Let me set up the typical scenario:
Prospective Client: Hi Attorney Proia. My accountant, Joe Schmo, suggested that I contact you.
Me: Hi! How can I help you?
Prospective Client: A customer called me up and needed a custom website with X, Y, and Z functionality. The website came out great, and other customers are interested in it. Who owns the website?
Me: What does your contract say?
Prospective Client: I don’t have a contract. They needed the work done in a hurry…there was no time to lose…it was a handshake deal…
Why, oh, why didn’t you think about this stuff BEFORE you did the work?
Written contracts are important. They define relationships. They sort out the pesky little details like what happens if you don’t perform, who owns what, and how on earth you’re going to get paid.
When I worked in-house, legal was always blamed for holding up the deal. If it weren’t for legal, we could have booked that order by now. (I always liked to think that if it weren’t for legal, the company would be out of business because we’d never get paid, everyone would steal our IP, and general chaos would reign, but I digress.)
I know that negotiating contracts can be frustrating and time-consuming. Contracts can actually be scary for small business owners. What if I ask for too much? Will the customer walk away?
When you think that the worst thing that can happen is the customer walking away, it feels better to just take the money without making waves. Can’t you hear the list of excuses for not getting an agreement in writing? They seem like nice people. They’ll never sue me. I know they’re good for the money.
But then you end up with uncertainty, and let me tell you, uncertainty is WAY scarier than letting the customer walk away. In fact, after a few rounds of trying to get your money, you will wish you had let them walk right out the door.
By trying to avoid a little pain in the beginning, you could be dealing with a lot of misery in the end.
Don’t let this happen to you. Get it in writing BEFORE the $#!+ hits the fan (because you can always use the contract to clean up after the mess.)