How To Review Your First Business Contract

business contracts

I'm not a lawyer, consult one if you have questions.  This is not legal advice and proceed at your own peril.  

I do have experience reviewing and approving contracts for small businesses though.  Here are my observations.  I hope they help you work through reading and reviewing your first business contract.

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Reviewing your first contract as a consultant or trainer

How to review your first contract as a gig worker

Here's what happens.  You talk, get to know their team and see if they like you and want to work with you.  This is when they ask you things like

  • What's your experience
  • How do you normally operate
  • Can you tell us some times you've done this sort of thing before
  • Does this sound like a good fit for you
  • Can you help us with problem x/y/z
  • Is your training plan a/b/c appropriate for situation d/e/f

If they like you they'll start talking about specific details of your training/consulting/coaching.  This is when it starts to get exciting and a little awkward.  Hold your ground and really muster your fortitude through this portion.

  • Are you free to do this training mid next month?
  • What are your rates?
  • Can you teach classes of size X?
  • Can you teach that to full-stack developers?
  • Can you help me convince our CEO of issue x/y/z?

If that all goes well expect a contract from corporate legal.  That's when the fun starts (actually it's super boring).

What to do with your contract when it hits your inbox

First, read it start to finish.  Every word.  No exceptions.

If you don't understand something, ask.  Read and ask until you can explain the entire contract.  Any questions or parts you don't understand, get a lawyer.  Matter of fact just get a lawyer anyway for all and any legal matters.

This process can take some time, but, it's much better to do this before the contract starts.  Now, if you get mentally exhaust or need to take a break, check out my advice for how busy professionals can find time to exercise.

How to request changes and when to ask

If you find parts of a contract you don't agree with or you feel shift too much risk onto your shoulders, ask for a change.

It's not their contract, it's both your and their contract.  They don't dictate the terms just because they have a lawyer.  They are making the first proposal.  It's your job to adjust their proposal so you're happy with it. 

Often times contracts will have clauses that the company doesn't feel super-strongly about.  Those clauses may be there to protect them from some minor issue.  

If that minor issue is a major issue to you, ask for a change.

I recently had this in a contract that had very specific language about who I could/couldn't do business with.  I wanted the potential client to know that even though a competitor wasn't listed in their contract, I did business with them.

If that was a problem, we should walk away.  I know why they wrote that clause into the contract.

They didn't want me sharing their secrets with competitors.  I'd never do that, but, I wanted them to know there were other potential competitors I was working with already.  

When you agree

When you get to a point where everyone is happy with the contract all parties should sign it.  Make sure you keep a copy signed by all parties.  Hopefully, neither you or your client ever needs a copy.

Contracts usually only come up when there's a dispute.  Let's hope that never happens.  But, they do, which is why you should:

  • Read your contract
  • Ask for required changes
  • Consult your lawyer
  • Sign and keep copies
  • Do great work

Signing your first contract is a little scary.  It's a good idea to do business with companies that have a good track record for being easy to work with and kind to their help.  

Note, contact a lawyer and seek qualified legal advice.  I'm not a lawyer and this post isn't legal advice.  

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