What many people don’t realize is that contracts are negotiable. On every contract you receive, you can make changes.
A Few Words of Wisdom from Rochelle Long
When someone gives you a contract, you need to read it, all the way through. You could get your attorney to read it. But your attorney will mainly check to make sure the document is legal. If you want your best interests in the contract, then you’re going to need to read it yourself. A really good attorney may be on the lookout for certain things and tell you what he thinks. But it’s absolutely your responsibility to read through a contract and make sure you’ve got your best interests in the agreement.
Everything Can Be Changed
Most people don’t realize that for the most part, everything can be changed. For example, I signed up for a membership at a local gym. In their contract, they wanted me to agree to pay a certain amount for a three years. I only wanted a one-year contract. So I scratched out the three-year stipulation, wrote “one year” and initialed it. If the gym didn’t read my revision to their contract, then that’s their problem.
The point is, everything is negotiable. If you’re drafting contracts to send to clients or receiving contracts from vendors, make sure you read through it all the way. If a client returns a contract you that’s signed—read through it again! They may have made revisions to the contract that you aren’t aware of.
Never Assume and Ask Questions
You should never assume that something is in the contract. Or that a phrase means what you think it means. If you are unsure about a particular word or phrase or even entire section, then ask for clarification. And if you’re worried about “looking dumb” in front of a client, you shouldn’t be. It’s better to eliminate ambiguities now, before you’ve invested too much into a project.
Read Through Those Long Boilerplate Sections
I know you have a million other things you need to do and certainly would rather be doing. But reading through the boilerplate (the standard legalese) could really pay off. Head to your favorite coffee shop, sit down and just read. Highlight what parts you don’t understand so that you can ask questions about them or get clarifications later.
Unless you are a trained lawyer, reading contracts is not the most fun thing in the world. But trust me, when it comes to making really big decisions, like taking on a new client for a $20,000 project or buying a house for $200,000, reading the fine print now will eliminate potential headaches in the future.
Have you ever been caught in a bad legal situation because of what was agreed in a contract? Comment below to share your story.