A Quick + Easy Run-Down on Small Biz, Side Gig Service Agreement Contracts: Tips and Tactics from a Legal Expert
Many side gig, small businesses start organically for women and the wheels begin to turn before the structure of the car is built. A friend asks you to do a little photography or design project, then she tells a few friends what a swell job you did, and before long you’ve got a full-fledged side gig, small biz. It’s exciting and feels good. But there’s an inevitable point in a small business where you begin to venture out of your friend zone to build a more robust client base, there lies the time for visible processes to be set in place for formality and optics sake.
Contracts convey legitimacy and cover your ass, so they’re well worth understanding and integrating into your initial small business set-up. My legal knowledge is limited, like my marriage license and parking ticket procedures are my only exposure to the justice system, so I reached out to my dear friend Whitney; she’s Corporate Counsel for Fortune 500 healthcare and life sciences company and has specialized in corporate contracts for the last five years. She spends most of her days pouring over high-stakes contracts, then interpreting and negotiating these complex documents. She beautiful and knowledgeable-the interview was a crash course in liability– here’s the scoop.
What You Communicate to a Client via a Service Agreement/Contract
“Contracts impart a business is successful enough that they want to protect their assets,” Whitney weighed in regarding the importance of contracts for a small business owner. What I didn’t expect is the feeling of success on my end, as a small business owner, when I emailed my first contract to a client. The contract carried transparency between the client and myself, along with a formality of our relationship. With a contract, you are stating that you respect your client and your business.
As a mom and side gig, small business owner, it’s obvious things will come up that could hinder the delivery of agreed-upon services. Your kid will inevitably jump off the bed and break their arm right before your first scheduled photo shoot or on the day your design project is due. Establishing a document to ensure a back-up plan is in place will put your mind at ease and cover any consideration of transgression by a client. When implementing this aspect into your contract, here are some clauses to Google search:
Best Practices in Contract Cultivation
One important takeaway I wanted to gain from my conversation with Whitney is a big picture understanding of a contract and how to build it well. Here are some guidelines she recommended:
What to do if Things Start to Sour with a Client
Contracts are a channel for communication; they’re also an agreement and framework to hold a business owner up if hardships arise. Whitney suggests, “Mediation or arbitration for disputes. They can be less expensive and quicker, and they’re confidential.” She prompts the consideration, “What’s your big loss going to be if things turn sour?” It’s important to consider your reaction to questions such as this when composing your contract and conducting service-based business. Your customer is extremely valuable. In the unlikely circumstance that your business falls into a dispute, it’s best to connect with a lawyer or mediator in the early stages to ensure you are taking proper steps to reconcile. Whitney’s final sage advice: though cyber-legal support is plentiful, it’s always best to confirm with a professional.