As a boot-strapping entrepreneur, you’re constantly looking for ways to reduce your costs. One of those methods is using contract templates rather than an attorney. Although I always recommend hiring an attorney, if you feel that you’re not in a position to do so, there’s a great resource out there for free, customized contracts for your business.
The resource is you.
Go ahead and draft your own contracts. This is the only way to get a customized contract for your business without working with an attorney. Start with a blank page, not a form template you found online. Chances are, that template has terms you don’t need, or even has terms that contradict the terms of your actual deal.
First, identify the parties. Write down the people who are involved and the businesses that they represent. Determine whether or not your business is with the person, or the organization.
Second, figure out what the details of the deal. Are you exchanging money for services or money for goods? Describe how much money and when it’s due. Also, describe the services and goods you expect to receive.
Third, put a timeline into the deal. When is everything going to happen and how long will it take to complete. Is there a grace period for any portion of the work? If this is a large project that will have milestones, put those in, too.
Fourth, how are you going to get started. Is any payment due up front? If you’re hiring a graphic designer, what information do they need from you to create an accurate logo?
Finally, what happens if something goes wrong. This must be a detailed plan including whether you’ll seek mediation or arbitration, which laws will apply, which court will decide the issue, and whether either side will be liable for attorneys fees.
Focus on your concerns of the deal. Put those on paper, and make sure you detail your concerns. The pros, the cons, everything. Your contact should reflect those concerns, so that you know what will happen if your concern actually materializes.
There are definitely contracts that shouldn’t be done on your own. Any sort of agreement dealing with employees, independent contracts, or interns; non-disclosure and non-compete agreements; and anything dealing with intellectual property are definitely contracts that you should hire a lawyer to review.
If you’re bootstrapping, these tips can help you draft a custom contract. If you’re not bootstrapping, I recommend you take time to find an attorney you like and trust to guide you through the process. A long-term relationship with an attorney is an investment in protecting your business against risk and liability.