Contract with Client for Career Services
By Lise Stransky.
Career service entrepreneurs have many things to consider when setting up their business. In addition to market research and brand management, they need to determine what to sell, how to sell, and how to deliver the services. How well you structure your service contract with your client can make or break your business.
Why are contracts with clients important?
In the first year of my business, I did not ask my clients to sign a contract. Some would ask me if they needed one, and I was always surprised when they did. As I entered into my second year of self-employment, I reconsidered the value of a contract, and explored how to introduce one and what needs to be in it. Not only does a contract protect you and ensure you get paid, but it can also be a marketing tool. A contract communicates expectations, needs, and wants.
A service contract clearly outlines what is required from the client and from the career professional. And I believe it raises the level of professionalism and helps to support the brand of the career practitioner.
This point is worth reiterating – a contract protects you. One of the most important things that I have included in my client contract is a cancellation policy. It is quite simple, and states: “Please provide 48-hours’ notice to cancel or reschedule your scheduled time. Any scheduled time that is cancelled with less than 48 hours will be billed at the full rate. Every effort will be made to reschedule based on availability. If cancelled with appropriate notice a Client may carry up to one (1) hour of time in lieu, for a maximum of one (1) month.”
This might sound harsh, but most professionals have similar cancellation policies, including doctors, dentists, and massage therapists. Sometimes clients do not realize that considerable effort goes into preparation and researching prior to the appointment. Furthermore, if an appointment is cancelled on short notice that time slot cannot be filled and income is lost.
I also have this note in the cancellation policy, because let’s face it, we all have things come up that we cannot control: “Emergencies happen. If you have an emergency we will work around it. If you must cancel a session on short notice we will do our best to make it up and meet our commitment.”
How can I ensure clients have read their contract? It is impossible to know for sure. I always ask if they have any questions, and on the advice of another career professional, have incorporated the following:
“This agreement must be read in entirety; your first payment indicates you have read and agree to all outlined requirements. Your completed payment indicates that you agree to the terms and conditions outlined in this service agreement.”
This article from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing sums up the purpose and value of having a contract with a client. John does not have a standard contract; rather, he customizes each one. But generally, he uses the following framework in his contracts:
- Statement of Engagement
- Primary Objectives
- What We Need from You
- What You Can Expect from Us
- Communication and Confidentiality
- What We Will Deliver
- Project Timetable
- Results Review
- Fee Schedule
- Options and Additions
This resource might also assist you in developing your contract: How to Use Contracts to Ensure You Get Paid