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Should I use contracts?

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Jason Bullock
Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:53:14 am

I am starting my freelance video production company in January. I am in North Carolina, about thirty minutes away from Raleigh but in a county with a lot of small towns and businesses. I am debating whether or not that I should use contracts starting out.

I do want to make sure I'm covered in case anything happens to me but I'm afraid that in a place with a lot of small businesses, it will turn away potential clients. Are my fears just that and should I go ahead and do contracts or are my fears right?

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Greg Ball
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 1:41:56 am

Of course! You should get a good contract attorney to write up one for you.

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Ann Clark
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 1:52:54 am


When it comes to money and performing a custom job like video, a contract will save you a lot of grief, if it is written correctly. My feeling has always been that a client who balks at the contract will eventually balk when it comes time to pay.

Recently, I had a client who paid us for a service, but somehow our team missed getting a signed contract along with the check. First, he sent just a check - but unsigned. Hm. When we asked about a replacement check, he acted sheepish, then finally sent a signed check. But in all the shuffling, we didn't get a signed CONTRACT (which would have limited what we agreed to do for him, for that money). Nevertheless, like good sports, we proceeded to do the work, as if he had actually signed the contract. (We didn't want to turn down the business, you know.)

Then he raised a big stink later on, demanding things that we wouldn't have been contractually obliged to do, had he actually signed the contract. Long story short, he eventually quit calling, then had an aggressive buddy call us to try to bully us into a refund on the custom work that had been performed, then eventually they both quit calling. But not without making us miserable with their harassment.

Anyway, that's what we got for trying to help this guy, without having the paperwork.

Having a contract is just good policy for keeping your business solvent, and the phones quiet.

MacPro 2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 14GB memory - OSX10.6.4 FCP7

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Tom Dunlop
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 2:42:29 am

Contracts are valuable if your wishing to preform on a Professional level and stay productive, the issues that can be solved due to haven a well written contract that lays out exactly what you offer and what your terms are can save you much hassle.

Often clients will ask you for "X" amount but also expect "Y" amount extra when it was never specified and often the blame lands on you or your team to make up for this.

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Simon Roughan
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:55:27 pm

Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: Yes, of course you should.

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Craig Seeman
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 4:28:22 pm

[Jason Bullock] "I am debating whether or not that I should use contracts starting out."

Do you like living dangerously, putting your business and means to put food on the table and a roof over your head?

There are many templates out there. This is one if you want to buy a basic model. As things get more complex you might want to have a lawyer write a template. Each job may have variations though.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:03:04 pm

A man I respect once told me: "With the right people, a contract isn't necessary. With the wrong people, it's never enough."

There are people in this world to whom a word and a handshake is everything. And you can work to be one of those people. But you can't count on working with only these kinds of people. Contracts are important more for defining the relationships and responsibilities when something goes wrong, then for anything else. They provide some certainty of who will do what, who is responsible for how much. They eliminate the guessing games.

If you're afraid that contractual language is too intimidating and formal, you could try to put it in plainer terms. Just be aware that what seems arcane language is that way for the sake of precision, using very well-defined vocabulary that meets a standard.

If you're going to try to do jobs without any contracts at all, you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage of eventually. Certainly, a real businessman would not operate that way.

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Andrew Rendell
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Sep 28, 2011 at 8:42:18 pm

Yes of course you should always use contracts. If anyone doesn't like it, think about why that is, because in my experience that probably isn't someone who you want to be working with anyway.

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Grant Wilber
Re: Should I use contracts?
on Oct 24, 2011 at 10:14:46 pm

I'm in the same situation where I'm on the fence with some people about whether to get a lot in writing or not.

At the very least come up with an 'agreement'. Just a bullet point of what they are paying, when they are paying, and what you are providing in terms of the production shoot and final edit delivery. Alot of times the client will actually appreciate you doing that.

There will be times when shoots get cancelled after you rented a bunch of equipment or postponed after you arrived and paid for parking, and other factors that you'll wish you came up with a better contract.

I dont think it will turn people away though as usually you'll be giving the contract after they've already decided to go with you. If anything what you can do is have a 1st page 'agreement' where its large print and easy to understand, then a 2nd page with the 'fine print'. That way people don't feel that they are signing a huge legal document.

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