The importance of a good solid contract before starting a new project is extremely important. Not doing so can and will result in pain. Sometimes a lot..
Before I start let me get a disclaimer out of the way. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on TV or in real life. I’m a business owner who has been bitten more than once by his own contract and impatience s to get started on a project. My goal is to make it so you don’t make the same mistake, or at least less times than I have.
Okay, let’s get started.
If you do work for yourself or do project management for a firm who has you writing up the contracts for projects, you know how important it is to have a solid contract. Not just to protect your own backside, but your clients as well.
A good contract sets expectations and what you will and won’t do. Agreeing to something and not fulfilling it or omitting something rather important to the scope of the contract can and most likely will come back and bite you in the rear.
A little background
I started Goldstein Media 11 years ago at the best time in the world to start a business. At the end of 2007 when the financial markets went BUST in a BIG way.
To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. People lost their jobs and many decided to go out on their own. This was a prime time for digital shops like Goldstein Media to help these new bergoning companies get a foothold on the net.
I quickly read about how to start a Web design business and how to charge clients. I bought a Web design contract from a from a design firm. I had a friend, who happened to be a lawyer, read through it and give it his blessing. And I was off and running.
The next 11-or-so years would be marked with lots of fun and success, but also some rather harrowing and stress-inducing times for my little company.
Having not gone to business school, (In fact I was a History and Journalism major with minors in Anthropology and Political Science) I had no idea what the heck I was doing. Luckily my wife did go to school for business and was able to help me along the way. But this didn’t save me from making some pretty idiotic and stupid mistakes along the way.
Fast Forward To Current Day
It’s been 11 years. I’ve been through many iterations of my contract and in fact I’m currently working with a lawyer to rewrite my contracts. But I’ve learned a few things along the way.
- When doing business always have a contract, even if it’s with a friend.
- Having a contract protects both of you.
- Not comfortable having friends sign contracts? At least have the agreement in writing. Email works, but not as well as a contract. Again I’m not a lawyer, so if you are unsure check with one.
- Don’t cut corners. Make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.
- If you don’t you’re leaving yourself open for interpretation and issues.
- Just because it’s taken 6 months to get a deal spend the time on the contract don’t rush through the contract.
- It’s not the end of the world if your client comes back with questions, changes, concerns. Be open with them and be willing to work with them to make the contract fair to both of you.
- Don’t let money or lack thereof get in the way of writing a good contract. In the end you’ll lose money if your contract isn’t solid.
So what have I learned? Above all, I’m not perfect at following my own advice. But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep learning and revising the process.
What lessons have you learned since you started your business? How do you use contracts for projects? I’d love to hear your ideas. Post them below in the discussion area.