If I read one more article that says you “should” use written contracts, I’m going to lose it. I’ve also read articles stating that you must reach “an agreement” with a client prior to beginning work. What does that even mean? The bottom line is, if you want to get paid, you must use written contracts.
If you don’t have one in place you’re asking for problems if anything goes wrong with a project. Especially if that client that seemed so great turns out to be the client from hell.
It’s tempting to wing it, especially when you are just starting out. You need clients. You need to build your portfolio. Most of all, you need money. But you have to get everything in writing. In the long run you will make more money if you do.
I’ve seen the problems that a lack of written agreements can create. In fact, one of the first things I ask new clients is whether they have written agreements with their clients. If they don’t, we rectify that problem as soon as possible.
I learned this for myself. This is difficult for me to admit, but. . . I am a lawyer and I’ve made this mistake.
When I started my law practice, I took on new clients and (sometimes) wouldn’t have them sign an engagement letter right away. I was so excited to have a new client and work to do that I would dive right in. Even worse, I would not get a retainer. And now I use the Replenishing Retainer and the sky is bluer, and the stars are brighter at night.
As I tell my clients, spend a little money up front to get everything right, and you will save money if (or when) something goes wrong. So, always use written contracts, and make sure they specifically identify the parties’ duties, the payment terms (including your retainer) and include an attorney’s fee provision. This provision is essential if something goes wrong and you have to hire a lawyer. When you prevail, your (now) former client will have to pay you for the fees and costs you spent litigating the matter. That provision also acts as a deterrent to a client who may try to get out of paying you.
It can be difficult talking about contracts and money to a new client. But you’ll learn two things very quickly if you confidently and effectively, deal with the money issue up front. First, you will get paid (Yay!). Second, your client will respect you (Yay! again). And if the client doesn’t want to enter into a contract with you, then run. As fast as you can.
In conclusion, remember: no contract, no work. And use the Replenishing Retainer. Contract + Retainer = getting paid on time. How beautiful is that?