You finally landed that much sought-after client and are ready to get started on the project. It's tempting to move forward on a handshake, but it's worthwhile to take the time for your client to sign a written contract. More than a binding legal agreement, a consulting contract also serves as an important point of reference for both you and your client. Use the many benefits of a signed document to define the client-consultant relationship and iron out all your terms and conditions in advance.
Define the Scope of WorkWhen selling your consulting services to a new client, you are likely to discuss a varity of projects that could be tackled. In fact, the client's wish list can quickly grow long. However, when it comes time to perform the job, it helps to have a clearly defined scope of work. Having this written description of the services you will perform prevents potential confusion about what the client may or may not have been expecting you to handle.
Upsale Your Services
A written contract is not only a legal document, it can also be used as a marketing tool. For example, take time to verbally review the terms of the agreement with your customer before he signs it, particularly the portion defining scope of work. Sometimes a client will decide to broaden the services performed, once he sees the details in writing.
Another upsale opportunity occurs upon the expiration of the contract. Prior to a project being completed, or shortly before the consulting agreement is slated to end, meet with the customer. Discuss opportunities for new projects, and review the potential for extending your services for the next phase of work, now that initial results have been realized.
Identify Expectations and Client ResponsibilitiesThere's more to a contract than simply regurgitating the legalese of a broiler-plate document. A good written contract goes beyond legal terms and conditions to clearly state the responsibilities of both the consultant and the client. What results does a client expect from the consultant? Does the client understand that certain performance issues and timeframes are dependent upon the client providing specific information in a timely manner? During the course of the relationship, should there be a misunderstanding about results, or the time in which a project was completed, you can easily refer back to the written document and quickly resolve the issue.
Establish the RelationshipWhen you work on a freelance basis, a written agreement can be an important method for establishing that you are operating as an independent contractor. This could prove especially beneficial to the client should he need to prove to the IRS that you are not an employee. In addition to stating that fact clearly in the contract, you should also detail where, how and when the work is to be completed - and make it clear that, as a consultant, the client does not dictate those terms.