10 Reasons Why You Need A Contract If You Work With Clients

10 Reasons Why You Need A Contract If You Work With Clients | www.indigocolton.com

If you are a service-based business owner, one of the most important things you need to have in your business is a contract.

While contracts may seem out of place in the online business world (especially if you’re a creative!), they will save you SO much headache, prevent so many issues, and protect you and your business.

Today I want to share 10 reasons why you need to have a contract in your service-based business, and some of these are lessons I have learned the hard way in my years of operating my own business.

Prevent Scope Creep

In your contract, you’ll want to define the scope of service. Essentially, what you’ll be doing for your client. I recommend getting as granular and specific as you can, just so both you and your client are on the same page.

For example, in the contracts for my Project Management services, I outline how many calls we’ll have, exactly what deliverables I’ll be providing, etc. 

It may seem like overkill to get that specific, but when you have a very clear and defined scope of service, you’ll be able to avoid scope creep. 

Scope creep happens when a client hires you for your service, and throughout the project keeps asking for one extra thing here, another extra thing there, and before you know it you’ve done 40 hours of extra work that isn’t billable, and isn’t accounted for in the scope of service.

When you have a scope of service to fall back to in your contract, you can tell your client that their extra requests fall outside of that scope and you’ll be happy to do them for an extra fee.

SET EXPECTATIONS AROUND COMMUNICATION

Your contract should, just like the scope of service, very clearly outline how and when you will communicate with your clients.

This sets the expectations and boundaries from the beginning, and makes sure you and your client are on the same page.

For example, in all of my contracts, I explain that:

  • I am not going to answer emails, Voxer messages, etc outside of my working hours
  • I am not going to answer any communication over the weekend
  • If they need me to do something after hours or over the weekend, there is an hourly rate for that work
  • I will communicate with them in certain ways, and not in others (i.e. I don’t ever text with my clients, but we’ll use Slack instead)
  • When I am out of the office/on vacation/out of town, I am not reachable and will get back to them when I am back at work

The reason you want to get that specific is so that you are protecting your energy, your time, and you’re letting them know that you are a professional and are not going to be at their beck and call 24/7/365.

Just like the scope of service, having a legally binding document that outlines all of this gives you something to fall back to when your client tries to push past your boundaries.

AVOID PAYMENT ISSUES

This is a big one! For a lot of us, it can sometimes feel awkward asking for money in exchange for our creative work. And it can feel even more awkward following up on late payments, reminding your clients when their next payment is due, etc.

By having a contract that clearly lays out their total investment, and the payment schedule (if you have one), you and your client will be able to know exactly what payments are due when.
This means that if your client is late, they know (and agreed!) to your late payment terms. 

This means that if your client claims they already paid you everything when they haven’t, you have a document that can back you up.

Pro Tip: If you use a software like HoneyBook for your contracts, invoicing, etc. you can create an invoice with the payment schedule that matches your contract. HoneyBook will automatically send payment reminders for upcoming payments, late payments, and keep you up to date!

AVOID REFUND / CANCELLATION ISSUES

In your contract, you’ll want to very clearly state what your refund policy is, and what your project cancellation policy is.

This is so that if a client wants to cancel the project halfway through, you both know what needs to happen for that cancellation to be valid, and what happens to their investment.

By being very clear about this in your contract, you’ll have something to back you up if your client tries to get a refund out of you that you don’t offer, or anything else like that.

If you want to have a kill fee for projects (that is, a fee that your client must pay to cancel their project), you’ll also want to outline that in your contract so that your client knows going into the project what your policy is.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS

Basically, if you don’t have a contract when you work with a client, you don’t have any legal protection. And while it’s very unlikely that a client will try to sue you, it is much better to be prepared than not.

The contract can protect your business assets, the business itself, as well as your personal liability. (This is also a good time to mention that legally incorporating your business is an important thing to do as well!)

If you don’t have a contract, or you don’t have your clients sign a contract before you begin working with them, you don’t have anything to support your position or claims.

KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CLIENT GOES AWOL

Have you ever had a client ghost you in the middle of a project? They don’t return any emails, don’t pay their invoices, etc?

If you have a contract with them, you can outline what happens in that situation with a “project pause” clause. You want to clearly define what constitutes a pause (or a ghosting), what actions you’ll take when that happens, and how a client can get their project back on your schedule if/when they start communicating with you again.

This can help you still receive any payments you are owed, but it doesn’t leave you in limbo and allows you to confidently put their project in pause mode and take another client.

