First up, I’m not a legal expert! However, I am a business owner of over 7 years and have a framework that I can suggest you consider when you’re looking to set up your Terms and Conditions.
There are two reasons that you should have them as a minimum. One, to protect your customer and ensure that they have a way of protecting themselves when they place their business with you. You can provide assurances on payment terms, qualify any extras, and hopefully offer them a clear understanding of the service they can expect. Also help your audience gain a clear insight on what you’re offering them, and manage their expectations of you.
Secondly, it’s to protect you. You have provided a clear infrastructure of payment and contact terms and offered a clear understanding of the behavior you expect from them.
Every county and country will also have a necessary framework as well, so please ensure you adhere to your local jurisdiction.
I highly recommend that you send your terms and conditions to your client at quotation/introduction stage and leave them clear (not small writing) and before the Total Price. People seem to read from the price and back up the email or sheet of paper, rather than reading below the price.
This tends to be the easiest and first thing that everyone thinks of.
Will I offer the client payment terms?
If your fee is greater than a certain amount, will you offer them the chance to pay in installments? Or can they pay half at the beginning and the balance at the end?
What Payment Options shall I Offer?
A lot of small businesses are using hand-held apps such as SumUp to accept payment from card holders on these days, could this be an option?
Never give out your bank details publicly, only to people you invoice directly.
You can have your customer pay you using a Business PayPal account. This way, they can pay using their personal or business card. As they are paying for a “Service” please make sure that THEY accept the fees, not you.
When Should I Expect Payment?
Are you providing a monthly service? Would you like to get paid by the 28th of every month? Make sure your client knows.
If your client has to pay a certain amount, say below $200, can they perhaps pay that in 14 days? Over that to $500 maybe give them 30 days?
Today everybody is open all the time if you have a website and particularly if you have your business on social media. Make it clear on both when your opening hours are and try to stick to them. If someone messages you afterwards – short of it being extremely profitable or a dire emergency, try to stick with your working hours. This helps your audience to respect your “off” time and prevents you from burn-out.
If you provide quotations, or send products from an e-commerce website, ensure that you note how quickly your client expects a response (perhaps 3 working days?).
How Can they Contact Me?
Mention every platform you’re available on such as LinkedIn, Facebook Business Page Messenger, and of course phone and email.
Remind them of your hours of contact.
Are there circumstances where your clients may be given preferential treatment and more access to you? If so, make that clear.
Most business begins with this! However, no one is perfect and mistakes can be made by the client (and you of course). If however, you have provided a written quotation and they have changed any aspect of it, this wording is handy as you can then change the price IF the changes have made an impact:
All quotations are provided based at least in part, on information provided by the client. If any of the information provided by the client is shown to be incorrect whether accidentally or otherwise, “Business Name” reserves the right to pass on any resulting additional costs to the client
Unless specifically referred to, the latest quotation of costs sent to the client shall be regarded as the agreed fee for the business
Quotations are not a legal binding contract, only a contract is a legal binding contract.
Can you confirm any calls made between you will be followed up with an email? I can’t tell you how valuable an exercise this has been for me over the years. You can note what your conversation covered and any assurances made on either side as well.
It also means that if there are weeks or even months between communications between you it keeps you on track.
My preferred method is to make a call and follow up with a confirmation email, so much faster than doing all conversation between you by email.
Onboarding a Client
You can onboard clients several ways. By manually adding them to a database, an email list on a contact form, or of course through an e-commerce website.
Prices, Discounts, and Offers
Will you offer discounts to a member of a network? Will you discount prices if your clients purchase 2 or more services or products from you? Can they access offers if they join your email list or social pages?
What do Your Prices Include?
Handy to know, as so many businesses do them differently.
Do you need to include Value Added Tax (VAT) for foreign customers or sales tax? Do you include postage and packaging?
What Happens when You Part Ways?
They Terminate You
There are at least two reasons why they want to finish with you. 1. They have found a better price or better service and 2. Your client feels that you’ve done something wrong and they want to leave.
They have Found a Better Price or Service
If this is the case, you can write in perhaps that they are welcome to come back to you with the competitor’s offer and you will look to matching it where possible (ensure that it’s like for like).
Your Client Feels Like You’ve done Something Wrong
It happens to everyone, we’re not infallible. Treat every one of these as a lesson. Each time you get a lesson – make it a Term and Condition to help you stop doing it again! It also helps correct the expectations of both you and your client.
How can Your Client get Refunds?
Give your client a realistic timeframe to expect any due refunds, allow for working days and bank holidays.
Tell them What you Do and Don’t Do
Over the years, I’ve been asked to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do today. When I first started in business, I agreed to do a client’s emails on MailChimp. I hated it! So, once we parted ways a year later, I ensured that I was clear in saying I don’t do email management.
Another client had asked me to set them up on social profiles and minimize who could have access to them afterwards. Odd request, but I did it. I then realized that I gained absolutely no satisfaction in doing it. Now it’s something I don’t do.
At the end of the day – this is your business and you’re in charge. You must of course try to meet your client’s expectations BUT you soon start to hate your job when you aren’t doing the things you enjoy.
Now I tell my clients clearly what I do on all my social platforms, my website, and my terms and conditions.