Does Your Contract Have What It Needs?
As any good author, copyrighter, or PR guru will tell you…words matter. And when they have legal meaning attached? Then they really matter. A single word in a paragraph can change the entire meaning of the provision-aka, it can determine who gets paid in a dispute, and who doesn’t. And it happens all the time.
Spend any amount of time in a creative business Facebook group, and you’ll see what I mean: a plethora of cases crop up daily with frantic asks on how to handle contract disputes, how to enforce a contract, what to do when a client cancels a wedding… the list is endless.
When I talk to creatives and they find out I’m a lawyer, a common response is “You’re probably going to hate my contract and tell me I need one from a lawyer, aren’t you?”.
And to date, the answer has never, not once, been “yes”.
Now, don’t get me wrong- any time your contract is the result of a panic-induced cut and paste escapade, I’m going to tell you that you need to revisit your contract. And just because you don’t have to have a lawyer draft yours, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Technically, a client could just play an iPod at their reception instead of hiring a DJ, or they can just ask wedding guests to snap photos on their phones instead of hiring a wedding photographer… but that doesn’t mean they should, does it?
Here’s the tough love: every time you work with a client, a collaboration, or hire an independent contractor or employee, you open up your business to potential liability. Contracts protect your business in each of those scenarios, which is why a contract is the most important protection that your business can have.
Although many lawyers will cringe at this, you don’t always need a contract drafted by an attorney. Many business owners in the early stages of their business simply can’t afford a custom contract for an attorney at the outset. If you have a contract that you have thoroughly vetted, it may just be sufficient for your business needs. So, the question becomes: how do you know if your contract is sufficient?
Until you want to invest in a template or custom contract drafted by an attorney, your contract needs to be able to pass this test.