I am super excited to chat about this topic because I feel like this is hands down one of the most important topics we can chat about as business owners. A topic that I had NO clue about when I started 10 years ago, well, because no one told me! Why you need to have a (good) contract as a stationery designer.
Well, what does this even mean? I signed up to design pretty stationery, not be a lawyer. Of course, however, you did sign up to be a business owner and as much as we would love it to be pretty stationery all day long, that just isn’t the case.
So today I am going to break this down in layman terms (aka, I am not a lawyer!) so you can hopefully have a better understanding of how to legally protect yourself and your business so you’re not putting yourself into any sticky situations!
I’m 10 years into business ownership and guess what, the first 3-4 years – I DIDN’T HAVE A CONTRACT. Literally, nothing in place. And you know why? No one told me I needed to. And I had never run a business before, so I didn’t know better.
So here is my PSA to you, so you don’t fall into the same place I did, get a contract, protect yourself. I know it sounds scary and you may not understand all the legal jargon and you don’t want to scare off clients sending over this official-looking document for them to sign when all they want are some pretty invitations. But you know what — clients, especially wedding clients, expect it and honestly take you more seriously when you have one.
If they are working with other wedding vendors, I can almost guarantee they have signed some sort of contract with every vendor. Why should stationers be any different? If anything, we should have a more extensive one due to all of the moving pieces and variables involved!
So WHY do you need a contract? Below are my top 3 (amongst many!) reasons why.
This is the major one and what a majority of the contract will cover. Expectations. What is the client hiring you for exactly? How will you be delivering on their expectations? This will cover everything from, how many proofs, what is included, what is NOT included, how much is their retainer, is said retainer refundable, when is the balance due, what happens if they need to cancel? Your contract should outline every one (and more) of these expectations so there is no stone unturned if something were to arise, you both can reference back to the contract.
In a perfect world, we would never have to enact a contract with a client. But if 2020 showed us anything, we don’t live in a perfect world. Especially when it comes to weddings. What if the wedding was canceled, what if a hurricane was due to hit on their wedding date (I live in Florida and this has happened more times than I can count), what if they receive their invites and realize they gave you the wrong venue address, who pays for the reprint? What happens if the Post Office never delivers their invitations (yes, this has happened..)? Your contract will outline these scenarios and who is responsible and what will happen next. This helps protect you as a business owner and gives you outlined steps on handling these situations because guess what — it’s in the contract they signed.
Yes, your clients do appreciate that you have a contract for them to sign. More than likely this is a pretty large investment for them and it could be scary just handing over a 50% retainer to someone that they may have never even met in person. How do they know you will deliver, how do they know what to expect next? It’s in your contract. It outlines all these items for them as well, not just you as a business. It lets them know that you are in this contract with them and THEY also have some legal backing if a business were to take their money and never deliver (unfortunately, it happens!).
So where do you get this magical unicorn of a contract that specifically addresses your needs as a stationer? Well, the amazing thing is, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars working directly with a lawyer to have one written from scratch.
I love my Custom Stationery Agreement from The Creative Law Shop. This is a shop formed by a lawyer and she has pre-written contracts from creative business owners so each one covers special details to that profession. And as a bonus, she was a calligrapher in her former life and truly knows what we deal with and has made an iron-clad contract for stationers.
I know that investing in something like this is the epitome of “adulting”, not really what you want to spend your money on (like a new roof) but it IS essential to keep you covered (no pun intended!). I always snag my contracts when they run their sales and you can use the code heatherobrien10 for an additional 10% off!
Please note that this is an affiliate code, but I only promote the items I 100% endorse and love, and the contracts I have purchased for both of my businesses through The Creative Law Shop are hands down my most important investments I’ve made!
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