Before signing or renewing a contract, spare a few moments to consider the changes made…
How Do I Make Sure My Terms Are Binding?
70% of terms and conditions we review are not binding! How do you make sure yours are not one of them?
Jess, thought that all she had to do was to put her terms on her website. Boy, was she wrong! Putting your terms on your website is not enough! Poor Jess ended up not being covered by her own terms.
Without watertight terms, your risk of a dispute with your client skyrockets. Legal disputes are expensive, messy, stressful, time-consuming and take your focus away from growing your business.
Alarm bells should ring for you if:
- You copied your terms off the internet. Different countries (or states) have different laws. What Amazon uses, might not be appropriate for you. In Australia, there are small business laws, that mean the rules for big and small businesses are different
- You copied your terms from a friend (see no.1 above!)
- Your term versions are not numbered. How else will you track which version your clients signed up to?
- You have no method of proving your clients agreed to your terms. You need an email trail, a signed document, or evidence of a click-through acceptance. If you are using click through, remember to link the terms near the ‘accept’ button, so your clients can read them through, if they need to.
- You need a lawyer to understand your own terms! If you can’t easily understand your terms without ringing someone to explain them, how would your poor client understand them?
- If your terms are all about you and your rights, then the terms are not being used as a client relationship building tool (which is a wasted opportunity). Your terms are a way to communicate what your client is getting out of the relationship too (and to remind them how great it is for them to work with you). Businesses should have terms that reflect their business personality and relationships with their ‘business besties’.
- If your terms are not updated or reviewed by an experienced lawyer at least every year. This can be avoided if you have a deal with your lawyer to let you know about changes in the law that might affect the terms.
You are probably safe if:
- Your terms have been specifically developed for you.
- Your lawyer is proactive in letting you know about legal changes that might affect your terms.
- You have a paper trail that shows that your client has agreed to your terms (and which version).
Is it worth paying a lawyer to get my terms done?
My answer to that has to be, “Maybe”. Just like you get good doctors and doctors who tell you that the persistent pain in your back is ‘nothing’, when you know something is wrong; you get good lawyers and lawyers who, honestly, just view you as another case and another invoice.
If you are going with a lawyer:
- Be clear what they are (and are not) including.
- How much it will cost.
- Whether they will keep you updated of new law (or update your terms) in the future at no extra cost.
- Will they be tailoring the terms to your specific needs? If they produce a set of terms without asking how your relationships with your clients work – run a mile! You might be getting a standard document that won’t meet your needs.
Stacey has not had any problems with non-paying clients or clients who have ‘misunderstood’ her offers, since she specifically had her terms re-done for her. This has reduced her stress and increased her happiness. For her getting a lawyer that was a great match for her business, was absolutely worth it.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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