Your Legal Fairy Godmother
If you have a contract you need to listen if you don't have a contract you definitely need to listen.
Heather Stanford Gould has been dubbed the Legal Fairy Godmother to the wedding industry. She has two businesses - Stanford Gould and Stanford Gould Online – and she helps you lovely creative geniuses with all the legal contractual and compliance advice that you don’t know where to start with.
Client contracts, supplier agreements, freelancer contracts, insurance and liability issues, GDPR – all that tedious but crucial stuff you know you need for your wedding business.
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Contracts aren't Sexy
Heather starts by explaining the #yourlegalfairygodmother and how that came about. Contracts aren't sexy, that aren't instagram worth and people get scared and in feeling that way avoid dealing with them. However, by creating the hashtag it opened up contracts to becoming a little more accessible for a creative audience. Making it a little more creative like the industry rather than trying to make the industry more like a law firm.
So the hashtag was born to meet the industry where we are at and make the subject a little less scary looking.
Your Legal Fairy Godmother went out on her own
Having worked as a dispute resolution lawyer Heather decided she wanted a change and initially set Stanford Gould Ltd up with the aim of helping small businesses with their contractual requirements. She wanted to make this very important STUFF accessible not only from a jargon perspective but also from a price point perspective.
After working with a commercial sports photographer she was recommended to a wedding photographer and the rest, as they say, is history. She saw more and more wedding professionals and so saw a need within the wedding niche and decided to dedicate her talents and abilities to helping wedding suppliers.
What are the biggest contract mistakes people make
There are huge differences between the contracts that have crossed the doors of Stanford Gould. From 3 sentences on the back of an invoice which is probably the worst. Not only is 3 lines inadequate but sending it on your invoice is too late you might as well not have bothered. At the other end you get the this is how we are going to work this is what we are going to do which can be impenetrable to a client. Often there are three significant gaps in contracts whatever the length:
- Understandability ~ The user-friendliness of it. 'Sounding' like a lawyer doesn't make a solid contract.
- Conflicting information ~ When people copy and paste from different places they end up creating conflicts e.g have payment requirements and cancellation clauses that in reality means you aren't holding the right amount of the clients' money to cover the cancellation at that time stated in the contract, meaning you are highly unlikely to recover that money.
- Liability Clauses ~ Almost universally this is the bit missing from most contracts and these are the bits that protect your business if things go 'tits up.' They should be legally fair, follow the rules and protect you the supplier, your house, car, pension your assets. THIS IS NO.1 Priority in your contract.
Is your contract not worth the paper it's written on?
You could write your contract yourself, should you is another question. It doesn't have to come from a legal source to be enforceable however if it's not sound there might not be much to enforce.
In a post COVID world given what the industry has been through and what potential clients have seen. If you agree to provide services to a couple and don't send any paperwork, contracts, terms & conditions, they are highly likely to be wondering what type of outfit you're running.
Clients are going to be more cautious over who they hand money too and how they hand that money over because we have learnt as have they that the unthinkable can happen and does happen. The result has been many people have lost out financially clients and suppliers alike.
No contract can be water tight it's just not possible but a good robust contact that will act as armory for you is possible but trying to do it yourself is a waste of your time if you want that robustness. The amount of effort you'd need to put in would be better spent on money making activities. I good template or bespoke option not only means you'll get it right but could save you thousands if something were to go wrong.
You can get generic templates from under £100, time would be needed to adjust these and make them applicable to your particular service or product. Then you have industry specific templates which you can get at Stanford Gould Online LTD which start at £99 with extra service available on top for extra costs. You might want a bespoke service if you have had some changes in the business and the template no longer covers what you need it to, they can range from £200-£700 depending on your needs and who you go to. You may need the full service Law firm and prices there can range from £1k-£5k.
Manage your risk by having a contract in place
What are your top 3 tips when it comes to contacts
- Have one and have it in writing
- Make it understandable for you and your clients
- Use it
Don't be afraid of producing your contract and getting clients to sign it . Offering a good understandable robust contract in a post covid world will be a selling point rather than a necessary nuisance. If you have a contract and don't produce it at the right time in the on boarding process or don't use it at all it will do NOTHING for you even if it's written by the best contract lawyer out there.
Start with a template it is the cheapest most robust place to start and review it annual or bi annual. If you haven't had your current contract reviewed since COVID this is a must as it's likely you need to change it.
What might lead to a need to change your contract?
So with a contract of Service it is set up to say a service will be delivered and in there it will have a clause around substitution. So if you are a photographer who takes on a second shooter you could send that second shooter. However, it is a good idea to set expectations of if and when that might happen. Contractually you wouldn't need to change anything if you bring on more help.
Things that trigger change are price increases or changes to how those prices are paid or possibly if you were going to move into commercial supply for example a florist might start a contract with a local hotel to provide flowers that would need a different contract. You might possible need to change if your insurance broker changes the cover you have in place.
For example if you add a teaching element to what you do you may need to change your insurance cover and you would need to check your contract to make sure it still works with those changes. Insurance and contracts are linked.
Connect with Heather & find her contract templates here:
Stanford Gould Online - Templates specific to our industry
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