Friday, May 26, 2006

Never work without a signed agreement of understanding

Must admit when I started my business I was clueless and perhaps naive. As you Americans say "kinda wet behind the ears!"

I was perhaps too eager to please potential clients and always worried that by saying the "wrong" thing I would not get the business I so desperately needed at that time - to build a successful portfolio and establish a good reputation.

I learnt some harsh lessons... and one of the hardest was not getting clients to sign an agreement of understanding (aka a contract) to make sure they understood what it was that I would be doing for them and the web marketing or ecommerce of their site and what I expected from them plus other assorted project details etc etc.

So I'll stand up now and say that if you are not doing business with a signed agreement then you really need to look carefully at how exposed your business is to unnecessary risk.

Without an agreement (that YOU and YOUR CUSTOMER both sign) how does your client know what your payment terms are?

Without an agreement how are you going to deal with a client who has now changed the goalposts on a project for the umpteenth time and has no intention of paying you for the extra labour?

Yes most people work on trust and have integrity but there are the sharks out there that do not play by the rules.

Trust me I have experienced them!

They will say how refreshing it is that you are not asking to have them sign a contract and that you work based on trust.... and when something goes wrong... you will have nothing to fallback on to provide to the client to say that they have read, understood and signed the agreeement... with an agreement YOUR business can work completely transparently and your CLIENT understands from the beginning what is expected of them and what you will be providing.

There's also the fact its easier to remind a client that what was discussed and then written down as was agreed - I have had many an occasion where a client has been adamant that I promised something I would not have promised without adding on extra fees for more labour!

If you're not sure how to go about getting a contract of agreement together then I would advise you speak to a lawyer or solicitor as soon as possible. Trust me for most small businesses it should not cost you an arm and a leg to have the right agreement that will help protect you in the event communication breaks down between you and a client.



PS and if anyone refuses to sign a contract or your agreement then I would seriously consider whether it is a wise move to do business with them.