By Alan Graner
The following is excerpted from Solo PR’s free eBook, Get It In Writing! The Communications Consultant’s Guide to Contracts by Kellye Crane and Jenny Schmitt.
Disclaimer: Daly-Swartz Public Relations has no relationship whatsoever with SoloPR.
Having solid agreements and contracts demonstrates you’re a serious consultant who means business.
Because it’s all too easy to have misunderstandings about goals, tactics, timelines and payments. By getting everything in writing, you protect both you and your client (something any client worth having will appreciate).
To accomplish this it’s recommended you consult an attorney to get the standard agreements you’ll need for most business situations. Remember, however, even the strongest contracts aren’t bullet-proof protection against deadbeat clients.
5 main elements of a business contract
Most business contracts include the following:
- Appointment: States you’re being hired for an appointed term.
- Services: The work you’ll supply and specific deliverables.
- Indemnities: In case of a third-party lawsuit, both sides will hold the other “harmless.”
- Compensation: What you’ll be paid, terms of payment and what happens if the contract is terminated early.
- Signatures: signatures and dates.
Although there are lots of ways to word a legal agreement and many situations differ, here are some key considerations you should pay attention to.
Typically, payment terms can include:
A certain percentage (1/2, 1/3, etc.) is paid before work begins on short-term projects. Long-term projects may require monthly retainers, with a deposit to begin.
Retainer vs. hourly vs. project
Determine whether your project will be paid as a monthly retainer, as an hourly fee or a project fee. The agreement should include minimum and maximum hours, deliverables, number of revisions, etc., to clearly spell out what your client should expect and what your labor costs include.
Due date for payment
When will payment be due: Upon receipt? In 30 days? This should be clearly stated.
Interest or penalties
Including language that stipulates late fees and/or interest charges is a common way to motivate clients to pay.
Be careful of signing anything that includes a non-compete clause because it could seriously limit your ability to earn a living.
These, of course, eliminate the time, effort and money required to draw up your own contracts. However, it’s still important to hire a lawyer review the contract before you sign. Common “gotchas” include:
- Insurance requirements
- Payment timelines
- Inapplicable language
- Indemnify/hold harmless
Examples of Letters of Agreement
SoloPR’s eBook includes several sample Letters of Agreement. To view them, download the free eBook. “Get It In Writing”, along with other downloads and templates, is available from the SoloPR website at http://soloprpro.com/members/learning.
What suggestions have you found valuable in consultant agreements?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For expert consultation on your PR needs, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.