matters, the most important thing is that you’re getting a client to sign something that makes your work together official.
Need a contract? Use one of these (free!) resources:
- The contract building tool from the Freelancers Union (and a podcast all about it with Ilise Benun)
- A contract template from AIGA
- And heck, here’s my contract! Go ahead. Use it as a model.
See, no excuses! Now to answer a few questions you might be wondering:
Do you need a lawyer?
I started with the AIGA standard contract, and then a few years into my business, I did have a lawyer review and customize it. In my state, Georgia Lawyers for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance—and your state might have a similar organization. It’s great if you can have a lawyer review your contract. But it’s way better to have a contract that costs you nothing than waiting until you can afford a lawyer to create one for you!
Is it too much legalese for one little project?
The answer is no. It’s perfect! My contract is three pages long. I have never not gotten a project because my contract is three pages long. Even if you’re charging $5 for a project (which you shouldn’t be)—a client needs to sign your detailed contract. Even the smallest project needs a contract!
How should you talk about and implement my contract?
Talk about it in your initial consultation. Don’t hem or haw or apologize and say, “I’m sorry, but I have this three page contract!” No way. It’s a thing, and your clients sign it! You can say, “I have a standard contract you can sign online.” I use HelloSign which is only $13/month and is quite snazzy. Here are more details about how I implement my contract into my process.
What if they don’t sign it?
I won’t start any work without a deposit and signed contract—and you shouldn’t either! Even if the client paid your deposit, they ALSO need to sign your contract. If the project is scheduled to begin and they haven’t signed yet, simply say: “We have one quick housekeeping issue before we get started…”
Now, so I can sleep tonight, please answer YES (below in the comment section or out loud) to this question: Will today be the last day you operate without a contract?
What do you say?