HELPS YOU ENFORCE YOUR BOUNDARIES

We’ve talked about this already, but it’s so important that I wanted to call it out on its own.

If you are a (recovering) people-pleaser, it can be very hard to say the word no. Especially to people who are paying you money to do things.

By having all of your boundaries around working with clients clearly spelled out in your contract, you are giving yourself a legally binding document/fallback to keep your boundaries.

Instead of saying “No, I don’t feel like answering your emails when I’m watching This Is Us,” you can tell your clients, “As per our contract, my working hours are X-Y and I don’t respond to any communication outside of those hours.”

KEEP TRADE SECRETS CONFIDENTIAL

We usually think about this just for service-provider-to-client, but this actually goes both ways.

By having a confidentiality clause in your contract, you are ensuring that you won’t share any trade secrets or business secrets about your client’s business, but you’re also ensuring they won’t share any of yours.

This keeps both of you happy, and you can feel confident sharing information knowing that it will remain confidential between the two of you.

SHOWS THAT YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL

When you send a contract to your client before beginning work with them, you are showing them that you are a professional, and you know what you’re doing.

A lot of business owners, especially if they’re stuck in the freelance mindset, don’t think they are ready for or need contracts. So they don’t send them, and that sends a signal to their clients that they aren’t quite a professional yet.

But by sending a contract, and by outlining everything (and more) that we’ve talked about, you are impressing your client AND showing them that you are a professional, and that you take your business seriously.

KEEPS THE PLAYING FIELD EVEN

When you use a contract with your clients, you are keeping both of you on the same page moving into the project. You both know the policies and procedures, nothing is hidden, and you can move into the project knowing that every scenario is covered, clearly outlined, and you don’t have to worry about playing the “What if?” game.

If you don’t have a contract in your business, and you’re ready to get one, I highly recommend grabbing a template from The Contract Shop! Christina Scalera is a lawyer for creatives, and has created insanely valuable contract templates for pretty much everything you can image. You just plug in your own info and go, while knowing that everything that needs to be thought of has been, and is included.

 

 

Get all of your contract templates at The Contract Shop!

How To Automate Workflows in HoneyBook

How To Automate Workflows in HoneyBook | www.indigocolton.com

One of my favorite features that HoneyBook offers is the ability to automate your workflows. This means that when someone enters their information on your contact form, HoneyBook will automatically start working on the next steps, even if you aren’t at your computer or you’re sleeping.

Today I want to share with you exactly how you can set up these automated workflows, so that you can start reaping the rewards -- happier potential clients, and less admin work for you!

1 | Build Out Your Workflow

The first step is to actually build out your workflow in HoneyBook. This is so that HoneyBook knows what to do once the workflow has been activated.

For example, this is what the beginning of my workflow for a new Project Management inquiry looks like:

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When you build out your workflows, you can include files or emails to be sent, and tasks for you to do. I like to get as granular as possible, so that every single possible step of the process is taken care of, and I never worry about forgetting anything.

One important thing to note here: when you are building out your workflow, make sure your first step is done AUTOMATICALLY.

So, with the Project Management workflow above, there is an email that goes out immediately to the potential client that allows them to schedule a discovery call with me. 

That means that they don’t have to wait for me to be at my computer, or see their inquiry, to move on to the next step. Which means your potential client is wowed and taken care of right out of the gate.

I would highly recommend having a discovery call email as your first step, and using Acuity to automate the scheduling -- that means that your potential client will get the email right away, and then be able to schedule your discovery call for a day and time that works best for them without you having to do anything.

2 | Build Your Contact Form

In HoneyBook, you get one contact form to put on your website. If you’re like me, and you offer multiple services, it’s important to build out your contact form in a way that allows you to properly identify which service your potential clients are interested in.

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In my contact form, I keep it very general, and then have the Project Type question set up, so potential clients have to choose a project type before submitting the form.

You’ll want to set up your project types in your settings, as this is where the contact form will pull the options from:

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You can have the wording of the question in your form however you’d like. I opted for a little bit of a cheeky way to ask the question, but use whatever language fits your brand!

3 | Set Workflows to Trigger Based on Project Type Selected

The next thing you’ll want to do is go back to your workflows, and set them to automate via your contact form:

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For every workflow you have, you’ll be able to choose from a dropdown menu with your project types.

