It’s 3am, I must be lonely (you just sang that, didn't you?). It’s 3am and you’re FINALLY finishing up your project. Your brain's dead and your eyes are crossed. You finished it days ago, but the client kept coming at you for revisions, until your work was no longer recognizable.
It’s okay, though, because you’ve NAILED his request this time. Push send. Go to bed. Happy.
But said client isn’t digging it and says the stars are no longer aligned in your favor so he wants a refund. WHAT?
You double check your emails, Skype notes, and invoices, no mention of “nonrefundable” anywhere.
Damn it (headdesk).
Had you used a contract, instead of email, you’d have that deposit still in your hands. Had you not let his charm make you feel at home, you’d have put that “nonrefundable” clause in there. Had you not been in a hurry, you wouldn't have forgotten the most important word in your invoice terms.
Expensive Lesson Learned
It happens. I know. And it's all good. You know why? Had I not learned an expensive lesson just like this yesterday, I'd not invested in amazing resource that's going to save me thousands of dollars this year. Yep. Thousands.
So the lesson I learned that I want YOU to learn without losing hundreds of dollars?
Protect yourself. Protect your business. Protect your profits.
Email vs. Contracts
Up until yesterday, I was using email as contracts. They are binding. But, here’s the thing. If you forget to put something in or in a moment of weakness, choose not to, you could get burned.
Just like I did. (I'm aware canned emails are an option, but you run the risk of leaving out a lot of important points that smart people like lawyers (I’m looking at you, Mitch Jackson! Thank you for your help!) remember to cover). Besides, Ash Ambirge over at The Middle Finger Project says this about not using email as contracts, "Because you'll get sued up the ass." Not kidding. Exactly what she said. (And also why she created the Small Business Bodyguard...we're coming to that part, hang on).
But dealing with clients and contracts can be touchy.
Email feels more relaxed. It’s easier to deal with. You give people the benefit of the doubt. So you choose not to sound snotty and leave out the non-refundable clause in your email. Or you choose not to risk losing them by excluding it from the deposit invoice. Or you choose not to bring it up at all in your initial talks.
Now you're playing with your money. You cannot risk losing profits at the whim of a client deciding to nix a project, for whatever reason.
Set Up a System to Help You Deal with the Dirty Word
When you’re contacted about your service, get the request out of email ASAP. In a friendly, relaxed tone, get them to agree to a Skype meeting and talk face-to-face, where you’ll happily talk all about how great their project is. But don’t be a wuss when it comes to talking contract details. Put it all out on the table – in a very nonchalant way.
"Contract"'s a dirty word. It’s big and intimidating and makes them feel like they might risk some cash if they’re not happy. You can’t worry about how it looks to them, but you can make them feel good about it. Address those fears and sway them – in the contract – and in the meeting. Ship over the details of the call in an email with the contract, as soon as you're done.
Cover Your Ass
You are an entrepreneur.
You are running a business.
You have to protect your profits.
Do not play games because you think contracts and legal mumbo jumbo are too scary for them. If they are, those clients don’t belong on your project calendar anyway.
Because of the little lesson I learned, I invested in the Small Business Bodyguard yesterday (yep, that's an affiliate link because I ADORE mine!). Contracts and disclosures are Badass’D Biz because profits are as badass as it gets.
Don’t sweat the details, SBB does it for you. You’ll get $5000 worth of legal advice and templates for a measly $275. Even saw in the testimonials how SBB saved one user $20,000 in taxes. Can’t wait to find out how that works!
Get your biz together. Get these lawyer contracts in your corner. Protect your profits.
Tell me what you use to bind clients? Email or contracts?