When I work with clients, we sometimes trade contracts written in legalese. Both sides have a pretty good idea what we want. So why not just say it?
Just for reference, here’s what I do:
- I help authors with book ideas.
- I help authors write book proposals.
- I run clear writing workshops for companies.
- I give speeches.
- I edit articles, blog posts, web sites, and books.
If you’re a consultant, you probably do things a lot like that.
So, here’s my concept of a consulting contract without bullshit (this is just a concept, I’m not a lawyer):
This is an agreement between you and me. I’m a consultant. You’re my client. You may be a person or a company.
I am producing a work for hire. I’m a contractor, not an employee.
I agree to keep your proprietary information secret.
If you hire me to produce or edit something for you, what I produce belongs to you. However, if I happen to come up with an idea that has nothing to do with your business while I’m working for you, that idea belongs to me.
If you follow my advice and it doesn’t work out, that’s your problem.
You’ll pay me part of my fee up front, because that way I know I won’t get stiffed. That will be half my fee for a workshop and one-third for a proposal or editing job. You’ll pay me the rest when I hit milestones or finish the job — that’s how you make sure I’m delivering on my promises.
I’ll estimate my expenses beforehand. I’ll give you a heads-up if I learn that there’s going to be an additional expense beyond that, so you can get the chance to approve that expense (or not). You’ll pay me for those expenses as long as I can prove that I paid them and they’re within 20% of the estimate.
Either of us can terminate this agreement at any time. If I terminate it, I’ll return the money for the portion of the work I didn’t complete. If you terminate it, you’ll pay me for the work I already did.
That’s it. Now we’re on the same page.
If you’re a lawyer: could you make this into a real contract without making it into impenetrable legalese?
If you hire consultants: would this be sufficient for you? What’s missing?
If you’re a consultant: what’s missing? What else does this “contract” need?