Setting this up means that whenever someone submits their info to your contact form, and chooses the corresponding project type, that workflow will automatically be applied and start running.

4 | Embed Contact Form On Your Site

The final step is to actually embed the contact form on your site! This allows the process to get started, and will have you automatically kicking off workflows in no time.

In HoneyBook, you’ll want to go to your contact form and click the button that says “Embed Code.” You’ll be taken to a screen that looks like this:

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You’ll copy the code, go to your website and paste it on the page(s) you want the form to live.

This is what the form looks like on my website, on the Project Management services page:

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The form itself is self-contained (it starts at “Full name”), but it is super simple and easy to fill out for my potential clients.

One thing I love about HoneyBook’s contact form is that the background is transparent, so it will always match the styling of whatever page you embed it on!

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DOWNLOAD THE HONEYBOOK WORKFLOW AUTOMATION CHECKLIST

DISCLAIMER: This blog post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. I only recommend products that I use and love. Thank you for your support!

Why I Switched from 17Hats to HoneyBook

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For the past three years that I've been in business, I've tried countless different online tools and software for running my business. And while I've changed and found the things that I truly love and that serve my business needs best, one thing that hadn't changed was my client management software.

When I started working with clients, I eventually graduated from using Harvest (for time tracking + invoicing) and DocuSign (for contracts) to using 17Hats (for invoicing, contracts, and proposals) and Toggl (for time tracking).

And I've been using 17Hats ever since. But I've also been supplementing it with Streak, which is a CRM for your Gmail inbox. Essentially, it gives you the pipeline view of all your clients and their project status inside of your inbox, which is something I really enjoy seeing.

Over the past two years, I've done free trials of other softwares but never found anything that I liked as much as 17HatsUntil I found HoneyBook earlier this year.

Now, I had known about HoneyBook for awhile, but I always assumed it was too geared towards photographers to use as a non-photographer. And while there is a trend of client management software being first built for photographers and catered to the rest of us creative business owners, HoneyBook has done an amazing job of making sure that everything works -- no matter what industry you're in.

Because of my fondness (and familiarity) with 17Hats, it was going to take a lot for me to want to switch. But HoneyBook exceeded all of my expectations! Today I'm going to share the four things that made switching to HoneyBook a no-brainer for me.

SIMPLIFIED PROCESSSES

Like I mentioned above, for about two years I've been using two different things in tandem -- 17Hats and Streak. But HoneyBook gives me everything those two programs were doing in one place.

When I login to my HoneyBook account, I can see all of my projects in the pipeline and immediately know where each client is in the process:

Client names have been removed for privacy reasons.

Client names have been removed for privacy reasons.

Then, when I click on any client's name I am immediately taken to their project's workspace and can view all of our correspondence, files, and tasks. Having everything in one place makes things SO much simpler!

It also means that my inbox is more simplified as well, which is fantastic. Instead of having Streak installed, and taking up a lot of space visually, I am able to focus on just my emails when I'm inside of my inbox.

I am also in love with the simplified process for sending documents inside of HoneyBook! Where it used to take me 10-15 minutes to create and send a proposal with the corresponding invoice and agreement, it now takes me less than five minutes inside of HoneyBook.

INTUITIVE USER INTERFACE

Whereas 17Hats' interface works really well if you know where everything is and how to use it, HoneyBook's was incredibly easy to figure out, which is amazing!

Everything you could possibly need is easily accessible under the Tools tab. This means you aren't clicking around trying to find anything, because it's all at your fingertips.

All of the categories are also incredibly easy to figure out, and things are exactly where you'd expect them to be, whereas 17Hats' were a bit less logical.

Inside of the client workspace, it is also super easy to figure out what is where, and how to access everything. I love how HoneyBook has everything laid out, because it just makes sense.

The first tab you have inside of the client workspace is the activity -- all the emails you and the client have sent. I love that you are able to send emails straight through HoneyBook (again, spending less time in your inbox!) and everything will sync with Gmail.

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You can also easily see the stage of the client project, if the client has read your emails or not, see all the participants, and any tasks you have that are specific to that client project.

Again, everything is very intuitively laid out so you don't have to waste time wondering where anything is. This means that you are super organized AND spending less time in the admin side of your business. It's a win-win!

STELLAR WORKFLOWS

If you've ever talked to me about systems (or read any of my other blog posts), then you probably know that workflows are my favorite thing in the world. Especially if they're automated! And while 17Hats does have a workflows feature, it was never robust enough or easy enough to use for me to really bother with it.

