Similar to having on clean undies whenever you leave the house, a contract is innately important when you’re in business for yourself.
Ask someone who knows the dangers, and frustrations of not having a contract. (that would be me.)
I’ve worked without them before and in a few situations, things have worked out well. However, you’re not always going to get that lucky. No one ever gets lucky enough to never run into client problems or issues. The contract can cover your proverbial derriere in the event that things don’t work out or that the client doesn’t hold up their end of the deal.
On one occasion I had the contract to back me up and protect me when the deal went bad. In another, I took for granted a promise of a contract and that wound up screwing me over. (Yes, I started and even continued to work with no contract ever being produced).
I would hope that I’ve gotten a little smarter since then and now if the client doesn’t produce a contract, I offer up my own contract. It’s a general one that outlines the scope of work, the time frame and payment. It’s suitable for independant contractors like myself and mostly it’s used for writing and content production.
Without a contract you leave yourself open to a wide variety of what I like to call “client overmanagement” which means that unless you spell out in some way what you will do, when or for how long and how much you expect to be compensated, the client may be inclined to think that new tasks can be added on at any time and without any kind of compensation or negotiations.
I’m not client bashing. Plesase don’t get me wrong… but if you’re working with someone who’s never really outsourced or hired someone in your field, they may not know what the rules of engagement are. Your contract will help spell out what you can do, will do and have agreed to do for them. It’s a guideline for everyone involved that’s created with everyone’s best interest in mind. Don’t be shocked if your client wants to amend or negotiate part of the contract, they are simply trying to make sure they are covered as well.