There was a time when doing business with a handshake was all we ever needed. It was assumed that everyone would behave with the utmost integrity so there was never any reason to resort to a formal agreement to resolve a dispute.
Unfortunately, that time is over and if you are doing business with a handshake, you are leaving yourself open to all sorts of problems if things don’t go exactly as planned. It doesn’t even need to be for resolving disputes, although having that protection in place is a good idea.
It’s about starting the business relationship with a clear set of rules and expectations so everyone knows how to behave, and of course, if things do go wrong, you have a written document that outlines very clearly what was agreed to.
Perhaps you have already gotten stuck with a nightmare client who makes every aspect of dealing with them painful. Maybe you have already been burned by the delinquent client who makes you chase them to even get a partial payment for services rendered.
Even once is once too many.
Every business needs a written service agreement. Now it doesn’t have to be complicated and it certainly doesn’t need to involve hiring a lawyer and incurring all sorts of extra expenses. What you really need to do is sit down and spend the time to get clear on your expectations.
A simple Client Service Agreement should lay out the basics of working with you, your expectations of the business relationship. When clients are clear about what is expected of them, what they get from you, and sign on the line, you generally avoid all the problems that may have arisen anyway because you were clear up front.
Use these SIX Basic Steps to Create Your ‘Client Service Agreement’:
- How do your BEST clients behave in relationship with you? Make a list of those behaviors and traits so you can start asking all your clients to do the same. For example, being on time to sessions, revealing all necessary information, completing homework, etc.
- How do YOU show up at your best? Think about when you know you are at your best. Perhaps it’s things clients have fed back to you or things that you already know about yourself. Make a list of the behaviors you are willing to commit to every client so they get the most out of your time together. For example, checking in with them weekly by text, being available during certain hours, maintaining confidentiality, etc.
- Who is participating in the agreement? Make sure to have correct spelling of names, current roles and addresses. Be sure you are signing an agreement with someone who has the authority to do so!
- What is the date and location the agreement is being signed? Use full dates with no abbreviations and use the city and state/province along with country.
- What is the term of the agreement? What are the exact dates the agreement is valid for? Is there an option to renew or renegotiate a price? Be specific.
- What are the payment terms? How much is being paid, by when and using what method (cheque, credit card, electronic transfer, etc)? Is there a partial payment up front or non-refundable deposit due? Be very specific.
When you put a Client Service Agreement in place, two key things will happen: 1) you will show up as the professional you are capable of being because now it’s in writing and 2) your clients will perceive you as far more professional because you are the caliber of service provider who uses agreements.
Your clients will want to sign your agreement because it tells them exactly what to expect and holds everyone in the relationship accountable. The bonus for you is if the relationship starts to go off the rails, you have a written document to refer back to that you can use to get back to the ideal scenario or end the relationship then and there.
Have you been burned by ‘business with a hand shake’? Do you have a simple agreement that has helped take your business to the next level? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.
Need a little extra support, call me to get started. Here’s to you finding your awesome!