But HoneyBook's workflows feature is AMAZING. For example, this is the beginning of my workflow for a ConvertKit Migration:

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I'm able to map out the ENTIRE process from when I receive an inquiry to following up after a migration is completed.

I love that you can choose whether or not an email needs to be approved before sending, because it allows you to customize the emails if necessary and delay sending if the project timeline shifts at all.

This keeps me on track for every single thing I need to do.

And because every email and file template already lives inside of HoneyBook, it takes me hardly any time at all to actually complete any of these tasks.

I also never have to worry about if I'm missing a step, or if anything hasn't been sent to the client.

Because workflows can change and evolve as you offer your service, I love that HoneyBook makes it super easy to add steps and rearrange your workflow steps.

This allows your workflows to be living things -- not something that is completely set in stone.

AMAZING REFERRAL PROGRAM

So this technically isn't part of the software, but I am honestly just blown away by HoneyBook's referral program. When you join HoneyBook, you're automatically able to give a 20% savings to anyone who joins through your unique link, which is amazing!

BUT after you transact $2000 through the platform, which is really easy to do if you're active on it, you can share a 50% savings to anyone who joins through your unique link. This seriously blows my mind, because I've hardly seen a referral program this generous.

So, if you're curious about HoneyBook and want to give it a shot, go ahead and click the button below to start your free 14-day trial! If you upgrade to a paid membership, you'll save 50% off of your subscription ;)

AND if you join through my link, and move to a paid membership, I'll hop on a 60-minute complimentary call with you to answer any questions you have about using and setting up HoneyBook!

DISCLAIMER: This blog post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. I only recommend products that I use and love. Thank you for your support!

Why You Need to Track Your Time

I’m sure it’s something that you’ve heard time and again -- if you work for yourself, you need to track your time. But why is that so important? Even if you don’t work with clients, or have to turn in timesheets to anyone, tracking your time can give you valuable information and help you see where things aren’t going how you might think they are.

SEE WHERE YOUR TIME IS (ACTUALLY) GOING

I’m willing to bet that you probably think you know where your time is going when you’re working from home (or from a coffeeshop, or a coworking space). But do you actually know?
 
When you track your time, you’re able to actually see where your day is going and what you’re doing. So if you think that you’re only spending an hour on writing your blog posts, but it’s actually taking three? Then you know that your time isn’t being spent in the way you think it is.
 
And when you know where your time is actually going, you can determine if it’s being spent wisely. Which allows you to start creating new habits around how you’re using your time that will allow you to be more efficient and productive.
 
Which leads me into the next point, which is that you can...

DETERMINE INEFFICIENT HABITS

So now that you know where your time is going, you can see if the things you’re doing with it are efficient or not efficient. And if they aren’t efficient, there’s a 99% chance that means you’re not being as productive as you could be.
 
Now, I don’t say that to say you need to be productive all the time. But if you’re working 12-16 hour days (which is something that is unfortunately a normal experience when you work for yourself), you want to make sure that you are maximizing your productivity when you are working.
 
Let’s take checking your email, for example. If you’re like most creative business owners, you have your inbox open at all times in your browser. (I’m totally guilty of this, too!)
 
And you think you’re spending maybe an hour each day in your inbox, but when you track your time you realize that you’re actually spending four hours in your inbox -- but that time is spread over 10-15 minute chunks throughout your day, so it doesn’t feel like that much time.
 
But really, spending four hours a day on email is not an efficient use of your time. So now that you see what your current habits are, you can start to introduce new ones -- maybe you check your email for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, and close out of your email the rest of the day.

 

LEARN WHAT YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIMES ARE

So you’ve been tracking your time (ideally for a period of at least 30 days so you can see the patterns emerge) and you’ve determined your inefficient time habits. Now, you’re all ready to start scheduling your day in a more efficient way.
 
What you can do now is look back over the past 30 days and see when you were the most productive. What times of day did you get a ton of things done? When were you dragging your feet, or not on top of your game at all?
 
This will allow you to learn what your personal productivity “golden hours” are, and start creating your new schedule around that. 
 
So if you know that you are insanely productive between 10a and 2p, but from 2p to 4p you are not ever getting your best work done, you can schedule all your meetings from 2-4p and never schedule a meeting between 10a-2p. 
 
Doing this means that you are protecting the times of day that you know are the most productive for you, and you’re still able to schedule in everything else that you need to do around those times.