Ask Alicia: When Should I Present My Contract?

by Alicia Sparks on January 24, 2012

See? She forgot to include the deadline. We'll just claim she took too long. MUAHAHAHA!


Hi Alicia!

I love your Ask Alicia posts. So I have one for you :) I have my first face-to-face prospective meeting coming up. Should I have a contract for them to sign? Or are verbal agreements the way to go. If I should have them sign a contract, what should it indicate?

Thanks so much for your time!



Hey Tania!

First, I advise always using a written contract and never relying on a verbal contract with any client – even if you’re friends with the potential client.

(The two times I’ve gone the verbal route were the only two times I got burned – the first time, I didn’t get paid for four months, and the second time I was only paid 20% of what the client owed me. I lost $1,200. NEVER AGAIN.)

Second, don’t sweat having a contract to give them during the meeting. Unless you’ve already hammered out the details with the prospective clients (and I’m guessing you haven’t – what else would you be discussing during this first meeting, after all?), you won’t have anything to put on a contract just yet.

During your meeting, you and the clients will discuss the project. Some of these things can be plugged into a master contract (such as the deadline, your hourly rate or the project’s flat fee, and by what date the client must pay you), but some of them aren’t so easily plugged in (such as project details and information about revisions).

So, go to the meeting with a pen and paper in hand (or laptop – whatever you prefer) and a readiness to discuss all these issues with the clients. Once you all discuss and agree on each aspect of the project (and you’ve taken ample notes), you can mail, e-mail, fax, or hand deliver the contract to them at a later date.

As for the particulars of the contract, I highly recommend bookmarking and referring back to the following pages as you begin navigating the world of contract preparations.

Good luck with your meeting Tania, and thanks!

This post is part of the Ask Alicia series at Learn more, check out some other columns, or shoot me an e-mail directly at alicia [at] writingspark [dot] com (or click here) with “Ask Alicia” in the subject line to ask your own question.