Bad Contract Writing Can Be Bad for Business

I see lots of contracts and nearly all suffer from the same problem: bad legal writing. You know what I’m talking about, what people call legalese: writing that is cluttered, bloated, technical, passive, often one-sided, and invariably long. You aren’t a lawyer so you take it on faith that this stuff is a necessary evil. That in order to protect you or be enforceable, your contract must be similarly written.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. And more importantly, using a contract like this may be costing you business.

Imagine the following scenario: you pick up the phone one day to hear from your dream client. They’ve seen your awesome website, your tailored portfolio, and your tasteful business cards – they like everything about you. Soon you are pitching a sexy deck full of killer ideas and the client loves it. You’ve set the tone for your work and the relationship with everything you’ve put in front of them: your website, your portfolio, your conversations, your pitch. The client is ready to sign up and send over a fat deposit.

Diligently, you send over your bloated contract and everything stops. Inertia can be your ally, and your contract just killed it. Heavy sighs all around. The lead balloon that is your contract is completely at odds with every other aspect of your brand and communications. Days, weeks, or months pass as the contract is negotiated with each turn pushing you and the client farther from the pitch meeting where the client was in love with you and had its checkbook out. As time passes, so increases the likelihood of the client having a change of heart about scope or worse, “backburnering” the project entirely.

I see many creative professionals with contracts that are legally excellent but are written with language that is at odds with the brand and style they want to project. These bloated contracts cost time, money, and client trust – they keep you from getting to the paying work. So this year, take a look at your contract. Is it full of legalese? Are there provisions that constantly raise questions with clients? With you? If so, maybe its time for a rewrite.