Rounding off a stellar series of important business advice for the emerging entrepreneur, life coach extraordinaire, Madeline McQueen, writes about the importance of setting up procedures to protect you and your business.
When my husband (David McQueen) first started speaking for a living, he’d excitedly come home and tell me that he had been asked to speak and provide me with the date. He would receive an email from a prospective client, respond via email to say “Yes” he could do the date, possibly give a price and hey presto, he was booked.
One day I asked him; “So, when people book you, what is the process that they go through to do so?”
“What do you mean?” he asked me. I explained that I wanted to understand how the process of booking him, actually worked. Did they complete a booking form? Had he given them terms and conditions? What if they cancelled at the last-minute? What if they moved the date? How did he know that they were committed to the booking?
He looked at me blankly… he didn’t know.
Over the years, I’ve work with business owners, coaches, consultants, freelancers and speakers and I always ask them questions about their booking process. Sadly, most have nothing in place to manage their bookings and, ultimately, protect themselves.
Many do not have a booking form which clarifies the details of the booking or commits the purchaser to the booking. The mention of terms and conditions including cancellation and postponement terms garners a blank stare. I can guarantee that the mention of deposits, invoices and securing payment will illicit a groan as the reality sets in that these things are either not in place or are difficult for them.
Let’s be clear, if you are selling your services, then it is imperative that you have a strong administrative process that protects you and your business. This not only helps you gain the information that you need to deliver for your client effectively and gain the commitment of the client, but it also let’s your client know that you are serious and professional about what you do.
It is so easy for circumstances to change in an organization and you can be left out in the cold at the last-minute. All it takes is for the person you were dealing with to leave. I know people who have done masses of preparation work for a client and have turned down other work because they thought that they were on to a sure thing. Then the client cancelled on them and because they had nothing in place they were left out-of-pocket. It’s a horrible feeling especially when you know you’ve got bills to pay and that money was supposed to pay them.
Don’t put yourself in this situation, ensure that you have a client booking form or contract with clear terms and conditions about your intellectual property (IP), media terms, payment terms and anything else that is relevant. This should also cover information such as your contacts details, the company details, event details, what they specifically want from you, where they heard about you and lots of other information that will ensure that both parties are clear about the agreement to work together. You should also ask for the invoicing details and invoice contact using this form.
If you’re clients sends you a contract, then you should most definitely use a lawyer. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve received contracts from clients where they wanted to own my IP, cancel on the day of delivery without any compensation to be paid or expect me to accept unlimited liability. This is not on!
You might decide to just sign a contract because you’re grateful that a large company will consider you or because you just want the income. But nothing beats due diligence and a good lawyer. I use JFH Law LLP, specifically Laura Pearce. I can recommend her without a second thought because she has saved our business over and over again. I can hear some of you saying, “I can’t afford a solicitor” my answer will be “You can’t afford not to have one.” Their small business package makes sure that we are protected at an affordable rate.
It’s easy to take standard contracts off the internet, but nothing beats having your own crafted for you. I know an acquaintance who ended up in court and lost the case because her standard contract didn’t actually protect her. It has a clause that she didn’t even notice that meant that she was liable.
Don’t let this be you.
If you are in business, then you need to protect your business interests. Put the systems and processes in place. Yes, it takes time, but it is truly worth it and it works wonders for your reputation.
Success should be on your terms and you have to protect what you offer. Remember if you don’t protect your business no one else will.
Visit Madeline McQueen’s website.
Read Madeline’s series of articles here.