Expert Advice
A Risk Management Guide for Marketing and Management Consultants

Chapter 4: Managing Risks as a Marketing or Management Consultant
Part 3: What Should Independent Consultants Include in Their Client Contracts?

Earlier, we discussed how contracts can spare you legal woes if a client alleges you didn't deliver on your promises or refuses to compensate you for your services. To create a document that helps preempt these issues and can hold up in a court of law, include the following points in your contract template:

  • Contact information. Get the basics in place, including your and your client's name and business address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. This acts as a point of reference for your records.
  • Project description. This is perhaps the most important piece of information you can include in your contract, especially if you are worried about Professional Liability lawsuits. Take your time to describe your deliverables. Give your client bullet points of the services you will (and won't) perform. This is also a good place to specify how success will be measured (e.g., lead generation or reduced costs). The goal here is to manage client expectations and keep you both focused on the goals you want to accomplish.
  • Project timeline. You'll also want to include dates when the contract goes into effect and when the contract expires. In this section, be sure to document milestone dates for phase completions, strategy reviews, and the final deadline. Of course, you'll want to leave yourself some cushion just in case the stages take longer than you anticipate. Otherwise, your client may have the grounds to sue you for a breach of contract when you miss a tight deadline.
  • Communication. Specify your and your client's preferred methods of getting in touch. This is also a good place to note the frequency of project updates and how your client prefers to receive them.
  • Rates and fees. In this section, dictate your rate. If it's a flat rate for a consulting package, specify as much. If it's an hourly rate, state the hourly amount. Consider including travel costs, too, if applicable. You'll also want to include your invoicing procedures, including payment due dates, late payment fees, etc.
  • Cancellation clauses and revisions. If your client is unhappy with the way the project is going, the two of you can rely on this section of your contract for the next steps. If your client wants to outright call it quits, your cancellation clause will specify the compensation you are owed. However, if the client wants a revision of your proposed strategy, your revision clause outlines that process. On the other hand, if you don't offer revisions, explicitly state that in the contract.
  • Signatures. You and your client must both sign the document in order to create a legally binding contract. Review the contract with your client and make any amendments before you both sign on the dotted line.

Each client contract will differ depending on the scope of the project and client needs, but you can create a basic template with these points in mind. When you meet with new clients, you can discuss the terms of the contract point by point and fill out the document with their details. This saves you time and a sticky negotiating process.

Next: Conclusion & References

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