Contracts: Why Your Business Needs 'em and How To Write Them
Keeping your company in good legal standing doesn't need to be this costly rigmarole that takes you away from working on the stuff you love. We live in the future now, so we've got some pretty amazing resources right at our fingertips that can keep us compliant, protected, and actually more professional.
Here's everything you need to know to get started .
What you really need good contracts for:
Contracts are essentially just an agreement between two people. They don't need to be hundreds of pages or written in confusing legalese, they just need to say "hey! these are the specific things we've agreed to do for one another and this is how we'll get it done".
Yes, establishing this stuff in writing is a good idea should something terrible go wrong and you find yourself doing your best Elle Woods impression in front of judge. But it's mostly just a great idea because it sets clear expectations for everyone involved and that ultimately improves satisfaction too!
Depending on the type of contract, things you may want to include are:
Scope of work or description of responsibilities.
Schedules, lead times, deadlines, and any other kind of time frame you want to include.
Payment requirements, billing structures, invoicing periods, late payment rates
Ownership rights and non disclosures.
The procedure and penalties for termination of services.
Terms and conditions
These basically layout the rules for users of your website or products. They're not required by law, but it's still a good idea to have them because they can protect your intellectual property, limit your liability, and give you recourse if a user is misbehaving or misusing your product.
For companies like Apple or Google, these may be pretty specialized, but when you're running a small business there are lots of template and generator resources online that will help you get all of your bases fairly covered.
While it's not a bad idea to take a peak at similar business' T&C's to get a sense of what you should include, make sure you aren't just copy and pasting them into your own site because this could leave you exposed or in hot water for copyright infringement.
This basically tells people how and why you're collecting data, what you'll be using it for, and the ways you'll be sharing, managing, and protecting it.
The tools and resources we (love) to use
The Contract Shop:
First things first, we're an affiliate of The Contract Shop and we just want to be super transparent about that. We've been working through our own legal requirements for our online course, D.I.Y. Your Squarespace Website Like A Pro (live soon!!! eeek!), and the whole process was an absolute breeze because of them. We honestly cannot say enough good things about this site!
It's setup to serve the creative market and there are contracts, T&C's, and privacy policies there that are tailored to all kinds of creative industries. If you're coaching, collaborating, hosting a workshop, designing, or even taking photos of horses, they've got you covered.
When you buy your contract, all you need to do is go through the guided template, which tells you everything you need to know, enter in your company specific information, and you're done! You'll be back, doing the things you really care about, in no time.
We used to use 17hats as our client management database. It comes with tons of templates, including contracts, which are super useful! These are all easy to edit and will check off a lot of boxes for you, but they're going to be a fair bit less specific than The Contract Shop and will be more of a choose your own adventure experience rather than a guided one.
You can also send out your documents and contracts through 17hats for e-signatures and the whole platform will keep track of the status of each of these documents, alert you when you need to take action on anything, and just generally keep all of your client files organized without much effort on your part! Hooray!
Click here to join and get $50 credit towards an annual subscription! (Yup, that’s a referral link too)
When we were using this, it was called CudaSign. It's basically a service that also let's you send out your contracts and documents for e-signature and keeps track of what you've sent out, but it doesn't have any of the database capabilities that 17hats has.
If you're just starting out or you use a different client management software, SignNow is a good, cost effective, option for getting contracts signed efficiently.
Not only are will it help save your clients' and your own time, it'll save on bunch of paper too so you can feel good about that as well!
Dubsado is the platform we NOW use for our client management, and the number one choice that made it easier for us was the templated contracts (and how they look!) and the client portal, which is 100x better than 17 Hats. You can copy and paste a contract from The Contract Shop into any template form in here, or browse their own templates, created for different industries. Again, this link is a referral code because we love them and we love you, too.
Honestly, googling templates for contracts, T&C's, and privacy policies is what we did when we were just starting out. There are tons of free and super low cost options out there and when your funds are limited and your client or user pool small, these resources are all perfectly acceptable options.
When to hire a lawyer
As expensive as it is, sometimes it is worth consulting a lawyer. When it comes to things like partnership agreements and incorporating your business, its not a bad idea to have a professional weigh in and help you through the process.
That said, you don't need to get crazy about this stuff. As long as you can clearly set out what both parties are saying "yes" to - this is what I'm hiring you for, this is what I'm making for you, and this is what you're paying me and when I'll deliver - and both parties sign it, you've got yourself a contract people!
This post does not constitute legal advice in any way, but is intended as a guide based on our learnings, experience, and the updates we've made in our own business.
A few of the links in this post are referral or affiliate links, and we may earn credits towards those platforms, or cash, when you sign up to their platform or make a purchase. We don’t promote businesses we don’t love and use, so you can trust that we pay these companies full $ to use their service and just want to spread the love!