Why Client Contracts Are Important, Even for Small Jobs

Yesterday I discovered one of my worst fears as a freelance PR agent. Not getting paid for work completed. My client did eventually pay me, but it took longer than expected. I was anxious until I heard the Venmo cha-ching on my phone. (Future post about how to collect payment as a freelance agent). 

The Situation:

I was hired for a one-time, quick project (about 4 hours). I shared my price, she agreed and the client emailed me her materials. I told her that once I received 50% of the total fee, I would get started. She sent the deposit a few minutes later. All good. 

The Challenge:

I didn’t ask my client to sign a contract. When we talked on the phone, she was rushed, and wanted a fast turnaround. I internalized her rushed-ness and justified it. ‘It’s a short gig, MJ, relax.’So I decided not to bother with a contract. Big mistake. I’m confident she would have signed a contract if I asked. I wasn't going to lose the job with that additional step. 

Always ask clients to sign a contract. No exceptions.To be honest, I’m not sure contracts are enforceable or if it’s cost effective to chase after a broken contract. Still, contracts are important. The paper trail is important for your own records. In the future, if you update your website or need to send references, you can look back at all the great work you’ve done. Second, there’s the psychology factor. People are less likely to break a signed contract. If a client refuses to sign a contract, run the other way. 

After I finished the project, the client requested a couple more hours of work. I was anxious that I would get stiffed on the add-on assignment because it wasn’t part of our original agreement. 

The Solution:

I started the second assignment after the client paid me in full for the first assignment. I still didn’t send her a contract because it felt too late to ask even though I have a boiler plate contract that’s easy to customize! Clearly, I am fully responsible for my anxiety. 

The client eventually paid for the additional hours. She was prompt with the first two payments so I had little reason to be concerned. But I was. That’s the deal with a gig economy that I’m still getting used to. 

Moving forward, I’ll always have a contract in place. 

If you need a standard contract for your clients, I’ll send you mine in MS Word. mamta@mjvcommunications.com

Triple M (MJ’s Media Message) delivers PR tips and tools for small businesses and new PR agents. If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment, and share it. Thanks! 

MJ is the founder of MJV Communications, a freelance PR agency in Scottsdale, AZ. Contact us today to discuss your PR needs.