Too many designers have simple client agreements, or they have an outdated contract they’ve been using forever. While that’s better than nothing, it’s SOOO important to have a really great and in-depth client contract. And then to review it every year to be sure it’s changing when/if your business does. Here are 5 reasons that you need to nail down a great client contract:
1. To Protect Yourself
A good contract spells out responsibilities on both sides. But it should protect both parties, too. So it should spell out payments, timelines, duties, and responsibilities. And even what happens if the client sees an issue with their furniture three years after the project is complete. Yes, that’s happened! A contract could say that you do not take on any liability or offer any warranty beyond the manufacturer’s. Think long-term when you’re revising your contracts!
2. To Set Expectations
In a lot of cases, your clients may not have worked with a designer before. A well-thought-out contract should spell out how you work with your clients and what you respect in return. For example, you want to include information about how you’ll photograph the project once it’s complete. If you don’t talk about that in the beginning, you may find yourself shut out once the installation is over! It’s happened to a LOT of designers I know and even if you don’t want to publish your work- you need it for your online portfolio!
3. To Cover the Unexpected
Obviously you can’t predict everything that will happen. But you can use your experience with other projects and clients to head things off at the pass. If you know clients are shopping you more than ever, maybe you want to include language that details a penalty for purchases made after they’ve agreed to your furnishings proposal. Expect the unexpected!
4. To Keep Things Professional
Our jobs as designers put us in very intimate circumstances with our clients. We’re in their homes and lives more than most people in their circle! And often we become friends with them – or we work with people who were already our friends. While the friendship is great, it can create BIG problems when you’re working together. Having that client contract keeps everything professional. It keeps you out of awkward situations with a friend and allows you to remind them that this is your business!
5. To Protect the Client
The thing about a really good contract is that it will keep YOU on track, too. Things are less likely to fall through the cracks or get overlooked if they’re written down in black and white. It gives them recourse and makes them feel safe with the process. It holds everyone accountable.
While you can’t cover every single issue in a contract, you definitely want to hit the biggest and most important trends to protect your business and help boost your bottom line! And please have a lawyer review it! If you need a little push to put this on your To Do List, then download my FREE document that helps you prioritize and categorize what you need to get done!