Reader – I had a choice to make. A tough one.
I could acquiesce to the client’s demand that I edit my Service Agreement to their liking, or I could stick with my guns. Sticking to my guns would cost me a potential $24,000 in fees. So… what did I do? And – more importantly, faced with this conundrum – what would you do?
We all have different ‘red flags’ in our business. After some time in the game, you’ll notice patterns of behaviour around clients that will show them to be either a great collaborative partner or a potential headache and heartache. One of my red flags is client behaviour around my Services Agreement.
So, what’s a service agreement?
A Service Agreement is pretty much a contract between a client and yourself. All businesses should have clear terms of engagement and they should not be copy and pasted from the lawyer known as Google. It will typically feature length of engagement, who owns what in the relationship, what you are committing to do/not do etc. It is a formal document which sets down a clear understanding of your business relationship.
So when you’ve come to an agreement in principal with your client and you send them your Services Agreement, it’s not unusual to either have no queries, or to have one or two simple queries to answer before it is signed. However; should one come back unsigned that features multiple corrections and demands to change terms and conditions you’ve carefully included – you’re in red flag territory.
Confidence in your contracts
Here’s the thing; no-one needs to work together. Just because someone might want to work with you, doesn’t mean they can. Cost might be one barrier, attitude to your contract is another. And in the same way you’d not drop your fees just to ensure someone can use your service, nor would you throw your fit-for-purpose contract in the bin. When winning business, it is possible to be too accommodating. Don’t get me wrong. If you do not understand what is in your contract (and you’ve copied it from elsewhere, it not being authored specifically for you) it is harder to be firm on terms and conditions. Similarly, if you are having all prospective clients make complaints about your terms of engagement it may be time to review your contract. But if your contract has allowed you to win work and build a successful business, have faith in it. Another person’s opinion of your contract is simply that; an opinion.
I’ve only had to turn down four clients in 12 years based on their expectation that I would amend my Services Agreement to their liking. In all four of those conversations, I can confirm that I was mansplained to.
“You don’t know what’s in your contract, do you?”
“Do you understand why you need to change this part?”
“I don’t see why you wouldn’t make this one little change.”
Now I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to business, and I nip these relationships in the bud quicksmart. The assumption I don’t know what I am doing is offensive. It’s not OK to mansplain a contract back to its originator.
Power to the Next Level with a No
Several things give me a big rush in life. Buying real estate at auction, finding that perfect boujee Louis Vuitton scarf, taking on a lease at a beautiful work premises. You know what else costs a lot and gives me a big rush? Saying no to business that’s a bad fit. Sure, it’s expensive. I chose not to work with the client who wanted me to change my Services Agreement at the potential cost of $24,000 per annum. That’s a lot of UberEats, fam. But you know what tastes better than divine morsels from Lucky Little Dumplings on the regular?
My integrity as a founder. When we say no to working for clients who can’t afford us or do not align with our values, we’re saying a big yes to ourselves. When we acknowledge red flags and take action rather than acquiescing to another’s demands – when we choose who may or may not enter our sphere of business – we’re shaping our culture and the way we spend our everyday. And is there anything more important to our happiness as entrepreneurs? Methinks not.