are you including these items in your contract?

Contracts \\ DottedDesign Dealing with the logistics of a business like sending invoices and writing contracts are never the highlights of your day when you are a creative business owner. However, having a strong contract can actually make your processes smoother and avoid headaches later on.

You probably know that having a contract helps protect you legally, but it can also help ease conversations with clients since you always have a document to point back to. For example, if you're a designer, a client might send you an email saying, Hey, while you're designing my Facebook cover image, can you also quick do one for Twitter, Google Plus, and YouTube? Thaaaaaanks!! while you say, Wait a minute, she never mentioned those other ones before! You can either reply with a long explanation of why this is actually a lot more work, or you can simply point to your contract and say, Hey! I'm happy to help with these, but since our contract only states that I'll provide a Facebook image, here is what the add-on cost is for the extra ones!

Unfortunately, realizing you need new clauses often results from an experience you had with a client where you didn't have something covered, and then wished you did. I'm hoping that by sharing a few things I've learned might help you!

 Be specific about what deliverables/services you will provide. Like the example above, it is much better to list out which social media profile images you'll provide rather than generically saying, "Will provide profile images for social media accounts." Not only does it save you unanticipated work, but it helps the client understand what he/she is getting and not wonder what work you'll actually be doing. Don't hesitate to list out exactly what you'll be providing by the end of the project, such as how many logo versions, how many rounds of revisions, or how many retouches to a photo you took. You'll avoid being taken advantage of due to vagueness in your wording.

• Lay out your payment schedule. It is standard to require a deposit to begin work - this ensures that your client is serious and you will hold time in your schedule for them. A big point here is to make sure you never hand over final files before you get a final payment! What incentive does someone have to send that last cash if they already have everything you owe them? Of course, that would be pretty crappy of someone to run away without paying, but it always better to be safe than sorry. Also consider how you will handle refunds and late payments.

• The Pause Clause: I first read this idea here, and thought it was a great way to handle clients that continually push off deadlines. We've all had a client who stops replying to emails for weeks or constantly says their content will be ready "next week." Scheduling overlapping projects or knowing how far out to book a future client can be like a complicated dance, and having a project drag out much longer than anticipated can really mess up those plans. And, why does it seem that a client who hasn't gotten back to you in weeks will suddenly reply and need his/her item NOW? Remind them of this pause clause and you'll be in control of your own workflow.

State how you wish to be contacted. This is something I added later on in my business venture, but it sets the tone right away. In my contracts, I state that all phone calls must be scheduled and that emails will be answered between 9-5pm on weekdays. Of course, I do work and send emails outside this window, but it sets the precedent immediately that a client should not expect to send an allegedly urgent email on a Sunday morning and get an immediate response. Setting boundaries for your business is so important to avoid burnout. It is always easier to relax your stated "rules" rather than try to backtrack and enforce them later on.

Discuss ownership and copyright of the work. Does your client own only the final version of what you create? Can they make changes to what you send? Do they get native files? All things to consider when handing over final files!

Your contract is a great resource and opportunity to show your client how to treat you. I find that most often, people don't mean to be rude or try to rip you off - they simply don't understand a process or the work that goes into creating something. Take the chance to educate them about your field of expertise and your relationship will be even better. Of course, the true point is to cover your butt, but your contract can serve as a simple way to initiate the conversation about some of the more uncomfortable things like payments and deadlines.

If you want to know more specifics and language for your contracts, check out resources like Docracy or the Freelancer's Union.

What clauses have you added to your contract to help avoid headaches? Any great resources to share?

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional and my advice is intended to be informational. Be sure to check with your attorney for what specifically applies to your own business and what advice to follow!

business lessonsLaura Huebner